If you love scented candles but find them too expensive to buy regularly, you might not have thought about making them yourself. There are multiple candle-making supply companies that have everything you need to get started with making your own candles. Most of them even sell affordable starter kits with enough supplies to make a few candles for your first batch. Once you get the hang of it, you can buy wax, wicks, fragrances, and dyes in bulk to make them for yourself, for gifts, or to start your own candle-making business.
For centuries, people used beeswax or tallow to make candles. Paraffin, made from oil derivatives like petroleum, is the most common type of wax used in candles today. Candle makers also make candles with beeswax, palm wax, coconut wax, synthesized wax, gels, and soy wax. Soy wax is popular because it is natural and burns clean. Blended waxes often contain soy wax and paraffin in a mixture called para-soy, which gives a clean burn and has a nice scent. Many starter candle-making kits contain para-soy.
The type of wick you will need will depend on the size of the jar you choose. The larger the jar, the larger the wick you will need. Jars can be glass or seamless metal like tin. If you plan to give your candles as gifts or if you plan to sell them, you may want to find jars with lids. Candle-making starter kits will come with a few jars for you to make your first batch of candles and will include the appropriate size wicks for those jars. After your first batch or two, you can find any type of jar you would like to use.
There are many types of wicks available for candle making, including wooden, ribbon, or cotton. Wick-tabs or wick-sustainers help the wicks stand up during the wax pouring process. You can use a glue gun to glue the bottom of the wick-tab to the center of the jar to hold it in place. Some candle making kits include adhesive tape or wax to secure the wicks, but many candle makers use a glue gun. If you are using cotton wicks, be sure to straighten them out before placing them in your candles.
Next, you want to secure the wicks to hold them in place to center them during the wax pouring process. For wooden wicks, you can accomplish this by simply placing a piece of tape across the top of the jar. For cotton wicks, you can use a wick holder. Many candle makers use popsicle sticks with a small hole made for guiding the wick. The hole in the spring of a clothespin works very well for small jars. You can also balance the clothespin on a popsicle stick for larger jars.
The best way to melt the wax is with a double-boiler. Fill the bottom pot with three or four inches of water, put it over medium-high heat, and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the wax into the container you will be using to pour the wax into the jars. Set the container in the first pot and try to make sure it stays off of the bottom, so it isn’t sitting directly on the heat.
Heat the wax from 180 to 185 degrees, so the wax is fully expanded to enable the fragrance oils to penetrate more thoroughly. You can test the temperature with an old fashioned candy thermometer or use a more modern thermal scanner. You want to avoid touching the hot wax when you check the temperature.
Many candle makers leave their candles, the natural color of the wax. Some like to add some color that represents the fragrance to some degree, like orange for pumpkin spice scents. You can add the dye while the wax is still fairly hot. For most dyes, you only need one drop per pound of candle wax, so a little dye goes a long way. After you add the drops of dye, stir thoroughly for several minutes until the wax looks uniform in color.
The amount of fragrance your candles will have depends on how much fragrance you add. Most candle makers recommend about 1 ounce of fragrance for 1 pound of wax with a maximum of 1.6 ounces per pound. If you add any more than that, the fragrance oil may not properly bond to the wax. You want to allow the wax to cool a bit before adding the fragrance oil. Experienced candle makers claim that the optimal temperature to add fragrance oils is 160 degrees. Set a timer and stir in the fragrance for a full two minutes.
Once your fragrance is thoroughly mixed, you want to pour your wax into each jar. Be careful while pouring to make sure the wick is centered. When the wax cools, it will shrink, which may cause sinkholes and dips on the surface. You can use a heat gun to smooth out uneven surfaces or a hairdryer on the hottest setting, but it does take a bit longer with a hairdryer. Be sure not to heat the surface too much, so the fragrance doesn’t escape from the top layer of the wax. Next, clip the wicks to around a quarter to one-half of an inch with clippers, sewing scissors, or kitchen shears.
When you have completed one batch of candles, keep them together and let them sit for three days to allow the wax, dye, and fragrance to set. After three days, light one of the candles for a test burn to make sure it burns correctly, and the scent is neither overly powerful or undetectable. If your test burn is successful, you are ready to give your candles as gifts, sell them, or just enjoy them all yourself.