PGM Holiday | A Festive Glow
JUST LIKE OUR RECENT FEATURES ON THE SCENT OF CHRISTMAS AND WREATH-MAKING, candles are a big part of many holiday traditions (or everyday life, if you're anything like us). Simply lighting them at the table signifies the start of a special meal, the soft flickering glow relaxing and soothing you, or leaving a flickering votive on the coffee table as you enjoy an evening holiday cocktail just helps make the feeling bright. This time of year, the stores are stocked with candles of all types, but here's the thing: most candles contain petrochemical products that pollute the air in the your home with majorly unhealthy (sometimes even carcinogenic) fumes. If you aren't sensitive to chemical fragrances chances are you would never even know it, but we gather that as a regular reader of Pure Green you are already aware on some level that heavily perfumed, synthetically fragranced things are to be avoided. Beyond just the scent, however, is the wax, which typically is made using crude oil. Soy wax is an alternative often seen these days, and they are marketed as ecological, but the trouble is that soy is usually GMO, and the process of hydrogenating the soy into wax can use chemicals and other unhealthy substances.
The best choice? Pure, natural, beeswax. (Bees are truly amazing, we owe them such an immense debt of gratitude!) Beeswax is produced by bees as a capping for each honeycomb cell. Bees produce it by ingesting honey, which turns into waxy scales secreted by glands on the bee's abdomen. Once secreted the bee chews the wax to soften it and carefully caps each cell of honey. Wow, right? When beemakers harvest honey they remove the beeswax cap using a hot knife, filter it, and then melt it into blocks ready for you to create your own candles. If you can, use beeswax from a local producer.
Beeswax is the only substance in nature that emits negative ions when burned, unlike other waxes and substances which create carbon in the air around you. (Negative ions are also produced by moving water and help you feel relaxed and revitalized, which is why your morning shower feels so great, beaches just leach away stress, and waterfalls seem to be mystically soothing.) When you breathe in negative ions and they reach your bloodstream, they produce biochemical reactions that increase serotonin levels. Are you a believer in beeswax yet?
This project can be an afternoon or evening project one dark December day for use in your own home over the holidays, or you can make gifts for the lucky ones on your list. Even if it seems abitious, this is an easy, rewarding project.
- Beeswax (filtered and preferably from a local supplier). Also, you can collect left over bits of beeswax from old candles to re-use in the future.
- Jars, vintage tea cups or mugs, small terracotta or ceramic planting pots
- Coconut oil *Coconut oil packaged in plastic contains contanimants due to the high levels of lauric acid in coconut oil which worsens the leaching effect of the plastic, so choose coconut oil packaged in glass. Want to learn more? Listen to our podcast on the subject!
- Natural wicks (size 6 works well for containers mentioned above- up to 500 ml capacity with a diameter of ~2.5-3 inches) *You can buy wicks with a metal base however, you can easily do without them making your candles waste free!
- Large mason jar, glass measuring cup or jug, or metal type jug (note: using a jar or jug with handles is best and easier). You’ll want to use recycled jars or jugs that won’t be used again for cooking.
- Large pot for bain marie
- Chopsticks, clothespins, pencils, elastics (to create a support for the wick)
If you bought your beeswax in bulk you will have to chop it down (a crowbar or mallet and a hammer work well) into about fist size pieces or smaller. You can also use a box grater to make smaller pieces of wax, which will melt faster.
Set aside quantity of beeswax based on the number of candles you want to make.
OPTION 1: If you are making pure beeswax candles you will need about 2-3 fist size pieces per 250 ml jar.
OPTION 2: If you are making beeswax/coconut oil blend you can use a 50:50 ratio or a slight variation as long as you keep the beeswax higher in the ratio. The benefit to doing a blend is 1. Less cracking of the candle wax as pure beeswax cools quickly, the oil slows the cooling rate of the wax to prevent cracking; and 2. Both economically and quantity wise you can make your beeswax go further. Don’t worry, the delicious smell of the beeswax still dominates even if you blend it with coconut oil.
**In this example, 50% beeswax + 50% coconut oil was used.
Place beeswax into a jar or jug for melting. If using coconut oil place in a separate container for melting (you can even remove the label from its original glass container and use it since any unused oil will solidify again once cooled).
Melt the beeswax in a bain marie over low heat. Beeswax is flammable so take caution and do not melt over direct heat. This process is quite slow so be patient. NOTE: it took 15-20 minutes for our quantity to melt completely. The coconut oil will melt much quicker so place it in once the beeswax is almost completely melted.
For option 2: Combine oil and beeswax once they are both completely melted.
Prepare your jars by sticking down your wicks. If you are using wicks with metal bottoms: dip the base into melted wax and stick to bottom of jar at the centre.
If you are not using wicks with metal base: dip the tip of wick into wax and stick it to the bottom of the jar at the centre. As pictured, use a second stick to help you get the wick in place.
Pour about 1/2 inch of wax into the jar to secure wick placement and let cool. You can use chopsticks, clothes pegs or two pencils secured with elastics at each end to keep the wick upright once the wax is poured (see photo).
Pour the melted beeswax (or blend) into the jars. They will begin setting fairly instantaneously and the wax will begin to deepen in colour.
Cut the wicks with sharp scissors to an appropriate length based on the size of your jar.
Let the wax cool and harden completely before lighting (24 hours is best if you can be patient!).
To clean your melting jar: re-melt the remaining wax film and wipe out immediately with a paper towel. This takes care of the bulk of the wax. Store for future use.
A NOTE ABOUT WICKS: as it turns out, sourcing organic wicks is tricky business. It just doesn't seem that they are very widely available. At worst, use pure cotton wicks with no metal core. At best, 100% pure, organic hemp wicks coated with beeswax are a lot easier to find and are the most natural choice.
Also, if you enjoyed this project check out our other tutorial on hand-dipped beeswax birthday candles!
CONTRIBUTORS & CREDITS:
LAUREN KOLYN, Tutorial & Photography: Lauren Kolyn is a lifestyle and editorial photographer based in Montréal and Toronto, Canada. With a documentary approach to her photography, Lauren is a visual storyteller with a unique ability to capture the essence of the moment. Drawing much of her artistic inspiration from the natural environment, Lauren's photographic work explores the modest yet powerful beauty of her surroundings. She is also currently part of the Pure Green editorial team. View her work, follow her on Instagram.