by Virginia Webb, Master Beekeeper
After honey, the next most common byproduct of the beehive is beeswax. Candles made from beeswax are some of the highest quality available. 100% beeswax candles are long burning, have their own natural honey aroma and are a perfect gift item, especially for individuals who may have asthma or allergies due to artificially scented candles.
Here is a list of items needed to begin making beeswax candles:
- Candle mold and wick
- Rubber bands
- Double boiler and tin can—this can be a large pot, designated for melting beeswax
- Mold release spray
- Straining material—nylon or other materials
- Container to strain wax
- Small level
- Wick holder, pin or hair pin to hold wick
- First rendered beeswax—capping wax is the best
To get started making beeswax candles you will need candle molds. Molds can be made of tin, plastic or silicone (or flex). For my operation, I use mostly the silicone molds because they are flexible, easy to remove the candle, and should last for hundreds of pourings.
Use only cotton wicks. If pouring votives, you may want to buy pre-clipped wicks, this is safer for burning. When you buy the candle mold it should state the correct size of wick to use. If you use too small a wick, the candle will burn a small flame and may go out prematurely. If the wick is too large, the flame will be too big and the candle will drip.
In first melting beeswax, I only use a double boiler to melt the wax. Use an old 4-quart pan or larger for water, and a smaller pan or tin can for the wax. This allows the wax to melt slowly and evenly. Wax that is overheated will be dull and can darken in color.
Using wax that has been once-rendered may have some debris on the bottom. When melting the wax I never stir the pot, because wax is very light and any foreign matter in the wax will sink to the bottom of the pot. When I strain the wax, I will never completely pour out all the melted wax, just pour to the point where the “slum gum” starts. This slum gum wax is poured into another container and used for non-craft items.
Set up the candle mold, making sure the top of the mold (which is the bottom of the candle) is level. By using the small level you will ensure the candle is level. If the candle is not level it will drip. You may want to place the mold on a form, to elevate the mold so not to have the wick making the candle set unevenly. Place a few rubber bands around the candle if it is a split candle mold. Use a wick holder, pin or hair pin to hold the wick in place. Make sure it is centered in the mold.
To strain the wax I use a one-liter soda bottle. The reason I prefer this size is that it holds a little over a pound of wax and it is transparent. You can easily see the amount of wax you are pouring into the container and it is reusable. After you pour the candle, pour the remaining unused wax back into the melting pot. A thin layer of wax will build up inside the bottle. After several pours, refrigerate the bottle to let the wax harden. After it hardens, place it back into the melting pot.
Over the years I’ve heard of many different items used as straining materials, such as paint strainers, panty hose, and old t-shirts. I’ve tried most of these, but in recent years, I started using older sheer nylon curtains. Cut to about a 1-foot square, they can be folded to make two layers for straining. These can be easily found at resale shops for only a few dollars.
When you are ready to pour, be sure to secure the strainer with a rubber band, this will keep the strainer from falling into the wax.
If using a metal, glass, or hard plastic mold, you will want to spray the mold with a mold release spray, which is 3% silicone. I don’t suggest using vegetable oil as it can bond with the wax. The silicone spray creates a barrier between the wax and the mold, making the candle easier to release.
Pour the candle evenly; don’t stop in the middle to see if it is being filled. This will cause lines around the candle where the wax has started to harden.
If a candle mold is very detailed, you may want to remove the rubber bands and loosen the candle from the mold after it begins to set up. This can be done within 15-20 minutes of pouring the candle.
Wait until the candle is completely hardened to remove. If you take the candle out before it is hard, the wick could pull through the candle.
For more details on pouring candles, I’ve made a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8OOoqZKJUY on Preparing Honey Show Entries – Beeswax Candles. It will show you the step-by-step process I use in pouring candles.
Good luck with all your beeswax items.