This page outlines various materials and ingredients used to make candles.
The beauty of making candles is that you really only need a few ingredients and few pieces of equipment. You don’t need anything fancy although you can buy really nice equipment, the fact is that you make candles with equipment you probably already have!
Essentially, all you need to make your candles is the wax (beeswax or paraffin), some dye (optional), some fragrance (optional) along with a mould or something like an old jam jar. Of course, you also need a wick… as we candle makers like to say… making candles is wicked!
Primarily speaking, candles are made from one of two types of waxes. These two waxes are beeswax or paraffin. Stearin, another form of wax is usually added to paraffin wax to help compensate for some of the qualities that paraffin lacks.
Although not mentioned in this book, in addition to beeswax another natural wax that was commonly used in North America was bayberry wax. In countries like China, people made candles from the wax of the tallow tree.
As you might guess, beeswax is taken from the hives of honeybees. Beeswax is entirely natural and is essentially the comb in which the honey is stored. A beekeeper will remove the honey and then clean the wax by melting and straining any debris from the wax. At this point, the beeswax is ready to use.
Until the invention of paraffin wax in the 1850’s, this was the best wax to use to make candles. But it was very expensive and thus only the rich and the church could afford to use beeswax candles.
Some will argue that beeswax is still the best wax to use when making candles because it is natural. Some have reported that other waxes can emit small amount of toxins, which normally cause no problems, but in excess could. When burning beeswax candles then there are no toxins emitted at all.
Beeswax is famous for being a slow burner and for producing a lovely aroma. It provides good light with little smoke. Beeswax also does not shrink when it hardens thus you don’t need to add extra after the candle has cooled.
Beeswax is pleasant to touch and is naturally golden in color although some will bleach it white. Beeswax is naturally soft and sticky thus it can be sometimes more difficult to release a beeswax candle from a mould.
Beeswax is more expensive than paraffin wax but for the naturalist, beeswax is worth the price. Some will not make 100% beeswax candles and instead, some will only add a small amount of beeswax to paraffin wax to improve the appearance of the candle and to help it burn bright and steadily.
If you add more than 10% of beeswax to a wax like paraffin wax then you will need to add an agent, like stearin, to help release the candle from the mould.
Beeswax can be bought in granule form or in sheets. If you buy the wax in sheets, then it can be simply rolled around an unprimed wick to make a quick, simple and attractive candle.
Remember to save any leftover beeswax as you can use it again or you can add it to paraffin wax to improve the quality of the paraffin wax candles.
If you are wanting to add scents to your candles then beeswax is not your best choice.
- 100% natural
- Burns bright and steadily
- Produces a wonderful aroma
- Will not shrink after it hardens
- Can be difficult to release from a mould
- Beeswax is naturally golden but you can buy it bleached
Paraffin wax is a by-product of the petroleum industry. This is what your common, every day candles are made from. Paraffin is white and semi-transparent. Paraffin produces an odorless smoke.
Paraffin wax has the benefit of being easily released from moulds but paraffin also burns faster than beeswax.
When you buy paraffin wax you need to be aware of its melting point. This is the temperature at which the wax melts. The flash point is the temperature at which the wax will catch on fire.
Generally speaking, the melting point for paraffin wax is between 104 – 160Â° F (40 – 71Â° C). The melting point will vary from wax to wax depending on its quality.
Most people add stearin to the paraffin wax. In some situations, you can buy paraffin wax with the stearin already added.
There is good quality and bad quality paraffin wax. As in most situations, you get what you pay for and so when using paraffin, you may need to try a few different suppliers to see which one is best.
Paraffin wax is available in granular form or sheets.
- Easily available
- Burns faster than beeswax
- Stearin is usually added to paraffin
- There is good quality and bad quality paraffin
Stearin, otherwise known as stearic acid, was first discovered in the early 1800’s. It is derived usually from tallow (animal fat) but in some cases from vegetable fats. Stearin is used in many common products such as soaps, adhesives and for the purpose of this book, candles.
Stearin is an isolated ingredient of tallow. Although tallow was used for centuries as the wax of candles, as we previously learnt, tallow candles were not all that effective. However, stearin contains the most beneficial attributes of tallow.
Stearin is a white crystalline substance that is both a grainy and hard wax. Stearin helps the wax to harden and it also makes the wax more opaque. Stearin also helps the paraffin burn slower and it helps the candle be shinier or more glossy.
Stearin is additionally used because it helps the paraffin wax shrink. One might say that stearin performs the opposite action of Viagra. When making candles, shrinkage is beneficial because it allows the candle to release from the mould more easily!
Stearin increases the melting point temperature of wax. This in turn is the reason why stearin helps paraffin wax burn slower.
Stearin is also used as a solvent for dyes and thus when you add stearin to paraffin wax, you enhance and brighten the color of the candle. One should know that many candle dyes are blocks of colored stearin and thus if adding color to your candle you may need to reduce the amount of stearin you add accordingly.
Stearin should not be used when using rubber moulds as the stearin will rot the mould.
Here are the amounts of stearin to add. The amounts are provided in 3 formats. You can choose which format is most convenient for you to work with:
Generally speaking, one adds 2 to 5 tablespoons (30 to 74 mL) of of stearin per 1 pound (454 g) of wax.
For those that prefer percentages, generally speaking people add about 10 to 20% of stearin to their paraffin wax when making candles.
For those that prefer ratios, one generally add 1 or 2 parts stearin for every 10 parts of paraffin wax.
Personally, I always start with the lower amount and then increase if needed. You will need to make some candles to see how much is ideal for the wax you are using.
When using stearin, the stearin should be melted first and then the paraffin wax is added to the stearin. If you add too much stearin to your candles then your candles will look like soap that doesn’t lather.
It’s worth noting that you can buy wax with stearin already added.
It is assumed that all paraffin candles in this book contain stearin already added either by you or by the manufacture of the wax.
- Added in small amounts to paraffin wax
- Helps improve the qualities of paraffin wax
- Don’t use stearin if you are using a rubber mould