When I got into beekeeping I wanted the wax as much as I wanted the honey. Beeswax can be used for hundreds if not thousands of things. It is great bullet lube, helps hold bow strings together, has medical and cosmetic uses, and makes a great additive to woodworking varnish. But one of the biggest uses is candle making. Beeswax candles have some great advantages to paraffin based candles.
They are renewable and natural – bees make more wax each year. They burn cleaner and longer than paraffin, unlike paraffin candles they won’t deposit soot in your home. Beeswax burns brighter than paraffin, and is more similar to sunlight. Beeswax candles don’t drip wax.
I guess the only downside of beeswax is the cost. Because paraffin wax is a by-product of oil refining, there is a lot more of it so costs are lower.
However, even cost can be mitigated if you keep your own bees and make your own candles.
Before we get into the meat of candle making, I want to give you two safety caveats.
Beeswax gets HOT. I have melted several plastic measuring cups and molds working with it. It is also very flammable. If you are not careful and use a stove without a double boiler you will most likely have a fire. Never leave heating beeswax unmonitored.
It’s not really hard to do; all you need to start is just get a mold, some wicks, and some beeswax.
To melt my wax, I used wax that I had previously strained. Raw wax will have bee bits and other unattractive items. If you don’t have any hives, or a friend with hives to barter with, you can buy beeswax from a craft store or order it online.
To melt it, you either need a double boiler (in a pinch you can use two pots – just make sure they are Pyrex or stainless steel. Anything else will probably stain your wax.) I used a Pyrex measuring cup and a couple minutes in the microwave.
The microwave method can get the wax super heated, so I run it long enough to get some wax melted, and then use what litte patience I have to let the melted wax melt whatever is left. If you run your microwave until all the max is melted it will be VERY hot, and can melt plastic….
For a mold I bought a multiple votive mold from a bee supply store, but you can use just about anything. I have heard paper Dixie cups work outstanding, but I heard that after I dropped money on the metal mold. For wicks I bought a bag of pre-tabbed wicks that were cut to length and have a little metal mounting tab attached. You can buy a roll of wick if you want, but its more trouble to make it stick in the bottom of your mold. If you were using paper cups, generally you would need to punch a hole in the center and run the wick up through the cup and tie the end of the wick to a stick to hold it in place.
With a pre-tabbed wick, all I did was put a little dab of melted wax in the mold and stick the tab to it. Once that hardened, I poured a little more wax to cover the tab and let that harden. I then slowly poured the rest of the wax to fill the mold. You will need to pour it in slowly, as you don’t want any air bubbles.
Beeswax needs to cool slowly or it will crack. The larger the candle the longer it will take to cool. As it dries the top will shrink and may leave a little depression around the wick. The wick hole might also enlarge. Either can be fixed by pouring a little hot wax to fill it in.
Once the candle completely hardens, I turn the mold over and gently tap the bottom to knock out the candles. Just like with my interpersonal communication, gently doesn’t always work, in that case, I grab my stick and beat the fire out of the bottom of the mold until the stubborn candles drop free. If I was cheaper and used paper cups I would just peel the paper off.
If there are imperfections in the candles, and I am giving them away, I just use a little heat from my hands, a heat gun, or a quick dip in hot water to soften the wax and run the imperfection away.
After that, I just store them is a cool spot until my wife gives them away to her friends…