In addition to wax and wicks, making candles at home requires some basic equipment, most of which is neither expensive nor complicated. Your kitchen and your household probably already contain most of the bare essentials. Once you are aware of what you need for candlemaking, you will begin to realize that much of what you have on hand is “just right.” Items you don't already possess are easily available and usually inexpensive.
If you choose to use any of your cooking implements and/or pots for making candles at home, dedicate any and all candlemaking equipment to that end only. Not only will you avoid confusion, but you will keep your food safe from contamination from wax, additives, dyes, and the like.
Descriptions follow of everything you will need to make the different types of candles discussed in this book: sheet wax, poured and dipped candles, rolled and novelty candles. Unless you are already an experienced candlemaker, it's important for you to review and thoroughly understand the supplies before you begin to make your own candles. As you'll see, you will need to decide exactly what type of candles you are going to make (you may refer back to the description of the different types of candles in Chapter 4) before you gather the appropriate equipment. For example, if you want to make molded candles, you will need molds of the size and shape you intend the finished candle(s) to have. In later chapters, for your convenience and quick reference the materials and equipment needed to make each type of candle are provided in brief form at the beginning of each set of candlemaking instructions.
Copy the list of materials and equipment needed for each type of candle you regularly make on a card and keep a file of these “recipes” handy in a file box. You can also use cards to make notes to yourself and keep records of your candlemaking experience and results.
Though a small item in your candlemaking equipment collection, your thermometer is vital. You can buy a special wax thermometer or use a candy or other cooking thermometer that covers a scale from 0 to 300° Fahrenheit. It should have a clip so that you can immerse it deep enough into your pot of melting wax to get an accurate reading.
All temperature instructions in this book are given in Fahrenheit. To convert, follow the following formula: For given temperature in
1° Celsius = 1.8° Fahrenheit
1° Fahrenheit = .56° Celsius
0° Celsius = 32° Fahrenheit
Obviously, a system for melting wax is the primary consideration in candlemaking. There are two methods commonly used: the double-boiler and the concealed element (a slow cooker for example) method. Both systems work equally well as far as the actual melting of the wax is concerned. However, with the concealed element method you are forced to ladle the hot wax either directly into a mold, or transfer it to a pouring tool such as a measuring cup. On the other hand, unless you use an insert to the double-boiler with a handle (such as a large can) the same problem can arise. My suggestion is that you assess your skills at physical coordination before deciding which method to use. If you tend to be a bit of a klutz in the kitchen, by all means use the double-boiler method with a pot that has a sturdy handle. If you can balance and carry four full dinner plates to the table with ease, you are a candidate for the concealed element method, or the handle-less double-boiler system.
Keep on the lookout for candlemaking equipment, especially when you visit garage sales! This way, you can build up your supplies bit by bit at minimum cost. For example, I once bought a terrific electric wok at a yard sale for $5.00 — a can insert made a perfect double-boiler system.
As you can see, double-boilers are extremely easy to improvise. You need only an outer pot to hold water and an inner pot (insert) in which to melt the wax. The outer pot must be large enough to hold an amount of water sufficient to rise two thirds of the way up the inner pot.
Ideally, the inner pot will have a handle (a metal pitcher is excellent). A large can, such as the kind fruit juice is sold in, will work if you are willing to ladle out the wax. You can pour from such a can if you use mitts to protect your hands from the heat and are very careful.
If you improvise your double-boiler, you will need a support for the inner pot, such as a metal trivet (the kind used on the dinner table to protect it from a hot dish). A support can be improvised as well, for instance by using three short cans (tuna fish or cat food cans will do). Cut out both ends and wire them together to make a three-pointed support. Or, cut out one end only and fill them with water so they don't float.
You can buy ready-made double-boilers of many sizes. Some inexpensive, while others are quite pricey. Cast aluminum and stainless-steel double-boilers for cooking are readily available wherever cookware is sold. There is a marvelous utensil called a
Whichever kind of double-boiler you use, you will need to replenish the water in the bottom pot frequently in order to keep your boiling water at the correct level. Once again, experimentation will reveal just which type of setup works best for you.
Your working surface must be level and have ready access to a water supply. (I have a small stainless-steel sink in my art workroom.) You also need a heat source that is
If you want to use the concealed element method, you will need a vessel that allows you to melt the wax directly in it, without the wax's coming into contact with the heat source. A slow cooker, an electric wok, or deep-fat frying kettle will all work fine. If you use one of these (remembering that it will be off-limits for cooking food), make sure that it has an accurate dial-type temperature control device marked in
You can use a concealed-element vessel as the bottom pot of your double-boiler. Set your wax-melting pot inside on a trivet or other support. Follow the instructions for the double-boiler method. It's necessary for you to know how much wax you have in your melting pot and to be able to judge how much solid wax to use to reach the level you need for the type of candle you are making (2 inches below the top of the can for dipping, for example).
To calibrate your can, first melt a pound of paraffin and score the can at the level one pound reaches. You can use any sharp instrument to make a mark — but be sure you don't puncture your can!
Continue the process with 2 pounds, 3 pounds, 4 pounds, and 5 pounds, marking each level separately. This will allow you to gauge the amount of wax in the can as you work.
As a precaution against water getting into your melted wax, always wipe dry the bottom of your melting pot when you lift it out of the water to pour off wax. Keep a roll of paper towels handy for this purpose.
If you are making dipped candles, you will need a tall, cylindrical insert to hold your liquid wax. These are available at craft shops and from candlemaking suppliers. Your dipping can must be 2 inches deeper than your longest taper candles.
For making poured and molded candles, you can use a shallow round pot, big enough to melt as much wax as you will need. You can put one saucepan over another, or rest a fireproof bowl on a saucepan, but your wax may melt unevenly. Clean your melting vessel with paper towels after each use.