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EARTH
GUILD
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Asheville NC
28801

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List of Instructions
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Earth Guild Home

Supplies for Candlemaking

THE CANDLEMAKING RIFF:
A-LAYERED-ORANGE JUICE-CAN-TRIAL-CANDLE

MATERIALS

  • 5 pounds #145 paraffin
  • 1 pound stearic acid (20% of 5 pounds)
  • clean cardboard (such as concentrated orange juice) cans 5 pounds of wax will make about 10 candles (Its often best to make many candles at a time same mess and set up trouble as for one). Also you spend less with nothing to do, waiting for wax to harden.)
  • 2 3 yards of wicking good for 2 inch candles (juice can size)
  • a couple of cakes of candle color
  • a double boiler, stove (or hot plate), ladle, cup, hammer, nail, pencils or popsicle sticks or chopsticks
  • mold sealer, silicone spray for mold release (optional)

To begin with, give yourself room. An undisturbed space, enough time (3 or 4 hours, at least); and all your materials gathered together before you start. And you need not make a full 10 candles at once; you may prefer to halve all the amounts.

MELT THE WAX
Shatter the wax, on the floor, with the hammer. About 2 pounds of wax should fit easily into the top of your double boiler. Add about half of your stearic acid to the pot. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and start heating.

PREPARE MOLDS AND WICK
While the wax is melting, get your molds ready. Make small holes (with hammer and nail) in the centers of the metal can bottoms. Cut wicks 3-4" longer than the cans. Dip them, as soon as enough wax has melted, into the wax pot. Let them dry 1-2 minutes. Knot one end of each wick. Thread the other ends through the holes in the cans (knot outside). Tie the loose ends of wick around a pencil or chopstick laid across the top of each can. Get the wicks centered and taut. Secure the sticks with a long rubber band stretched around each end under the can (they stay on if youre careful). Seal the (outside) bottom of each can with mold sealer or a spoon of wax poured over the knot. With wax, allow five minutes to dry; turn right side up. Now spray the inside of all cans with mold release.

POUR FIRST LAYER
Ladle wax into the cup. Add shavings of color for the shade you want. Pour first layers for as many candles as the cup is good for. Clean the cup with a rag or paper towel; fill it with wax and more color. Continue until all first layers are poured. A funnel helps you avoid splattering wax up the sides of the molds. Dont worry if some cans leak: let them cool 10 or 15 minutes and try again.

FINISH POURING
Pour second layers when the first layers are soft and warm when they are no longer molten, but before they are hard. Tip some cans, if you like, propping them against whatever is handy, to make slanting layers. Continue with third and fourth layers, however many you need to finish your candles. If you make a solid color candle, poke along the wick to release air bubbles after about half an hour. And fill the well that forms as the wax cools and contracts with more wax (the same color is nice, but this will be the inside bottom of the finished candle). You may need to do this several times.

CLEAN UP & WAIT
Let the candles sit in the molds overnight, if possible. Eight hours at room temperature is the best remedy for cracks, splits and pulled out wicks.

TAKE OUT CANDLES
Take the candles out of the molds, carefully: break the wax seals on the bottoms of the cans; cut the knots; pull the candles gently out. Clip wick tops down to - ". And finish the candles however you are pleased to scrape, polish, or leave them as they are.

At each step above there are some dozen or sixteen options. A few of these are explored below.

IN DETAIL: Materials

WAX
Wax is animal (beeswax, tallow), vegetable (bayberry, carnauba), and mineral (microcrystalline, paraffin). Candles may be made from any of these, alone or mixed. Paraffin is the cheapest, most available, most commonly used candle wax; a by-product of petroleum refining. Several grades are made. As oil is squeezed from paraffin, the wax becomes more translucent, hardens, melts at higher temperatures. Grades of paraffin are named by melting point; candles are usually made from paraffin graded from 130F to 150F.

WICK
Candle wicking is braided cotton, with or without a metal core. Cord or twine or string is bonded, made from plies of fiber twisted around each other. Bonds unravel as they burn, while a braid maintains its shape in fire. Of all fibers, cotton best absorbs molten wax. Wick treatments soak eight hours in a solution of table salt and boric acid, for instance  are popular, but unnecessary.
As a candle burns  wax melts, is sucked up the wick, vaporizes and burns. Wick is locus and channel of flame. It does not burn, except incidentally as the candle consumes itself and the exposed wick exceeds the height to which capillary action can raise the molten wax. This self-trimming sometimes misses and the excess wick must be clipped by hand for the candle to burn well.

The hole burned down a candle is wide or narrow as the wick is thick or thin. Too small a wick burns too small a hole, loses itself inside the candle, and suffocates or drowns. Too large a wick smolders, cant absorb wax fast enough, makes a smoky, sputtery cotton fire. Experiment teaches the correct size. Manufacturers instructions  for a 2 inch diameter candle  help; but the sort of wax, the additives and the shape of the candle vary the burning. Whether the candles should burn down flat or leave an exterior shell is a matter of taste. Wicking with a metal wire core has a rigidity useful for some purposes. The metal may clump at wick top and need to be removed by hand.

Always dip wicks in wax before pouring your candle. The first lighting is easier; your wick wont burn to a stump and need surgical rescue. Wax-stiffened wicks also are easier to work with. A 10 second step.

WICK BASES
Square clipped bits of sheet metal designed to hold wick-bottoms in place. Handy for molds you cant punch holes in, or that get refilled.

STEARIC ACID
Stearic acid is an agent of hardness and opacity. It raises the softening-point of low melting-point paraffin. Its chief effect is structural candles hold together better, wilt and sag less, burn longer. Stearic acid also raises paraffin melting-points slightly.
With high melting-point paraffins (as hard already as stearic acid), it increases opacity. For dark, definite colors and thick shadows in burning, use stearic acid. For a diffuse lightness and translucency, use a high melting-point paraffin and no stearic acid.
Less than 10% of stearic acid (by weight, to wax) has no discernible effect. Up to 55% works, possibly candles could be made entirely of stearic acid, but it costs much more than paraffin. Approximate measurements are close enough; the proportions need not be exact. Half of a four pound tub is about 20% of a ten pound slab of wax; a whole tub is 40%; etc. Use whatever proportion pleases you best; experiment to find out. Most stearic acid ends up as soap. It is, emphatically, harmless.

COLOR
Candle dyes are made in two forms: powdered oil-base pigments; and the same pigments dissolved in small wax cakes. The cakes are more convenient to use and store; the powder, with care, more precise (if, for instance, you must duplicate a shade exactly). Crayons, like cakes of candle dyes, are pigment dissolved in wax. But crayons often include impurities and use inferior pigments (fine for crayons, bad for candles). The color settles to the layer bottoms in pouring, toward the wick in burning suffocating the candle. In the long run, candle dyes are cheaper; you dont pay for crayon shapes, labels and boxes.
Use candle color sparingly. It is several times as concentrated as crayons.
Mix your colors in a cup, unless you need five pounds of purple. Fill the cup with clear wax, add the shavings from a cake of dye until you have the shade you want. Test shade by letting a drop dry on white paper. Remember that shades change as the wax hardens; the wax goes from clear to white, and colors white-out slightly.
Combine colors, of course. Red, yellow, blue and black on a limited budget.
Also available are metallic candle dyes. They are meant only to coat candles  if they are used to dye a candle throughout it will not burn properly. Dissolve metallic colors in paraffin to make a dipping bath for the top layer or couple of layers of a candle. See our separate instructions.

SCENT
1. None.
2. Smelly as it sits. Mix with wax just before pouring (else you cook it away). Too much scent softens the wax, makes soggy pockets inside the candle. At most 1-3% by weight; four one ounce bottles maximum per 10 pounds of wax.
3. Smelly as it burns. Either eyedrop scent into the pool of the candle as it burns. Or soak the wick briefly in scent before dipping it in wax. No scent until the candle it lit.
4. Smelly/smelly. #2 and #3 together.

CRYSTALS
Luster crystals are probably some sort of plastic a guarded commercial secret. Crystals assist sheen and retard paraffins tendency to yellow in sunlight. Use 3% by weight; a spoon or two per pot of wax. Too much makes wax brittle. Dont worry if the crystals dont all dissolve; enough do. Use a separate pan to melt them, if youre desperate for precision.
Luster depends half on crystals, half on labor. A knife scrapes clean; burlap or corduroy removes knife scratches; a paper towel cleans burlap smearing; a nylon stocking, lightly buffing (not rubbing), brings up a deep shiny finish.

MOLDS
Almost any container can work . Juice cans, milk cartons, waxed paper cups, hand-shaped aluminum foil, holes in the sand, jars, bottles or jugs of plastic or glass, plaster of paris, 8-point star sheet metal molds, latex shapes (home-made or store-bought), or use no mold at all and dip candles by hand. Whatever ingenuity can fashion.

MOLD RELEASE
1. Home remedies: crisco, lard, margarine, cooking oil. Be sure to get an even coat: no pools, or glops, or too much anywhere. Works perfectly well: messy, slow, cheap.
2. Silicone sprays: easy to apply; mess-less; more expensive. Worth while if you intend many candles not for one evenings play.

PROCEDURES & PROBLEMS

USE A DOUBLE BOILER
Flash point (vapor ignition) of paraffin is about 315F. It is DANGEROUS to heat wax directly on a stove or hot plate. Just as soon as wax gets hot enough, it catches fire. Double boilers with water underneath cant get hotter than 212F.
Double boilers can be improvised: a little pot in a big pot with wood blocks between them. Enamelled and stainless steel pots are easiest to clean.
Candy thermometers (or any registering between 100-250F) can contribute to consistency.
Wax clogs drains, and Drano wont help. Hot (boiling) water will, but it's best to avoid having to use it.
Newspaper on tables and aluminum foil cut around burners save cleaning labor.
Keep all your shavings and chips to melt for browns.

WATER BATHING
This process will make the surface of a molded candle smooth and shiny, usually eliminating the need for any further finishing. It is a little bit tricky, but often worth the effort. The idea is to immerse the mold filled with melted wax in room-temperature water. You will need a water container as deep as your mold is tall. You can set the mold down in the container, fill it with wax, then fill the outer container with water, quickly and carefully, till the level matches the wax in the mold. Or you can set the wax-filled mold into the water-filled container (remember that the water level will rise as the mold goes in). In either case, do not let any water spill into the mold. A metal mold full of wax will just about sit without floating; be careful not to jostle it, a weight on top may be a good idea. A lighter mold will float, definitely needs a weight. You will need to top up with molten wax as usual. The candle will pull away from the sides of the mold, often within an hour. And the wax surface will repay your extra efforts.

REMOVING CANDLES
Some molds you will tear off and discard; break others inside a paper bag. Metal molds can be washed out after use with hot soapy water be sure to dry them thoroughly so that they do not rust.
Heat and cold (as well as knocking, rolling, blowing, tugging) help release stuck candles. Hot water softens and lubricates the candle surface; cold water (or time in the icebox) shrinks wax away from container walls (but can mar candle surfaces).

Beware: wicks pull out, wax cracks and splits. Let candles harden at room temperature (freezing warm candles cracks wax). Dont try to take molds off until the candle is hard, all through. Eight hours, over-night, is good beginning practice.

FINISHING
Sharp knives carve wax heating them can help. Old dental tools make good carvers and gougers. Hot/cold water baths in quick succession crackle candle surfaces. Butane torches smooth, fuse, shape. Or dip the candle in a pot of wax. Polish (see above: CRYSTALS).


PROBLEMS
Candles full of air bubbles: wax may have been too cold when poured; use hotter wax.
Split layers: waiting too long between pourings (layers too cold), or wax poured too cold.
Holes down middle: layers too thick, or wax poured too hot, or insufficient time between pourings. This is hard to prevent, but easy to remedy: scrape top flat, or fill the holes with new (hot) wax  scoring top first to assist cohesion.

(Hot: 190-200F, water in double boiler at a busy boil)
(Cold: 10-20F above melting point of wax, double boiler water at a slow boil)

Earth Guild (You may reproduce this if it is unaltered and our name stays on it.)