Candles. They’re functional, they’re delectable, and they’re divine. That glow their flame emits is the stuff of love songs and great literature. In the case of scented candles, they’re even a savory-sweet treat to the nose — warm, sensory, delicious. But then again, if you’re reading this article, we don’t need to convince you of the wondrous nature of candles. Nor justify why the candle industry is one that never seems to flicker, falter, or fall out of style. No, you’re here because you already believe in the magnificence of candles. Now you’re looking to immerse yourself in the practice of making them instead of solely experiencing them while lit. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need to gather and understand the basic materials needed for candle making. The ones no candlemaker would even dare to consider going without.
A candle’s main, raw materials are what make it what it is. Moreover, they’re what determine the finished product’s general effectiveness, benefit, and luminosity. The main raw materials for making candles are:
1) Wax — paraffin, stearin, soy, and bees being among the most common;
2) Wick — most commonly woven from cotton fibers or other natural and/or synthetic materials, or else built from wood alone; and finally,
3) Fats and Oils — preferably plant- or animal-sourced, and of a natural variety.
Other items that, while secondary in terms of necessity and function, can be useful depending on your candle-making goals are lacquer, color, and fragrance. However, the ingredients listed above — those being 1) wax, 2) wick, and 3) fats and oils — are vital to the core production of any candle and, as a result, will be the focus of this article.
Together, the wax, wick, and fats or oils make up the candle’s body (also known as a candle’s burning mass). The avenue for initial ignition and simultaneous transmission, and compositional fuel through which the flame and wax interact. Without these elements, a candle is nothing more than a heap of material that may find itself flammable. This will likely serve as a serious hazard rather than function or qualify as an actual candle.
The body, or burning mass, of any candle is its wax. Without wax, there can be no burning mass; and without burning mass, there can be no candle.
That’s why the type of wax you choose to use is a crucial decision you’ll make in crafting a candle. Currently, the most sought-after and used waxes in candle making are paraffin, stearin, soy, and beeswax.
Each of these comes with its own benefits. Therefore, which you decide to go with really comes down to availability, affordability, compatibility, and preference.
Here’s an overview of the four most commonly used waxes in modern-day candle making.
Easily the most popular wax used in candle making at the moment. Paraffin comes as the most affordable, obtainable, and in turn, practical option out there. Paraffin does not usually contain any artificial additives, and even releases negative ions while burning — which is terrific for the air around it, as well as those breathing it in.
Unfortunately, paraffin is made from petroleum; In recent years, it has gone down in popularity. This is due to the noxious fumes it emits when in direct contact with flame. While these don’t directly cancel out the effects of the negative ions it releases while burning, the detriment they present to both the person and the environment is enough to outweigh the benefits of paraffin in candles. And since burning wax is an inevitable reality in candle burning, many candle makers and consumers have come to prefer safer alternatives to paraffin.
The first thing to know about stearin. Candle making experts recommend it. Some long time candlemakers will even go so far as to preach it as an essential ingredient in the initial development and resulting composition of your final product.
Stearin; raw material made from natural fats and oils. Moreover, it is no stranger to cosmetics; cosmetic products are probably where you’ll see it appear the most. Part of what makes stearin so special is its overall resistance quality. In other words, stearin does not “sweat” quite as easily as alternative wax materials. In the face of temperature, slant, or draft.
Stearin candles tend to be extremely sturdy and durable; they can only be made through casting procedures. Many people find the resulting product worth the trouble. After all, stearin is some pretty tough, resilient stuff. Making it more than ideal for the burning mass of a candle.
If you’re someone who frequently, or even just occasionally, purchases candles. You might have noticed the slow shift to soy in recent years. Not only is soy wax renewable and 100% natural. Being made from soybeans. It is sourced from a crop that we actually produce in abundance; Remaining soy flakes can be used to feed animals; (After the soy wax is extracted).
Put simply, soy wax is an extremely resourceful way to go for those looking to minimize waste production and/or make that push towards environmental sustainability in their candle making practice.
Yet another perk of soy candles is that they are even longer-lasting than paraffin ones due to the fact that soy wax burns more slowly. Even in this, soy makes for far cleaner air and less soot production than paraffin does — and for those looking to add fragrance into the mix, highlights and transports scent notably well.
Beeswax is not only naturally-sourced. It’s also exceptionally environmentally-friendly. Not only is it gorgeous in authenticity and appearance. It also has a high melting point and may give off a light honey scent while burning.
Its only real drawback, if we can even rightfully frame it as such, is that beeswax is a rare and precious natural material. As a result, it tends to be the most expensive, unobtainable, and least reliable option of the waxes most-commonly used in candle making.
For the flame and the wax to burn together, they first need a channel that goes through the entire candle and, in doing so, connects them for effective, long-lasting results. This is where the wick comes in, and why the wick is vital to the production of any candle you create.
The wick is a necessity; regardless of the material of wax used for the candle’s burning mass. Still, this isn’t to say that the type of wax used doesn’t impact the wick. While the wick is an essential component in any candle; it can (and should) be chosen to best suit the type of wax used in the body as its burning mass. Pairing the wick and the wax with this in mind. Allows for optimal performance of the candle once it is eventually lit.
Of course, narrowing it down to “wick and wax” alone is somewhat of an oversimplification; since wax, while one of the main indicators of advisable wick material; is one of many factors involved in this decision-making process. Others include (but are not limited to) the candle’s diameter; any additional ingredients and/or methods used in the candle’s production, and the candle’s burning fuel.
Woven wicks — on average — tend to be the most popular with candlemakers. Woven from an array of cotton strips and strands, the cloth braiding, imitative of rope, creates a reliable transmitter between the flame and burning mass. Still, preparation varies enough that all woven wicks are not created; nor do they function exactly the same. The type(s) of yarn, robustness, and suction capabilities paired with their additional chemical components and preparation all play important roles in determining the abilities and tendencies of a particular woven wick; as well as, how it can be expected to interact with the wax and the rest of the candle.
Other fiber-types and textile — both natural and/or artificial — can also be used as alternatives to cotton for woven wicks. Also common in candle making are wooden wicks. Not only do most experts consider them reliable for burning, but their woodiness even adds something delightfully nostalgic and earthy to the environment under the correct circumstances.
Fats and Oils
Solidified and/or hardened, animal and vegetable fats and oils are commonly used in candle making. While they can be useful for the purpose of fragrance(s) and aesthetic(s), these are not the only, or even primary, reasons why many candlemakers might include them in the process and composition of their craft.
Fats and oils can play a significant role in both how a candle is manufactured, and later; how it burns when lit. Not only do they assist in maneuvering the shape and consistency of the wax in its building stages (especially when the wax material is tough and stubborn), but they also serve as fuel so that the candle can burn in a manner that is smooth, steady, and stable.
Of course, it’s vital to note that animal and vegetable fats and oils are not advisable for all candles or under all circumstances. Rather, they’re best for candles intended for indoor use; Moreover, fats and oils are almost exclusively viable for use in container candles. Their soft consistencies and low[er] melting points mean lesser structural integrity that, without sufficient containment, leads to candles lacking stability. This steeply increases the risk to any surrounding people and environment.
Will the candle smell bad when I burn it if I only use the main raw materials, but don’t include additional fragrance?
No, the candle shouldn’t smell bad without additional fragrance; at least not unless bad materials are used. There might be a light scent from the material, but it shouldn’t be an unpleasant one. An unscented candle shouldn’t give off an odor; but in the event it does, it can be chalked up to some unsolicited issue within the material(s) themselves.
Are secondary items worth the cost and effort? Or should the function of the candle in its raw, basic state be enough?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Rather, it comes down to your personal preference(s) and purpose(s) for making a candle in the first place. It’s true that secondary factors, such as lacquer, color, and fragrance do not determine whether a candle will function on a core level — but, when these elements are present, they strongly impact how a candle burns and, therefore, exists.
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Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.
Meet Shawn Chun: Entrepreneur and Candle Business Fan.
I’m a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online candle business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a candle business owner at a craft fair, farmers market, retail location or anywhere else I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to obtain and retain clients, finding good employees all while trying to stay competitive. That’s why I created Candle Business Boss: I want to help candle business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.