16 September 2019

Candle Making

In my opinion, beeswax candles are incomparable.   They smell better, they are better for you, they are a natural product of little worker bees, etc.  Even though rubrics concerning candles for liturgical use have changed, and the vast majority of churches use either 51% beeswax candles, or some varying sorts of oil filled things made to look like candles, I don't think the reasons to use them have changed.

It has to be awkward to read/sing the Exultat at Easter Vigil and know you are using the wrong thing... particular these parts...

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

I know there are financial constraints, etc.  It is unfortunate, but it does not have to be the case for your own home.  Make yourself some candles, get them blessed, enjoy.

Over the years we have collected a fair bit of equipment, and made candles a few different ways.  Lots of people go the hand- dipped method.  My problem with it is that you always have to have a few pounds melted, you never use up everything.  Yes, you could dip, and then pour others.  My other problem is that I love consistency, and I just can't get them as consistent with dipping (maybe SOME people can.)

I have moved away from the tin tapers because I fought with them too much and silicon/polypropllethan (whatever plastic they are) are so much easier.

Start with good wicks.  We use Atkins and Pearce square wicks that are made for beeswax, and they are super.  They are very consistent and burn very well.  You will have to test wick sizes to match candle size and wax type.  For these I used #1/0 for the tapers and #1 for the colonials.

Use beeswax.  There are lots of sources, and I'm sure you can find some local too.  I like having a stock of the pastilles in both bleached and unbleached varieties.  It makes quick candle making sessions possible.  Ultimately, the local beeswax is going to be more expensive, but will be worth it just for the smell.  Depending on how much and how many you burn will effect you choice.  We have some sources on the resource page.

Get your mez together.  Just like in the cooking world, the concept of Mise en place applies here as well.  When we started making candles, we only made them outside, but since we got a handle on it all, I make them inside with minimal clean up or mess.  You will need molds, a thermometer, a melting vat, a spoon, and a double boiler.

My super fancy double boiler.

Don't melt wax directly, it doesn't boil.  It goes from liquid to flash fire.  Keep the temp below 180F.  I usually poor at 165-170F . Color starts getting weird at 180F.

Prepare molds for pouring by threading a wick through the base and securing it at the top, bobby pins work well, and move it all to the side so it is easier to pour.

No pictures of the first pour... I scared all my helpers away.

You will notice that the wax contracts and that after 5 minutes or so there is a void at the bottom.  Fill that back up, but don't go over the cooled section of the original pour (the white in the pictures above.  If you do, two things will happen.  1. You will have a weird looking end with a place that is liable to crack, and 2. You may get wax running down between the cooled part of the candle and the mold, disfiguring the final product.

I was making 7/8" Standard Tapers and 1" Straight Colonials.  They take about 35 minutes to cool.  When you pull them out, I like to leave enough wick with which to wick the next candle, and secure it with a bobby pin before cutting the candle loose.

They will still be warm and capable of warping, so hang them on your wife's cast iron wall hanging rack.

I then like to weigh my candles, especially if I am using new wax or molds.

12" x 3/4" Taper      = 2.6oz
10" x 3/4" Taper      = 2oz
10" x 1"    Colonial = 2.6oz
6" x 1"      Colonial = 1.5oz

I like to polish them with wax paper/parchment paper or panty hose before I call them done, It gets rid of any roughness, I get to inspect for imperfections, and it gives a cleaner finish.

At this point, I get them blessed, and I keep them in a cool spot.  We posted here about Candlemas and the blessing used there.  The older blessing outside of Candlemas can also be used, and... I find it very comforting.  Here it is in English:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord. All: Who made heaven and earth. 
P: The Lord be with you. All: And with your spirit

Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, bless + these candles at our lowly request. Endow them, Lord, by the power of the holy + cross, with a blessing from on high, you who gave them to mankind in order to dispel darkness. Let the blessing that they receive from the sign of the holy + cross be so effectual that, wherever they are lighted or placed, the princes of darkness may depart in trembling from all these places, and flee in fear, along with all their legions, and never more dare to disturb or molest those who serve you, the almighty God, who live and reign forever and ever. All: Amen.

They are sprinkled with holy water.

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