Back in May I took a soy candlemaking workshop at Brooklyn Candle Studio, which I highly recommend if you live in NYC and have any interest in candlemaking. Before the workshop I had started looking into soy candlemaking kits because I definitely wanted to try this at home; I found kits on Grow and Make—the same folks from whom I got my lip balm kit—and a whole mess of kits on Amazon.
When I attended the candlemaking workshop I got a workbook that listed some recommended kits and suppliers, and one of the kits I’d been considering was on the list. SOLD! (Not really, because I got it from my mom as a birthday gift. 🙂 )
The kit I got for my birthday was the CandleScience Soy Candle Making Kit, pictured above, and it included the materials needed to make 12 soy candles—four fragrances with three candles each. I also want to point out that CandleScience has its own website where they sell a variety of kits as well as individual supplies…which I’m sure I will be ordering soon. The kit comes with:
- Four 1 lb. bags of Golden Brands 464 soy wax flakes
- pouring pitcher
- glass thermometer
- ECO 12 candle wicks
- wick stickums
- wick bars
- fragrance oils (Very Vanilla, Grapefruit and Mangosteen, Egyptian Amber, Lavender)
- 8 oz. candle tins
- warning labels
One of many important things I learned in the workshop is that wicks come in different sizes—diameter as well as length. The wick diameter needed depends on the type of wax you’re using and the size of the container; if you put a wick that’s too thin in a large container it won’t work properly (that’s what she said). CandleScience has a great wick guide you can refer to when choosing your wicks.
In addition to the kit’s materials, I ordered wooden spoons to use as dedicated wax stirring utensils. I didn’t get around to opening the candlemaking kit until recently because of our move and Comic-Con trip. Of course, when I got around to making my first candles I had to document the process with photos so that I could post about it here!
Before I got started with making my first three candles I set up a work space by covering the kitchen counter with cardboard, in case of spills. The kit instructions recommended working in an area with a consistent room temperature, noting that 68°F to 74°F works best. My kitchen is a little warmer than that, but I turned on all our air conditioners while I worked to try to keep it as cool as possible. I also kept a bottle of rubbing alcohol nearby for cleaning the supplies once I finished because the instructions said to use an alcohol-dampened paper towel to wipe wax away while it’s still warm.
Now we’ve arrived at the fun part: the soy candlemaking process. Here are the steps I followed to make my candles…
I filled a medium saucepan one third of the way with tap water and set it on a burner. Then I poured one 1 lb bag of soy wax into the pouring pitcher, set the pitcher in the water-filled saucepan, and turned the burner on medium low heat for some double boiler action.
While the wax began to melt, I adhered the wicks in the center of each candle tin using wick stickums.*
As the wax melted, I gently stirred it with a wooden spoon and kept an eye on the temperature until it reached 185°F. Temperature is an important element in the candlemaking process; wax needs to be an optimal temp for the fragrance oil to bind to it (I’ll explain a bit more later).
When the temperature reached 185°F, I poured one 1 oz. bottle** of Egyptian Amber fragrance oil into the melted wax and took the pitcher off the heat. I stirred the mixture for one to two minutes, then set the pitcher aside and allowed it to cool to 135°F. (Again, temp is important here!) When the temperature cooled to 135°F I poured the wax into the tin containers, filling them to a quarter inch from the top. Then I set a wick bar on top of each tin, pulled the wick tightly, and pressed the wick into the wick bar opening to keep it centered while the candle hardened. No one likes a candle with an off-center wick!
The wax began to harden and turn opaque within an hour or two, but the instructions said to allow the candles to harden overnight. The next day, I removed the wick bars and trimmed the wicks to about a quarter inch and stuck a warning label to the bottom (Safety First!). Voilà: three beautiful Egyptian Amber soy candles, handmade by moi!
The kit instructions tell you to wait 24 hours before burning your candles. The technical term for this waiting period is “curing.” Basically, curing allows time for the fragrance oil and the wax to bind to each other. There’s nothing you need to do to cure a candle other than sit on your hands and not light it. Why is it important to cure a candle? Doing so will give your candle a good throw. Wha? A little more technical stuff here: candles give off a “cold throw” and a “hot throw.” Cold throw is the scent an unlit candle gives off, and hot throw is the scent it gives off when lit, as well as how strong the scent is (i.e., how far away you can be and still smell it). Aside from failing to cure a candle, a variety of things can lead to a poor throw, including:
- Not heating the wax to the right temperature
- Pouring the fragrance oil in at the wrong temperature
- Not using the correct fragrance oil to wax ratio
- Not stirring the oil into the wax for long enough
- Pouring the wax into containers at the wrong temperature
Different types of wax have different recommended temperatures at which you perform the steps of the candlemaking process, so do be aware that the directions I’ve listed here will probably not make for a good throw unless you’re using 464 soy wax.
Curing explains why I made my Egyptian Amber candles six days ago but have NOT lit any of them yet—the BCS workbook says that soy candles should be cured for 48 hours to three weeks, rather than the 24 hours listed in my kit’s instructions. So, I’m getting some quality patience practice in. 🙂 I also made three Vanilla candles a couple days ago, which made the apartment smell like cookies, and I’ll make the Grapefruit + Mangosteen and Lavender candles from my kit in the next week.
Let’s talk about cost for a minute. Had I bought the kit myself it would have set me back $64.99, which comes out to $5.42 per 8 oz. candle. Soy candles can be quite expensive, so making your own is a very wallet friendly option—especially if you start off with a kit that includes some re-usable basics (pitcher, thermometer, wick bars). Just for fun, let’s see how much it would have cost to buy these kit materials individually (I quickly and unscientifically gathered prices of these items on both Amazon and Candlescience and listed the lowest price here.):
- two 2 lb packs of soy wax – $24.58 (5 lbs is $22.49 and 10 lbs is $14.99, but then you need a scale to weigh the wax, which I don’t have & would have had to buy)
- small pouring pitcher – $6.99
- thermometer – $4.99
- wicks (50 piece bag) – $8.49
- wick stickums (roll of 100) – $4.99
- wick bars (pack of 12) – $5.99
- 8 oz. candle tins (pack of 12) – $10.99
- warning labels (pack of 100) – $3.49
- fragrance oil sampler (pack of 4): $14.59
The grand total? $85.10. Obviously the kit is best for beginners!
So far I’m really enjoying candlemaking and am very glad I’ve given it a try! These candles are going to make great gifts (for others and for myself 😛 ). Candlemaking is a hobby I can see sticking with for quite some time.
Have you ever made your own candles? What are your favorite candlemaking supply stores?
*If you don’t have wick stickums, a dab of glue from a glue gun will work too.
**The recommended fragrance oil to soy wax ratio is one to one and half ounces of oil per pound of wax.