The trials and tribulations of first-time candle dipping

Steve working with his bees

A 2kg block of cleaned wax in our possession and the prospect of more energy companies collapsing – so what better way of spending a cold autumn afternoon and preparing for a cold dark winter than candle dipping –

How complicated could it be?

Having read the books and watched endless YouTube clips it seemed that all we needed was a double boiler arrangement, a melting container deep enough to produce a credible depth of candle and a length of wick ….

Not having an endless supply of wax, it was important to use something that gave us maximum depth whilst allowing us to create more than one candle at a time; we needed a deep, water container and a similarly deep melting pot.

The first attempt involved an empty five litre steel can with the top cut off and a deep, heat proof plastic container to hold the melted wax.

The plastic container seemed ok but the error of choosing something with such poor heat conduction soon became apparent, and we realised that it was going to take a long time to obtain the required quantity of melted wax – we continued, and eventually produced our first candles, but quickly realised that this method was not going to win any small business enterprise awards!

A quick search of candle making sites suggested that an aluminium “dipping tank” was what we needed, so a trip to Thornes and £11 later, we had acquired a 9” deep wax container which not only conducted heat really well but was also just over 3” in diameter which considerably reduced the amount of wax required. There are other, deeper melting pots available, but unless you are wishing to replicate the set of Phantom of the Opera, the smaller one is probably all you need.

A steel can with the top cut off acting as a reservoir for the hot water and the aluminium melting pot

The repeated boiling and cleaning of the wax demonstrated not just how far melted wax can travel across a wide range of kitchen surfaces and utensils but also how determined it is to remain there – so the candle making was moved outdoors using a portable gas stove supported with a few kettles of boiling water to kick start the process.

2mm wicks were cut to length and hex nuts attached to the ends to provide some initial tension; these were cut off as the candles grew.

After a few attempts that could only be described as slightly gruesome we established a routine of dipping, cooling and hanging that produced a candle of approx 6” long and 30g in weight (apologies for the mixed metric and imperial – but some things just don’t seem right).

Having struggled with melting larger pieces of wax on our first attempt, we grated wax off the cold block and used this to keep topping up the melting pot, again something that considerably speeded-up the process.

We reached a point where we could either grate all of the remaining wax and continue dipping candles or use the available melted wax to make tea lights – the end result being 24 “good candles”, 36 tea lights and 6 “odd” candles which will come in very handy for Halloween next year – and just over half a kilo of wax ready for the next project.

The candles, which had been dipped in pairs, cooling and hardening on a makeshift stand

Was it difficult? – not once we had understood and corrected our mistakes.

Was it costly? – the melting pot, wick, and tea light containers; probably £16 or so but most of the outlay on the melting pot.

Was it worthwhile? – ABSOLUTELY!!! A sunny autumn day with friends, bacon sandwiches and something incredibly satisfying to show for it.

There are some useful resources on wax processing (reclamation and cleaning) and candle-making in the Meridian Knowledgebase

Beautifully cleaned wax cut into manageable portions

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