I've been wanting to write about my candle making experience, but first I needed to put some distance between myself and 12 lbs. of beeswax. I was making candles almost daily before the holidays. It's not that 12 lbs. is sooo much, but when you only have a few molds, it's a drawn out process and my product seemed to get increasingly worse as I went along. So, by no means am I an expert, but in the end they turned out pretty well (and once they were lit all the flaws that I was obsessing over just melted away). Here are a few things I learned along the way...
I got a bulk discount at a great store in Portland called the Portland Homestead Supply. I LOVE this store, it has all of the things you can't find anywhere but online and they offer lots of great classes, like pig butchering (I found myself interested in signing up, but only if they started with a live pig. Is that strange?) Initially, I found beeswax a bit cheaper online, but after they said they'd give me a bulk discount it was much cheaper to support the local guy and not pay for shipping. I paid 8.00 a lb. BUT, I have recently discovered that I could get it from a local beekeeper for around 4.00 a lb. I'll go that route next time, but thus far the beekeeper hasn't returned my calls.
To break the wax it was easiest to put it in the freezer for a bit and then use a chisel and hammer to break chunks apart, and satisfying too. Cutting it with a warm knife did not really cut it (pun intended). I must say though that my first batch of candles used from the wax that I didn't freeze before cutting turned out the best. I'm not sure if it was beginners luck or if freezing the wax somehow changed the chemical structure. I couldn't find any reference to this, but I also couldn't really figure out why after the first batch I got more cracking after the candles set.
I just picked up some molds, wick and wick holders from Portland Homestead Supply and got the melt pot from Goodwill. Lots of people suggested using a separate pot as your double broiler, but I found that if I just warmed everything I used in the oven afterwards that the wax came off easily with a dry towel. I guess if I was using other waxes I wouldn't want it to mix with our food ware, but I wasn't too worried about beeswax tainting our food.
At first I tried to tie the wicks to skewers, but that didn't really work. I found that wooden clothes pins were the best option for the votives (just clip the clothes pin before pouring wax, hold it aside and then center it after the wax is poured). I also had some pillar molds, but they came with wick holders and putty to keep them in place.
As mentioned above, I did get lots of cracking in the candles. For the life of me I can't figure out why. I troubleshooted left and right, but couldn't come up with any resolutions or conclusions. The best thing about the candles are if you really don't like the way it turned out you can just remelt the wax and start over, sometimes the wick is even salvagable. But, having this option meant that I poured about twice as many candles as I ended up with. The other nice thing about having cracking problems, as opposed to other problems I read about is that once the candles were lit and then cooled you couldn't tell at all.
I did some calculations as to how much money I saved making my own and depending on what source you went with for prices, it was a lot. Wax isn't cheap and the molds aren't either, but store bought beeswax candles are expensive!
I think I'm ready to harass the beekeeper some more and go for another round (without the pressure of an early Christmas gift exchange). I loved the way the house smelled like honey for the month leading up to Christmas. And they are very nice to have lit around the house.
Oh, and the candle holders were just some burlap stamped and cut to fit a glass candle holder and then glued with a hot glue gun. I kind of like the way they turned out, maybe a bit too plain? I made a few of these too from an idea I found over on pinterest. I really liked the way they turned out. It's a great use of extra thread on a bobbin. I didn't make a mold, I just wrapped the thread around the glass and then painted some modge podge on. I was a bit worried the glue would melt when they were lit (or smell bad) but neither occurred.