I love candles. I really enjoy having them lit for meals. I think they add a specialness to the occasion, and it’s such a small thing to do that I try to have them a lot.
I made my first candles a very long time ago, 18 years ago actually, when I first moved to the US. I was excited to be able to make so many crafts than in Chile I never saw or learned. Then, few years back, I made them with Siena in our first days of Laura Ingalls Wilder (together with making butter, learning to quilt, etc) when all we did was the “old way.” She also made some in one of her classes/camps at Trackers few years later.
We’ve played around with beesawax before, making hand dipped and rolled candles, and also trying a recipe for a salve and lip balm. We have a list of other recipes and projects we want to try with beeswax, and especially since we have our own bees.
But for now we wanted to take photos of our hand dipping candle making and record it here. Maybe for someone else out there wanting to try, but also, because it’s fun to see what we’ve been making. Here’s our tutorial.
TUTORIAL: Hand dipped beeswax candles
Supplies: hot plate or stove + can (to melt beeswax) + pot (for water and big enough to fit the can) + beeswax + candle wick + 2 bolts (for the weight) + knife + scissors + jar/pot (for cold water)
Note about the supplies: I’ve had some supplies for a long time, and our friend Glendie, gave us all of her candlemaking supplies, so we can leave these for this use. The pot for the water bath will probably get wax in the process and I think it’s a lot easier to just keep it for that, but I’m sure the beeswax will come off if you want to re-use it for other projects. But I’m also sure you can find a used one in the thrift store would be ideal.
The can for melting the beeswax you’ll keep reusing it because you’ll probably have wax left that will harden and then you will reheated for next time, so that one you won’t clean up. The can should be a tall and narrow so you don’t have to use too much wax to make tall candles. I’m still trying to find the perfect can for this. Ours is a little too wide and short, but it works just fine for making candles.
I had this beeswax and have been trying to cut it to fit into the can to melt. Sometimes I shave it with the knife so it melts quicker. You can also buy beeswax pieces, which would make it a whole lot easier. Put the beeswax pieces (whatever size you end up having) in the clean and dry tall can where the wax will be melting. Then put the can in a pot with warm water (to get a head start.) You always need to heat the beeswax in a double boiler, or water bath. Never put it direct to the heat source.
It will look something like this. You need to do this part first, because it will take a while to melt the beeswax.
Now, while the wax is starting to melt, get the wick ready. The wick should be a little taller than the can you have for melting your beeswax or whatever size you want to make your candles. This is going to be how tall your candle will be.
Double the wick, because you will be making two candles at a time.
Tie one bolt on each end of the wick. It doesn’t have to be a big knot, but secure enough so it won’t fall off when you are dipping. The bolts are for the weight, to keep the wick straight when you dip it.
Dip it in the can of melted beeswax, holding the wick in the middle section, because you’ll be making two candles at a time. As you know, you have a can full of hot beeswax and a hot plate (or stove). Make sure the kids are not too close and are working carefully.
You’ll be dipping lots of time.
After each dip you put your wick with the growing wax sheet in a jar of cold water, to cool off.
It will cool it off quicker and let you dip and dip and make your candle quicker.
Dip again. Make sure you don’t keep the wick in the hot, melting beeswax for too long. It will melt the beeswax you already have in your wick, which is the start of your candle.
So keep dipping your wick in the beeswax.
And into the cold water jar, again and again, alternating.
And again. Lots and lots of time, until you like the size and look of your candles.
Because of the bolt in the bottom, it will make this funny shape. My son leaves them like this, because they are called Oompa Loompa Candles. But you can also make them even in the bottom.
Once you have the size of the candle you like, you are ready to trim the bottom, to make it more even and to take out the bolt, for more candles.
Peel off all the excess beeswax you have around the bolt. It is still warm, soft and smooth and smells good. Go ahead and take off excess beeswax around the bolt, carefully.
With the knife (that we keep for these projects too) you cut the bottom section of the wick that is tied to the bolt.
With your hands, make it smoother. Flat or rounded, however you like it.
Now with the little bits of wick left, that you took from around the bolt, you can also use them to make tiny candles.
Dip them as the other ones. For these don’t tie a bolt, they are already stiff because they have wax already and they are already small pieces. Just be careful with the hot wax pot, because you have less wick and will be getting your hands closer to the hot beeswax.
It’s the same process. Dip in hot beeswax and then cold water, time and time again, until you like the size. We made lots of tiny birthday cake candles. We dipped them less than the bigger candles, and were very easy, much quicker, to make. And so much fun!
We gave some of these to our little friend for his birthday and got to see them lit on his birthday cake. Can’t get more special than that to the maker of these candles!
You can dip and dip and make candles all day, or all morning, or all weekend. We had so much fun and we’ve been using them each day at dinner time. It reminds me of the day of making and of light that we seem to have more of. It calms me seeing that fire flicker at dinner time.
I think we are planning another day of making soon!