Sunday, 18 September 2011

Candle Recycling

I get through a lot of candles! An awful lot of candles really  and most of them leave me with a stub. Being too mean to throw them away I collect them in a basket and when I have enough I spend a day or two recycling them.

It can be a bit of a messy process so I have a pan and jugs that are devoted entirely to candle making. Most were picked up in various charity shops but I have splashed out on a couple of proper metal moulds for the large pillar candles - secondhand! I haven't found a substitute for wicks  but at around 40p a metre they are not expensive and most general craft shops stock them. The wax is already suitable for pillar candles so it doesn't need an additive - you definitely don't want to be using the type of wax found in melts or votives

Otherwise it is surprising what you can use - I've made candles in old flower pots, odd Victorian china tea cups and I save old tealight cases ( or ask on Freecycle) to reuse. I don't make a lot of tealights as they are so cheap to buy and I prefer to use new candles for ritual purposes but occasionally I want a specific colour or want to incorporate certain oils etc so I'll make my own.

So here's how I do it. Firstly an unpromising pile of candle ends! The large candle was one where the wick was far too small for the candle so it "drowned". I did take it back and have it replaced but exactly the same thing happened again so I gave up and added it to the recycling pile. I notice the retailer no longer sells that size so I guess I wasn't the only one who had problems.

Fill your pan with  hot water  and place over a low heat - you are aiming for a shimmering temperature where the surface just shivers slightly rather than boiling.
 Put the candle ends in your chosen bowl or jug and place in the water bath. The candle ends are generally awkwardly shaped so you may not get many in at a time but as they melt down more can be fitted in.  This method keeps the wax temperature well  below ignition point but I still keep an eye on it.

The big candle was too wide for my jug so I broke it up and used a bowl

While the wax is melting you need to pepare the moulds.

Dipping the end of the wick into the melting wax stiffens it nicely to poke it though the hole in the bottom without needing to use a wicking needle. You then need to remember to seal the hole with some plasticine or similar to stop the wax running straight back out - an error you only make once <ahem>! Once the wick is through I tie it around a skewer which  I rest on the top of the mould.

Once you have enough melted wax, remove from heat and SLOWLY pour the molten wax into the mould. This is where using a jug makes it much easier. A ladle also works.  You need to do this gently, firstly to reduce as much as possible any air that could get trapped and also all the debris, old wicks, sooty bits etc  tend to drop to the bottom and you want to avoid them getting into the new candle as much as possible. I generally pour the dregs into an old tin to throw out. Try and do the pouring in one stage. If you haven't got quite enough and need to melt more the  join does show where you restart even if it is only a few minutes later. Once you're done make sure that the wick is still central.

Fill the mould to within 1/2 inch or so of the top and place on a flat surface out of the way to cool and set.  As it cools the wax will start to shrink and you will see a big depression or even holes forming. I often use another skewer to stab holes in the bottom as well to release any air that may be trapped. I then melt a little more wax and use it to fill the depression back up to the top again. Make sure the wax stays in the dip. The cooling candle will have shrunk away from the sides of the mould and if you get wax  into this gap it will a) spoil the nice smooth sides of your candle and b) make it extremely difficult to remove from the mould.

You may need to repeat the infilling more than once. Once you are happy then leave the candle to set solid ( generally over night), remove the plasticine seal from the bottom, upend and the candle should drop out. Trim the wick to a suitable length and you're done.

There are lots of colours and scents you can buy to add to the molten wax  if you want to get more creative.
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