It’s that phase of the year again, when the thunderstorms roll in with a vengeance, and a power outage becomes the inevitable. Get the candles ready!
Making your own taper candles is an inexpensive and long-established tradition. I have never used a mold, and although this approach is time consuming, the results are very worth the effort.
The candles are dipped 25-50 times depending on the thickness that you are hopeful to achieve. We used an 80% beeswax to 20% paraffin wax (Both readily available), and we were elated with the results. I was so swollen with pride with our first attempt at these candles that I wrapped a few in decorative ribbon, placed them in gift baskets, and handed them out at Christmas to all our relatives!
These natural candles burn at a much slower rate than poor quality store bought tapers. They will burn for more than 12 hours!
To make these candles:
Use a spool of flat, braided, pre-waxed wick. (Available at any craft store or candle-making shop.) Cut into desired lengths. Keep in mind the size of your dipping container and remember that each length will be making 2 candles. Tie a metal washer or bolt to each end of the wick as weights. (You will cut these off later.)
We made a drying rack out of scrap wood and cheap wooden dowel rods. The dowel rods were not attached, but simply “sat” on little cut outs. This way the rods could be raised and lowered into the wax and allowed to dry each time.
Heat the wax in a double boiler to 165F if you are using beeswax. A thermometer is pretty important in candle-making. At this point you can color and scent the wax. We left ours completely natural and they looked and smelled wonderful.
Pour the wax into the dipping can to about 1 inch from the top and maintain this level by refilling it with wax as necessary. Keep the dipping can in a hot water bath to keep it at the right temperature.
The candle will not grow if your wax is too hot and it will become a lumpy, hard to work with mess if the wax is too cold. Don’t let your candle get too cool between dips or the layers will not adhere to one another. Try to dip with a steady rhythm. It’s also important that the room that you are dipping in not be to cold.
Never heat wax over 275° F. Wax flashes from liquid to flame at 375° F.
Don’t let wax come in contact with flames. If you develop a wax fire, treat it as you would a
grease fire. No water! Use a fire extinguisher or if it is contained in a pan, cover with a lid.
Use a temperature gauge and always know what the temp. is.
Never place your wax container directly on the heat source.
Use a wire rack to keep the wax container from resting on the bottom of the water pan.
Don’t pour wax down the drain, (I hope that is self-explanatory!)
A note about beeswax and early candles:
Beeswax is produced by the (female) worker honeybees. The wax is secreted from wax glands on the underside of the bee’s abdomen and is molded into six-sided cells which are filled with honey, then capped with more wax. When honey is harvested, the top layer of wax that covers the cells must be removed from each hexagon-shaped cell.
The Egyptians were using wicked candles in 3,000 B.C., but the ancient Romans are generally credited with developing the wicked candle before that time by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. The resulting candles were used to light their homes, to aid travelers at night, and in religious ceremonies
Historians have found evidence that many other early civilizations developed wicked candles using waxes made from available plants and insects. Early Chinese candles are said to have been molded in paper tubes, using rolled rice paper for the wick, and wax from an indigenous insect that was combined with seeds. In Japan, candles were made of wax extracted from tree nuts, while in India, candle wax was made by boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree.
It is also known that candles played an important role in early religious ceremonies. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights which centers on the lighting of candles, dates back to 165 B.C. There are several Biblical references to candles, and the Emperor Constantine is reported to have called for the use of candles during an Easter service in the 4th century.