Okay, back to candle making!
Time before last, I talked a bit about wicks and made many very stupid jokes about being wick-ed and so on. This time, we’re going to get around to actually melting wax. Yes, it’s going to be a hot time in the double boiler tonight.
As you’ll recall, I got into candle making out of sheer boredom. It was lockdown and there wasn’t much to do, and there’s only so many times you can order delivery from The Pit Barbecue or Fortune Garden Chinese and pretend that you’re eating out. So, I turned to candles for, ah, a spark of life.
I had a bunch of used candle stubs left over from various times and places, and I had some other wax from one place or another, including some “curse-reversing candles” that I’d gotten, kinda as a joke, but which proved to not reverse many curses that I’ve seen, and, truth, given how dimly they burned, they weren’t really that great as candles, either. But maybe I’m being too harsh. And, honestly, once I get the incantation right, and sacrifice a few small furry animals by the light of a full moon, I’m sure they’ll do just fine.
I gathered up the various waxes and set out to melt ‘em down.
Some of my more successful candles...
Okay, before you read any further, and if there is the slightest chance that you’re going to try to make candles yourself, be sure to give a glance at last week’s column, the one on safety. ‘Cause it really is important.
I mean, honestly, I don’t have too many friends and/or readers as it is. And I sure don’t want any of you to get, well, you know, incinerated or anything.
It’s so …distressing…when that happens.
So, a lot of candle making folk melt their waxes in the kitchen. Me, I decided that I’d use the gas grill out back. I figured it was a bit safer to have me out there where I was a little less likely to, you know, set the whole house on fire or anything fun like that. I know my limitations. And they, like the spirit, are legion. “For we are many.”
Also, the preferred way of melting wax, I gather, is in a double boiler. At its simplest, a double boiler is a pot or pan with water in it. Then, you put another pan into the first pan so that it sort of hovers over the water. The water in the first pan heats up, the heat and steam rise and warm the second pan, and whatever’s in the second pan gets hot.
In cooking, you use a double boiler to melt stuff like chocolate. In candle making, obviously, you’re melting wax instead.
Why a double boiler? As I said last time, wax is a fuel, after all. It burns. That’s why you put it in candles. Only, you would much rather have it burn in a controlled way, as a candle, than… er, ah…bursting into flame while you’re melting it. A double boiler — or so I’m told — allows you to heat the wax in a more controlled fashion. It is less likely to flash (i.e., burst into flame), just as chocolate is less likely to burn.
I haven’t bought a double boiler, yet. Though, if you’re interested, here’s a nifty article on double boilers (for use in cooking) from the Webstaurantstore’s website:
They’ve also got commercial grade double boilers on offer. You can see their wares here:
And no, I’m not being paid by the company. This is not spam. I have, however, had good luck buying from them. Most recently, I got a nifty portable butane stove from ‘em that, all too likely, I’ll use to cook Martha omelets and toast the next time we have an ice storm and Texas’ oh-so-libertarian and unregulated power grid goes out…again… and maybe this time takes down the gas lines with it so we don’t even have the gas stovetop to use.
Insert sounds of my furious liberal snowflake cursing here.
As I say, though, I haven’t bought a double boiler, at least not yet. However, I did manage to Macgyver one out of a sauce pan I got at a yard sale and some metal containers. It works okay. Not perfect. But okay.
If you’re interested in a DIY double boiler yourself, either for cooking or candle making, here’s a very cool article on how to put one together using fairly common kitchen stuff, “How to Make Your Own Double Boiler ,” by Emma Wartzman, in Bon Appetit:
Wartzman is primarily interested in double boilers from a cook’s perspective, but I’m sure you could use her design for wax as well.
My terribly sophisticated wax melting rig...
So that’s double boilers. And, I had one. And I was ready!
Which meant that one bright morning, I headed off into the backyard to Make Some Candles.
I had a couple of little glass containers, already fitted with wicks, just waiting for my attentions.
Then, I gathered up a couple hands-full of wax from a number of different sources…used candle stubs, the curse candles, some scented candles we’d had back in Massachussets…threw ‘em in the ole d’boiler, and fired it up…
Which was when I discovered…I was screwed.
The wax from the candle stubs was mostly paraffin wax. The wax from the scented candles was (probably) soy wax or bee’s wax. The wax from the curse candles was…God alone knows what.
And they all had different melting temperatures.
The soy wax and the curse reversers went quickly to a bright red liquid. The paraffin stayed white and solid for what seemed like ever. And the chunks of bee’s wax? Never did melt. I finally ended up fishing them out of the hellbrew and melting them down separately.
What as left finally did turn into a fluid…but, Gawd, it was awful looking. I mean, It was icky. Like CGI fx in a monster movie. With aliens. And slime beings. And superheroes who leap tall buildings in a single bound and brood a lot about the state of the environment. And pollution. And whether they’ll get a date for the prom. And other stuff like that.
But, it did finally melt down into a single puddle of slag. But only after I thought I was going to spend the remainder of my natural life standing in front of a grill. Stirring wax. With a stick. And sweating.
More candle making stuff...
Since then I’ve learned that you can, in fact, use wax mixes if you really want to. You just need to make an effort to get all the various types of wax broken down into little chunks, or even shavings, before you try to melt them.
Though, even then, there can be exceptions. For instance, a wise friend of mine told me that you could color candles if you buy children’s crayons (very cheap, much cheaper than the dyes you get in hobby stores), break them down to a powder, and add them to the wax just prior to the melt.
For her, it probably worked just fine.
I’ve got this candle which was suppose to be bright orange.
It is white. With orange sprinkles.
Kinda looks like what happened when one of the ice cream servers at Howard Johnson’s had an unexpected flashback to a particularly baroque acid trip from the ‘60s.
Seriously, I think that you’re better off just using one type of wax for all your projects. I, for instance, am sort of drifting toward paraffin for all of my projects.
Though, I still have all that wax from those dang curse-reversing candles. Since I can’t get it to burn, consistently, in any of my candles, I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.
Maybe…I’ll print out pictures of people I seriously don’t like…certain political figures, for example, and some professors at a university in New England that I was kicked out of for pretty much no good God damn reason…then I’ll douse the pictures with the melted curse wax…and burn same in the backyard fire pit while repeating the 99 names of Lucifer in Latin…
Hey. It’s a hobby.
Okay, so that’s my experience melting wax.
Now comes pouring it.
But that’s for next time.
Onward and Upward.
Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker