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.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Foraging Trip and a rant

The trip out this week whilst pleasant turned into more of a forage than anything else.

The hedgerows are heavy with berries. I picked more hawthorn to replenish my stocks as well as the ubiquitous blackberry. Plenty of sloes there too but I've made the gin for this year and have no use for more berries. Rosehips and Elder berries were also left. I'm just not going to have time this year to do anything with them

I also picked up some immature acorns and hazelnuts that had dropped from the trees as well as some larch cones. I wanted some this week and couldn't believe that I hadn't any left.

Finally one hedgerow was festooned with byrony berries. I have long wanted to try and grow this climber in the garden so I picked a few to have a go. I'm not sure I'll be successful as I've never seen any growing around here but it is worth a try.

Finally the rant. WTF does our neighbour  farmer think he is doing putting a combined chicken run and pigsty right up against the side of our house? I'm not going to be able to open one of the windows now for the smell and the flies. Not happy at all. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Dark Mirror

I've wanted one of these for ages but the commercial ones are horribly expensive and I'm not that much into mass produced gothic resin either. I'm a believer that tools should be beautiful objects in their own right  and should be  hand made wherever possible by me.  

So back to the mirror. 

All you need is a picture or photo frame of your choice and some matt black paint.

Secondhand ones from charity shops are very cheap or you may already have one.  Although normally I would "recycle" an old one I chose to buy a new one for this exercise ( for various  reasons) but it was  half price in a clearance sale and a nice oakwood frame.

The first task is to disassemble the frame and remove the glass.

I painted one side of the glass with matt black spray paint and after some thought decided to paint the frame black too. It tool several coats but I ended up with this.   

The essential thing  when reassembling is to have the painted surface at the back and the unpainted shiny side of the glass on the outside.

You can see how reflective this is.

 If you like plain and simple the mirror is done! 

I wanted to add some decoration and some symbolisation that is personal to me. I decided I wanted a woodland theme with ivy creeping around the mirror but the possibilities are endless. I might do another one with shells and seaweed.

I collected the items I wanted to use together to see what worked. The ivy is silk but the rest are all berries) and nuts that I've harvested and dried. 

Some time later with the help of a glue gun the finished article!  


I have long been fascinated by labyrinths and decided that it was about time to have one of my own. Creating one in the garden is not practical at the moment so the idea had been put to one side.

I came across a reference to a Cornish practice of carving a labyrinth on a piece of slate and tracing it repeatedly to trigger a mediative trance state  - perfect!

Obtaining a  suitable piece of  Welsh slate was fairly easy - mine is round and about 12" in diameter. Getting the labyrinth on  the stone was rather more challenging!

Instructions on drawing your own are easily found online and there are plenty of templates around but how to transfer the drawing to the stone?  I was not brave enough to try and draw directly on the stone as it was hard to draw smooth curves on a rough surface.

After a couple of false starts I found that  having got my drawing on paper, rubbing the underside with blue tailor's chalk ( I always knew I'd find a use for that one day!) allowed me to simply draw over the template with a pencil, leaving a blue line on the slate.

Then it was simply a matter of following the blue line on the slate with a suitable sharp object - in my case the vintage sewing box came to the rescue again with a steel circular knitting needle.

It isn't quite finished. I'd like to deepen the carving a little so it doesn't wear off  but I haven't yet got around to getting the Dremel out.

Hello and Welcome

I've wanted to do a sister blog for  Pagan Wanderings  for  a while now. That is primarily a travel blog that wanders off into the esoteric only occasionally but I'd also like to blog on some more Craft orientated subjects

The focus here will be on witch crafts, witch politics and even the occasional witch rant!  There may well be some overlap in content but plenty of unique stuff as well.

Please feel free to comment and I'd love some guest posters as well - just let me know if you'd like to write something for the blog.
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