Adventures in Candlemaking

I’m not sure why or how I got into candlemaking recently. I guess I was in need of a new challenging and expensive hobby. Expensive, you say? But candles are expensive, so surely it must be more affordable to make your own? I’m here to explain why that might not be the case and why you might want to try it anyway.

I assumed, that making container candles was quite easy. You melt wax, you stick a wick in a container and pour. Those are, in fact, the basics but it’s so much more complicated than that, and it’s made even more complicated by a supply issue (no doubt due to pandemic hobbyists like myself) that make it difficult to obtain consistent supplies.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. There are many types of wax to choose from. And there’s no way to know which you’ll like best until you try them all. So far, I’ve tried four kinds: Some Eco Soya wax that my SIL gave me that she had from a candlemaking bout a few years ago. I assumed this was fairly old-school since I had read a little bit about wax and the gold standard these days seemed to be the Golden Brands 464. I ended up LOVING it. Each candle came out smooth and creamy and the scent held very well. It took some effort to get the right wicks that worked with it (the best ones I’ve found are the LX series – also hard to find in stock anywhere). But by the time, I cracked the code on fragrance load, container size, and wicks, I couldn’t get the wax anywhere. Currently it’s out of stock everywhere.
  2. Wicks are important, and tricky. When I first started watching “How to” videos on candlemaking, I noticed there were a lot of references to “testing.” I thought maybe testing was something you just needed to do if you were making mass produced candles to sell. What I’ve learned is that you really do need to test for a variety of things in order to find that perfect combination that works perfectly. With the eco soya wax, I tried a number of different brands and sizes of wicks before I found a good combo that didn’t burn dangerously hot, or that didn’t tunnel down and waste wax. It was even trickier because I was using various size containers so the size wasn’t consistent. Here’s my tip on testing – treat it with scientific accuracy. I downloaded a testing worksheet from Candlewic, and I record all the variables and then rate the results. I save it in my Goodnotes app on my ipad and just save each worksheet from each candlemaking session in a folder there.
  3. There will be failures. I have countless candles now making themselves at home in every room, some with wicks that barely burn (or don’t burn at all), some that burn way too hot, many that have a nice scent but they are “pillaring” down without burning to the edge of the candle. Every now and then, I scrape out all the wax from these containers for reuse.
  4. It’s hard to find pure fragrance oils. Now I remember what drove me to candlemaking! I wanted to make my own signature scents. Although I have a full regiment of essential oils in every scent imaginable, candles do better with fragrance oils – and fragrance oils tend to be blends like “lavender oasis” or “a day at the beach” (I actually just made those two up), You can still blend them together, but I haven’t delved into this too much. For now, I’ve bought a number of these fragrance oils and have just used them on their own. My one attempt at blending was trying to recreate Westin Hotels white tea and aloe scent… with poor results.

But despite these challenges, I’m enjoying it. My SIL also gave me two giant blocks of beeswax. Tonight I made beeswax container containers and did actually try it with essential oils – 30 drops of orange and 15 drops of eucalyptus. The beeswax does have a strong scent of its own, but I’m kind of liking it. The first time I melted the beeswax I recognized the smell immedietly from my childhood. My paternal grandparents’ homestead in Minnesota had an old beehouse, not used for decades, but that scent still permeated everything. I didn’t even know what it was until I smelled the beeswax! It’s earthy and a little musty, and a little sweet. Probably not for everyone but now it’s triggered a scent memory for me, and we all know how powerful those can be.

These are some suppliers I’ve been ordering from:

There don’t seem to be any local candle supply places in Maine and that’s unfortunately because the shipping is very expensive for wax and supplies, often a third of the cost of the order itself. I should open up my candle supply store!

Here are some photos:

These are the beeswax candles I made tonight. The jar on the left is a bonne mamame jelly jar (my favorite!) and the one on the right is from the dollar stores (I actually got a ton there and hey, they’re only a dollar, no shipping!). This time I made my own wicks too, so we’ll see how that works out. There’s a crack on the left one but I can fix that with my blowtorch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *