Material & Supplies
Right, now for some serious stuff, candle making is all about the materials, where you get them, how you use them, this will determine the quality of the end product, there are endless number of sellers out there, new ones spring up every year, some only last for a few weeks then vanish into the sunset, but if you are careful from which company you buy from, you can not only make huge savings on your candle making materials, but receive support that ensures a road to successful candle making.
Many inexperienced sellers, are found on Ebay or Amazon, one company has even lifted one of our label design images including the website text descriptions, copied them, given them a fancy name, advocating them as there design, then undercutting our prices, so you need to check out your supplier if you are inexperienced at candle making.
This is a problem and will eventually give cause for many experienced sellers to give up selling candle making materials, it also reflects that most of new sellers, are themselves still learning the trade, unable to successfully guide you through the best candle making experience.
We have provided a website, since the nineties in order to promote candle making, added a webstore back in 2009 , therefore we take this copying as a form of flattery, that they have used our site for information on how to make candles, remember, a good material supplier will also make products, not just sell the materials.
We do not recommend any particular company for any particular product, but you will find as time goes on, that you will most likely buy the same products. quite often from the same company, which is good for all of us, as it provides for future of the business for all within the trade.
Our web store offers a comprehensive range of quality products, we do not buy the cheapest wicks or waxes, we try to buy British as much as possible, but we also buy overseas where we can offer something different, NOTE- If you buy the cheapest materials, particularly wick, your candle making results are likely be more difficult to achieve good results.
To make a candle you need a wick and fuel, normally wax, but it does not have to be candle wax only, but this is a commonly available product sold by most candle making supply companies including ourselves, you can use any sort of fat, soft or hard, you can even use old chip pan oil combined with stearin.
Where to buy it? And what to buy? some companies sell pre coloured and even pre fragranced wax to make candles, this is mainly left over from candle factories, sold as surplus, bought, because it is very cheap, some even sell candle making kits with it, but we would strongly recommend not to buy this type of wax for a number of reasons, firstly candle dyes and fragrance oils deteriorate every time you melt wax , so you will find with this cheap wax, the colour and fragrance will fade very quickly, and they may include pigment dyes, which in turn could give burning issues.
With Pre Fragranced wax , the moment you re-melt it, the fragrance oil is evaporated off, and the subsequent candle has a much reduced scent throw, so our recommendation is always to buy new refined wax and add fresh fragrance oils.
NB; Fragrance oils are now influenced by legislation (CLP regulations) that came into effect in 2008 to ensure you are providing advise by some labelling method, instruction sheet or the packaging to advise the consumer of any hazardous or allergen content in candles or wax melts containing fragrance oils.
CLP data encompasses three areas affecting candle makers 1) Mixtures which may contain allergens, 2) Safety measures for toxic materials to prevent inadvertent access by children 3) Safety measures for the Blind or Visually impaired, comprising tactile labels on the bottles.
Tactile labels are required by law on all products classified toxic, very toxic, corrosive, harmful, extremely flammable including aerosols to alert the blind or partially sighted that they are handling a dangerous product. Labels must conform to BS EN ISO 11683; 1997, also note in due course signage would need to be put on the external of parcels in transit, especially when transporting candle oils.
It has been over four years since CLP came into law in the UK, so it would pay to ensure, when purchasing candle oils that the relevant SDS is already available. We would recommend only purchasing oils, where these documents are available or where the seller has posted information on how to obtain.
Moving onto to Wax Selection, this can be either paraffin, soy, rapeseed, beeswax or a combination of normal and specialist wax such as micro wax, over dipping wax, carving wax, hard wax for sculptural style candle such as water candles or hurricane candles, soy wax is predominately used for container candles, and is available in blended versions, with additives, which can be used for pillar or container candles.
Pillar or moulded candle making is mostly made with paraffin wax with a melt range of 55-60 Centigrade, this is sold in either block or bead formats, for convenience and ease of weighing, we find bead format is better.
100% paraffin wax in its normal state is soft and pliable, therefore candles made solely of paraffin look like jelly beans in appearance, to increase opaqueness , colour and the hardness of the candle, plus increase burning time, Stearin (stearic acid) is added, normally at approximately 5 to 10% ratio.
Some candle makers specialise in making 100% Stearin candles, which also has the name of Palm wax as stearin can be derived from palm oil or fish bones, it is considered a naturally available product, the industry relates stearin as a long chain product primarily used as a hardening agent, much used in making bars of soap, it also enhances the colour of candles and makes the wax more opaque.
You should note however, there are questions being raised about some stearin suppliers producing it (when made from palm trees) of extensive de-forestation, particularly in Indonesia, so again it shows the importance of sourcing your materials from a reputable supplier and not just the cheapest.
As you learn more and more about the craft of candle making, a number of specific facts will become clear, firstly as we have said to make a candle, you need wick and fuel. This fuel or wick is not limited to cotton wicks or wax fuels, if you look at the wax family , it is basically a fat, all fats comprise normally a combination of substances called Oleins, of which there is hard and soft versions, stearin is a hard version, whereas lard would be considered soft, but both serve the purposes of being a fuel.
The softer the fat (fuel) the quicker a candle sometimes burns, to experiment if you took some cooking oil, any type and added say 30% of stearin to it, then microwaved the mixtures for say 3 minutes until the stearin dissolves into the cooking oil , to create a clear liquid which looks like hot cooking oil, add a wick to a container and pour in the molten contents, let cool and set!
You will find after a few hours you have a candle made of cooking oil and stearin, which has hardened similarly, to what candle wax would. Then burn it and you will find you have made a candle from ordinary cooking oil, which will last just as long as a wax candle.
The Burning time of a candle can be increased greatly by adding Stearin or polymer based additives such as Vybar, with a much higher melting point, added slowly to wax which has been raised to near 90C, much higher than needed to melt the wax, great care should be taken, when using Vybar or other additives requiring a much higher melt point.
These additives in hardening the wax also change its structure to be more dense and therefore this provides shrinkage, which can also aid mould release.
You can make your candle from 100% stearin if you desire (see picture above), this gives a very hard, long burning candle with a lovely crystalized surface and structure, but also a more fragile candle which can break, stearin candles can be considered the most environmentally friendly candles as sustainable palm oil stearin and cotton wick are grown, with perhaps the least amount of processing required, less processing than the hydrogenation process required for soy wax.
Note- When making stearin candles , the crystalline appearance is greatly enhanced by allowing the candle to cool slowly, the slower it sets, the better the crystalline appearance.
NB; when using Latex moulds do not use stearin as this will attack the latex and ruin your mould, use vybar instead.
Types of Wicks
In general, wicks can be divided into four major types:
Most wicks are made from several braided, plaited or knitted cotton fibres, using multiple fibres encourages a slow and consistent burn. Twisted wicks are of lower quality than braided or knitted wicks. They burn much faster because their loose construction allows more fuel to quickly reach the flame.
There are less wick manufacturers today than there were in centuries past and today the wicking market is dominated by just half a dozen manufacturers such as UK (Hayes & Finch), Germany (WEDO) USA (Atkins & Pearce), Europe is dominated by WEDO and can be found in most candle making suppliers shops, wick types fall mainly as follows.
Specialty Wicks. These wicks are specially designed to meet the burn characteristics of specific candle applications, such as oil lamps and insect-repelling candles.
Cored wicks are the best to use for scented candles as they provide greater flame heat, providing a greater melt pool, which in turn gives off more fragrance aroma, these wicks can be found in jar candles, pillars, votive and grave lights.
Cored Wicks. These braided or knitted wicks use a core material to help keep the wick straight or upright while burning. The wicks have a round cross section, and the use of different core materials provides a range of stiffness effects. The most common core materials for wicks are cotton, paper, Zinc or Tin, cotton cored provide the hottest flame of all cores.
Square Wicks. These braided or knitted wicks also curl in the flame, but are more rounded and a bit more robust than flat wicks. They are preferred for beeswax applications and can help inhibit clogging of the wick, which can occur with certain types of waxes, especially if the waxes contain pigments or fragrances.
Flat Wicks. These flat-plaited or knitted wicks, usually made from three bundles of fibres, hence you will often see part Nos beginning 3 or tri , these wicks are very consistent in their burning and because they are flat , they curl into the flame which ensures 100% burn for a self-trimming effect. They are probably the most commonly used wicks, and are often found in taper and pillar candles.
Guide to Wicking Containers;
It is particularly important that once you have purchased your candle wick, that you install and handle it correctly, we get many buyers whom complain that their container wick is broken! Split! or the sustainer has come off! This is normally because they have not handled it correctly or secured the wick correctly.
Firstly you must fit a sustainer, commonly called wick tabs, tags or clips, these are mostly sold by inexperienced sellers just by their diameter eg 15mm or 20mm, this is incorrect, showing their lack of knowledge, as sustainers are made not only in different sizes, but also with different hole sizes, to accommodate varying wick diameters (on our webstore we sell a variety of different hole sized sustainers).
Firstly it is very important that your wick is attached to the container bottom, and that you have centralised the wick base, we provide sticky foam pads with some of our tabbed wicks, to make this an easy job, although you must be pretty accurate as they are incredibly sticky and will not move once placed.
Next you must gently make the wick upright and reasonably taut, so that when it burns it melts vertically only, at this point, you need to secure the top of the wick to prevent it moving or collapsing when the hot wax is poured, using a wick holder.
Wick holders come in many shapes and sizes, perhaps the simplest is two round lolly sticks, or pencils, side by side , with elastic bands holding them together, by opening up and threading top of wick through and releasing, the top of the wick is secured and then you can pour hot wax without fear of the wick collapsing or moving.
Things you must not do at this point are 1, Hold the wick top until set! 2, Pull or tug at the wick so that it pulls out of the sustainer, you must remember when the sustainer is fitted, it not only clamps the cotton core, it also is clamping a layer of wax, enabling it to quite easily be pulled from the sustainer, more so when hot wax has been added.
It is not important if the residual wax on the wick has cracked, as residual wax will melt during the hot pour and the excess layer serves no purpose, once the cotton threads are soaked in wax. This pre waxing of the cotton wicks is called Priming, wicking without wax priming quite often is incorrectly referred to dry wick, but primed wick is not wet.
Fragrance Oils & Colouring
Finally we need to add that the CLP regulations came into force on June 1st 2015 , this requires you to make available material data sheets on fragrance oils and essential oils contained within candle products, and if you are selling your products , to label them accordingly with chemical hazard identifications, to promote awareness to the user of any potential hazards, which may be caused by the use of the products.
With some soy wax for instance, the manufacturer states a 20% maximum volume of fragranced oil, but this depends on the particular oil, some fragrances are strong and some are subtle, some work well with soy wax, some work better with paraffin wax, unfortunately its a bit trial and error.
Volume of fragrance to add varies immensely on the oil or fragrance make up, but the addition of 8% by weight will probably satisfy most of your requirements, however all fragranced oils vary and scented candles are a bit hit and miss, we constantly experiment with different oils and different suppliers finding the end result varies dramatically.
Generally, care should be taken when using fragrances or essential oils, as the strong scents can affect your senses, particularly if they have known aromatherapy properties, generally fragrance is added to molten wax whilst cooling to prevent boiling away the oil, it also aids trapping in the perfume if the candle starts to set soon after addition.
Care should also be taken when using essential oils that they have a low content of alcohol or other carrier/diluting additives, particularly when using rubber moulds, as these could attack the mould material.
Perfumes can be added to molten wax by either proprietary special wax perfumes or essential oils, although care should be taken with essential oils as some do not burn clean and can produce a bitter scent.
Colouring is available in a variety of formats, you can even use crayons or poster paints, but most candle makers select either from pre coloured chips, pigment dyes or ready made concentrated colour wax tablets, Diamond chips work well with Soy waxes.
Colours and Perfumes, it goes without saying candles today are used for their beauty and relaxation powers, so the wax benefits from addition of colour to suit your taste and the addition of a perfume when burning.
When adding dye to wax, if you also add up to 10% stearin to the wax, you will find the colours are greatly enhanced and richer. Unfortunately when colouring Soy wax, the natural colour (ivory/cream) is difficult to overcome and you end up with a pastel shade, rather than the deep colours with stearin.
Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are esters of Phthalic acid. They are used to dissolve fragrance raw materials when making fragrance oils. They have been used for many decades in a myriad of pharmaceuticals, household and industrial products. Recently, there have been concerns that high levels of Phthalates can cause a host of health issues. It is not clear that the levels that people encounter cause adverse effects, but it is clear to us that products would be better if they didn’t pose any such risks.
While both the U.S. and Europe have imposed laws against Phthalates in children’s toys (since they are put in the mouth) there are no rules against Phthalates in candles but if MSDS is available it is worth checking fragrance oil content.
We are currently working with ways to increase the scent throw, but this means the addition sometimes of additives, this detracts from the green qualifications of soy wax, but if you study the growing methods and refining process of Soy wax, it is apparent they really only have one green credential, that is it comes from a plant that is grown , not extracted from the earths mineral reserves.
So it quite often comes down to choice, 100% natural or give them some help.We sell Bipol X which is similar to Vybar, a long chain product which provides moisture retention by changing the cell structure of the wax, if added in small quantities changes the structure of the wax to allow up to 3 times fragrance oil content, this prevents things like cracking in the wax which you can get with too much added fragrance oil, it also prevents bleeding of oil out of the wax, when too much fragrance is used.
NOTE; Bipol X is a polymer which holds onto the fragrance oil molecules, so do not add to much as it will hold onto all of the oil molecules and prevent the fragrance venting.
Unfortunately it boils down to, what do want to achieve, those expensive candles from Jo Malone or similar are expensive to produce, they sometimes spend thousands creating a scented candle of the right specification, as its expensive to conduct all the trials needed and if you want to emulate it there is no cheap alternative.
You will find essential oils are normally stronger in fragrance than synthetic candle oils, but the balance is harder to achieve in getting a good flame with a good scent throw, some essential oils are bitter when burnt, some are not, some affect the flame others do not, whatever you use keep notes and when you achieve that wonderful balance, you can repeat it time and time again.