Hard to think of a time when a candle didn’t bring any given moment a little more appeal – we turn to the glow of soft flickering light in moments of celebration, ritual and romance. But also, even the most mundane days can be enhanced with a lit wick providing an instant dose of cozy.
I first started experimenting with this forgotten craft a couple years back while living in a 19th century farmhouse. At the time, short days and cold winter weather persuaded me to spend a lot of time indoors which gave me ample opportunity to dive into learning a new craft. Sort of like country living, candles have a novelty to them that feels timeless and humble; a simplicity that can bring so much peace. And while you certainly don’t need to live outside city limits to appreciate a good taper, the activity itself serves as a good prescription to cabin fever. I’ve since moved back to the city; but even after my transition into an apartment lifestyle, it’s as easy as ever to keep up with making my own candles that bring the same comfort to my city home as they did in the country.
Making your own candles adds a personal touch to your home whether in-use or on display. Plus, once you master this craft, the possibilities are truly endless: add a few drops of essential oils to alter the scent, mold the taper to have a groovy shape and/or easily adjust the size of your materials to fit your desired length of the taper. The days are still short, so there is plenty of time post-sunset to let your work shine. Fun fact: like some houseplants, beeswax purifies the air! Bonus.
- A small cooking pot
- Beeswax – I started with 1 ½ bars of beeswax (bars weigh ~ 7.5 oz. each). Have enough wax to fill a soup can + a little extra*
- Where to find beeswax? Although beeswax may seem obscure, it’s carried at most co-ops and holistic health stores. If you’re still stumped, a quick internet search will turn up plenty of results!
- A clean, dry soup can
- Wax paper
- A glass jar that is at least the same size as your soup can, if not larger
- Primed wicking – I found mine here and chose 12-ply which was suggested for a candle that’s an inch or less in diameter
- A pen
- Five washers (These will be used for weights. Don’t have washers? Use some lucky pennies!)
*You may need to add more wax during the process. I would suggest having a hammer and towel handy to break up the wax.
The Process \
1 Melt the Wax
Begin the candle making process by filling your pot half full with water. Next, fill your soup can with beeswax, set the can in the center of the pot and transfer to the stove. Depending on what form your wax is in, you may need to use a hammer to break up the wax and fill the soup can – I cover my wax bar with a towel, which helps contain wax shards and protects the hammer from getting coated in wax. Turn on your burner, somewhere between medium-low and medium is usually perfect. I wouldn’t suggest exceeding medium; your water will start boiling before your wax is melted. And then you wait. And wait… and wait.
Beeswax will take some time to melt completely. So, pour yourself a cup of something tasty and kick your feet up! (Maybe that something tasty is from this volume’s Bar Cart article? Find recipes and more, here.)
2 Prepare the Wick
Finished with your drink? Hope it was delish – time to check back in with your wax! Likely, your beeswax is almost fully melted. Grab a disposable stick (a Popsicle stick or shish kabob stick from last summer will do the trick) and check the bottom for non-melted wax. This should give you an idea of how much longer you have to wait.
While you’re still waiting, prep your wicks, so that they will be ready to dip. Use the glass jar as a measuring tool and cut five wicks of the same length; measure the wicks with the size of the soup can in mind + a little more because we want some extra wick to be able to grab and dip. Use your pen and tie the top half inch of the wick around the pen, then slide off and repeat for all five wicks. Use the pen as an aide for dipping. Even if you’re still waiting for all the wax to melt, use the melted wax at the surface to attach your weights to the bottom of the wick. Set your weight on a flat surface, do a quick dip into the wax with the bottom of your wick and bring over to the weight; press on the wick to attach. Then, do a quick seal by dipping the wick and attached weight in the wax once more. Repeat with all wicks!
3 Get to Dippin’
Finally, the easy part! Once your wax is completely melted and your weights + wicks are attached, it’s time for dipping! Fill your glass jar with cold water and lay out a sheet of wax paper with your wicks laid out and ready. You can also lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the area between your pot and the wax paper to catch stray drips.
To begin, slide a wick back onto the pen, and dip the wick into the soup can as far down as it can go without bending. Remove and immediately dip the wick into the glass of cold water. Then, repeat the wax and water dips a few more times. After the first initial dips, cut the weight off the bottom of the candle and, while the wax is still warm, peel away to free the weight. You can leave your working candle in the cold water while you do this. Set the peeled wax off to the side to solidify again and set the weight to the side as well. Continue dipping into the wax then water.
You’ll notice that the bottom of your candle will start to form a drip shape – when you’ve reached a desired size of your candle, dip into the cold water once more and use your scissors to trim the bottom of the taper so it’s flat (getting rid of the drip shape that has formed). Dip the candle in the wax + water a final time to seal the bottom. Lay your candle on the wax paper to dry and repeat the process with your next candle! The dipping takes time – once you get through the first few candles, it comes along easily!
4 Let it Shine
After you’ve finished dipping and your taper candles have hardened, find your favorite candle holder or rescue a wine bottle from the recycling. Set up your candles and light! I love the sweet scent of warm beeswax, and the drips of wax that cascade down the holder (I think) add to the delight. Happy dipping!
Learn from my trials and errors:
The wick is important, more so than I initially assumed. There are different plys for different sizes of candles, so remember that when plotting out your taper. There is a good article about wick ply, here. Also, if you’re buying your wicking, I suggest buying it primed. Primed wicks make for a more stable burn of your taper candle.