This last weekend I was asked to give a little talk about the different uses of beeswax. What a great time I had. And I became aware of how much I enjoy creating with wax. I use it for lotions and lotion bars, in soaps, lip balms, salves, and candles. I have been making hand dipped beeswax candles for a few years now and I love the smell of the wax and the clean clear light they produce. So I am going to share what I know about hand dipping candles.
I have not had the pleasure to purify my own wax yet. I have researched a couple of ways to do that, but until I can do it myself, I just have to purchase it. I am sorry that I cannot tell you where I got the last batch because I got it years ago and I am just now in the market for some more. Now I have access to beekeepers so I will probably get some fresh from them. So the directions will start from the understanding that you already have clarified wax.
The tools you use for beeswax need to be dedicated to that purpose only. Trying to clean your good dishes will be very frustrating, if not impossible. I go to second hand stores and find what I need.
Tools: Double boiler with the inside depth the size of desired candles, wooden spoon or paint stir stick, wicking, spreaders, board hanger, washers, plastic wrap or newspapers, scissors, optional candle molds.
Find or make a deep double boiler. I have a large aluminum pillar candle mold that I put in a 3 gallon stainless pot. It is possible to heat the beeswax over direct flame, but it is highly flammable and could scorch or ignite unless you are always on top of it. Since I am usually multi-tasking, I prefer the double boiler. Beeswax melts at a rather high temperature so it takes a while to get ready so I tend to get it started while I get the wick and surface prepared.
Have the spreaders made ahead of time. I cut mine from metal hangers in an inverted “V” with hooks on the bottom. This separates the candles so they don’t stick together in the dipping process. I like making at least four sets at a time so I also have a board with nails in it that I suspend on a cabinet handle to hang the spreaders on. When I make a new one, I will use hooks on the bottom for better balance.
Prepare the workspace. The surface below where you are going to hang the candles should be covered with plastic wrap or newspapers. It is very hard to clean beeswax and it will drip. Since my container is very deep, I put a board on my chair to protect the chair from the heat so I can reach the wax. Then I put papers on the floor between the chair and the counter. Not much space there, but it is easier to clean that way.
Here is the way to figure what size wick that you need. I use the roll of square braid cotton wicking from Candlewic Company. Here is the chart that I use.
Cut the wick in this manner….
two lengths of candles is from the bottom of the pan to top of wax
+ what it takes to knot the washers on it
+ what it takes to go around the spreader
+ a couple of inches of extra to keep fingers out of the wax
Tie a washer or other slightly heavy object to each end of the wick. This will help make the candle straight. Fold the wick in half and then loop it over the hooks, behind the spreader and over the top. This helps hold the wick in place.
Stir the wax with either a wooden spoon or a paint stir stick and make sure that it is totally melted. Then with potholders, move the double boiler to your dipping area. Leaving the wax in the water keeps it hot longer.
Gripping your spreader, dip the wick with the washers on it into the wax until it bottoms out, wait a second for the wick to soak up some wax and then bring it out and hang it. Right away pull the wicks straight by gripping the wick at the top and the washer at the bottom and pull. Remember that the wax will be hot. This will only need to be done once or twice per candle. The washer does the rest. Do the same with all the spreaders that you have prepared. Since I do at least 4 candle sets at a time this allows me to keep dipping while the others cool a bit.
Start at one end of your board and dip them all, then start over, and over, and over. When the candles are nice and straight I will cut off the washers so I have a longer candle. I will frequently cut off the drip on the bottom too. When the candle is the size that will fit snugly into a candle holder you are done. Cut the bottom of the candles straight across and then let them cool completely before you handle them much.
At this point, you could use the rest of the melted wax to make poured and molded candles. Or line up your board and start over. You will have to add wax to your double boiler to bring the level up again for your second round. But it will not take as long to melt this time. and you will have your rhythm down.
As I was making my last batch of candles, my 5 year old granddaughter was here and wanted to learn how to dip candles. As I was doing this she drew out the process for me to share. She calls it her map. It is well done so I thought I would share that with you as well. Enjoy.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I would love to hear your stories too.