Advice, Products

The science of candle making

It’s easy they said. Just melt the wax and pour it in a container they said.

I spent hours looking for HONEST and ACCURATE advice on candle making online, and only began to collate things together when more than three pages suggested it, so I’m going to put hours worth of research into one easy to ready blog post for you, you lucky things.
So first things first. Candle making is not cheap, unless you already have a suitable container, essential oils and soy wax just laying around. I admit I haven’t looked into the cost of Paraffin wax because it’s not nice for animals or the environment and it doesn’t burn as well as soy, so if you don’t mind any of that by all means have a little look.
Secondly, if you nail the right temperature to take it off the heat and then add the right amount scent at the right time for a really good throw first time you are brilliant, I’ll even commend you with the title olfactory genius you’re that good.
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The basics; Soy wax, dye flakes, scent bottle.
For a 100ml candle you want to be using around 85g of soy wax, as Soy Wax is 90% the density of water so it takes up more volume. For some good colour add 1.2-2g of flakes (not easy to measure unless you have super sensitive scales so this is very much trial and error) and then a good 5ml of scent to ensure you can fill a room with it, not just your nostrils.
*PLEASE DO NOT USE CHAMPAGNE GLASSES, SEALED TERRACOTTA, SHAPED GLASSWARE OR WIDE TO NARROW CONTAINERS AS THESE ARE VERY BAD AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS TO USE*
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The handled plastic tester pot, can withstand 230 degree heat apparently (it can’t), we have now moved over to completely tin containers which are doing just fine.
Pop your wax into a mixing jug, if you’re using the boiling water in a saucepan method then plastic is fine but please use a stainless steel one if you’re using a hotplate. Heat the wax to 80 degrees celsius then take it off and add your dye. Let it cool to it’s appropriate flashpoint (55-80 degrees) before you add your fragrance, stir for two minutes and then let it cool to 50 before you pour it. A whole range of things can go wrong for a prematurely poured candle. Let the candle cool for 24 hours in a comfortable room temperature, 24 degrees-ish.
Now let’s talk about a few common issues we have experienced with candles we have purchased, and a few do’s and don’ts from when we were making our own.
“Mushrooming” – This is when your wick is too large for the container you have used, the flame will look big and impressive but you will have excess carbon which will fall to the side of the wick and into the burn pool. The solution is of course to use a smaller wick.
“Tunneling” – This is when the wick is too small and the flame will not melt the whole surface of the candle, therefore the candle burns unevenly, has a lower scent throw and will usually extinguish itself from drowning in its own wax. The solution is, no shock, use a bigger wick.
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These were Christmas candles we purchased from a homeware store in Essex, a good third of the wax was wasted because only one wick was placed in a container that size.
“Frosting” – This is more noticeable on dark coloured candles as little white flake appear on the surface and side of the candle. To avoid it happening to soy candles try pouring the wax 5-10 degrees cooler, or if you have coconut oil some candle makers have found adding 2tsp to 1kg of wax to eliminates frosting (we haven’t tried this, just a tip off the internet).
“Poor adhesion” – This can be shrinkage, air bubbles or wet spots, or when the wax decides to pull away from the container. Similarly to frosting, this can be helped with pouring at a cooler temperature or pouring it in a room that is at room temperature (no cold conservatories or warm kitchens). It’s also an idea to check the containers are clean as dust can stop the wax from sticking.

 

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The same candles again, with very clear air bubbles which started to form just a few hours into burning. They didn’t break the bank, but you’d expect better from candles being sold countrywide.
“Dipping” – We struggle with this one occasionally, the wax is liable to cool unevenly on the surface of the candle which can cause it to crack around the wick. Again, this can be prevented by pouring at a cooler temperature, or as we found, a simple trick to stop dipping is to use a wick holder which will tug slightly at the wick and keep it straight as the wax sets. This releases the air that builds up near the surface of the candle and reduces the likelihood of cracking. Fortunately cracking doesn’t harm the quality of the candle or its burn.
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Our ‘dipping’ counter-measure.
“Sweating” – When too much fragrance has been used in a soy candle the wax can curdle when setting, or a thin layer of oil can form on the surface of the candle. To avoid this issue ensure you don’t add more than 12% fragrance oil, and only ever use a ratio of 1g x 0.06 – 0.08ml of fragrance oil.
“Slippy Wick” – Okay so this isn’t an official name for an official problem but its an absolute pain. The glue dot don’t work the wick stickers don’t work and there are very few glues which will hold up to the heat of the wax, what does work though if you are able to acquire some is silicone sealant, touch wood-wicks we have had no floaters since using it.
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Another well known candle maker, also suffered from slippy wick, you can see how it has affected the ability for the candle to burn evenly and has also left a lot of wax around the edges as well as a carbon pool.

 

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We wanted to see exactly where the problem was with the slippy wick, so we reheated the candle in boiling water to allow the wax to melt and found the wick had come off of the sticky pad, but the sticky pad was still very firmly stuck to the metal, which is why we have now moved on to silicon.
Hopefully this helps. This is only intended to be a helpful go-to guide if you would like to create your own candles, please take every precaution to stay safe when making candles or experimenting with candle making, and I won’t be responsible if it all goes wrong!

 

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Ta-daaaa!

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