I recently gifted a dear sister-in-law with two homemade beeswax candles. This has prompted her to do a blog post about beeswax candles. And that has been a major kick in the pants for me to share my candle adventure here.
Making candles is so easy! Just melt and pour.
It took me over a year to make two lovingly gifted candles. It took about an hour to make the actual candles but a year of research and development to create the plan.
It begins with beeswax. I could buy beeswax pastilles online, but I wanted to use the wax from our own bees.
But first, I had to purify the beeswax. Normally, purifying the beeswax takes an evening. I melt wax from our hives in a pot of water, and a lovely disk of cool wax is ready for me in the morning. However, I have begun purifying it twice, because the second go-round results in a much cleaner wax. Cleaning it twice takes longer, but once the wax is clean, it can be stored indefinitely and is ready for making candles and lip balm. You can see how I clean my beeswax here.
The Candle Recipe
With clean wax ready to use, I needed to decide on a candle recipe. Pure beeswax candles would be awesome, but I had a limited supply of beeswax. And until we have more success with our beehives, that supply will continue to be limited. So, I chose to blend two parts beeswax to one part coconut oil. I used processed coconut oil because I did not want coconut to compete with the naturally sweet smell of beeswax. For that same reason, I chose not to add any fragrance to my candles.
Starting simple, I planned to make votives. I have more than a bazillion votive holders leftover from three daughters’ weddings. In addition, my aforementioned dear sister-in-law gifted me with about a hundred Yoplait Oui! jars last Thanksgiving. I do not lack for jars, but which jars would be best for my candles? I picked the Yoplait jars because I was planning to give some to my sister-in-law who, as you may have guessed, is addicted to Yoplait Oui! yogurt and the cute little jars. (For her clever ideas, you can visit her blog Now That You Are Home.)
The most important factor in producing a good candle was to determine what size wick I needed for the jars. This is where R&D got serious. I ordered a sample pack of wicks from CandleScience.com. The Candle Science website had helpful information about choosing the right wick size. The extremely helpful information said, “It’s hard to give accurate wick recommendations for Beeswax.” But they offered a sampler pack of ECO pre-tabbed wicks to practice with and the advice that beeswax, burning more slowly, will require bigger wicks than paraffin or soy wax do.
So, with a sample pack of wicks and a variety of jars laid out in a grid on a paper bag, I melted the 2/3 beeswax-1/3 coconut oil in a double boiler that is reserved exclusively for playing with wax. That took about 45 minutes. Then I poured the hot wax into wicked jars. That part was wicked easy.
The Test Burn
A very important step came next–test burning the candles. If the wick is too big, the candle will burn too fast. It the wick is too small, the candle will not burn fast enough and the flame could drown in a pool of melted wax. Another problem with a too-small wick is “tunneling.” Tunneling happens when the wax does not melt to the edges of the container, so the candle melts down into a hole in the center of the jar with wax still along the sides. The proper size wick should result in a lovely pool of melted wax to the edges of the container after a two hour burn.
We dined by candlelight that night of the test burn. Although the candles were systematically laid out on the kitchen island in rows labeled by jar and wick size, the science experiment still cast a romantic ambience over the room.
All did not go as planned. I ran out of wax before getting to the correct jar with the correct wick size. All the candles had wicks that were too small.
I melted some of the candles again and tried with the largest wicks in my sample pack. It seemed to be a tie between the ECO 12 and the ECO 14 wicks. I decided to go with the ECO 12.
Being an optimist, I ordered 100 wicks. (Add that to the list of things my daughters will be tossing when I’m dead.)
I made another, smaller, batch of candles with this year’s wax. The yield was four Yoplait Oui! jars.
And I think the wick is too small.
And I think that the Yoplait jar is not the best choice for my candles. A straight-sided votive would burn better. And I probably should use a smaller jar. The 4 oz. Yoplait jar is about the same size as a small Yankee tumbler.
Next year, I will try a narrower jar and/or the ECO 14 wick.
But I would also like to try to find the right wick for a pure beeswax burn.
The R&D continues.