I made my first batch of candles yesterday and had a few issues. First was the wick. I found out too late that you must use the "square" braid. I used flat braid wick from a local crafts store and as the candle burned, the wick kept flopping over. Once it even curled all the way over into the puddle and put itself out.
The biggest issue was water in the candle. I melted the wax in water and poured it through a sheer type material to get out the bigger stuff and a paper towel for the smaller stuff (coffee filter was much too slow). I let it settle for a while to let the wax come to the top and any residual dirt to settle to the bottom. While I was quite careful not to pour even close to the water level, there was obviously some water in the candle. As it burned, it would "sizzle" every now and then.
On closer inspection, I could see a lot of small bubbles forming around the wick and rising through the puddle. It didn't keep it from burning, as I burned about half of a 10" taper. The bubbles and the "sizzling" were worse at the tip and seemed to get a little better as the candle burned.
On a positive note, I used the metal taper mold and didn't have any trouble getting the candles out as I thought I would. I let them sit in the cold garage and then very very gently heated the mold with a propane torch to expand the metal without melting the wax and the candles fell right out.
Be careful when heating your molds with a torch.
If you are using a multiple metal taper mold (6 or 8) then it is held together with a low temp solder. If overheated, your mold will start to come apart.
Oh boy, we also did our first set of candles from the capings off our one hive yard. My big question is why I get those craters and cracks in the wax. Did I do something wrong?
Pour your wax in the warmest room you have. Warm your molds by pilot heat of oven. Place close fitting cardboard box over mold after filling.
Idea is to cool hot beeswax slowly when large mold poring.
Walt answered you question aptly. I would like to add that more honey houses and beekeeper residences are burned to the ground inproperly processing bees wax each year than you would like to know.
Always heat wax in either a temperature controlled unit or in a double boiler. Never walk away from heating wax even to answer the phone or the door. Wax oveheats and flashes in , well a flash, burns like gasoline once ignighted, is very hard to extinguish and spreads the same way if spilled. Overheated wax spilled on a hotplate will quickly send you fleeing. Making candles and other bee producs is fun and profitable if you keep in mind the saftety issues.
>My big question is why I get those craters and cracks in the wax.
Beeswax contracts a lot when cooling. As Walt said, if you can make it cool slow enough, it will contract uniformly. Otherwise, you can pour wax into the hollows created by the contraction -- but even that may not work if the mold is too large.
When my new wick comes in, I will try this again but this time heat the wax in a double boiler -- not mixed in with the water. But it does seem that the water helps to pull dirt away from the wax (I'm amazed at how much dirt will pass through a paper towel). I'm just not sure how to get all the water out of the wax without heating it beyond 212 degrees.
Maybe the answer is to put a small pan of wax in a larger pan of oil monitored with a thermometer. By bringing it to about 250 degrees or so, you shoud be able to boil the water out of the wax without applying direct heat to the wax.
I feel like I'm reinventing the wheel. I'm curious how the really experienced candlemakers do it.
BTW, I do all of this outside away from the house for all the reasons Joel mentioned.
[size="1"][ February 12, 2006, 12:01 PM: Message edited by: GaSteve ][/size]
We process our wax intitially into cakes in water and scrape and wash the bee dirt off the bottoms of the finished blocks. We then take the blocks, melt them in a double boiler and filter them through an old t-shirt. Leaves the wax very clean.
Episode 2. I took the candles made with the "wet" wax and wrong wick and melted them in a coffee can immersed about half way in cooking oil (about 275 degrees) instead of water. When the wax hit about 220 degrees, the water started to boil off in a lot of small bubbles. As expected, when the bubbles had nearly stopped, the wax temperature shot up. When the wax hit about 260 it started boiling violently and I removed it from the oil. Amazingly enough when I filtered this wax, there were still a few drops of what looked like water in the bottom of the can. Maybe it dissolved something that raised the boiling temp, maybe it wasn't water -- not sure.
Doing all this did darken the wax, but only slightly. It still smelled the same.
Anyway, dry wax and the right wick made for an excellent burning candle -- except for a small "sizzle" just after lighting. That probably could have been avoided had I left more in the bottom of the can.
Further reading in my book on beeswax revealed that large wax processing outfits use pressurized steam to raise the wax temp to 220 degrees to boil off the water. Probably not a high enough temp to darken the wax.
Having poured many candles, I have found that heating the wax up above 170-180 degrees will cause the wax to darken. It is slight, but perceivable when put side by side with less processed wax.
Well, we process several thousand pounds of beeswax a year into candles so maybe I can help.
My understanding is that the sputtering can be EITHER due to water or to other impurities.
We use a two-step process. First, make your cappings into what I call a 'country cake'. Use a Kelley melter or something similar. This get all the big stuff out, and does not involve water.
Take that country cake and melt it in water. For many years I used a $30 Wal-Mart Turkey Roaster. Electric, but without visable coils so just about totally safe. I put in 20 lbs or so of wax, five pounds or so of water. Boil the heck out of it for 10 minutes. Let cool a few minutes (10-15) and then run through a tight nylon curtain material into a five gallon bucket.
Wash out the Turkey Roaster, and pour the contents of the five-gallon bucket back into it. At this point, either turn off the water and let the cake form overnight or take off the wax to make candles.
If you let the clean cake form overnight, the next time you heat it do so without water. Strain through a BOUNTY paper towl (yes, it makes a difference) into a warm coffee carafe kept on a coffee maker burner. Pour into the molds from the coffee carafe.
If you don't let the 2nd cake form, carefully dip the wax from the top of the water and, again, pour through the BOUNTY paper towel into the coffee carafe. This is the process when most beginners put in water. To avoid doing so, let the 2nd cake form and then reheat without water.
Do not pour above 160 degrees or below 140. Use a candy thermometer.