The following 101 on making beeswax candles comes from HOMEGROWN member Charlyn, an Oregonian who chronicles her adventures in the blog 21st Street Urban Homestead. (We especially like her Sunday Night Suppers series.) Thanks for the how-to, Charlyn, and please keep the good ideas coming!
One of the benefits of having a beehive in the backyard is free beeswax. We’ve been gathering our wax for several years, but until recently we were still working out a way to clean it. After some experiments, Mark bought a colander from Goodwill that has been key to the process. (More details below.) But clean beeswax doesn't necessarily mean candles. The disc lived in the larder for a year, waiting.
Yesterday, we had our first foray into candle making. I had already learned that all wax work should happen in the backyard, using the camp stove on the potting table. That way, no wax gets ground into the kitchen floor, and neighborhood bees come by to scarf down any residual honey. We hauled all of the equipment and ingredients, plus reading material, outside. It was a warm and sunny afternoon. Mark tended the wax-cleaning process while reading The Economist. I set up the wicks and melted down chunks of the beeswax disc. It’s all pretty straightforward. Here’s how we did it.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
» wax comb
» old colander*
» clean T-shirt
» one big pot to nest the colander in*
» one smaller pot, ideally with a spout, to pour the hot wax*
» camp stove
» empty votive glasses and/or plastic candle molds
*Make sure to use pots you're ready to retire from the kitchen. You're not going to want to cook in these again after they're covered with wax.
WHAT TO DO
PART 1: CLEANING THE WAX
Because our wax is often fairly dirty (dead bees, old comb, occasional twigs), we have a two-part straining system. First we arrange a double boiler made from a colander and a large pot. Then we pile chunks of wax into the colander and crank up the heat. The wax melts down through the holes. When all the wax has melted, we lift the debris out using the colander. Once the wax has cooled, we put it back in the colander, this time lined with an old clean T-shirt, and re-melt it. This catches all of the tiny debris. Voila! A clean disc of wax, as in that top photo.
PART 2: MAKING THE CANDLES
Since you'll need cool—not hot—wax to make candles, the cleaning and candles can, and maybe should, happen on separate days. you'll need to start with a cool disc of clean wax. Working on a flat surface (not one that tilts!) attach the wicks to the bottoms of the votive jars or molds, whichever you’re using (or both). Knot the wicks to a dowel to hold them tight. Pour the hot wax into the molds.
Let the wax cool about 20 minutes; then poke toothpicks into the center of each candle. This prevents the wax, which shrinks as it cools, from leaving too many holes in the finished candle. Watch for bubbles as warm wax slides into the gaps created by the toothpicks. Top off each candle with more hot wax.
Let everything cool completely before popping your candles out of the molds. Voila, part 2! Beeswax candles!
Got another technique for cleaning beeswax? Or a bee in your bonnet you’d like to share with Charlyn? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also be interested in 101s on beekeeping, homemade honey sticks, and making your own solar beeswax melter or tabletop fire bowls. You might consider joining the HOMEGROWN apiarists group. And you can always find more things to make, craft, cook, preserve, plant, grow, and melt in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.
ALL PHOTOS: CHARLYN