Candle gel, paraffin and soy wax: Candlemaking made easy for everyone
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A candlemaking project for parents AND children

There's one thing about candlemaking: it's a great hobbie but it's clearly oriented towards grownups. Melting wax can be a dangereous activity and children should not be allowed to do that on their own.
Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule and this project is one of them!
What makes it so appealing is that it allows for an active collaboration from your little ones: you take care of the preliminary phase (the melting and pouring process), then it's their turn to play and let their creativity loose... in all safety.
So put on your aprons and let's get started!



Specifications
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Time needed: one hour for the preparation and hours of fun


  • Supplies needed
  • 1,5 Kg of paraffin wax with 10% stearin,
  • candle dye of your choice, multiple colors recommended,
  • different cookie cutters,
  • one drinking straw (a thin one, like those attached to drink cartons),
  • one primed, tabbed wick,
  • one rectangular with small edges, about 40x30cm (a furnace plate will do),
  • freezer,
  • one thermometer for each melting pot.
  • and of course the usual supplies: double boiler, pouring jugs...


    How to make this candle

    1 For this project, you will need a lot of free space on your work area: enough room for the furnace plate and for multiple sheets of freezer paper next to that plate (you will need the freezer paper to place the freshly cutted wax shapes; they'll remain there until they're hard).

    You will probably want to use multiple colors (I used three in this example). So ideally, to avoid wasting too much time, you should be able to melt two batches of paraffin simultaneously. If you work in your kitchen and have two double boilers (or one large enough to accomodate two pouring jugs), it will allow you to prepare the next color while you're cutting shapes out of the first one.
    If you have only one melting pot, it's no big deal! The preparation phase will only last a little longer...

    To start, put about 500 grams of paraffin plus 10% of stearin in your melting pot, place it in the double boiler and let the wax melt. If possible, don't wait and also prepare the second batch of paraffin in another melting pot.


    2 Don't forget to constantly monitor the temperature of the wax with a thermometer (if you use more than one melting pot, you will of course need more than one thermometer). When the temperature reaches between 180░F and 190░F (82░C and 88░C), it's the perfect moment to colour it; add dye to the wax and stir thoroughly with an old spoon (try and use a diferent one for each color to avoid an accidental color mix).

    Now, cover the furnace plate entirely (including the edges) with a large sheet of freezer paper. Check one last time that the temperature of the wax is still in the pouring range. If that's the case, remove the melting pot from the double boiler and, before you pour, wipe the outside of the pot with an old kitchen towel to prevent water from getting in the wax. Pour slowly in the furnace plate covered with freezer paper.

    Note
    To ensure you get a wax sheet with a constant thickness, be sure your work area is perfectly level.



    3 There's nothing better than cookie cutters to cut regular shapes out of your wax sheet when it has cooled off enough. These simple little instruments (usually metallic) are commonly used for pastry making and are easy to find almost everywhere (check cookiecutter.com for original shapes).

    Whenever possible, choose shapes with a diameter that's more or less constant, like a circle, a square, a star... avoid irregular shapes like half moons, christmas trees, music notes, etc. Such shapes make it hard to choose a wick that will perform well (if you ever choose to burn your candle, more about that later).


    4 Cutting out nice, sharp shapes is an easy process but success or failure will depend on the consistency of the wax sheet: it must have cooled off enough... but not too much!

    Knowing the right time is a matter of experience because it depends on the thickness of the wax sheet, on the room temperature and other factors. The following tips will help you decide if it's time to cut or not:
  • always wait for a minimum of ten minutes after the wax is poured,
  • lightly press your fingertip on a corner of the wax sheet. If you feel no resistance and your finger leaves a pronounced hole in the wax, it's too soon.
  • once the wax offers some resistance to finger pressure, try and cut out your first shape.
  • Push the cookie cutter all the way through the wax sheet. If you see any liquid wax coming to the surface, it's a sign that the wax hasn't cooled off enough yet. Try again 5 minutes later.

    If the cookie cutter leaves a clear, clean cut in the wax, it's perfect, you can now really start creating wax shapes. Work fast: the wax won't remain soft very long. You will notice that as the wax sheet get harder, the wax shapes will tend to remain inside the cookie cutter when you remove it.
    If that's the case, you'll just need to gently push it out and lay it flat on one of the sheets of freezer paper you've prepared to that effect. Leave the shapes there until they've cooled off completely.
    If it's not the case, no problem; you will separate the shapes from the hard wax sheet when you're done cutting them out.


    5 In both cases anyway, don't wait to create a hole for the wick. For that purpose, you can use a thin drinking straw, like those you find attached to small fruit drink cartons.

    For optimal final results, make sure you drill the hole in the very center of the shape. Rotate the straw a few times to the left and to the right; the small portion of wax should remain inside the straw when you remove it. Just blow in the other side of the straw to get it out.

    Tip
    Don't throw those small coloured bits of wax away. Keep them safe in an ice cube, for example; when you have enough of these wax bits, let your children make a "cold candle" by placing them artistically in a glass container (before they start, set up a tabbed wick in the container).
    (This is called a cold candle because no wax melting is required to make them. A cold candle can be burned just like a classic container candle)



    6 When all the shapes have been cut out, the wax sheet is usually hard enough to be separated easily from its freezer paper support.
    It is now child's play to free the shapes that still stick to the wax sheet (just press gently and they will come out). Place them on a freezer paper sheet and let them cool off completely.


    7 & 8 Repeat these steps for all the colors you want to use.


    9 By now, you should have a nice collection of wax disks with different shapes and colors, each one with a little hole in the middle.

    If your children are old and/or skilful enough, maybe they helped you with the "cookie-cutting". Whether this is the case or not, their time has come now to show their creativity.


    10 Prime and tab one (or several) wick (choose the wick size in function of the average diameter of the wax shapes) and let the kids freely pile up the wax shapes of their choice around it (be sure to read the safety precautions below).


    11 As always, all the leftovers (whatever remains of the wax sheets and excedental wax shapes) can and must be recycled and reused in a future project (for ideas and techniques, see the article "How to recycle your wax leftovers").
    Break up the remains of the wax sheets in small pieces and store them in freezer bags. You can use (among other things) small pieces of coloured wax as a dye in candlemaking projects that call for a very pale color.


    Safety precautions
    These pretty candles have one drawback: they are absolutely not stable!
    I would recommend to treat them as decorative items and, as such, not to burn them. But if you (or your children) really can't resist the temptation, first place the candle in a heat-resistant glass container.

    Don't forget that you should never leave a burning candle unattended and to keep candles out of reach of children and pets.

    Using the same principle, you can create candles with a much better stability: make thicker wax sheets (1 cm or more), cut out larger disks (circle or square shapes only) and reduce the number of disks. You can also use a little glue wax to secure the disks together.


    A fun and easy to make candle for children and grownups
    A fun and easy to make candle for children and grownups

    Related articles:
  • How to recycle your wax leftovers


    Melt and colour the paraffin/stearin blend
    1Melt and colour the paraffin/stearin blend

    Pour the wax in the furnace plate and let it cool off
    2Pour the wax in the furnace plate and let it cool off

    There's nothing better to cut out shapes out of a wax sheet than cookie cutters
    3There's nothing better to cut shapes out of a wax sheet than cookie cutters

    Insert the cookie cutter into the wax sheet until it reaches the sheet of freezer paper...
    4Insert the cookie cutter into the wax sheet until it reaches the sheet of freezer paper...

    ... and don't forget to make a hole for the wick using a thin drinking straw
    5... and don't forget to make a hole for the wick using a thin drinking straw

    When the wax sheet has cooled off enough, the wax disks can be easily removed using gentle pressure
    6When the wax sheet has cooled off enough, the wax disks can be easily removed using gentle pressure

    Repeat these operations for the other desired colors
    7Repeat these operations for the other desired colors

    8

    When the wax disks have completely cooled off, it's play time for the little ones
    9When the wax disks have completely cooled off, it's play time for the little ones

    Let them use their fantasy and pile up coloured disks around a wick
    10Let them use their fantasy and pile up coloured disks around a wick

    As always, all the leftovers of this project can be easily recycled and reused
    11As always, all the leftovers of this project can be easily recycled and reused

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