Sustainable Seawolf: How to make candles

Summer markets across Alaska are filled with booths selling homemade candles, many scented with natural products and organic materials. But buying these candles can be spendy, and learning to make your own is a skill you can take to the bank. Beyond selling candles, you can also stock up on them for emergencies. With last month’s windstorm knocking out the power of almost 10,000 Anchorage residents, many people found themselves in need of light.

As it turns out, making your own candles is not as hard as one might think. All you need to do is purchase a few supplies and be prepared to clean up a mess afterward.

Supplies

Wax

Purchasing wax in bags of pellets cuts down on the mess, and is preferable to buying the wax in bricks. For cheap candles, paraffin wax is a popular choice. However, if you’re concerned about your candles being organic, you can purchase beeswax instead. Small chunks are better (and cleaner) for melting.

Wick

While wax can be found at most superstores, wicks may need to be purchased through specialty stores or online. For making candles at home, buying a large wick is always better than any other size. They burn the best and are less flimsy to work with.

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Scents

Scents can be purchased in the form of essential oils or made at home using dried herbs and olive oil. Essential oils are designed to be incredibly potent, and it usually only takes a teaspoon or two to scent an entire candle. Ratios can be found online, and depend on how strongly you want your candle to be scented.

Double boiler

This is needed for melting the wax. They can be found in most superstores and come in handy for many things besides candle making, such as melting chocolate or marshmallows. This makes them a good investment for any household.

Mason jars

Although anything heat-resistant can technically be used as a container, mason jars are the easiest to find and are often simple to decorate, something to keep in mind if you plan on giving candles away as a gift.

Candle Photo.jpg
Making candles at home is messy, but worthwhile Photo credit: Abigail Slater

Directions

  1. Lay newspaper out across your work area to catch spills. Trim wicks to match container size. Set out jars and wicks close to the work area.
  2. Heat water in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Place the double boiler over top and melt the wax pellets, about a half pound per 8 ounces. Stir occasionally.
  3. As the wax first starts to melt, take your wicks and dip the ends in the melted wax, then use it to adhere the wick bottoms to the bottom of your container. As the wax cools, it will keep the wick in place. If you want to skip this step, you can also use superglue on the wick bottoms to stick them in place.
  4. Once the wax is melted, remove from heat. (As a note, do not let the wax overheat while it is melting. If you own a thermometer, try to keep it below 170 degrees). Add fragrance and stir.
  5. Let the wax cool for 3-5 minutes, then pour into the containers, leaving some wax behind in the double boiler. To keep the wick centered while the wax hardens, lay a pen or pencil across the top of the container and use it to prop up the wick.
  6. After this, let the candles harden. Often, the wax will pull away from the sides of your container. If this happens, just reheat the wax you left behind in your double boiler and use it to fill in these gaps.
  7. Trim the top of your wicks as needed and enjoy.