You guys? I did something amazing.
I. MADE. FIRE!
Well, hand-dipped beeswax taper candles at least.
If you know me at all, you know that I don’t “do” crafting.
I try to stick with my strengths, which happen to be in mostly non-artsy arenas.
But I love learning how to make practical things that my family can use, and for this reason (as well as reading about Mother creating them in Farmer Boy), I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making candles.
Last month I finally gathered all the supplies we’d need, and tried to prepare myself mentally for the fact that creative projects don’t always turn out well the first time one attempts them.
But this one did–glory, hallelujah! The kids were fascinated by the process, the candles turned out beautifully, and we’re lighting them every night over dinner.
If you could use a project for a rainy or snowy day, here are the step-by-step instructions we followed.
Supplies you’ll need to make your own beeswax tapers:
* Organic beeswax (3 pounds was enough for us to make 20 6-inch candles, with leftover to start the process again next time)
* #24 ply braided wick
* 1/4 inch nuts (these weigh the candles down until they get heavy enough on their own)
* cardboard (a cereal box works)
* a ruler
* an old knife or stick for stirring (this will get covered in wax)
* a tall, narrow, wide-mouthed glass or metal container (We used an old glass vase. It needs to be narrow and tall or you won’t have enough wax. A wide-mouthed Ball jar might work as well.)
* an old sheet, drop cloth, and/or newspaper to cover the floor/counters in case of drips
* a large pot to serve as a double boiler
* a rack or hanger on which to let your tapers dry between drips (we used our laundry rack)
A note about essential oils: I tried adding lavender oil to our beeswax, but the scent really didn’t come through–which is why I haven’t included it in the supply list
Got everything you’ll need? Yay! Let’s get started:
Candle making with kids
Time needed for this project: Approximately 4 hours start to finish. 1 hour to melt the wax and get ready – the other three for the dipping and clean up process.
Adjust the time up or down depending on how many candles you’re making (we made 10 pairs/20 candles) It sounds like a long time, but it sped by!
We did this on a Thursday, which I usually set aside for our homeschool group or a bit of variety in our week. This way it didn’t disrupt the rest of our weekly learning rhythm.
Step 1. Melt your wax
Boil enough hot water to fill your large pot about 3/4 full. Fill your narrow, tall container with beeswax and place it inside the pot. It will slowly start to melt.
Keep an eye on it, stir now and then, and add more wax as needed until you have melted wax about two inches from the top of your container. Eight inches of wax will make six inch tapers, seven inches of wax/five inch tapers, and so on.
For us, the melting process took about an hour total–good thing the kids were occupied with a Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip at the same time! I prepped all the supplies while we watched.
Once your wax is melted you can leave your boiling water on low to simmer, or you can turn the burner off completely and turn it back on just when you need to add more wax.
Step 2. Prepare your supplies
While your wax is melting, prepare your other supplies. Using a ruler and your cardboard, mark and cut out two inch square pieces with small slits in each side. Make one cardboard square for each pair of candles you’re planning.
Then you’re ready to cut your wicks. The length you’ll need will depend on how long you want your candles to be. We used 18 inches of wicking to create 6 inch tapers.
For 7 inch tapers, use 21 inches of wicking.
For 5 inch tapers, use 15 inches of wicking.
Once you have your wicks ready, tie a metal nut to each end. No need to make a full knot, just threading it through and tying it once will hold your candles down in the wax.
When the bolts are fastened securely, thread each piece of wicking through your cardboard slits. The cardboard will keep your two candles from sticking together as you dip.
Step 3. The Candle Dipping Process
Holding on to your cardboard square, dip the wicking down until you get as close to the top of the square as possible without getting your hand in the wax.
Pull it out again and hold over your container for a few seconds in case there are any drips. Then hang it over your hanging rack and continue dipping your next pair.
I had each of my three kids work one-on-one with me for about 30-40 minutes during the dipping process. Because of the hot wax, I’d probably recommend this project for ages seven and up.
When your candle stems look heavy enough to weigh themselves down without the nuts attached (for us this was after 30 minutes), cut the nuts off with scissors and have your handy assistants remove the wax so you can use them again next time.
It was so fun watching the tapers grow as we dipped that it felt like time flew by! And basically that’s it – just continue dipping until your candles grow to the size you need/want them to be.
Every so often you’ll need to add more wax as your level decreases and then wait for it to melt.
When the tapers reach the right size use a knife to cut off and flatten the bottoms of the candles while they are still soft.
Step 4. Clean Up
Clean up was fairly simple. I just let the leftover wax harden again in the container and set it aside for us to melt and use next time! Then we cleaned up the newspapers covering counters and put away our supplies.
Our candles were ready to light in less than an hour and they burned beautifully–no dripping or mess, which was supremely satisfying.
Though this might seem like a time-consuming ordeal, I found it a calming, bonding project to do with the kids.
Each of them asked me when we could do it again, and now that we have our initial stock of supplies, it won’t be an expensive project next time.
More Candle Making Inspiration:
- Natural Soy Wax Candle Making Kit – Trishna (11) got this kit for Christmas and we had fun with it. It’s a simple way to get started with candle making.
- The Art of Candle Making DVD – We have a few of these Homestead Blessings DVDs, and this one was our initial inspiration to try making tapers.
- Make Your Own Beeswax Candles Kit – A good alternative to this process if you want to make beeswax candles with younger children–just roll them up!
- Jar Beeswax Candles @ Little House Living – This is on my list to try out next time.
“Mother dipped the whole mold quickly into the boiling water, and lifted the sticks. Then Almanzo…trimmed the ends of wicking off the flat ends, and he left just enough wicking to light, on each pointed end.
And he piled the smooth, straight candles in waxy-white piles. All one day Almanzo helped Mother make candles. That night they had made enough candles to last till butchering-time next year.”
~ Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder
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