I'm always looking for ways to use the natural materials that we produce on our property, and one of those is beeswax. I've been using beeswax to make beeswax wraps, various balms and salves, beeswax wraps and leather dressing. And I've been selling beeswax to other people to make their own DIY products, including candles.
One thing I hadn't tried yet it was beeswax candles myself, so I did some research on the options for making beeswax candles. You can either pour the beeswax into a jar with a wick or you can use a mould (usually silicone, but also sometimes metal or plastic) to make a freestanding candle.
I decided to try making candles using silicone moulds, so I ordered a couple of moulds online and some wick cotton to make the candles. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to learn how to make the candles.
Prepare the silicon moulds for candle-making
The first thing you have to do when you get a new silicon candle mould is to cut the mould so that you can get the candle out when its solid. It feels really weird cutting a new silicone mould! I don't know why they don't come pre-cut, but its easy enough to do after you get over the fact you are cutting into your new mould. After you've cut the mould you then need to secure it using rubber bands so the beeswax doesn't leak out the slit that you just made.
Thread the wick
The next step is to use a big sharp tapestry needle to thread the wick and then pull the wick through the centre of the bottom of the mould. When you have a new mould its easier to judge the centre of the mould from the inside. When you use the mould again, its easier to find the hole again from the outside.
The wick needs to be long enough to go through the whole candle and you need to leave a bit extra at each end. You need a method to support the wick on top of the mould while the beeswax dries so that it stays straight and centred. I saw what people were using online and so I made something similar out of a piece of cardboard. I use a couple of popsicle sticks to prop up that piece of cardboard to keep it above the beeswax level.
Melt and pour the beeswax
Then you're ready to pour the beeswax into the moulds. Its best to heat your beeswax over a double-boiler as it only needs to be around 80degC, so you don't need it over a direct heat. Use an old pot or jar that you don't need to use again for anything else - it is very difficult to clean out all the beeswax. This will be your beeswax pot forever now, choose carefully!
You can add things to the beeswax like coconut oil, shea butter or cocoa butter that's quite common if you're making the candles in jars it just makes the wax melt at a slightly lower temperature and its less likely to crack in the jar. If you're making beeswax candles using silicone moulds you don't need to add anything, you can just make the candles with pure beeswax.
You could also add fragrance at this point. The beeswax candle will smell like melted beeswax (i.e. amazing) without any added fragrance, but if you want a particular scent you can add a small amount of essential oil (make sure you look up the recommended amount so that its safe to burn).
After you've melted the beeswax and poured it into the moulds, make sure the wick is centred and wait for the wax to cool and solidify.
Unmould the candles
Once the beeswax is cool and solid, you can take off the rubber bands and open up the mould where you've cut it and easily pop out the candle. Then you just need to trim the wick. I find that side-cutters are good for getting in close the base so that the candle stands up without wobbling.
Burn the candles
To get the most value out of your candle you want to burn it for at least a couple of hours. This allows a nice even pool of wax to form and melt down the sides of the candle. Make sure that you have the candle in a stable and safe location, away from other combustible materials. I like to put my candle in a candle-holder or a small saucer so that I don't drip wax on anything important.
There is a myth about beeswax candles that is being repeated all over the internet - this is some variation of "beeswax candles actually clean the air by producing negative ions".
Unfortunately this is a very bad interpretation of a study that showed that all candles produce very small amounts of negative ions and beeswax candles produce slightly more. This does not mean that they clean the air. It is very unfortunate that people just continue to copy and paste what they read on other sites without questioning the source. You can find out more about the original study here.
Benefits of using beeswax for candles
While beeswax does not "purify the air", it does burn cleaner than parafin wax (which is made from crude oil). Another wax that is commonly used is soy wax. While this is a vegan-friendly option, consider the energy required to grow and harvest soy beans, and then to process the oil to make wax. It may be plant-derived, but it does require significant processing to make the wax. There are also a lot of herbicides used in producing soy beans.
Beeswax, on the other hand, is a by-product of honey production. To get the honey out of the frames, we have to cut off the beeswax the bees have used to seal the honey into the honeycomb (known as "uncapping"). We may also clean out old frames from the hive. Most of the beeswax is from uncapping.
Most beekeepers will use the beeswax they produce to make "foundation", which is a thin sheet of beeswax with a honeycomb pattern that goes into new frames to get the bees started. If they have excess, they will sell it for people to use.
Someone asked me if we "melt down the entire hive". This is something that used to happen before the invention of the Langstroth hive with frames. The only way to get the honey out of an old-style skep was to crush the entire thing, kill all the bees and I guess they melted all the beeswax. We don't need to do that, and we don't want to either - bees use a lot of energy to make beeswax and that energy comes from honey. The more we can help them by NOT taking beeswax, the more honey is left for us to harvest!
So which wax is best for candles?
Comparing waxes is not easy, as the production methods are so different. You can read more about the sustainability of wax for candle making here.
I don't think any of them are particularly good for indoor air quality. I don't burn candles regularly, I keep them for special occasions (like when the power goes out).
What do you think? Have you made beeswax candles?
You can buy beeswax and candles from my store using the links below....