Like a Candle in the Dark – Blog Advent (1)

It’s the first of December, and secular Advent is with us at last.  Kids (young and old!) all over the world have broken open the first window of their Advent calendars this morning, and the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on!

Advent candle

I started candle making last year, in a very small way, and mused at the time whether my advent candle, this year, might be home-made.  Well, here it is!  I’m quite pleased with it!

Advent - day 1

Candle making is a great little craft, though it can be a bit time consuming.  I’ve had an Advent candle for many years, and it’s such an important part of my pre-Christmas traditions that I wanted to get it right.

Incidentally, these instructions are equally relevant to making almost any sort of pillar or taper candle.  My consumables (wax, transfers etc) mainly came from Making Your Own Candles (see the suppliers list for more details).

Candle moulds and wickTo make a candle like this one, you’re going to need the following –

  • A taper candle mould (mine were cheap, plastic, and came from eBay – more sophisticated models are available!)
  • Appropriate candle wax – I used 90% of a paraffin pillar blend, and 10% beeswax
  • Candle dye and scent (optional)
  • Waterslide transfers for the Advent days (you can skip this if you’re just making dinner candles!).  You can buy waterslide transfer papers for laser printing yourself, or buy the transfers already printed from a candle supplies shop.
  • Wick – I used LX8 for these taper candles – wick sustainers and mould seal
  • Basic candle-making equipment – some sort of double boiler (mine is a large tin can in an old pan), a jam thermometer, an a stirring stick of some sort.  These should not also be used for food!
  • Kitchen scales, hob, fridge and freezer.

Wax beads with stirrer and dyeFirst, assemble your moulds if required, and then work out their volume (I filled them with water, and then weighed the water).  This will let you work out how much wax they will take to fill.  Wax is about 10% less dense than water, so reduce your weight by 10% and that’s the amount of wax you need.

Each of my taper moulds took about 60g of water, which I adjusted down to 55g of wax made up 50g of paraffin and 5g of beeswax.  I also added a 1g chip of fudge-coloured dye to the 110g of wax (that’s the orange thing you can se in the wax tin).  Now warm the water in your double boiler up until the wax starts to melt.  This should start at about 65C.  Try to keep the water below 75 to ensure the wax stays safely below its flashpoint (the temperature at which it’s at risk of catching fire).  The lower the temperature you keep your melted wax while working with it, the less shrinkage will happen as it cools, which is likely to give you a better result, so be patient and let it melt slowly!

Wick fixed with mould sealMeanwhile, prepare your moulds, feeding the wick through the wick hole at the bottom and plugging this with some mould sealant (I use generic white-tack of the sort you’d use to fix posters to the wall, and this seems to work fine).  Then turn the moulds the ‘right’ way up, and secure the other end of the wick to a wick sustainer, again using some of the tack.

If you’re adding scent to your candle wax, do this now, just before pouring, to reduce the amount of scent you will lose by evaporation from the hot wax.  I added a few drops of sweet orange and ginger essential oils to give a gentle festive scent – but there are lots of commercially prepared specialist candle scents, which, unsurprisingly, you should use according to the directions that come with them!

Moulds ready for pouringOnce your moulds are ready, you can start pouring the melted wax.  Do this carefully but steadily.  You can see that I placed my moulds in a tin just in case the mould seal failed, to avoid molten wax going all over the kitchen.  Fill both moulds all the way to the top.  You will have some left over wax, if you’ve calculated right. This is good news.  Put your filled moulds somewhere cold such as the refrigerator, or outside, for about an hour.

Candles with voids around wicksMeanwhile, either keep your wax melted (this involves watching it carefully all the time) or pour it out into a container like the tinfoil tray and let it set for now. After about an hour, retrieve your candle moulds.  You’ll notice that there’s a massive great ‘well’ in the centre of your candles.  Give this a bit of a poke with a kebab skewer to make sure there aren’t any hidden voids, then re-melt the wax you have left over, and use it to top up the moulds again, right to the top.

Finished candles in mouldsReturn the candles to your cold place to finish setting for a few hours.  When you get them out again, they should look a bit like this.  Now you need to release them from their moulds. Shrinkage is your friend here, so I stuck mine in the freezer for about half an hour.  Then I could pop the cap from the bottom of the mould and gently ease the candle out – well, that’s the theory at least.

Candle free from mouldAs you can see from this next photo, on this particular candle – the first I made, I ended up accidentally breaking the rounded top of the candle in the process. Well, you live and learn, and subsequent efforts were more successful!  Freezing is a big help, as is giving the mould a brisk but gentle tap before gently pushing up from the ‘pointy end’.

You can tidy up and ‘finish’ the bottom of the candle by trimming the wick and then melting the bottom against a hot iron or any other hot surface to melt it down flat.  Obviously, choose your hot surface judiciously and don’t use your laundry iron or anything that’s for food use!

If you’re just making a dinner candle – congratulations, you’re done!  If it’s an advent candle you’re set on, there’s just one more step to go.

Plain candles with waterslide transfersApplying the waterslide transfers turned out to be surprisingly straightforward.  Cut these to size, if required, then soak the transfers in a bowl of tap water for about a minute.  This will allow the clear film which forms the transfer itself to come away from the paper backing.

waterslide transfer soakingThen, very gently place the film on the surface of the candle and smooth it out.  It won’t stick down fully for a couple of minutes as it dries, so you have plenty of time to straighten it out and get rid of any bubbles or wrinkles, I found wiping it gently with a damp piece of kitchen towel was very helpful.

I’m really happy with mine – isn’t it gorgeous!  It’s a lovely warm honey colour, and has a gentle fruity scent from the essential oil additions.

Candle and calendar

Of course, many people prefer an Advent calendar to a candle – those of you who were early readers of this blog may remember my fabric Advent calendar project from last year.  You can see more photos and instructions for the calendar over here.

I’m trying to write a post a day during Advent, so, please come along with me while I try to Blog Advent – the Country Skills Way – and forgive me if I don’t quite manage it!

Read more from the Country Skills blog >>

2 thoughts on “Like a Candle in the Dark – Blog Advent (1)

  1. Oh, I didn’t realise you could get moulds for taper candles – I’d assumed they were all dipped (which is probably a bit more mess than you want).

    • I believe many commercial taper candles are made in moulds, though they’ll generally be over-dipped to give a nice glossy finish! With my moulds at least it would be tricky to keep them attached in neat pairs, though, so that’s probably a bit of a give-away…

      Dipped candles at home, I can only guess, would be both messy, extra-super time consuming, and require you to have an awful lot of wax melted all the time to get the depth to work with.

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