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I suddenly realised after spending a lot of money on shop-bought candles that I could actually make my own for next to nothing!

I particularly like scented candles and for a decent sized candle these can cost upwards of 3 each when bought at shops whereas I can make them for considerably less.

Before you start making your candles, you will need some basic equipment and tools. These are readily available from craft shops, mail order or through the internet. You can buy the 'raw' materials from any good craft shop or on-line. One essential item you will need is an old saucepan in which to melt the wax.

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Melting the Wax

Most 'home' candle makers use two old stainless steel saucepans one inside the other. Boil the water 1/3 full in the bottom saucepan and melt the wax in the top one. Do not leave the saucepan unattended for very long as there is a risk that it may tip, spilling hot wax and water everywhere.  You need to watch the wax as it melts and when it is completely melted, you need to do something with it fairly quickly!

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Adding colour

You can add colour to the melted wax to produce a variety of coloured effects but do not be over-ambitious with your colour experimentation to begin with. I added colours to clear wax and came up with some really revolting coloured candles that I didn't want 'out on show'. Start with basic coloured candles such as red, yellow and blue and then experiment with colours.

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Using old Candles

One way of saving money is to 'recycle' old candles. You will inevitably find that the wick in a candle burns out before the wax and you are left with a pile of wax and no wick to re-light the candle. This wax can be salvaged and you can melt it down to reproduce another candle!

I frequently take the wax from a 'burnt out' candle, re-heat it to melt it down, add a new wick and create a new candle for the price of a piece of wick! If you do not recover much wax then you can always add some more and 'top up' the scent if necessary with scented sticks.

Never throw old candles away as they can always be used again!

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What is Stearin?

Stearin is a useful additive to wax that increases the depth of the colours, reduces dripping and improves burning. It also increases the tendency of the paraffin wax to shrink, making removing candles from rigid moulds much easier. Use 10% of stearin to wax.

N.B. Do not use stearin in rubber moulds as it will rot them.

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Pouring into moulds

I have always made my 'new' candles in glass containers that the candle originally came in but you can buy rubber moulds to create new candles.

Prepare your moulds and containers while the wax is melting. You can spray inside each plastic or metal mould with silicone spray available at candle making supply stores. I recommend doing so, the candles always release from the mould easily this way. You can also use vegetable oil to lightly coat the inside of your moulds. If your mould has a hole in the bottom, thread the wick through here and seal it on the outside with rubber putty. Stretch the wick to the open end of the mould and suspend it here wrapped around a rod or pencil or something similar.

If you are making candles in glass containers, for example, then you will need to secure the  wick to the bottom of the container. I use 'blue tack' for this.

When your moulds and containers are ready, and your wax is melted, add the colour chips to your wax and melt fully. Then, at the last moment add your scent. The scent is added at the last so it doesn't denature or dissipate through too much heating for too long.

Now you can pour your candles. If you're aiming for a very smooth surfaced candle, it helps to have the mould warmed and tilt the mould so the wax doesn't fill the mould too quickly, and cause tiny air bubbles to form on the sides and surface of your candles. Save some wax to refill the candles as they cool. I keep some wax in a melted state for hours because as the candles cool the wax in the moulds and containers contract and form a deep well right down the middle of your candle. Refilling this well may be necessary several times. 

Moulded candles can be made to look very even and shiny by cooling them in a cold water bath. About 1 minute after you pour, take the entire mould and set it in a container of cold water. Be careful not to get any water in your wax. It will ruin a candle. You will likely need to weight your mould so it doesn't float or tip in the water bath. Let the mould sit in its water bath after its second refill for about 2 hours. The final cooling process takes place at room temperature. It will take about 8 hours depending on the size of the mould for the candle to cool completely and be ready to remove from the mould. You can speed this final cooling process by putting candles in the refrigerator. Sometimes they will develop lines and tiny 'thermal shock' cracks which can be quite attractive. Remove the mould from the refrigerator after it feels cold to the touch. Any more cooling will result in many lines and tiny cracks, which means your candle surfaces will flake off later. If you desire this effect, you can put the cooling mould in the freezer for a half hour!

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Remove the candles from the moulds

If your finished candle has seams in it, you can gently remove them with a knife. Flatten the base of a wobbly candle by rubbing it gently around inside a warm fry pan until it melts flat. Polish finished candles with nylon stockings to remove fingerprints and small scratches. To get a hard shiny protective surface on a candle apply liquid candle sheen with a soft cloth. It is available at candle making supply stores and it works great! A spray version is also available. Others have used non-wax acrylic floor polish with good results. Floor wax has an odour, but the smell goes away when the wax hardens.

There it is - a cheap candle that will cost you next to nothing and you will have the pleasure of creating it yourself.

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Links

Some sites to help you:

www.fullmoons-cauldron.co.uk - site selling candles, candle making supplies and wax.

http://members.iinet.net.au/~campbell1/candles.htm

www.candlemaking.org.uk

www.hobbycraft.co.uk