I really enjoy the ambience that candles lend, but I really hesitate to use candles made of paraffin since they are a petroleum by-product. I love beeswax candles, and over the past year I have become equally as enamored with soy candles as well.
Soy wax has a clean, odorless burn, a smooth texture, takes added scents and colors very well and is very easy to work with. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a three-pound tub of soy wax flakes at my local independently-owned craft store for only $10! I also picked up some tabbed votive wicks (the pre-waxed short wicks attached to little metal circles), some candle putty (for securing the wicks into the candle containers) and vanilla candle scent. When you are purchasing your soy wax, it’s important to note what grade you’re purchasing—there is container wax (obviously, for making candles directly in their holders) and pillar wax (for making free-standing candles that you take out of a mold). For my vanilla candles, I decided to make them in 3 ounce tins that I picked up at the Container Store. I think tinned candles are great because they’re travel-friendly—you can throw them in your travel pack and have them handy in your motel room or at your campsite for ambiance, relaxation and as way to improve the smell of your surroundings. You can also re-use the tins by making another candle when the original one burns down.
You never want to melt your wax over direct heat, so you’ll need to use either a double-boiler or your microwave. I think the microwave is the easiest, low-mess way to make candles, so that’s what I prefer. You’ll need microwave-safe glass bowl, a spoon, a small ladle, tabbed wicks, candle containers, candle putty, an old rimmed metal baking pan, your chosen candle scent and color (if using), and of course you soy wax flakes.
Assemble your work area first. Soy wax cleans up with soap and water, but it takes some scrubbing and several rinses, so working on top of a metal tray will contain spills and is easier to clean. First, prep your containers. Make sure they are washed and dried. Affix one wick into the center of each container with a small ball of candle putty. Line them up on one side of your tray. On the other side of your tray, put the bowl. Measure your soy wax flakes into the bowl. I found that around ½ to ¾ of a cup of wax filled each tin. If you melt too much wax, don’t worry about it—once it cools completely in the bowl you can chip it out and use it again another time. And if you don’t melt enough, just do another batch. Have your scent and color handy, but don’t add them yet. To melt the wax, microwave it at one-minute intervals until it becomes liquid, stirring it periodically. Once the wax is liquid, remove the bowl from the microwave and place it on your work tray. Be careful and use a potholder—the bowl will be very hot! If you’re adding color, add it now and stir until completely combined. Using your small ladle, carefully ladle wax into each holder, leaving a little headroom in each container. If you are adding scent, add a few drops (I add 5-7 drops per container for a strong scent) to each tin. Once each tin is done, walk and way and let them sit until hardened—this will take several hours, but I usually leave them overnight.
I also don’t do my cleanup until the next morning—cleaning up hardened wax is much easier then liquid! Since everything is on the tray, the mess is contained, and you can set it in an out of the way spot once the wax has started to harden. The next morning, clean up your containers—use a wet cloth to remove and spilled or dripped wax. Cap the tins with their lids and affix a label, ribbon or other embellishment. To clean up your work supplies, scrape and chip any remaining wax into your wax container to use next time. You can make it even easier to remove from freezing your supplies until the wax is even harder. Once you have removed as much wax as possible, wash your supplies in hot soapy water. It will take some scrubbing and a few good rinses to remove all of the residue.
And that’s it, you’re done! Beautiful candles perfect for accenting your home or giving as gifts. You can personalize them by using any type of glass or metal container, natural scents, natural dyes or packaging. For giving, I packaged two candles in a kraft coffee bag (with the metal tab closure at the top), punched to holes at the top of bag where I strung a red and white baker’s twine bow and gift tag, and it was ready to go!