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Candle making 101

Erin Tynan caffe latte candles glue dots green tea jars mojito pina colada wax wicks

So 4 weeks ago, I had never made a candle in my life, I didn't even know where to start. So I went to the place that comes most naturally to me... Pinterest. A quick search and 'Hey presto!', I was basically an expert.

No seriously, there has been a lot of trial and error to this process over the last few weeks and I hope that by writing this post, I can help you avoid making the same mistakes I did!

First things to note, are the key tools and components you'll need. I'm going to go through these and give you my recommendations now that I am a little further along in my candle journey.

A. YOUR MOULD

Choose whichever type of mould you like for your candle making, there are a huge variety of glass jars, or pillar mould available. I opted for glass jars as they are a very popular shape at the moment. This could change in the future but for now I am loving the wait they look.

Try to buy in bulk, whatever you opt for, to get a good price.

B. WAX

Now in the search for the best price, my experimentation with wax saw me using both paraffin and soy wax. There are pro's and cons to both. The paraffin wax was 'whiter' in colour as opposed to creamy so depending on the look you want for your candles, consider this as a factor. Also, I found that 1 kilo of paraffin wax could yield 9 candles. Conversely, the soy wax could only yield 8. So paraffin would work out marginally cheaper.

In the end however, I have opted for soy wax in my candles, as I prefer the creamy finish. The wax itself has a nice smell, and when you buy it in flakes, it makes for much easier melting.

Please note, these measurements are based on my jars which hold 190g of liquid.

That is a rough guide. Naturally, if you are using a smaller mould or making tealights, you will get more than 8 or 9 candles out of a kilo.

C. WICKS

Not much to say on the wicks except, make sure you buy them too long for your moulds, so you have enough excess wick to hold taught when you pour the wax (more in this in a minute).

D. GLUE DOTS

These are very cheap and easy to buy (amazon would be my recommendation). I didn't even think of this until I started making the candles, and I was left with a mess to begin with. You NEED to stick your wicks into the bottom of whatever receptacle you are using, this is because, as soon as the warm wax pours in, the wick can wander off to wherever it so pleases. If it is not firmly stuck to the centre of the bottom of your mould, it could end up floating in the middle or stuck on one side! (trust me)

I'd recommend sticking the glue dots to your wick bases, rather than trying to stick them to the bottom of your mould. It depends on the size of course, but if you are using a long narrow container it can be very fiddly.

glue dots

E. WICKING PINS (or improvise)

I became very frustrated, very quickly in the beginning. I wanted to make 20 or 30 candles at a time, however it soon became clear this was not so easy.

To begin with, I neglected to buy wicking pins. These are the blue pins (pictures). The idea is that you rest these on the top of the mould, piercing through the wick to hold it straight up and in place. This is essential as when the hot wax goes in to created the candle, the wax pre coated on the wicks, melts. This leaves the wicks as essentially a piece of string. If you didn't hold them in place, they would just flop or float over to one side, leaving a very poorly finished candle or one that you would not be able to use at all.

Now I have an issue with the wicking pins. It is incredible difficult to pierce the wicks gently, you have to use a bit of force. I was finding that this was causing my wick to rip from the glue dots at the bottom of the jar (new issue I learned along the way).

Instead, I started holding my wick tight against the pin, and with my other hand, folding the excess wick around the pin in a loop. This really effectively anchors it in place, until the candles set. Small victory!

Because I only had 10 pins and I wasn't LOVING them, I wanted to think of another way to make this process easier. Enter the humble elastic band!

I found that by using two elastic bands, wrapped around my jars so that they met in the middle, this held the wick nice and taught, meaning I could double my production. Woohoo - I am now able to make 16 candles in one go.

wicking pins

F. MELTING POT

I urge you to buy a proper wax melting pot rather than using a kitchen pan. The beauty of these very thin pots, is that the sides heat up so that wax does not stick all around them (would be a nightmare to clean!). One like mine (pictured) will only set you back about £5 from a craft shop.

G. FRAGRANCE

This is the expensive part. The fragrance. Oh how naive I was when I first bought supplies for my candles. I bought 20ml of mojito fragrance, only to learn this was enough for around 2 candles. Major fail. The rule of thumb when using scent is to use between 5-10ml per 100g wax. Now I wanted my candles to stand out and be recognised for their fragrance so I opt for the maximum in all of mine. 10ml per 100g. If you are just making candles for a hobby then you can save money by using less, but if you want a tangible, saleable product - my opinion is do it properly or not at all.

H. COLOUR

This is where I have struggled. I picked up some concentrated colour blocks, in my local craft shop. Though these will seemingly last me for months (a little goes a VERY long way. My first batch of green tea and jasmine turned a horrendous shade of luminous green and I had only used a flake of colour!) in order to have some consistency, these are not great. it is almost impossible to measure the amount I am using (since it weighs less than a gram. I have tried).

In future, I am going to look for liquid colours instead, in the hope I can measure on a 'drop by drop' basis to try and avoid mismatched colour batches.

melting pot

TIME TO CREATE

OK, you have all of the above, and a clear workstation. You are ready to create!

Have you wicks ready prepped and pinned into your mould so that you can pour the wax in straight away. Wax should not be left on the heat for too long. There is a fine line between melted and boiled. So be prepared before you start.

Tip your wax into your melting pot. When melting a kilo, I do it a little at a time, probably in 5 steps of 200g. This keeps the heat down and is easier to stir. It actually makes the wax melt quicker than if you poured it all in. This is because it becomes one big clump and is very hard to penetrate the wax through to the middle. You have to keep stirring and breaking the wax up.

Once your wax has melted completely into a clear liquid, you can add your fragrance. Stir it in and then add your desired colour.

Use a less is more mentality on the colour. Make a test batch first if you are nervous. The unavoidable thing about this is, melted wax is a very different colour to set wax. The soy wax melts very yellow. Paraffin melts more clear.

You will see from my images, the green looks very bright when its liquid, however, when they are set, they make a gorgeous pastel green shade which is what I was looking for.

You just need to see what you like, and play around a bit.

green tea candles melted

So that's your wax concoction complete. Now you just need to very gently pour into your moulds. Slow and steady is better as this helps the wicks and glue dots remain in tact. Sometimes, if your wax has gotten too hot and you pour it in quickly, the glue dots ca melt and release the wicks, it is very hard to rescue this when it happens! Don't feel bad if it does, I lose at least one candle every couple of batches to this issue. Sometimes it is simply that the glue was not stuck on well enough.

Leave your candle to completely set. This will take a few hours.

Do not chop the excess wicks off until they are completely cool. Though they may look set, they harden on the outside first and so the middle could still be quite liquid. Chopping the wick to early could again aggravate the wick at the bottom and pull it out of place.

Finished? Cooled?

Then you can decorate them however you choose! I opted for a rustic look, with cloth lids and hessian, but its completely down to preference.

decorating candles

If you are selling your candles, make sure you purchase safety labels for them - this is crucial.

 safety labels

 Happy candle making!



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