Beeswax candles are a wonderful natural and sustainable alternative to paraffin – and they last longer as they burn more slowly. They let off a beautiful, warm glow and a light honey scent. Plus they’re cheaper and much easier to make than you might think, and are great to give as a gift.
Getting your ingredients
We’re lucky enough to have our own wonderful beehives, but we know not everyone has this luxury. If you want to make your candles using raw beeswax straight from the hive, you could do some research to see if there’s a beekeeper near you willing to give or sell you some of their beeswax. If you do decide to go down this route, you will need to filter your wax first. If you’d rather buy it ready to go, you can get some here.
You’ll also need some coconut oil. If you don’t already have some at home, check to see if a fair trade shop near you sells some. If not, Trade Aid sell it online, here.
Bear in mind that beeswax can be quite hard to get off anything and everything – so it’s best to have a ‘kit’ that you can dedicate to your candles. It’s also very flammable, and you should never melt it in a pan on direct heat – always use a double boiler or a pan, tin or tray inside a pan of boiling water.
Timing can also be tricky, so if you can get everything ready to go beforehand this will help. It also helps to have another person helping, as it can be fiddly getting the wick to stay in the right place when you’re pouring the wax.
You will also want your wax to cool slowly, so preheat your oven to about 65°C/150°F, turning it off just before you pour your candles and let them cool down in there, otherwise they could crack. You could also let them cool slowly in some lukewarm water. If they do crack, you can always keep a little bit of melted wax behind to top off your candle with so the top is nice and smooth.
Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the beeswax to your aluminium tray or tin and place over the pan of water, using your bamboo skewers to stir. Keep it at a gentle boil until all your beeswax has melted.
If you haven’t already, prepare the wicks. Depending on the size of your jars, you’ll need 3-4 pieces, around 5 inches long. Dip the bottom 3/4 of your wicks into the melted beeswax, leaving the end exposed, as this is the end you’ll light. This helps the wicks to stay straight and in the centre.
Hold your wick in the centre of your jar, using a skewer to keep it in place. Pour your beeswax into the jar until it’s about 1/2 an inch from the bottom, and put your tray back in the hot water to make sure it stays melted.
Let the wax in the jar cool so it can hold the wick in place. You can wrap your wick around a bamboo skewer and lay across the top of your jar, making sure the wick is straight and tight. Use some tape to hold it in place if you need to. If you’re cooling your candles in the oven, turn it off now.
Stir the coconut oil into your melted wax using a bamboo skewer or a spoon you don’t mind getting wax on. Once your wick is steady, pour your wax and oil into the jar, leaving around an inch at the top. If you need to, reposition the skewer so the wick is still in the middle. Pop them in the oven or in a bowl of lukewarm water to cool down slowly.
Once they’re cool, leave them to set for about 24 hours, and then trim the wick down to about 1/2 inch once they’re hard and ready to go.
The first time you burn your candle, you’ll want it to burn for a least a few hours, with the general rule being around 1 hour per inch width of your candle. This is so the entire surface of your candle melts, meaning it will be less likely to tunnel straight down the middle. If it does do this, you can always reuse your leftover wax from around the edges the next time you make your candles.
If your candle is melting too fast, your flame won’t stay lit and will get drowned out by the wax – so you may need to use a smaller wick, or a different sized jar or pot. It can be a bit of a trial and error process, but once you get your jar and wick sizes right, they should be perfect every time.