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Candle Making Basics - Part 2

Dateline: 09/23/97

This week I'll be discussing molds and giving step by step instructions for a basic molded candle. In case you missed it you may want to read last week's feature Candle Making Basics - Part 1. As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before proceeding.

Molds
There are a huge variety of commercial molds on the market, as well as an almost infinite number of everyday items that make good molds. The instructions that follow will be for using a standard commercial mold, in other words a mold that makes the candle upside down. My personal recommendation is to get a one piece metal mold as these tend to be the easiest and most durable to use. Here is a basic rundown of mold types:

  1. Metal Molds - Available in a broad variety of shapes, these are simple to use and relatively durable.
  2. Acrylic Molds - Available in a variety of geometric shapes and sizes. They are easy to use, but are easily scratched. Use caution as too much scent may damage these.
  3. Two Piece Plastic Molds - Available in a large assortment of novelty shapes. These are more difficult to use even though most beginners start with them.
  4. Rubber Molds - These are available in latex and vulcanized rubber. Both produce seamless candles, with the latex requiring a little more effort to use. Vulcanized molds tend to be expensive.
  5. Top Up Molds - these are molds that are used the opposite of most candle molds - with the top of the mold being the top of the finished candle. Many floating candle and votive molds are used this way. These are easy to recognize by their lack of a wick hole.
  6. Flat Molds - Used to make wax appliques and hanging ornaments. These generally do not produce good candles, but do make nice decorations to embellish your candles with.

When selecting your first mold, try to keep it simple. Read and familiarize yourself with the mold manufacturers instructions. The step by step instructions below are general guidelines for using a metal mold and you should modify them for your own situation.

Making The Candle
This is the big moment we've been building up to. All your materials are at hand, so lets jump right in.

Step 1
Put enough wax in your melting pot to fill your mold. If you don't have a scale to use, a good estimate may be made by dividing the slab into even sections. For example divide an 11 pound slab into 11 equal sections to get one pound of wax. Add stearine at the rate of two - three tablespoons per pound of wax. Start heating in a double boiler.

Step 2
While your wax is heating, apply your mold release (gently - a little goes a long way) then wick the mold. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for this. Prepare a water bath by submerging the empty mold in water and adding water until the level is about one half inch below the mold top. Take care not to get any water in your mold or wax - it will ruin your candle. It is easiest to add a mold weight at this time, typically a piece of lead wrapped around the base of the mold. A more difficult alternative is placing a heavy weight atop the filled mold once it is in the water bath - you must hold it down until the weight is in place though.

Step 3
When wax reaches the pouring temperature (refer to manufacturer's instructions for optimum pouring temperature), shut the heat and add dye (optional). Stir until well dissolved. If desired add scent and stir well immediately before pouring. A word of caution, excessive dye may cause the candle to burn poorly. Excessive scent may ruin some plastic molds and / or ruin the finished candle. Set aside remaining wax for step 5.

Step 4
Pour the wax into the mold slowly but smoothly. On taller molds it sometimes helps to tilt the mold to prevent air bubbles from excessive agitation. Always wear heavy work gloves when handling molds filled with hot wax - especially metal molds. Wetting the gloves will give even more protection if needed. Gently tap the sides of the mold, and allow 45 seconds for the air bubbles to rise. Place the mold in the water bath.

Step 5
Periodically punch one or more holes alongside the wick using a dowel of other long narrow implement. As the wax cools it shrinks, and punching holes prevents it from shrinking away from the wick causing air pockets. the larger the candle the more times you will need to repeat this. Fill the void left by shrinkage taking care not to pour above the original level of the wax. On very large candles, it may be necessary to repeat this step more than once.

Step 6
Allow the candle to cure fully before attempting to remove from the mold. The larger the candle the longer it takes. If the candle does not easily slide out of the mold, place it in a refrigerator for five to ten minutes. If you still have difficulty removing it, place in the freezer for no more than five minutes. If all else fails heat the mold with hot water until the candle will come out (this usually ruins the candle). Never pry or scrape the wax out of the mold.

Step7
If refrigeration was used to unmold the candle allow it to return to room temperature before proceeding. The final step is to level the base. Place your baking pan atop a pot of boiling water. Holding the candle by the wick, allow it to touch the pan until the base is flat and level.

Step 8

Enjoy your candle. Watch how it burns, and on your next one adjust your recipe to make it burn better if necessary. I would also like to remind you to keep an accurate record of your formula.

I hope this has been useful to you. Next week I'll discuss making Layered Candles - a beautiful variation of the standard molded candle, that are only slightly more difficult to make.

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