When making wax candles it always seems like one should just be able to melt the wax, add a bit of a color chip, set the wick and pour. Well, I once thought it was that easy. I learned that not all waxes accept fragrances the same. Some candle waxes are darn picky about the scenting oils that are able to be mixed in. How can you tell? The first hint is to color LAST! If you add color to your candle wax first then it is hard to tell when the fragrance oil will bead at the bottom and refuse to mix into the wax. We think oil soluble should be soluble in waxes right? Wrong! I have a few scents I really like to make into candles and some waxes take the scent easily and other waxes refuse.
So what do you think we can do to make a wax accept a scent? Stearic acid is my friend. Stearic is your friend too! When I make a large container candle (about 20 to 24 ounces) then it only takes a few good pinches of stearic to force the wax to accept the fragrance oil. Once we know the wax has mixed with the fragrance we are now ready to color.
There is nothing worse that looking for a lovely rose color candle and scenting with a fragrance oil that is very yellow. We get orange candles! This is why it is crucial to know thy fragrance oil before adding to the wax. If you have a yellow fragrance then plan for yellow tones in the finished candle. To get rose you may have to go to extremes on the red side to calm the yellow color. Don’t forget white and black. They can help you achieve the tint or shade you desire.
So, what happens when you have a pitcher of wax that is ready to pour and you get called away. You let the wax set up and plan to melt it on another day, right? Would you stop and place a stick or straight handled spoon (see our Soap Spoon for an example) into the liquid wax first? Most often we heat wax from the bottom so we can pour into the candle jars or molds. Wax expands as it becomes liquid. The bottom of a pouring vessel (think old aluminum water pitcher) will have expanding wax and the solid, colder wax on top won’t allow the pressure to be released. The pressure will build and build until the molten wax breaks through. So what happens when you have pressure underneath and a semi solid stopper on top? A geyser, that’s what. Molten wax will shoot around your work space and can even hit the ceiling, walls and any person within range. Hot wax. Very hot wax. Talk about burns! Now, please explain, how in the heck are we going to get the wax off the ceiling?
For candles I have a few suggestions on technique. They are:
1) Know thy fragrance oil color.
2) Have stearic on hand. Always!
3) Color after scenting.
4) If emptying the pouring vessel is not an option, then a dowel, stick or spoon will prevent wax bombs.
I also have a few suggestions on supplies for candle making. They are:
1) Wax is cheap. You can certainly get specialized waxes but these don’t always make better candles.
2) Have stearic on hand no matter what the wax vendor says.
3) You can’t improve on a cheap scenting oil. Cheap scent oils are never as pleasurable as a quality fragrance.
4) Size the wick for your application and wax type. Don’t lie to a wick vendor and think you can have a one-size-fits-all wick, it doesn’t work that way.
5) Try various colors. You will be glad you did.
Here are my final thoughts on candles today.
1) When burning candles know where the children and pets are. Train them all to stay away.
2) If fire doesn’t thrill you, get a wax warmer instead. Follow the wax bomb thought and warm only shallow dishes with wax cubes or use a “from the top” heat source. Never buy the bottom up warmers for large jar candles.
3) Change scents often. You may have a signature scent, and your house might too, but changing scents is like changing your socks, regular changes keeps things fresh and wonderful.
Now that wax warmers are more commonplace, I think these are a great benefit to us candle people. There is less fire hazard. Scents can be changed each week because the shallow dishes for warmed wax can easily give up a hardened disk of wax for use at a later time. I’m using our new Multi-Cube Clam shells for low-melt-point wax that I scent with my favorite fragrances. Scented wax cubes are a nice gift for friends and family at anytime of the year because you can make their favorite scents into a no-soot candle easily.