Our candle adventure!
Over the past four years or so, rather than exchanging our wax for foundation, we’ve kept it to make hive products but with mixed results so far! We managed some soap and candles, none of which were good enough to sell, but we had fun making and using them along the way and we’re on a journey!
Before we purchased our solar extractor, the rendering was done entirely by washing the wax in rain water. As anyone who’s tried it knows, it’s very time-consuming and requires lots of rainwater, so get plenty of water butts!
The extractor has been a godsend because it does so much of the work for you. We’re always careful to melt any super wax first, followed by cleaner brood and finally, the dirtier wax which we plan to use in polishes; we haven’t actually made any polishes yet! Then we thoroughly clean the extractor after each cycle.
Having partially processed the wax in the extractor, we find it still requires up to fifteen washes in rainwater. We’ve learnt, as with many things in beekeeping, wax rendering requires patience and plenty of time, which of course brings the associated benefits of mindfulness and relaxation!
We found the very best implement for scraping the slumgum off the cooled wax cakes is a B&Q paint stripper which contains a Stanley blade.
A few years back, we were lucky enough to attend a candle making course run by Margaret and Alan Johnson. Afterwards, we couldn’t wait to try our hand at making dipped candles.
For our first attempt, it was quite successful really. The candles provided a clear, bright flame and offered a very respectable burn time. We also really enjoyed making them. Unfortunately, the dipping pot we used (is that what it’s called?) was a bit shallow.
The candles turned out rather stumpy and a few were also vaguely rude which gave us a good laugh, but we definitely couldn’t sell them!
We do plan to have another go at dipped when we’ve assembled all the right equipment!
So this year, we decided to make tea lights for Christmas presents instead. We sourced some lovely glass tea light containers which we thought would be nicer for presents than the little foil ones.
We got them from the Norfolk Candle Company (http://www.pasttimesltd.co.uk). We actually wanted some more a few weeks before Christmas but unfortunately, they were out of stock. The manufacturer is a German company called Weck and although they sell through a number of UK suppliers, we were disappointed that they were all out of stock. As far as we can tell, Weck is the only manufacturer of these glass tea lights. If anyone knows any different, please do let us know!
The Norfolk Candle Company also supply really good quality wick which we much preferred to Thornes.
Also, just for your information, we rather liked the sound of ‘beeswax-coated hemp candlewick for tea lights’ from Amazon. However, In our experiments, we found it burnt really quickly, tunnelled massively and had a very poor flame! So, unless we’ve done something terribly wrong, we don’t recommend it! Does anyone want to buy 200ft of beeswax-covered hemp candle wick?
To make the tea lights, we heated the wax to 65c (150f) on the hob using a 2 litre Bain Marie purchased from Thornes. We also used a thermometer which sits in the liquid wax so that we could keep the temperature consistent.
We could have poured the wax directly from the Bain Marie but to make the tea lights, we used a little ladle which made the job much easier. The picture shows wax being poured directly from the Bain Marie into votives.
The finished product looks great! The Tea lights burn for a minimum of 4 hours and have a very pleasing, bright flame and that lovely after-smell you only get from beeswax.
We then packaged them up with a bit of dried lavender and some rustic string! You could pop in a jar of honey too if you want a more substantial gift. We hope the recipients will appreciate a home-made gift!
Having failed to get further supplies of the glass tea light containers, we sent off for some small votives instead.
Our wax cakes usually weigh about 630g, (1lb, 6oz) and the votives we bought hold 170g (6oz). So we will get approximately 3 votives from each cake.
As we’ve just started on the votives, we’re still testing various thicknesses of wick. We want to ensure maximum burn time, brightness of flame and as little tunnelling as possible. We are trying #70 and # 90 at the moment, but the jury is still out! If you’re interested in the results, we can let you know!
The Thorne’s wick sustainers we bought for the tea lights didn’t hold the thicker wick we needed for the votives, so we secured the wick in the centre of the votive with a little dab of superglue!
After pouring the wax into the votives, we placed them into a preheated oven (100c) which was immediately turned off. The votives were then left untouched for 4 hours to cool slowly. The idea of cooling them slowly, is to prevent the drying wax from cracking.
We got loads of helpful ideas and information from the Beeswax Alchemy Website (Bees wax alchemy) but watch out, it’s American, so some of the terms and wick measurements may be different.
The great thing about the votives and tea lights is that precious beeswax goes further and you can make lots of lovely gifts. We’re going to get on to the polish after Christmas too! That sounds like the first of my new year’s resolutions to me!