Candlemaking Tips & Shopping Guide
General tips & shopping guide
We have bags for bulk wax at the herb counter (on the wall behind the bulk wax barrels) – small bags are hiding behind the blue scale on that counter. If you need a bunch of wax, ask us for one of our opaque white Zenith bags, as they’re much sturdier for large amounts.
It can be difficult to guess how much wax you’ll need to make a candle, as bulk wax can be fluffy. We recommend finding a candle in the gift section that’s roughly the size you want to make, and then weighing it on our digital scale to get a more exact estimate of how much wax you should buy.
We carry zinc core paraffin wax wicks for paraffin candles, and cotton core veggie wax wicks for all other candles. They’re pre-primed and fully assembled with wick tabs. We also sell thicker cotton wicks; they’re available in 100-foot spools, or at the counter in any length (ask when you’re checking out).
To add scent to your candles, you can use either fragrance or essential oils. Fragrance oils are great if you’re a beginning candlemaker – they tend to be relatively inexpensive, with a strong scent throw and a high flash point. (Flash point is the temperature at which an oil will ignite, so for safety reasons, it’s best to use scent oils with flash points higher than the melt temperature of your wax.) Essential oils vary in price, scent strength, and volatility, but they’re delicious and all-natural! We recommend looking up information on specific essential oils before using them — all of our essential oils’ flash points are listed in their MSDS information on our website. Depending on the strength of a particular scent, add roughly 1/4 to 1/2 oz of scent per pound of wax.
Additives are easy ways to fine-tune the quality of your candles. Just add them to your hot wax before pouring it!
- Vybar eliminates bubbles, prevents mottling, increases opacity, and enhances fragrance-oil capacity. We usually recommend adding it to paraffin. Add 1 – 1½ teaspoons per pound of paraffin.
- Releasant is especially helpful for metal molds with sticky wax (like beeswax). Use ½ teaspoon per pound of wax.
- Stearic Acid (also known as stearin) is a great all-purpose additive that raises the melting point of the wax mixture, making the resulting candle harder, more durable, and longer-lasting. Use with all waxes except beeswax – add 2-9 teaspoons per pound of wax, depending on how much harder you’d like your candle.
In our candle-making section, we have all the tools and supplies you’ll need, including thermometers, pouring containers, double-boiler-makers, and mold sealer. Never melt your wax over direct heat; the safest way is to use a double boiler or crock pot that won’t be used again for food. Having a pouring container with a spout and a handle makes life a lot easier too. Many people build their own double boiler with old pots and pans — our double-boiler-maker is basically a little shelf that you put in your outer pot, allowing the inner pot to sit flat with boiling water underneath. Mold sealer is extremely handy to keep around – it’s essentially a sturdy version of the sticky tack used for hanging posters, and will help you seal the holes at the bottoms of metal molds, as well as attach wick tabs to molds so that the wicks won’t float up when liquid wax is poured in.
Liquid wax is always a different color than your final candle will be. To preview your color, blend in the colorant of your choice and drip a few drops on a piece of contrasting-color paper and they’ll dry immediately, showing the shade your dry candle will be. (Despite their appealing waxy smell, crayons make terrible colorants – not enough pigment to dye a candle properly.)
We have a variety of great books available on candlemaking, but here are the two that sell best.
Basic Candle Making by Scott Ham – For beginners, it doesn’t get better than this. Exhaustively illustrated projects show you exactly what each step looks like.
The Candlemaker’s Companion by Betty Oppenheimer – Pretty much the authority on making your own candles. She discusses ingredients in depth, goes over a variety of projects and wax blends, and troubleshoots common problems.
- We recommend using paraffin or beeswax for molded candles – soy wax and palm wax are too soft.
- Sometimes candles are tricky to get out of their molds. We sell several types of spray mold releasant for molds as well as a powdery releasant additive to add to melted wax. For most candles, one or the other will be just fine, but beeswax is especially stubborn – consider using both.
- Having extra trouble getting a candle out of a mold? Stick the whole thing in the freezer for about 10 minutes and the wax should shrink slightly, letting the candle slip out. Just be sure that your candle has cooled completely first, or the extreme cold will cause the wax to crack.
- Any type of wax will work, although our soy wax and palm wax are so soft that they’re used pretty exclusively as container waxes.
- We carry empty glass “seven-day” candleholders as well as a great variety of votive and tea light holders (check them out in the gift section). If you’re feeling creative, look around your house or go thrifting for all kinds of glass, metal, or ceramic containers!
- Especially in cold weather, it’s good to gently preheat candle containers. About ten minutes in the oven at 100-120°F will reduce the risk of glass containers cracking when they’re filled with hot wax, and the preheating also prevents the wax from misbehaving when it hits room-temperature containers.
- A centered wick will ensure an even-burning container candle. Attach your primed wick (with wick tab) to the bottom of your container with a bit of mold sealer, a small blob of hot glue, or even a bit of hot wax – this way the wick won’t float up when you add your melted wax. Center the top of the wick by sandwiching it between two pencils or chopsticks laid across the top of the container.
- Dry palm wax has a distinctive shiny crystal-like pattern — check out our candles in the gift section if you want to see what it’ll look like.
- It takes color and scent quite well, and has a melt point of 139°F.
- Either paraffin color chips or liquid candle dyes can be used to add color.
- Palm wax is best used to make container candles, as it melts messily when not in a container.
- Soy wax is pretty soft – for best results, use it for container candles only. Its melt point is 125.8° F.
- It naturally has an opaque, matte off-white color, so bear in mind that any colorants you add will produce soft pastel shades in the final hardened candle.
- Most folks use our liquid candle dyes to add color to soy candles, though some report success with the color chips.
- Soy wax is notoriously “thirsty” for scent, so bear in mind that in order to get a noticeable scent throw, you’ll have to add considerably more fragrance oil than you would for other waxes. Each scent varies, so take notes on what you add and test your finished product! (On average, people have reported success with up to 1/2 oz of scent per pound of wax.)
- Paraffin wax is the least expensive wax available, and is wonderfully easy to color and scent. It’s a petroleum byproduct and does produce a small amount of soot – we offer vegetable waxes as a cleaner-burning alternative.
- Paraffin wax is available in several different melt points; the kind we carry melts at 140°F.
- For color, we recommend the paraffin color chips in a range of shades — each chip is enough to dye a pound of wax.
- We strongly recommend adding Vybar for a superior paraffin candle. It eliminates bubbles, prevents mottling (plain paraffin can appear blotchy), increases opacity, and enhances fragrance-oil capacity. Add 1 – 1½ teaspoons per pound of paraffin.
- We carry several kinds of beeswax, depending on how much you want to spend and what type of candles you want to make. Probably the most popular form is our unfiltered beeswax chunks — although this can be slightly impure wax with bits of bees and pollen, it has a wonderful honey scent and is economical for candlemaking. Our filtered beeswax hexagonsare sweet-smelling and pure. Yellow beeswax pearls melt quickly and are reasonably priced. White beeswax powder is sun-bleached (no nasty chemicals involved) and is therefore scentless and colorless.
- Beeswax candles require a thick wick or they’ll simply “tunnel burn”, leaving most of the outside of the candle unused. All of our pre-primed wicks are too thin for beeswax candles, so it’s really worth a few extra steps to prime some thicker wicking. (We sell thick wicking in 100-foot spools, or by the foot at the counter — ask for it when you’re checking out.) To prime your wick, dunk a few feet of wick in hot wax for about 30 seconds. When small bubbles form on the wick, it’s absorbed all the wax it can. Pull out, allow to cool for about a minute, then slide your fingers down and straighten the wick. Cut into pieces and attach a wick tab with a pair of needle nose pliers.
- Use either paraffin color chips or liquid candle dyes to add color. Bear in mind that unless you’re using the white beeswax powder, any colorants you use will interact with the natural yellow color (i.e., blue colorant will make a green candle) and any scents will end up blending with the wax’s natural sweet scent.
- Especially in colder weather, our beeswax sheets get brittle and crack easily. Please ask for assistance if you’d like to buy some.
- Making a big project? Buy 12+ sheets and we’ll take 10% off all of them.
- You can use our unprimed wicking by the foot (ask for it when you’re checking out) — in this case, you’ll need to tear off a small piece of the beeswax sheet (maybe 1cm x ½cm) and wrap around the part of the wick that will stick out of the candle. Otherwise, you can use our primed cotton/veggie wicks — no prepping required, and the 9″ long wicks are the perfect length.
- A hairdryer is your secret weapon! Gently heat both sides of a beeswax sheet first, and the wax will be much more pliable and easier to roll.
- The tighter these are wrapped, the better they’ll burn.