The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to dip homemade candles

Homemade candles

Frank Hoyt TaylorIf you keep bees, you end up with lots of wax.  Folks who like comb honey or who manage top bar hives will have much more, but even those of you who use an extractor will collect a lot of cappings.

Our movie star neighbor solved the excess beeswax problem by making 110 candles.  (He hasn't quite figure out how to solve the excess candles problem....)

The first step was to clean the beeswax.  He melts his wax in an olive oil can partially full of water atop a pot of boiling water, then uses a seive to dip out any gunk that floats to the surface.  (This waxy debris makes great firestarters, our neighbor points out.)  After the wax is mostly clean, pour it into a five gallon bucket to cool, then pour off the water once the wax has solidified.  You should be able to pop the solid wax right out of your bucket, but then will need to scrape more gunk off the bottom until you're left with beautiful, clean wax.

Knock the wax into chunks with a hammer and melt it again in a fresh olive oil can, still atop a pot of boiling water.  If you don't want to mess your kitchen up, lay down some newspapers, and also set up a broom or other pole between two chairs.  Cut wick material (about $2 for more than you'll ever use) into lengths twice as long as you want your finished candles to be.  Then start dipping.
Dipped candles
If your wax is the perfect temperature, it will coat the wick thickly but won't drip off excessively.  A little cooler is generally better than a little hotter since cooler wax stays on much better --- you'll know if you've gone too cold because the wax will be a bit chunky.

Our neighbor found it useful to keep three cans of wax melting at all times, pouring melted wax into the foremost can so that it was always full enough to dip a candle.

After dunking the wick the first time, wait until the wax is partly cool, then stretch the candle out with your fingers so that the candle straightens.  You may need to repeat this procedure after the second dipping as well, but after that, you can just dip, cool, and dip again.

You'll notice in the pictures that our neighbor makes two candles out of each wick.  This method makes it easy for him to drape the candles over his rod and let them cool between dippings.  Later, he'll cut the wick and end up with a pair of candles.

Homemade tea lightsOur neighbor dipped each candle about 25 to 30 times, which means it took him six to seven hours (and about two gallons of clean wax) to make 80 candles plus 30 tea lights.  The tea lights were to use up excess wax at the end of the project and are made from a small piece of wick inside a cleaned out applesauce container.

Previous batches of handmade candles have gone to the Harvest Table Restaurant, where they were priced at $5 per pair.  However, our neighbor notes that they didn't sell nearly as well as honey (which went like hotcakes.)  On the other hand, the yellow, honey-scented candles hanging on his wall always attract the attention of guests, so he's had no problem giving them away to loving homes.

Our chicken waterer never spills, even when pulling tractors across uneven ground.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We are anxious to buy some candles if any available - either kind!
Comment by Jayne Fri Jan 13 08:46:53 2012

I used to make candles that way at Girl Scout Camp! Only we did it over a fire, of course.

If your neighbor is interested, I'd bet those candles would sell like hotcakes on Etsy. (In case you're unfamiliar, it's a website for listing and selling handmade and vintage goods.)

Comment by Bubbles Fri Jan 13 09:12:47 2012

I'm glad I found your blog yesterday. We moved out to a 10 acre place in Texas 3 months ago. I enjoy reading what other people have experienced. We're just starting our journey, but I can't think of a better place to be.

I'm reading your blog from the beginning. I just started 2009... don't tell me how it ends. lol


Comment by tony bluegoat Fri Jan 13 10:37:18 2012

Jayne --- I'll send you each others' email addresses. I suspect he'd be glad to sell you some candles. :-)

Bubbles --- Etsy's a good idea --- definitely the perfect spot for reaching an audience of folks interested in handmade crafts.

Tony --- Good luck with your new adventure! I hope you enjoy reading from the beginning (but keep in mind we'd already been on the blog for a few years at the point the blog starts. I wish we'd really documented from the beginning!)

Comment by anna Fri Jan 13 15:02:30 2012
Hey, if he added sawdust with the wax & wick, he could make small fire starters.That might sell better. And a lot of sawmills give away sawdust if you haul it.Might expand his beeswax market.
Comment by Ruthlynn Fri Jan 13 20:04:39 2012
Ruthlynn --- I like your idea best of all! That's a product I would buy, which is saying something since I'm such a skinflint. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Jan 14 11:48:07 2012
Thanks for sharing this... it sounds like something I would love to try.
Comment by tyler Fri Dec 7 13:15:17 2012

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