If there’s one totally ordinary but lovely daily tradition that makes our home feel like a home, it is sitting down for dinner together and lighting a pair of beeswax candles in the brass candlesticks we once found at a second-hand store. Lately, I’ve felt like something was missing from our still-new home, and then I realized it was the candles. We gave away all the remaining ones before our move; it was time to make new ones.
I’ve been making my own candles for about three years — ever since I found out that paraffin candles release toxins when burnt, and that at about $8 a pair, store-bought beeswax candles would soon make us go broke. Now making them has become an annual or semi-annual ritual of its own. I take over the kitchen, assemble the waxes and the wicking, and pull out my rather minimal candle-making gear: a tall wax-melting pot, an old discarded cooking pot for double-boiling, and some molds. The smell of beeswax fills the kitchen as I slowly melt the wax, as I dip the first naked wicks, and as the candles slowly get heavier with each dip of shiny wax.
For making taper candles, I’ve always followed these instructions. I initially used 100% beeswax, but lately I’ve preferred using half beeswax and half soy wax, which gives the candles a lighter yellow color that I happen to love.
After I’m done dipping the taper candles, I pour out the remaining wax into molds to make a pillar candle and small votive candles. These we use in the living room and the bedroom. I love the smooth solidity of the pillar candle, and one usually lasts us several months or an entire year. The taper candles and the votive candles, on the other hand, have proved great gifts for friends and family. There’s almost no one among our close circle who hasn’t received a pair of these at some point!
Here are a few tips that have ensured the safety and the sanity of this happy candle-maker more than once:
- Make little “handles” out of old wire clothes hangers with pliers: this allows you to dip the candles in pairs without them sticking together. Simply slip the wick through both of the little loops.
- Tie a small metal object to the bottom of the wick for the first few dips: a screw, a bolt, or a nail. This makes the candles more straight.
- In between dips, I hang the pairs of candles to dry and cool on rods or broomsticks — anything horizontal, really — placed across our wooden laundry drying rack
- Lastly: when it comes to cleaning wax off your counters, utensils etc., nothing beats olive oil!