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Candle making--Basics and Tips

Dr N K Srinivasan

Welcome to this wonderful hobby or business!

Candle making has a long history,from the Middle Ages.But it has

become a fun-filled creative hobby as well as a home business or

even small industry for many people.In the US, it is a 2 billion $

industry....Thousands of hobbyists, home-industry moms are doing

this !.What is more ,you can make creative designs and art with


Candle making is relatively simple, compared to other chemistry

related hobbies---say, soap making!

Basically you do two things---melt candle wax in a small pot ;then

pour into a container or mold;

You can use any container for making candles---some have used milk

cartons, cardboard cans or even just aluminum foil folded into a


You can melt in a stove or even microwave oven for some

waxes....be careful ,though...I would suggest a double boiler---a

water bath inside which you keep the wax pot...this is safer and

easier to control the temperature.

Most waxes melt between 130 deg F to 180 deg F; so not much of

high temperature!
[You can use a solar cooker too to melt wax; See the section at

the bottom of this article where I describe "how to build a solar

cooker for melting wax"]

For some candles, you use a mold---say a metal mold..a steel or

aluminum piece or glass jars.If you use a metal mold, you have to

strip the candle after it solidifies and hardens...You can coat or

spray the inside of the mold with "mold release paint"--a

silicone paint!

If not for profits, you can delight your relatives and friends

with nice, custom-made designer-style candles for those special

occasions--birthdays for instance!!

Candle making is part art and part science!

Critical Factors in Candle -making

Let me focus on the critical factors right at the start.

1 FRAGRANCE: For user/consumer appeal, pay attention to

fragrance or smell...this should be appealing and inviting.! You

must also offer a variety of fragrances if you want a large

market...Candles are mood-elevating things!

Plenty of fragrances are available...experiment with a few and

then expand your variety or menu.

Let me repeat again: Fragrance is the number one factor for

customer appeal.Try burning different types in your home and ask

the opinion of many people--> get their feedback.

I am not going into the fascinating and intriguing subject of

Aromapathy! If you are interested, read that subject with

reference to scented candles!

2 COLOR of the candle: Here again taste varies;Candles are

mood-elevating--so color should match the environ and the

situation in which the candle is used...A romantic pair in a cozy

room needs a different color candle than a religious old lady in

a church or chapel!--so you get my point.

3 SHAPE: Again tastes and uses vary; offer a choice of

shapes...this is like architecture...you can experiment and be

creative...or else offer cylindrical, hexagonal or octagonal

shapes...Children love funny shapes---say shapes of animals; while

a religious person may like candles with church-themes--say

figures of saints.

The rest of the factors--like how long the candle would burn,how

much it would drip, the type of wick and so on ---are minor


[Some rate candles with the number of hours it would burn---say 8

hours or 12 hours or 15 hours. This you can specify.]

Read the safety guidelines given at the bottom

of this article.
Technical Factors

I hesitate to discuss these factors too much as this turns people

off...but I am a technical person [a chemist and an engineer some

years ago!] ; so I must mention a few things here.

If you want consistent ,high quality results or going into large

business, then pay more attention to these factors...Even if you

are home-bound ,weekend hobbyists , keep these few things in


Technically, in chemical terms, oils,fats and waxes are similar,

except for viscosity or thickness. Most waxes are made by

hydrogenating vegetable oils ,like artificial 'butters'

--available in grocery stores/supermarkets.

1 Melting point Waxes melt at a particular temperature;you must

know this temperature..MP-- from the supplier or experiment

yourself..Keep the temp 20 to 30 degrees F above this melting

point ....Do not overheat! you will burn part of the melted wax

and create problems.

If you add hardeners like stearic acid ,then MP will vary ;check

on this.

2 Pouring temperature The temperature at which you pour molten wax

into container or mold is very important...the liquid must flow

freely and fill the cavity; there should be no air entrapment or

unmelted areas.Check this temperature when you practice.!!

It is obvious that you need a good thermometer to measure the

liquid temperature.Glass thermometers are available for 3$ to 5$ ;

get a good one! This is the most important investment for your

quality control!

3 Weighing things is important..even the additives ,fragrances and

colors you add, ---keep measuring and relate to one lb [one pound]

of wax.

4 Add fragrances last...add color dyes [blocks or liquid] earlier,

but stir well...


Wax melting and wicking go together...choose proper wicks--a

variety is available...You can use wick-assemblies already made or

make one using wick base and holders for proper positioning...You

can also use simple cardboard and pencil arrangement to thread the

wicks....Again try a few of these for doing fast.


Types of candles and your shopping list

Types of waxes

1 Paraffin wax---this is a petroleum product---same as your

vaseline or skin cream/lotion base; this wax is the cheapest and

readily available.You can start your trials with this wax. You may

add stearic acid as a hardener for thick, long candles.[Usually

melts around 130 deg F +/- 2 deg F]

2 Soy wax...this is relatively new wax for candle making--an

eco-friendly vegetable product made from soy-bean oil. This wax is

becoming popular--a bit more expensive than paraffin wax.[See

note at the end of this article].

3 Palm wax---this is made from palm oil--a regular cooking oil;

most commonly imported from Malaysia or Thailand...some eco-groups

are objecting to using this because, lots of trees are cut in

these countries for cultivating for this oil , which has become a

commercial venture...

Palm wax is a bit more expensive than paraffin wax...But it is

eco-friendly--no smoke and no harmful chemicals from burning ;some

state that paraffin wax is bad for health;especially causing

indoor pollution if used within rooms.

Like Soy wax, palm wax is a renewable resource. But paraffin wax

is a 'by-product ' of petroleum industry and therefore will be

available at low cost as long as people use automobiles!

For candle lovers, Palm wax, also called 'crystallizing

wax'--gives sparkling wax,that burns 40% more time compared to

paraffin and may not require any fragrance at all--apart from


4 Beeswax--- this is the traditional, medieval wax candle

material, used in churches and monasteries---made by millions of

hard-working bees for their hives...this is much expensive [3 to 4

times that of paraffin wax]..you may use this for special

occasions ...for churches or religious ceremonies or on special

request from customers...some like its smell;some don't!

One advantage is that you can make beeswax candles by wrapping

method-called 'rolling the sheet'--wrap the sheet like wax into

thin shapes.!This is easy for kid's projects.

5 Crystal wax--- this a new entrant---useful for kids because this

does not require melting...you get in powder form which you can

pack in a container---good for kids projects...if you like ,you

can melt this too. This is called crystal-magic and sold under
that name.

[I shall not discuss gel wax and other stuff in this article']

There are suppliers who make wax blends: blend of paraffin + soy,

soy+palm and so on for various reasons---not always

technical..Sometimes to avoid import duties, sometime to reduce

cost and so on.Check the blends carefully.

{ Historically,tallow or animal fat, from pigs or cattle , have

been used by chandlers to make candles. Due to bad smell and other

factors, they are rarely used these days.}

Wax Additives

The main additives are for:

1 Hardening the wax---usually stearic acid,aka stearin, is added;

2 Ultraviolet UV light stabilization--simply stated, the color of

candles kept outdoors fade fast;this helps to keep the color fast;

3 Gel additives for decorative purposes.

There are many commercial names for these;check with suppliers.

Types of candles

The most common forms of candles are:

* Container candle

* Pillar candle

* Votive candle

Container candles are easy to make...You just pour molten wax into
a container carrying a wick at the center.The container can be a

glass jar or glass vase or even a wine glass..you can use a milk

carton or plastic cup or a coconut shell.

Since there is a container around the candle, we need not be

considering the dripping of candle or the softness of the candle.

Pillar candles are the cylindrical pillar ,without a container.You

require a metal or plastic mold to make them. After the wax

hardens ,you strip off the candle from the mold...Molds can be

reused.The mold is given a plastic coating to enable easy

stripping.Instead of cylindrical, you can have molds of hexagonal

or octagonal shape. These candles should be a bit hard to enable

standing , to prevent bending or warping.Some hardeners are added

to the wax melt. Pillar candles can be large for church services.

Votive candles,also called vigil candles, are small jar like

candles,again made with a mold and requires no container.They are

typically 2in height and 2in diameter. They are used in small

rooms for decoration.You may keep them on glass or plastic


Small candles in a aluminum cup with a small wick ,called 'tea

lite' has become popular...You can keep them for short period,


Tapers are long thin candles, made by building a small rod like

Votives and tapers may be used with a candle stick or holders.

Making candles

The process of making candles is pretty simple.

1 Weigh the wax in required quantity...cut into small pieces; drop

into melting pot. Use a double boiler as a safety measure.

2 Melt slowly ,checking the temperature often.

3 Keep the container or mold ready with wick in place.

4 Add coloring matter;stir well; add fragrance and stir well just
before pouring!

5 Pour molten wax into the mold or container slowly;

6 Allow the candle to harden for 12 hours or more.

7 If you are using the mold, strip the candle gently after it has

hardened,say after 12 to 24 hours; Candles shrink after becoming

solid and cooling to room temperature;if with container, light it

as such.

[If you have difficulty in stripping the candle from the mold,here

is the tip; keep the mold in a fridge for about 15 mins and then
pull the candle out.]

7 Trim the wick to 1/2 inch or so.

8 Light the candle---check for burning time,smell and so on.

Keep a journal and record your measurements and

observations...this is important.

Making large number of candles for profit

It is easy to melt a few pounds of wax at a time and pour into

several molds or containers. We also have fixtures with multiple

molds for this purpose.

You can trim and smooth the candles for better finish.
The cost of candle making is pretty low; for fancy candles or bulk

production, the profit margin can be high.

The major cost is ,of course, the cost of wax itself.The cost

decreases when you buy in bulk --in 10 lb or 50 lb packages,

preferably from on-line suppliers.

The cost of fragrance can be high and again you should buy in
larger quantities and optimize their use by experiments. The cost

of the rest of the items--wicks, holders,coloring stuff --are

pretty low.

You can price the candles 3 times the production cost;if this

price is high, try 2.5 times the production cost.Think of ways of

reducing your cost.It is better to slightly lower the price rather

than lose the business as a starter.

You can make special designs of candles with innovative


There are plenty of books available on this fast-growing subject.

Incidentally, by promoting candles and using eco-friendly

materials, you can save the planet by reducing fossil fuels used

for power generation by utilities...Every bit helps!

Candle Projects for Kids!

Candle projects are great fun for kids--ages 3+; But be careful

when they have to melt wax [at 130F or higher] and pour. Adult
supervision is required.

But there are many projects without heating the wax. You can give

them "Crystal-Magick" stuff for making candles---this requires no

melting at all.

Let them try decorating candles or making nice candle holders from

house-hold scrap material.

Here are some specific suggestions for Kid's projects:

1 You can use old wax crayons ["crayola stuff"] --broken pieces-to

melt and make new candles..Remove the paper sleeve and clean as
needed. Cut into small pieces.Melt in a small steel kid's pot!

2 You can also use old crayon bits for coloring your wax melt

before pouring...make different colors by mixing and matching

them. You can give them a project to make rainbow colors in a

single candle--by adding different color crayons in small

quantities one after another to a transparent paraffin wax melt.[

I regularly use crayon bits and pieces to color my melt of wax.]

3 Kids can paint or make designs on glass or steel container

candles.The kids can use inexpensive poster paints or tempera

paints to color or use oil pastel sticks to paint.If you are using

oil pastels,get some good quality pastels.

Kids can also paint on the candle itself using inexpensive acrylic


4 Flower pots can serve as candle container or holders and kids

can paint the outside of these with designs.

5 Use plastic molds to make animals in candles or use cookie

cutters of different shapes.

You can also develop "fund raiser projects" with candle sales for


There are several websites for kid's projects;look up these sites:




A useful general website for candlemaking--a great resource--is:


Happy and glorious candle making!


Solar cooker for wax melting!

My own experiments and trials in candle making led me to use a

simple solar cooker for melting wax. This avoids using a stove or

microwave oven for melting ,saving energy from utilities and also

a simple,better control of melt temperature and, above all a

perfectly safe method of melting....I have build a simple solar

box cooker for this purpose which you can build in an afternoon. I
describe here in sufficient detail :"How to build a Solar box

cooker for wax melting?"..

You can ,of course, modify the design and also build a cooker of

bigger size..You can also give this as a science project for

middle school kids![ I have done this with nearly 30 kids]

[I must add here that beekeepers have been using solar beeswax
melters made of wooden boxes, styrofoam insulation, glass or

perspex windows---they are quite heavy (about 50 lbs or more),

sometimes placed on a wheeled trolley.Commercial ones cost about

100 to 200 $. The design I give here is pretty simple and is of

very low weight and almost zero cost.]

Build a Solar cooker for wax melting?

Materials required:

1 Enameled tray [ as used in ovens; I use a small 8in x 8in tray.][You can also

use a aluminum tray used for serving food.]

2 A cardboard box--a shallow one ,preferably 9in x 12 in [ I use a 'priority

mailing box' of USPS]

3 Aluminum foil- heavy duty [Reynolds Al foil]

4 Cardboard pieces [3 pieces] [about 9in x12 in]

5 Shredded paper [from any paper shredder] or cut newpaper.

6 A transparent plastic sheet [about 9 in x 12 in]

7 Glue

8 Duct tape or sealing tape or mailing tape

8 A liquid thermometer or candy thermometer you may have.


I am sure you can collect all these very easily.

Step by step instruction:

1 Make a cut out on the top of the box to the size of the tray;in my case, the cut

out is 8in x8 in. square.

2 Place a piece of foil, about 9in x 9in, at the bottom of the box.

3 Fill the box with shredded paper in a loose manner.

4Cut the transparent plastic sheet to form a cover over the tray and

paste the sheet on one side of the box.This would enable the sheet

to cover the tray and easy to lift up for placing the melt pot.

5 Make three aluminum reflectors with cardboard pieces :pasting the aluminum

foil [bright side up] on 9inx12 in cardboard sheet.

6 Press the tray into the cut out, flush with the top surface of

the box.Use sealing tape or duct tape on all four sides to seal

the tray to the top of the box.The plastic sheet will fall over

the tray as a transparent cover.

7 Paste the reflectors on the three sides of the box.The

reflectors can be straight and vertical or else capable of


8 Keep the cooker in the sun ,oriented such that the reflectors

reflect the solar rays into the tray.

9 Keep the melt pot on the tray and cover with transparent plastic


10 Measure the temperature of a bowl/ pot with wax.[You can keep

a water bowl for initial trials.]

[ Note : Avoid using a glass or ceramic container for wax...it

will heat slowly; use only a metallic container or pot.]

Basic principle of this design of cooker:

A. Solar energy entering through the plastic sheet is absorbed by

the tray and the pot.[The tray may be painted mat-black, that is

dull-black, color,but this is not essential.]

The plastic sheet acts as glazing using 'green-house effect'

preventing heat rays or infra-red rays from hot object [tray &

pot] going out.

B. Much heat may be lost from the bottom of the tray.This is

reduced by two means:

1 aluminum foil kept at the bottom of the box which reflects the

heat back to the tray;

2 the shredded paper with air gaps which act as excellent

insulator and also prevents convection of air below the tray.

C.The three reflectors reflect rays of the sun into the

tray.These reflectors may not be perfect [that is 100 %

reflection] and may not be positioned at suitable angle for

reflection.Yet, they would increase the heat input into the box in

large quantities.

By these three means --A,B and C--we heat up the tray easily to

about 100deg C [212 F]... You can reduce the temperature by

opening the plastic sheet or cutting the area of sunlight falling

with a cardboard cover.

Parabolic or concentrating reflectors: Solar energy friends use

these to focus solar energy into a small area. This would result

in a high temperature quickly. Though such a reflector can be used

for melting wax, it is difficult to control the temperature. Hence

not recommended for this application.Such reflectors can burn wax

and start a fire!

[Some may use Fresnel lens for this purpose; this is also not


In my opinion, solar box cookers are the ideal equipment for

tapping solar energy for melting wax.

We need only 140 to 170 deg F to melt waxes; this temperature

range is attained in about 20 minutes in my trials;[in the month

of June at Palo Alto, Northern California].If you live in southern

USA or south India or southern parts of Africa, it may take only

5 to 10 minutes for melting.I could melt 1/2 lb of wax per batch

with this small cooker..You can build bigger ones for larger

capacity per batch.


NOTE: Soy wax versus Paraffin wax for candles

1. Soy wax is natural,grown on the soil,renewable resource

2 Soy wax is almost soot free while burning ,unlike paraffin

wax.[It produces thin white soot, but very little compared to


3 Soy wax burns 30 to 50% longer than paraffin wax of the same

4 Soy wax is healthier;no toxic compounds generated while burning,

unlike paraffin wax.EPA has listed several chemicals found in the

smoke of paraffin wax.

5 Soy wax does not require any additive like hardeners, unlike

paraffin which is hardened with strearin or stearic acid.

[Soy wax is produced in USA and other countries; Paraffin wax is a

petroleum product; Palm wax is made from Palm oil,grown mostly in

Malaysia.The oils are hydrogenated for hardening.if you wish to

support American farmers, go for Soy candle wax.]

Eco-friendly Candles

Eco-friendly candles can be produced using Soy or palm wax with

solar wax melters and using natural or herbal coloring agents and

essential oils.This combination will mark the chandlers as "green


Safety Guidelines

1 Always melt wax using a double boiler...Do not heat the wax pot

directly. Wax is like any cooking oil; it is flammable and can

catch fire.

2 Never heat the wax above 212 deg F or 100 deg C, which is the

boiling point of water.

3 If there is fire or burning of wax, cover the pot with a liquid

to quench the fire. Do not throw water on the fire.

4 While melting wax, always remain close to the pot and do not

leave the pot unattended.

5 Children should be kept away from the melting pot ;if children

do any work with hot wax, adult supervision is required.

6 Keep a fire extinguisher ready near the wax melting area.

7 Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of molten wax as

additional check.

Labeling: If you are selling candles, label them thus: Do not

leave lighted candle unattended.

Fragrance lists

Fragrance is the number one factor for customer appeal in candles.

Real estate agents have a saying that what matters in home

selection are three things: location,location,location. Likewise

in candles selection: it is fragrance,fragrance,fragrance.

Keep the scented candles lightly scented: as a thumb rule-- use 1

oz [30ml] of fragrance for 1 lb of wax. Vary this as you

experiment. Some use 1.5 oz or 2 oz, also. Much depends on the wax

used --its nature and quality -to soak up the oils.

Fragrances come in numerous types.One website says that they have

800 fragrances in their stores.. mind boggling!

For starters, my advice is that your try two or three fragrances

only during your first 6 months of trials..there is so much to


Fragrances are easy to understand; there are three categories:

fragrances of fruits [apple,orange,lemon], food stuff& herbals

[vanilla,cinnamon,clove,sage] and flowers [jasmine,rose,].Pick one

of each and try them out...

Some classify fragrances as follows:

Top notes:Basil,citronella, sage,lemon,sweet

Middle notes:


Base notes: cedar wood,


The general rule is that base notes are longer lasting and diffuse

slowly ,while top notes evaporate easily and lasts for a short
time.This would help you to understand what they call 'throw' of


Whatever fragrances that you choose or your customer

requests, add small quantities first and try with small

candles..about 2 oz candles or votive candles.

Please give your feedback as comments in scribd.com or send email:


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