Posted by Bonnie
We both used to laugh at the idea of someone stocking up on toilet paper (my Dad…) or having a pantry full of canned food just in case ‘shit hits the fan’. We always thought that they were being paranoid or had a pessimistic world view… That is, until we moved to the country.
As you know by now, after we completed extensive renovations on our house our well died, our effluent pump died, and our hot water tank died. In addition to all of that we have suffered a few significant power outages. Having lived in the city all our lives we weren’t really prepared for what a power outage in the country is like. First of all it is dark. Very, very dark. When you are in the city there is often light somewhere nearby, not the case out here. Thankfully we had some LED Head Lamps (In Canada? Try Here) that we could use in a pinch, but otherwise all we had were birthday candles. Going through that first long outage exposed how dreadfully unprepared for even a short emergency we were.
Now that we are both going full prepper we decided we should start by stocking up on emergency candles in case the power went out again. Thanks to my soaping addiction we had both lard and beeswax on hand so materials were pretty cheap (1.36kg lard for $7.47, 2kg beeswax for $25 – or both free, if you have your own bees and render fat from your own meat). We thought we would just purchase wicks ($7.97 for 5 wicks… crazy) and make the candles but about halfway to our local craft store we thought, “how hard could it be to make a wick?” Turns out not very, and you save a ton of cash by doing it yourself.
For our purposes, we decided to make container candles. Why? Safety is the main thing. Container candles are, well, contained. The likelihood of them burning down and catching to the surface is eliminated, and our kid is less likely to get involved with them if the wax is totally contained. You can pick them up easily and carry them from place to place without worrying about burning yourself as much. A container also keeps the candle damage free and your wick nice and dry so it catches flame right away. Container candles are also less messy to have in an emergency kit with no wax crumbles or residue. Lastly, you don’t need a mold. Just the container itself, which is reusable. We made some small candles in metal tins to toss into our car (candles are easy to light and can be used to light other things, if you are stranded and in need of warmth) and used 500 ml mason jars for keeping at home.
Supplies Needed for Project – Make One 500ml Size Mason Jar Candle
- 1 x 500 ml mason jar (or 2 x 250 if you like that better)
- 1 length cotton butches twine – Enough to reach the bottom of your container plus about 4 inches to trim later
- or other cotton twine or get creative with 100% cotton rags, cut into super thin strips and braid together
- 3 Tbsp Borax
- 9.5 oz Beeswax (In Canada? Try Here)
- 6 oz Lard
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 cup water
- Glass container for borax solution
- Double boiler type setup for melting wax / lard
- Tweezers / pliers
Directions for Wicking
First we need to make the wick. This is not a difficult or time consuming process but it takes a couple of days for the wick(s) to dry after being treated with your borax solution. It is a good idea to use the opportunity to make a bunch of wicks, really as many as you want. Store them wrapped in newspaper or paper towel and keep them out of the way (back of the linen closet is a good spot). This way they are good to go whenever you need them and you can skip the long drying time they would otherwise require. If you’re doing this, just make sure to incrementally increase your borax solution for every few wicks.
*Borax is not safe for kids or pets. Do this in an area away from them (I used a hotplate in a closed room) or make sure they do not enter the area until you’ve fully cleaned up. Safety first, people.
- Cut your length of string(s) – If you aren’t sure on future container sizes and are making wicks in advance, cut 12″. Otherwise leave about 4 inches more than your container requires.
- Prepare your borax solution. Add your water to a pot and bring to a simmer. Add your borax and salt, stir until dissolved.
- Pour your borax solution into a glass container (I used a pyrex measuring cup). Add string and allow to soak for 2+ hours (up to 24 is ideal – This way your string is fully saturated and has enough time for the salt and borax to be attracted to it)
- Remove your stings from the borax solution using tweezers or pliers and hang them somewhere to dry (I hung mine from the drop ceiling support in my basement) – place some paper towel or other surface (cookie sheet, towel, foil etc) under them to catch drips. This may take 24 – 48 hours or more, depending on humidity.
- Remember, pets could try and lap up any dripping borax. Make sure to keep the wicks away from pets while they are drying, not just when you’re letting them soak
5. The borax solution will have left crystals on your string. Once fully dry, gently brush any extraneous chunks off into the sink before the next step.
6. Heat some beeswax in a double boiler (I suggest using an old pot or something disposable like an old aluminum can as beeswax can be very difficult to remove – I used a pot from my soap lab) and dip your wick(s) into the wax. Allow it to remain in the wax until fully saturated – you may see a few small air bubbles releasing from the cotton.
- If you don’t have a double boiler, make one from a pot of boiling water and a smaller pot sitting in or above it with the beeswax. Beeswax is flammable and water will not put it out. Keep a fire extinguisher or baking soda on hand to stifle flare-ups should they happen. As long as you keep the heat and boiling water from contacting your wax container, you should be fine.
7. Remove the wick from the wax using tweezers or pliers and while pulling it straight gently run it under cool water to solidify the wax. For a stiffer wick you can repeat this process a couple of times. Your wick is now ready!!
Directions for Candles
- Measure out your ingredients. If you want to make more than the 500ml jar candle we made, use about a 2/3 ratio of lard to beeswax. If you are using, for example, an 8 oz container though don’t use 8 oz of total wax. You don’t want your hot wax rim rocking and remember that the volume of your wax will increase when it melts (we made this mistake and had to make a very attractive extra candle in a soda can…).
- Prepare your jar(s). Place it onto a cookie sheet into the oven and heat it to approximately 170 degrees F. Warming the container prevents thermal shock when you pour your hot wax into it.
- Prepare your wicks. Wrap the excess wick around a pencil (which will rest on the mouth of the jar) and set them to the side ready for when the jars come out of the oven.
- Using your double boiler, heat your wax and lard until they are fully melted and combined.
- Remove your jars from the oven. Place your wick into the jar and center it as best you can. It may help to tie / lodge a washer or nut to the bottom of the wick to weigh it down (we didn’t bother with this).
- Pour 85% of your wax carefully into your container, taking care to keep your wick centered. The container and the wax will be extremely hot. Do not touch the container with bare hands and take care not to spill wax on yourself. Serious burns can result.
- Set your candle away from kids and pets and allow it to solidify. After about 3 hours, use a utensil (bamboo skewer if you’re fancy, screwdriver if you’re me) to poke about 5 ‘relief holes’ around the wick.
- If you are satisfied that the candle is completely cool, heat the reserved 15% of your wax and stir for at least 1 minute.
- Pour this wax into the candle. It will fill your relief holes. This ensures any air pockets in your candle are filled and you have a nice smooth top on your candle.
- Allow it to cool again, about another 3 hours should do. Place the lid tightly on your mason jar and store in an easily accessible, out of the way location. Or… light it up and enjoy your home made candle!