These ancillary but necessary items are listed more or less in the order of importance, but you will need most of them sooner or later, depending on the extent of your candlemaking efforts and the types of candles you make. If, for example, you start with dipped candles you won't need molds until you want to make molded candles, and vice versa — if you make only molded candles, you don't need a rack for hanging dipped candles.
This list is not necessarily all-inclusive — you may think of other tools or implements that will be useful. Be innovative!
Molds. Molds come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes. Anything that has a hollow center can be a mold — half an orange shell, a sea shell, even a rock with a convenient depression. You don't need to buy molds, though you can purchase fancy ones at craft stores. Supermarkets sell plastic food storage containers (usually in multiples) that are inexpensive. (Just be sure you get hard plastic ones that are impervious to heat. If in doubt, put your container in the sink and pour boiling water into it.)
Any glass jar or jelly glass will work as a mold. (I am addicted to saving jars of all types and even buy food in pretty or odd-shaped glass jars just to get the jar!) Jam and jelly jars come in interesting shapes — octagonal, square, round, short and fat, or tall and slim.
Wine bottles come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and interesting colors — from deepest forest green to pale aqua and from dark brown to honey, and other shades in between. They make wonderful holders for container candles and can also be used for molding.
To use a wine bottle as a container you have only to slice off the top with a glass cutter and smooth the rough edge down. If you are handy with tools, and either own or can borrow a glass cutter, you can do the job yourself. (As many craftspeople work in more than one medium, you may already have a glass cutter or know someone who does. Otherwise, an experienced glass cutter can do it for you. Check your yellow pages or ask your craft salesperson for a reference.)
Mold-Release Spray. You can use nonstick pan spray made of vegetable oil to prevent the wax from adhering to the mold. Or, you can put some vegetable oil in a spray designed for the purpose (for making salads and coating cooking pans with your own oil instead of the commercial spray can). These special spray cans are available through household outlets. Any vegetable oil will work; you can spray or wipe the mold with an oil-soaked paper towel. Just don't use a heavy hand — too much oil will mottle your finished candle.
You might also need a mold sealer or masking tape. They might be used to hold the wick in place.
Cake Pans and Cookie Sheets. Cake pans and cookie sheets are multipurpose. You can line them (as above) and pour unused melted wax to cool. You can use them for molds (see the instructions on how to make a wedding cake candle). They are also useful as pads for containers of hot wax.
Scale. A scale is an important piece of equipment as well, one you can't do without. Chances are you already have a kitchen scale that will do. It should have a range of 0–l0 pounds, in ounces. Or, and this is the most accurate, you can use a gram scale (as do all European cooks — in Europe, recipes are given by weight in grams). If you do, however, you will need to convert between grams and ounces and pounds. A scale is necessary for weighing not only wax but also additives such as stearic acid, colorants, and scent oils. For the latter, a gram scale can have the precision of ±1 gram.
Measuring Container. The ideal container for measuring in ounces and cups is an ordinary Pyrex measuring cup of the kind you no doubt already have. These come in 1-cup, 2-cup, 4-cup, and 6-cup sizes, and are heat resistant.
Your measuring container has two uses: you can determine the volume of wax by displacement: for this you will need two measuring cups. Put wax in one cup in a block or chunks; then put water in the second cup and note the amount it takes to fully submerge the wax in the first cup. Subtract the volume of water added from the level of water needed to cover the wax. The result is the volume of wax you have just measured.
Since Pyrex measuring cups can be heated, you can use such a measuring cup (or any heatproof calibrated vessel, such as a flask used in chemistry) as a wax melting insert when melting small amounts of wax.
Oven Mitts and Pot Holders. Oven mitts or pot holders are essential when it comes to protecting your hands when you handle a pot of hot wax. I hang an assortment of them on hooks hear the stove where they are easily accessible.
Metal Ruler or Straightedge. An artist's T-square is good, as are the heavy metal rulers they use. It's even a good idea to have both — for cutting and for calibrating lengths of vessels, candles, and wicks. These tools are available at art supply shops, which often also sell craft materials. The straightedge is used to cut sheet wax, for rolled and stacked candles. T-squares and metal rulers come in various lengths: a 3-foot length is more useful than the ordinary l-foot length.
Cutting Surface and Tools. A cutting surface can be a laminated kitchen counter that can't be cut-marked or a wooden or plastic cutting board such as those used for chopping food. You can even use a piece of heavy cardboard such as the backing from an artist's sketchpad.
For cutting tools, I like Exacto knifes (as I am a graphics artist). The blades are extremely sharp and run cleanly along a straight edge. They come in different sizes, both handle and blades. You can use a single-edge razor blade as do artists, or a very sharp paring knife. Your cutting tool is for cutting sheets of wax for rolled and stacked candles, and for trimming the seams of finished molded candles. Scissors are also useful, especially for cutting wicks.
Ladle. You might also need a ladle — choose one impervious to heat, with a deep bowl and a comfortably angled handle to avoid spilling. A glass meat-baster is the perfect tool for sucking up melted wax and squirting it around loose wicks, or in other small spaces. Don't use a plastic one — it may melt!
Greaseproof Paper and Paper Towels. This includes waxed paper, parchment, brown craft paper (or brown paper bags flattened out), and foil. Keep a good supply on hand to cover work surfaces. And don't forget about paper towels — they are essential for cleanups, to use as oil wipes, to mop up water spills, and many other chores. I use up a lot!
Water Container. This can be almost anything — a plastic dishpan or a bucket — large enough to hold your finished molds for cooling. A cat litter pan works well for short molds, a dishpan for taller molds.
Dowels. Dowels are used to make a rack from which to hang dipped candles for drying. A short piece of narrow dowel can be used to hold the wicks of dipped candles apart while you dip them. A folded piece of cardboard will also work.
Wicking Tool. This can be a wicking needle made especially for candlemaking, an ice pick, a metal skewer, or a knitting needle. It is used to make a hole in hardened candles for the wick. A wicking needle looks like a darning needle: The hole at one end is elongated so that the wick can be threaded through it. You will need a long enough wicking needle to insert at the base and push through to the top.
Pliers. Pliers are used to grasp the wicking needle and pull it through the candle; to pull wicks through molds; to secure a candle that is being overdipped (by holding its wick in the jaws of the pliers); and to pinch the tabs on wick sustainers — it is a most useful implement! Regular pliers will work well, but needle-nose pliers will let you grasp and hold a wick more firmly.
Hammer. You might use a hammer to break blocks of wax into pieces. A sharp cleaver will also do this work well.
Paint Scraper. A paint scraper is excellent for easily scraping spilled wax off a hard surface, such as a counter. You might also use a putty knife.
Screwdriver. Some molds have screw-type wickholders. You will need a screwdriver to deal with these if you use them.
Weights. You'll need something heavy to keep a wax-filled mold submerged in its water bath. Depending on the size of your mold(s) you can use a brick, an iron boot scrapper (I have one that is a duck with a large flat bottom), unopened cans of food, an empty food can filled with quick-setting cement. Use your imagination!
Small weights with a center hole are required to weigh down wicks that are being dipped. Washers, curtain weights, and nuts will all do.
Plastic Bags. The zippered plastic bags work well for storing hard wax; open topped ones are best for measuring mold volume.
A scale with a knob that allows you to turn it back to zero after you have set your measuring container on it is handy. It will allow you to weigh only the wax without having to do the math to subtract the weight of the container each time.
Use an old pillowcase to hold your block of wax while you hammer it into chunks. This will catch the crumbs and keep the pieces from flying about. But don't put the used pillowcase your washer/dryer — the wax may clog the pipes.