Candlemaking FAQ

Welcome to the Candlemaking FAQ

This FAQ is growing by the day, so please if you have any question/answer you want to add, contact me.

Beginner’s Start Here

I want to start making candles. Where do I start? Paraffin, Soy or Gel? Which is better? I bought my kit, what else do I need?
Which is better container or votive/pillar kits? I got my kit but it says I need a double boiler. What is a double boiler?
Why do I need a double boiler? What is a Presto Pot and where do I get one?What do I put in my presto pot?
Why can’t I use direct heat on the stove to melt
the wax?
Do I need an extra thermometer with
my Presto Pot? Doesn’t it have a gauge?
Are there other types of melters besides a double
boiler and a Presto Pot?
How do I clean out my pouring pot and or my presto pot?

Basic Wax Questions

Where is the best place to buy wax? Alright I got my kit! I now have a slab of wax, how to I cut it?
It seems obvious but what the heck is a melting point? Where do I find out the melting point/flash point of my wax?
What the heck is a Flash Point? Does that mean I’m safe as long as my wax is under its flash point?
Do I have to heat my wax to 200oF? Ok, what is a pouring temperature? Where do I find it?
How do I know who the manufacturer of my wax is? Is pouring temperature that big of a deal?
I bought some wax at Michaels, Hobby Lobby,
Ben Franklin or JoAnne’s. What is it and who makes it?
How do I know if its container or votive/pillar wax?

Basic Mold Questions

I ordered votive molds, how do I get these suckers
apart?
What is mold release? Why do I need it?
What is this hole for on the bottom of my pillar mold?My kit came with pins, what are these things?
I forgot to spray mold release; do I have to re melt
my candles?
How do I re melt already set candles in the mold?

Basic Container Questions

Do I really need to secure my wick to the bottom
of the container? How do I do that?
Wick Stick-ums?
How do I keep the wick straight? How do I know the wick is in the center?
I’ve run out of containers that came with the kit,
now what can I use?
Can I use those cute pails I see at Wal-Mart, Michaels…etc?
Do I have to pre-heat my containers?
How do I preheat my containers?
What are wet spots? Or I have wet spots, how do I get rid of them?

Basic Coloring Questions

Can’t I use food coloring for my candles? What about using crayons?
What about artist’s oil paints? Which is better, blocks or liquids?
What is a color wheel? Do I really need one? How do I know what color my candle is going to be?
How do I clean liquid dye stains off my hands and countertop?

Basic Wicking Questions

What does a wick do exactly? What are wicks made of?
What does primed mean? Ok I looked at the wicking chart…now I am more confused. What do all those numbers mean?

Basic Additive Questions

What is Vybar? What is Stearine?
Do I need to add Vybar and Stearine? What about Crisco?
What about Petroleum Jelly? Mineral Oil?
Microcrystalline Pellets?

Basic Fragrance Oil Questions

What is fragrance oil?Are all fragrance oils the same?
What is the difference between FO and EO (essential oils)?
What is hot and cold throw? How do I increase or decrease?How do I find a particular scent?

Basic Calculations

My wax says it has __% oil retention, what does that mean? How do I calculate how much wax my container will hold?
How much will 1lb of wax fill when it’s liquid? How many votives can I get out of 1 lb of wax?
How do I calculate burn time?

Basic Testing Questions

Do I really need to test? How do I test?
Where do I test? Ok, I’m testing but I can’t smell my candles anymore, what’s wrong?
I’ve still got questions, what now?

Beginner’s Start Here:

I want to start making candles. Where do I start?

  • Typically, people start by ordering a kit from a candlemaking supplier. The kits range anywhere from $20- $50 dollars each. Each kit should include all supplies to start you on your venture and basic instructions on how to make candles. Kits are very cost effective and will give you a taste of what it’s like to make candles.

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Which is better container or votive/pillar kits?

  • It really depends on your preference. Container candles require a glass/metal container to hold the wax while it burns. Votive candles can be freestanding or require a glass votive holder. Pillar candles stand alone and can be any height or width depending on the mold used. Which is easier to make? Well none of them really. Container candles can have just as many problems as votive candles do, while pillar candles might send you screaming into the night, or vice versa. It really depends on which you prefer. If you love glass containers, order a container kit. If you want a votive centerpiece on your table, order a votive kit. If you dream of a romantic bedroom filled with pillar candles, order a pillar kit.

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Paraffin, Soy or Gel? Which is better?

  • Ah, this is a ticking time bomb question. The answer is very simple, whichever you prefer. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of wax and in the end, neither is better than the other. Soy wax has an advantage in that you can melt it in your microwave, but paraffin is more diverse, while gel is clear and embeds show much nicer. As for burning characteristics both have their exceptions and their own problems. I suggest you read about each one in the Wax section before making your decision.

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I bought my kit, what else do I need?

  • There are a few other items that you will need in order to get started. While some of these items are optional a few are not. You don’t have to spend a bundle, most of the time you’ve already got some of these items in your house. I’ve broken them down into 2 categories:
    • Essential:
      • Bound Book or a Binder or a Computer.
        • A bound book or a 3 ring binder or a computer is essential because it allows you to keep all of your notes and recipes in one place. Some people prefer to keep all their notes on a computer, I prefer the book because it is more portable and I don’t care if wax gets on it, can’t say the same about my computer.
      • Glue.
        • Glue from a glue gun, glue dots or wick stick-ums and/or silicone glue are essential to glue down the wick in your container candle. Make sure it is high temperature glue.
      • Floor mat.
        • Yep you WILL get wax on your floors. No matter how careful you are, wax gets everywhere.
      • Heat resisting pads.
        • Oven mitts or heat pads. Go to the dollar store and pick up a couple of each. Remember everything that you use with wax needs to be designated as just for wax. The cheaper the better because everything WILL be coated with wax and color and oil.
      • Mold sealer.
        • It should have come with your pillar kit, if it didn’t you need it to keep the wax inside the mold and not spraying out the bottom of the wicking hole. You can improvise by using plumbers putty, tacky tape (teacher’s tape) or metal tape. Some people use metal tape to tape over the mold sealer or just to tape the wicking hole. Plumber’s putty and tacky tape can take the place of mold sealer.
      • Non stick cooking spray.
        • This is used as a mold release. While some people still prefer to use a silicone release spray, I prefer to use PAM or the generic kind. Simply spray then wipe up the excess with a paper towel.
      • Old Clothing or an Apron.
        • You WILL get wax on your clothes. It is a good idea to designate an old t-shirt or an old apron while you are pouring wax.
      • Old cookie sheet.
        • You use the old cookie sheet to heat your molds (votive and pillar) and clean your pour pots. It WILL get wax on it, so designate it for making candles and not cookies.
      • Old pot.
        • This will be your double boiler.
      • Paper towels for cleanup.
        • Buy the cheaper ones since you WILL use a lot of them. I buy Scott Paper Towels in packages of either 12 or 24.
      • Rubbing Alcohol.
        • A very good cleaner for spilled fragrance oil. Also good to clean your measuring spoons after you’ve measured/weighed out your oil.
      • Scale.
        • A scale is the most essential item. You measure wax, fragrance oil and additives using the scale. My advice is to get a digital scale, but you can use a plastic food scale as long as you protect the plastic from fragrance oil. You want a scale that measures in oz or grams if you are metrically inclined.
      • Scraper.
        • This can be an old credit card or some other hard plastic scraper. It’s used to scrape wax that missed the wax paper.
      • Stainless steel measuring spoons or cups.
        • You use these to measure fragrance oil. You want stainless steel because fragrance oil has a tendency to eat plastic.
      • Stirrers.
        • Now there are varying opinions on what you can use to stir your wax. I use wooden chopsticks, others wooden spoons. Wood stirrers are the best because wax doesn’t stick to them as much as plastic or stainless steel; provided you wipe them off the minute you don’t need them anymore.
      • Thermometer.
        • It is essential that you buy a thermometer if your kit didn’t come with one. You need to know the temperature of your wax. You can buy a candy thermometer or the expensive digital one if you want. I prefer the candy ones because they are cheap.
      • Wax Paper or Parchment Paper.
        • This will help keep your kitchen counters or your work area free from wax coverage. It’s also handy to cut color blocks on and save your counters from candle dye.
    • Optional:
      • Heat gun.
        • Heat guns are very handy to have. You can use them to clean your pouring pots, heat your molds, smooth the tops of your candles, etc. They range from $25-$50 and you can find them in the paint section of your local hardware store. Most come with paint scrapers which is an added bonus.
      • Mint.
        • Fresh sprigs of mint either placed along your baseboards or in the rafters of your house will keep mice from eating your wax (if you don’t want to store it in plastic). That is if you have mice. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. You can buy fresh mint or even use mint essential oil, a little goes a long way.
      • Mold Cleaner.
        • This stuff is great to clean molds and pouring pots. It’s pretty cheap at some suppliers and often sold by the pound.
      • Paper bags.
        • As cleanup for wax on absorbent materials (carpet, clothing...etc). Simply place the paper bag over the spill then apply heat from a warm iron OR a heat gun. The paper bags will soak up the melted wax.
      • Plastic bins
        • These are used to store your wax and keep it clean from dust, pet fur, human hair etc. You can use buckets, plastic storage bins or even large garbage cans. As long as they’ve got a top to keep out stuff you don’t want in your wax they will work. They are also handy to have because mice like to eat wax coated cardboard (don’t ask me why, I have no idea).
      • Presto Pot.
        • A Presto Pot is a good low cost melter for wax.
      • Wax lifter.
        • If you prefer chemicals to elbow grease, this will take out the wax in your carpet. It might damage some materials so that is why it is optional.

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I got my kit but it says I need a double boiler. What is a double boiler?

  • A double boiler is very simple. Simply take an old pot, fill it ½ way with water and set it on your stove to boil. You will then set your pouring pot (filled with wax) in the water to melt your wax. Make sure that your pouring pot is NOT sitting on the bottom of your boiler, if it is, add more water until it floats. I’d advise that you use very OLD pots because wax will get everywhere.

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Why do I need a double boiler?

  • A very common question. The reason you use a double boiler is because boiling water will not increase the temperature of your wax to a dangerous level. Water boils at 212oF (100oC) at sea level. The boiling action releases excess energy (steam) to keep the water at a constant temperature.

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Why can’t I use direct heat on the stove to melt the wax?

  • Because unlike water, WAX DOES NOT BOIL to release energy, it simply gets hotter and hotter until it bursts into flame (called the Flash Point). Most wax flash points average around 500oF; an easy temperature (and quick) to reach if you use direct heat from your stove. So unless you like kitchen fires I’d advise that you use a double boiler OR a Presto Pot. One other note, most pouring pots are designed to withstand excessive heat, however using direct heat may ruin your pouring pots.

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What is a Presto Pot and where do I get one?

  • Presto Pots or Kitchen Kettles are deep fryers that have a temperature gauge on them. Candlemakers have been using these pots to melt up to 7 pounds of wax at one time. You can find them at your local chain store (Wal-Mart, Target, Shopko...etc) for about $20. It is very important that if you get a Presto Pot you also buy a candle thermometer and don’t turn the temperature gauge up past 250oF, no matter how tempting it might be if you are impatient for wax to melt.

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Do I need an extra thermometer with my Presto Pot? Doesn’t it have a gauge?

  • Yes you do. The reason is that while there is a temperature gauge on the Presto Pot, you need to be able to determine exactly how hot your wax is before you pour. The gauge on the Presto Pot is in increments of 20 degrees and you need increments of at most 5 degrees. Remember Presto Pots are designed for heating oil at a much higher temperature than wax. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a thermometer. A simple candy thermometer works just fine, and you can get them for around $5 at your local chain store.

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Are there other types of melters besides a double boiler and a Presto Pot?

  • Yes there are lots of types of melters out there that are designed for melting wax. Water jacketed melters are the most common. If you are just getting started, these might be a bit much for you. If you plan on starting a business, then prepare to shell out anywhere from $500-$2500 per professional melter.

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What do I put in my presto pot?

  • This is personal preference. Many people only melt wax; weigh out the wax into their pouring pot, then adding necessary additives, dye and FO. You can also melt wax and add UV, other additives, dye and FO.

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How do I clean out my pouring pot and or my presto pot?

  • Paper towels. Lots of them!

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Basic Wax Questions

Where is the best place to buy wax?

  • Since wax is heavy to ship, the best place is the supplier closest to you. Here is a fantastic resource for finding suppliers in your state. Suppliers by State.

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Alright I got my kit! I now have a slab of wax, how to I cut it?

  • There are various ways to cut your wax into useable pieces. And of course depending on the type of wax there are different techniques, here are a couple of effective ones (done safely).
    • Votive/Pillar Wax Slabs: Ok go get 2 garbage bags and a hammer; place your wax inside one bag, then put that bag inside the other. Now find some concrete. Place the double bagged wax slab on the concrete and hammer the crap out of it until it breaks apart. You can leave large chunks or break it into smaller if you want. This method is WONDERFUL for taking out that extra stress in your life. Make sure that you close of the opening of the bags because wax WILL fly.
    • Container Wax Slabs: Go get a putty knife and a hammer. The putty knife should be a metal one, not plastic. If you don’t have one, find a very old knife and commission it for candles from now on. Very carefully carve the slab into usable pieces using the putty knife or the regular knife. Hammer lightly on the edges to get it to go through the wax easier.
  • If you want to spend some money you can order a Hot Knife to cut through your wax. They range from $40-$150 depending on what type it is. You can get them on Ebay or your supplier should have them.

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It seems obvious but what the heck is a melting point?

  • Good question. The melting point of your wax is the minimum temperature that will keep all of your wax in a liquid state. Most waxes have a melting point between 120-165oF depending on the type of wax it is. As a general rule; container waxes have a low melting point, while overdip/cut and carve waxes have a high melting point. Natural waxes like soy typically have a low melting point while beeswax has a high melting point of right around 158 degrees.

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Where do I find out the melting point/flash point of my wax?

  • Most suppliers will tell you the melting point of your wax right on their websites, if not on the wax box itself. However, if you can’t find it, try looking up the manufacturer’s website. They should have what is called an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). MSDS’s contain very valuable information and it is a good idea to print it out and keep it on hand. While most of the information is for the EPA and the fire department; if you look through the initial pages it should tell you what the melting point and flash point of your wax is.

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What the heck is a Flash Point?

  • Another good question. Flash points are simply the lowest temperature your wax or fragrance oil vapor will ignite in the air. What does that mean? Well it’s the temperature your wax or fragrance oil will catch fire; in the case of waxes on its own. Most wax flash points average around 500oF, while fragrance oil varies from 160-210oF.

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Does that mean I’m safe as long as my wax is under its flash point?

  • No. Waxes should not be heated to over 215oF for safety reasons. Just because your wax may have a flash point of say 400oF doesn’t mean you want to heat it to that temperature. For one thing, it will smell awful and start to smoke and before you know it, POOF! your kitchen is on fire. Besides, most pouring temperatures are below 200oF.

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Do I have to heat my wax to 200oF?

  • Goodness no. You can heat your wax to 10 degrees above your pouring temp if you want. Most candlemakers heat their wax to about 10-20 degrees above their pouring temperature, that way it gives them time to work with their wax.

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Ok, what is a pouring temperature? Where do I find it?

  • Pouring temperatures are just what it says. The temperature of the wax you pour to make your candles. Now, depending on the wax, pour temps can be as high as 190oF or as low as 135oF. Why the range? Well pouring temps are very tricky. It depends on the type of wax you use and the different type of effects you can create based on how hot or cold you pour your wax. It also can vary due to the weather, how hot or cold your work area is and how much time you need to play with the wax to get the right color. If you are just beginning, I suggest that you follow the manufacturer’s directions on your pouring temperatures. You can find pour temps on your supplier’s site or even the manufacturer’s if your supplier doesn’t have it listed.

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Is pouring temperature that big of a deal?

  • Yes it is. Pouring temp is a key factor in how your candle looks when complete. If you pour too cool, your candles might mottle, too hot and you might get cracks (called jump lines). You can also create some very neat effects all based on your pouring temperature. For more information, see the advanced FAQ.

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How do I know who the manufacturer of my wax is?

  • It should be listed on your supplier’s website and on the packaging of your wax. If it isn’t try emailing your supplier directly and asking. Some suppliers have their own blends of waxes. If you are using a supplier blend, email them and ask for a copy of the MSDS and their recommendations on pouring temps, melt temps, flash point...etc.

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I bought some wax at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin or JoAnne’s. What is it and who makes it?

  • If you bought the slab wax with no packaging it is probably made by Yaley and its melt point is about 135 degrees. Its straight paraffin with no additives and is good for making votives and pillars (with the right wicking). You will need additives in order to get it to hold more than 4% oil. If your slab comes with Crafty Candles or some other name like that, there’s a good chance that it was made by Yaley. It should say the melting point on the packaging. It is also a straight paraffin that is designed for votive and or pillar candles, and does require additives to hold more oil.
  • If your wax is in a plastic box it should say for container candles. It’s either soy, gel (clear) or paraffin container wax and typically made by either Yaley or Candlewic.
  • Crafty Candles is a division of Yaley. Country Lane or Soap Expressions is a division of Candlewic.

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How do I know if its container or votive/pillar wax?

  • Container waxes are typically soft due to the lower melting point needed in a container candle. Votive and pillar waxes are pretty hard while embed and cut and curl waxes are very hard. A good rule of thumb is the softer the wax the lower the melting point. A quick way to tell is to put your thumbnail in the solid wax. If your thumbnail leaves a mark or your nail goes through the wax then you’ve probably got container wax.
  • My nail didn’t go through:
    • Well, you’ve got votive/pillar/cut-n-curl/embed/hurricane wax then. The only way to tell them apart is to melt them slowly and determine the melting point. Then go look it up on the manufacturer’s website to see. This is EXTREMELY tricky to do because each wax might differ by only a couple of degrees. I’d advise that you label your waxes if you are working with different types. If you don’t want to do the melting point experiment, make a candle the way you normally would and then test burn it. If you’ve used harder wax, you will notice a big difference in the way it burns.

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Basic Mold Questions

I ordered votive molds, how do I get these suckers apart?

  • First thing you want to do is be very careful of the top edges of the votive molds…they are razor sharp and WILL cut you, it’s a good idea to wear gloves while separating. There are a couple of techniques to getting them apart.
    • Fill your sink with very hot water (you can use boiling if you want) and a little dish soap. Plunk those molds into the hot water for a while (until you can get your hands in there to grab the little suckers) and very carefully pull them apart. You might have to use pliers. Rinse and allow to air dry when you’ve got them separated. You can also rub them with some alcohol to get all the water off if you are concerned about rust.
    • OR you can toss those molds into the freezer for about ½ hour and then try to pry them apart with the pliers. If the freezer doesn’t work, try boiling water and vice versa.
  • The good news is that once they are apart, they will separate much easier the next time. You can stack them after you’ve used them once and shouldn’t have to worry about them sticking.

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What is mold release? Why do I need it?

  • Mold release is a substance that does not allow the wax to fully adhere to your mold and aids in getting your candles OUT of the molds. It’s normally sold as a silicone spray from suppliers but most candlemakers use PAM or any non-stick cooking spray (butter flavor is optional). I use the cooking spray and then wipe out the excess with some paper towels.

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I forgot to spray mold release; do I have to re melt my candles?

  • In most cases the answer is NO. If you’ve used your molds before then all you have to do is toss that sucker into the freezer for a bit, the wax will contract enough to release the candle from the mold. If it’s the first time you’ve used your molds, try the freezer, if that doesn’t work better re melt your candles.

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What is this hole for on the bottom of my pillar mold?

  • The hole is for the wick. Pillars are poured upside down for the most part and the hole is so the wick can extend past the hole and not be buried in the top of your pillar. You need to secure the wick through the hole using mold sealer, making sure the sealer covers any and all escape routes the wax might take. There is nothing worse than a bad seal at the bottom of your pillar mold, wax will run out of your mold and make a mess.

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My kit came with pins, what are these things?

  • Wicking pins are handy little devices that take place of the wick while your candle is setting up. You need to spray these with mold release and make sure they are straight (check it with a level if you are unsure).
    • For pillars, place a good amount of mold sealer at the base of the pin, thread it through your pillar mold and then shove that mold down onto the pin so that the sealer seals up any holes at the bottom. IT IS VITAL THAT THE PIN IS STRAIGHT IN THE MOLD. Remember it will take the place of the wick, so you don’t want it crooked. This is where you use your handy dandy level, just level the mold on the pin if the pin is straight your wick will be straight in your candle.
    • For votives, the pins are designed to sit inside your votive cups. Spray with mold release and plop them into the cups. They must be straight too...so check them with the level.
  • After your candles are set and cool (and leveled), simply slide the candles off the pin, thread your wicking through and secure on the bottom by shoving the tab into the wax a little or with a sticker.

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How do I re melt already set candles in the mold?

  • Simple, set your oven on 200 degrees. Break out your candlemaking cookie sheet, set your candles in their molds on the sheet and shove them in the oven. It’s a good idea to set the timer at 15 minutes, that way you will check. REMEMBER to WATCH your candles! DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE OVEN THEY WILL CATCH FIRE. When melted just pour the wax (wear an oven mitt~nother commissioned item for candlemaking) back into your pour pot and wipe out the mold with some paper towels. It’s a good idea to pull the wicks from the wax, wipe them down a bit and you can re-use them.

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Basic Container Questions

Do I really need to secure my wick to the bottom of the container? How do I do that?

  • Yep. A secure wick will ensure that your wick will not slide to the side of the container, break the glass (or overheat the metal) and spill wax creating a major fire hazard. You can use a high temp glue gun, silicone glue (takes 24 hours to dry), high temp glue dots or wick stick-ums.

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Wick Stick-ums?

  • If your kit came with wick stick-ums great! They are used to secure the wick to the bottom center of your container BEFORE you pour wax. Simply secure each dot to the bottom of your wicking tab and then to the bottom of your container.

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How do I keep the wick straight?

  • A tricky one. Keeping a wick straight while the wax is setting up is one of the hardest things to do. Most people believe that if the wick is straight while pouring it will remain straight while setting. This isn’t necessarily true. As wax cools it contracts. That contraction will pull the wick out of alignment. The easiest way to keep your wicks straight is to grab a pencil, chopstick or other long straight light item, and a clothespin. Wrap your wick (be careful not to pull it too much or it will come loose from the bottom) around the pencil and secure it with the clothespin. Now lay the pencil across your container, center your wick and pour your wax. Leave the pencil there until the wax has completely set.

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How do I know the wick is in the center?

  • Well you can buy a wick centering device or just eyeball it. I prefer to eyeball it.

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I’ve run out of containers that came with the kit, now what can I use?

  • Pretty much anything. There are 2 requirements though, the container must be able to withstand the heat without cracking (that means NO plastic) and it must be leak free.

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Can I use those cute pails I see at Wal-Mart, Michaels…etc?

  • Sure you can. Make sure the bottom and sides of the pails are sealed. You can test the seals by filling the pail with water. If water is leaking; wax will to. To seal up the bottoms, solder works the best. Take your soldering iron and some solder and go over the bottom and sides to seal it. Some people use Mod Podge, but in my experience solder is faster, cheaper and will hold longer. If the pail is painted, simply paint over the solder with the same color.

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Do I have to pre-heat my containers?

  • There is much debate on this one. I say no, other’s say yes. I prefer NOT to pre-heat my containers because otherwise the glue will melt and my wick will be off-center. Those that prefer to pre-heat normally use silicone clue to secure their wicks and don’t have to worry so much about it melting before they pour the wax. Unless you really want to, you don’t really have to pre-heat your containers. It is completely up to you. I’d try it both ways and see which works best for you.

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How do I preheat my containers?

  • There are 2 ways to preheat your containers. The first is to turn your oven on 150-190 degrees, grab your candlemaking cookie sheet, put your containers on the sheet and shove them in the oven until they are hot (about 10-15 minutes). The second is to use your heat gun, blast the containers right before you pour your wax into them.

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What are wet spots? Or I have wet spots, how do I get rid of them?

  • Wet spots are places on the inside of your container where the wax didn’t adhere all the way. They look like the wax is wet or slick. Let me stress this now, wet spots are a fact of life. You can either accept that or you can worry yourself to death over it. If you want to worry, there are 2 things you can do to reduce wet spots; lower your pouring temperature and slightly preheat your jars. That’s about it.

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Basic Coloring Questions

Can’t I use food coloring for my candles?

  • Nope. Food coloring is water based. You want oil based coloring for your candles.

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What about using crayons?

  • Crayons are oil based but they will clog your wick. Plus, you won’t get the deep dark colors that blocks or liquid dye can offer.

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What about artist’s oil paints?

  • Artist paints will clog your wick, causing your candle to smoke and also will give off some very harmful vapors when lit. Plus, they are more expensive than color blocks or liquid dye.

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Which is better, blocks or liquids?

  • Another debated question. It really is personal preference. There are new liquid colors coming onto the market every day so the selection is catching up to color blocks. Liquid is a bit more expensive than the blocks, but it lasts a lot longer. In the long run liquid is probably your better investment. Liquid also has the advantage of allowing reproduction in strength and shade by counting the number of drops you add. Blocks on the other hand can give you a larger variety of shades and colors, but sometimes it is very hard to reproduce the same color using blocks.

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What is a color wheel? Do I really need one?

  • A color wheel is handy to have but you don’t necessarily need one if you know how to mix colors. If you don’t, then get the wheel and it will tell you.

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How do I know what color my candle is going to be?

  • There is a very simple test you can do while your wax is in your pouring pot. Take a piece of wax paper, put it onto a white sheet of paper and carefully place a few drops of your colored wax onto the wax paper. I use wax paper because it prevents the white paper from soaking up the melted wax. Wait for it to dry and it will tell you what your candle color is going to be, now depending on how much you dropped and your wax your candle might be slightly lighter or darker than your drop test.

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How do I clean liquid dye stains off my hands and countertop?

  • Goo Gone found in most grocery stores does an excellent job of removing liquid dye stains.

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Basic Wicking Questions

What does a wick do exactly?

  • It wicks or draws the liquid wax to fuel the flame. As the liquid gets closer to the flame it vaporizes thus adds fuel to the fire. Most people don’t realize that it is the vapors of the wax that are flammable, not the liquid. You can set fire to liquid wax, provided that it has enough vapor coming off of it. Hence why flash points should not be reached when melting wax. A wick essentially controls the fire by feeding the flame small amounts of vapor at a time.

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What are wicks made of?

  • Ah a very good question. Wicks are generally made out of cotton, paper or hemp. Now here is the tricky part: wicks can have a paper/zinc core that is surrounded by cotton. Or they can be cotton with paper threads running through them. The cotton can be braided, either in a square or flat or it can be part of the core of the wick. Hemp wicks are typically just braided, either flat or in a square. Confused yet? Here is an excellent resource for wicks. I suggest you put it into your favorites and refer to it from time to time: Wicking chart.

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What does primed mean?

  • A primed wick means that it has a coating of general use wax over the wicking material. This allows for the wick to catch fire easier as it has a little fuel until the candle starts to melt.

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Ok I looked at the wicking chart…now I am more confused. What do all those numbers mean?

  • The first set of numbers is the thickness of the wick, the larger the number, the thicker the wick.
  • The second set of numbers is the speed at which the string goes through the wicking machine gear, the faster it goes through, the tighter the wick and the slower the burn.
  • The third set of numbers is the code for the temperature of the wax as the wick goes through the various gears.
  • Thanks to Taylored Concepts for that information.
  • In general the thicker the wick the faster the burn (great for larger diameter candles) and the tighter the weave the slower the burn (great for smaller diameter candles).

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Basic Additive Questions:

What is Vybar?

  • Vybar is an additive that increases the opacity and oil retention of your wax. Its normally sold in pellet form and there are different types depending on what the application of the additive is.
    • Vybar 103 is a high melt point vybar it will increase the opacity of your wax and lock in scent and color. Typically 103 is used in Pillar/Cut and Curl/Hurricane waxes. Normal usage is 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon per pound of wax.
    • Vybar 260 is a lower melt point vybar also used to increase the opacity and the hardness of your wax to lock in oil and color. Typically used in votive and container waxes. Normal usage is 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon per pound of wax.

  • Because Vybar reduces mottling in candles, it is a common additive in blended waxes. If you are looking to mottle your pillar candles, make sure your wax does not include Vybar.
  • Overuse of Vybar will reduce scent throw, so be sure to test before you add it to your line.

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What is Stearine?

  • Stearine is a veggie additive (palm) that is used to increase oil retention and the melting point of your wax. Typical use is 1-3 Tablespoons per pound of wax.
  • Overuse of stearine will cause your candles to flake and will reduce scent throw. This is another one you better test thoroughly before you add it to your line.

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Do I need to add Vybar and Stearine?

  • NO. One or the other will be fine. Vybar is a little more forgiving than stearine, but stearine is cheaper. It depends on what results you really want. If you want vibrant colors, use Vybar. If you want slower burn times, use Stearine.

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What about Crisco?

  • For all intents and purposes, Crisco is soybean oil. That is not to say its cheap soy wax because it isn’t that at all. Crisco is supposed to give better adhesion to the glass in container candles, but in my opinion all it does is clog the wick and produce black smoke. If you are really worried about wet spots, lower your pour temp and preheat your containers. Best leave Crisco in the kitchen cabinet where it belongs. LOL. If you are dead set on trying it you use 1-3 tablespoons per pound of wax.

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What about Petroleum Jelly?

  • Petroleum jelly is another one best left in the cabinet (medicine this time). It, like Crisco is supposed to give better adhesion to the jars of your candles and also like Crisco it smokes like a chimney and clogs the wick. If you are dead set on trying it, use 1-3 tablespoons per pound of wax.

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Mineral Oil?

  • Mineral oil is used to create mottling or snow flaking in candles. It works VERY well, however, if your wax is pre blended with vybar it will NOT work. Typical use is 1-3 tablespoons per pound of wax.

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Microcrystalline Pellets?

  • Microcrystalline wax pellets are normally used as an overdip to protect pillars/cutncarve/hurricane shells. Normally these will dry clear OR slightly white but the thin layer leaves a hard protective shell around whatever is dipped into it. Microcrystalline waxes have a higher melt point than paraffin and are often blended with hurricane or embed waxes.

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Basic Fragrance Oil (FO) Questions

What is fragrance oil?

  • Fragrance oils are complex chemical solutions that may or may not contain an essential oil depending on the scent.
  • Depending on the chemical composition FO’s may be classified as body safe for soaps and bath and body products. It is imperative that you find out if an oil is safe BEFORE using it in soap or bath and body products.
  • Fragrance oils are flammable by themselves, if superheated above the flash point. If you are making gel candles, the flash point of your FO is very important.
  • FO’s can be cut with DPG for incense and potpourri making.
  • FO’s can not be diluted in water unless they are first mixed with a FO modifier. So don’t pour it down your sink! Toss the bottle, oil and all.
  • FO’s LOVE PLASTIC. Low density ethylene, propylene and some hard plastics will be destroyed by FO’s. It’s a good idea to keep your oils away from anything plastic that you want to keep.
  • FO’s will lose their strength over time, IF they are exposed to air (if you leave the top off the bottle). There is some debate over the shelf life of oils. As long as they are stored in a dark cool place, they should last for years. However, I’ve had oils go bad on me in less than 6 months and some I’ve had for over 4 years. It all depends on the stability of the oil’s chemical components and how they are stored. I suggest you get a dark plastic box to keep your oil bottles in, or use an enclosed cabinet.
  • In candlemaking and soapmaking FO’s should be weighed, not necessarily measured with tablespoons. Use stainless steel measuring cups to weigh your oils, don’t use plastic (ask me how I know…LOL).

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Are all fragrance oils the same?

  • Nope. Companies normally hire perfumists to mix their fragrance oils. The strength and differences may vary from company to company and from oil to oil.
  • Here is a link to a scent review where different scents by different companies are reviewed: http://scentreviewboard.obisoap.ca/index.php
  • It is important to note that some disreputable suppliers will cut their oils with mineral oil and sell them as full strength. I suggest you use caution when finding super cheap oils.

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How do I find a particular scent?

  • There is a remarkable resource for finding scents; it’s called the fragrance finder. It’s very handy and should be part of your favorite links.

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What is the difference between FO and EO (essential oils)?

  • While FO’s are chemicals that may contain some oils from plants, essential oils are from the plant itself. Parts of the plant are processed and distilled to release their oils. Those oils are concentrated an/or diluted with other natural oils and sold to candlemakers, aroma therapists….etc.
  • Please note, that although essential oils are all natural, they are not ALL body safe. It is very wise to research whatever essential oil you wish to use to find out if there are any restrictions on the oil.
  • Also note, pregnant women should stay away from certain oils, essential or chemical (FO). I believe that pregnancy.com or .org has that information. I’ll add a link if people really want me to. LOL.

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What is hot and cold throw? How do I increase or decrease?

  • Hot throw is how well your candles scent a room while burning. Cold throw is how well your candles smell when they are NOT burning.
  • The obvious for increasing or decreasing your throw is to add or cut your oil. If you are already at oil capacity for your wax, you might consider adding vybar or stearine to increase the amount of oil your wax can hold. Be mindful that overusage of either vybar or stearine can decrease your scent throw, so you will have to test to see the right amount to use.

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Basic Calculations

My wax says it has __% oil retention, what does that mean?

  • Wax is like a sponge, it will only hold so much oil before the oil starts to leak out of the wax. You will notice if you’ve used too much oil when there is an oil slick on the bottom of your pouring pot. If you didn’t notice in the pouring pot, your cooled candles will start to leak or seep oil. That means you’ve exceeded the oil capacity of your wax.
  • Oil retention is typically given in percentages so that it will be easy to figure out.
    • For example. If your wax holds 6% oil and you have 1 lb of wax: you can add .96oz (round up to 1 oz) of FO before it will start to leak.
    • If you have an 8% you can add 1.28oz (or round down to 1.25oz) before it will start to leak.
    • The calculation is very simple…although there is debate whether or not the percentage is of the total weight of the oil + wax or just the wax itself. I used just the wax itself as it makes it a little easier (the difference is negligible). To calculate a percentage divide that percentage by 100 and multiply that number times the amount of melted wax in oz.

6% ÷ 100 = .06 X 16oz = .96oz round up to 1oz.

8% ÷ 100 = .08 X 16oz = 1.28oz round down to 1.25oz.

  • Most people stick to 1 oz per pound of wax. Testing your candles will also indicate if you need to up the amount or lower it. Keep in mind that some oils are heavier than others and may go less than the typical 1oz/lb wax, just based on scent throw.

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How do I calculate how much wax my container will hold?

  • A very common question, there are 2 methods.
    • Fill your container with water and then pour the water into a measuring cup to determine how many fluid oz your container will hold. Now multiply that number by .8 to estimate how much wax your container will hold.
    • Weigh your container empty. Tare your scale (zero the scale) and fill your container with melted wax. Record in oz the amount of wax your container holds and carefully pour your melted wax back into your pot. This method is messier as you have to wipe out your container BUT it does have an advantage when figuring out your costs and burning time. You will know exactly how much wax your container holds.

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How much will 1lb of wax fill when its liquid?

  • 1 lb of wax will yield 20 fluid oz.

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How many votives can I get out of 1 lb of wax?

  • You can get 8 standard 2 oz votives out of 1 lb of wax.
  • You can get 6 dixie cup votives out of 1 lb of wax.

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How do I calculate burn time?

  • Burn time is calculated in several stages. Note that burn time is ESTIMATED. There are many factors that effect burn time, so this is just an estimate.
    • You need to know exactly how much wax you have in your candle. If it’s a container candle, weigh and empty, tare your scale, then weigh your container. That should give you the weight of wax in your candle.
    • Once you have your wax in oz, figuring burn time is easy. Keep your scale handy because you are going to need it. Also keep an empty container handy because you will need to tare your scale.
    • You want to light your candle. You will estimate your burn time in 2 hour increments for a total of 6 hours, and then take the average of the 3 measurements.
    • Formula: (please feel free to copy this formula)

Oz of Wax – Oz of wax after 2 hours ÷ 2 = Oz of wax burned per hour

Oz of Wax – Oz of wax after 4 hours ÷ 4 = Oz of wax burned per hour

Oz of Wax – Oz of wax after 6 hours ÷ 6 = Oz of wax burned per hour

Now add together the Oz of wax burned per hour and divide by 3 to get your average burn rate.

Oz of Wax ÷ Average burn rate = # hours your candle will burn.

    • This looks complicated by it really isn’t. What you are doing is very simple. You are measuring how much wax has burned every 2 hours to get the amount of wax burned per hour, then taking the average of the 3 since its more mathematically sound. At the end of your test you divide the average burn/hour by the amount of wax in your candle and you can estimate how many hours your candle will burn. Here is an example with an 8 oz candle:

8oz – 7oz (amount after a 2 hour burn) ÷ 2 = 1/2 oz/ hour

8oz – 6oz (amount after a 4 hour burn) ÷ 4 = 1/2 oz/ hour

8oz – 5oz (amount after a 6 hour burn) ÷ 6 = 1/2 oz/ hour

½ + ½ + ½ = 1 1/2 oz or 1.5 oz/ hour average burn rate

1.5 oz/ hour ÷ 3 = .5oz per hour on AVERAGE

8 oz ÷.5 oz/hour = 16 hours

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Basic Testing Questions

Do I really need to test?

  • Yes you do. Testing is one of the most important things you have to do. If you do not test your candles, you don’t know how they burn, what the throw is on the scent, if you need to wick up or down, or if your candles will explode. Testing is VERY IMPORTANT. Only a disreputable, greedy person would put an untested candle on the market.
  • Testing involves using CURED candles. There is a debate on whether or not your candles need to cure. I err on the side of caution and let my testers stand at least 3 days before I light them. Some people wait their full cure time, some light as soon as the wax is cool. It is up to you. I would suggest you wait at least 24 hours before lighting, just to make sure all the wax has cooled sufficiently.

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How do I test?

  • You light your candle. Initial testing is very easy. There are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself. In any candle there are a myriad of elements that have to be just right in order for the candle to burn correctly. By testing each of these elements by themselves you will know your candles better and will also know which element is right or has a problem.
  • The first thing you should test is your wicking/wax combo. Wicking is crucial to a good burning candle. If your wicking is off then your candle will smoke, soot and not burn properly.
    • Wick testing is very easy. Simply pour your uncolored, unscented wax into your candle (container, mold...etc), put in your wick, straighten and let it set. Now, if you are doing container candles, don’t worry about sticking the wick to the bottom of the jar…the reason is simple, if the wick doesn’t work, you can grasp it with some pliers (after its blown out of course), pull it from your container and shove a new wick in there. Some people don’t even tab their container wicks when doing wick testing because it is easier to rip out the wick without a tab.
    • Light your candle. You are looking for a full melt pool in a given time (# of hours is determined by diameter, example, a 3” diameter candle should have a full melt pool in 3 hours), any mushrooming on the wick, drowning, smoking, soot, blow out if you are doing pillars. All these elements may indicate a too small wick or too large. See the intermediate section for more information.
  • Next to test is your color/FO combo.
    • Once you have the right wicking and know how your candle will burn without FO and color, its now time to test those. Color your wax and add your FO. Let it set and cure and then light. Like wicking, you are looking for the wick drowning, mushroom…etc. But you also smell for the scent. You want a good strong hot throw in your candles or your customers won’t come back to you to buy more.

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Where do I test?

  • Any room in your house is a testing room. Bathrooms are great to test in because of the restricted air flow. Typically if a scent throws well in a bathroom, it will be fine in a larger room with more air flow.
  • Make sure you only test 1 scent in 1 room, or else you will get a mixture and not be able to tell any scent from the others.

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Ok, I’m testing but I can’t smell my candles anymore, what’s wrong?

  • You have what is commonly referred to as ‘candle nose’. Your nose has adapted to the smell of the candle, this is a perfectly natural occurrence and it happens to everyone. You can clear out your sensors by walking outside for 10 minutes OR smell some coffee grounds or beans.

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I’ve still got questions, what now?

  • Now click on the intermediate section for more defined answers. Remember that this FAQ is growing, so if you’ve got a question that hasn’t been answered by anyone give me a holler on email.

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This concludes the Beginner Candlemaking FAQ.

Thanks for reading!