Friday, February 22, 2013

How to Make a Gigantic Hand-Dipped Candle

Once a month a homeschooled kids group meets at my house.  And in a recent month, we made candles!  They weren't all as gigantic as this one:
But still, they were an interesting craft to make, and also could be put to use, lighting our home tables!  My son James made this big one (23" tall).  Here is how to make a regular-sized dipped candle.  After the instructions, I can tell you how to modify them to make the really tall one.

How to Make Hand-Dipped Candles:

You will need: paraffin wax (available in the canning section of grocery stores), and a tall container to melt it in (we used an old ice cream maker's metal cannister-- you could use a metal coffee can or anything else you don't mind getting full of wax).  To melt the wax, start early-- It took about an hour for ours to melt-- We used two containers of wax, cut into smallish chunks.  Never heat wax under direct heat; use a double-boiler set-up, so the container holding the wax is inside a larger pan with water.  Wax is flammable, and in fact, if it gets too hot after melting and starts boiling it could burst into flames-- SCARY!  So be cautious and make sure you heat it until melted but then take it off the heat.

To get the color you can take the paper off crayons and add them in while the wax is melting (we used all the reddish tints I could find from our crayon collection-- you might want to try a candlemaking dye instead if you are short on crayons . . .)

The other thing you will need is wicking.  Alas! Our local craft store had no candle wicking available, but I did some research and found that you can make your own wicking string from ANY STRING that is 100% cotton, using a simple recipe.  It's really very easy to make, and probably a lot less expensive than getting pre-made wicking.  I found 100% cotton twine at a local kitchen store, sold for lacing up turkeys (synthetic blends could be a hazard or not work well when lit). You just cut the string in whatever lengths you'd like the wicks to be (ours were about 24" long-- keep in mind that one string will be used to make two candles), and let them soak overnight in a solution of  2 T borax, 1 T salt and 1 C water.  Then hang them up to dry.  We put ours on our clothes-drying rack and they became dry later in the day.

After the wax has melted, it's time for dipping the strings.  Because we did this as a group project, we took turns dipping, forming a long line that had a continuous change in "dippers."  With the middle of the string around a forefinger, the two ends were dipped quickly, and allowed to drip for a moment over a plate. then the person dipping would carry their string and go to the end of the line.  The next dipper would do the same, etc.  We put on some Christmas music (it was in December) and kept going for about 1/2 hour or so, until everyone was satisfied with the size of their candles.  Midway through, we even had an impromptu group song while dipping-- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Though music and singing are not actually necessary for making candles, they were a great addition, and added some extra festive feeling (!)

OK-- Now maybe you want to know how the giant candle was made . . . well, my son had two fairly large candles on each end of his string.  Then he got the idea to hold each candle by an end and dip into the middle (where there was no wax).  After dipping repeatedly to coat the middle section, he was able to create an especially long candle.  Here's another picture of it, with a flame: