I’m a newcomer to candle-making and Peta thought others might be interested to hear my story! So here goes!
I fell into this almost accidentally when my husband recently started beekeeping and he began presenting me with beeswax as a byproduct of extracting the honey! So I thought ‘beeswax candles and honey – that’s Christmas presents sorted for this year’!
Backtracking slightly, when I say my husband is ‘presenting me with beeswax’, don’t imagine the nice clean ‘beads’ you can buy. My wax comes in a big, dirty lump!
This is the process: the bees ‘cap’ off the hexagonal cells when they’ve filled them with honey and these wax caps have to be sliced off to allow the honey to be extracted. These cappings obviously have honey attached so my husband heats it all up and as it cools the wax rises to the top as a hard layer, leaving the honey underneath.
We then give this wax layer a few days outside, turned over so the bees and wasps can clean off the honey that stuck to the underside – it’s the most efficient way of cleaning it!
This ‘big lump’ of wax still has bits and bobs of goodness knows what in it, bits of bee I suspect! So I heat it up (two saucepan method), and pour off the nice clean wax onto saucers or take-away containers, leaving the impurities behind, which very helpfully sink and settle on the bottom of the pan!
That’s how I get my beeswax ready for making candles. Once cooled it’s a rich golden yellow colour.
My first candle-making session produced a small container and a tea-light, using 100% beeswax and a wick from my daughter’s old craft box that was lurking in the attic! They looked great, but didn’t burn very well, in that the wax didn’t melt to the edge of the containers and the flame got smaller and smaller as the wick got swamped by molten wax.
That disappointment led me to the internet and this site, on the hunt for tips and equipment. Now, with Peta’s helpful suggestions, I’m hooked!
I’m doing lots of experiments!
The beeswax on its own seems to be too ‘dense’ and the wicks seem to burn faster than the very slowly melting/evaporating wax can keep up with. Result – a teeny tiny, itty bitty, barely noticeable flame hanging on for a few hours before finally succumbing and drowning!
So, I’ve been trying votives with different ratios of paraffin wax to beeswax:
100% paraffin wax – burned almost too well! Had to keep blowing it out and trimming the wick to reduce flame size!
50/50 – still too ‘dense’, flame tiny and struggling.
75% paraffin wax / 25% beeswax – best so far! The first lighting needed a bit of fiddling but subsequent lightings were brilliant, lasted almost twice as long as 100% paraffin wax, and it left the container totally clean!
I’ve also tried a pillar, using the blue plastic mould for sale here, with 150g paraffin wax and 50g beeswax. This has been the most successful of all! I was amazed at how easily it came out of the mould and it has an intriguing two-tone effect where I did the second pour! It’s burning really well with a lovely flame, and melting to the edges with no hint of tunnelling.
I’m going to try increasing the beeswax, little by little, as I want to use as much of that as I can in each candle, but I’m confident I can get good results. And I’ve got till Christmas to get it right, with loads to enjoy testing along the way!
I haven’t added any colour so far, as even with only using a quarter beeswax, it still retains a lovely warm golden yellow colour.
I’m thinking about scent now, because while the beeswax itself has a pleasant scent, it doesn’t appear to transfer to the candles and certainly there’s none while burning.
Thanks for reading, if you’ve got this far! I hope you’ve found it interesting.