03 February 2006

Candlemas: another lumpy experience

Yes, the kids thought it would be fun to make candles for Candlemas, and, yes, they wanted to dip them. Ummm, I know nothing about dipping candles. Nothing. But, who am I to let that stand in my way? I mean, really, someday I need to write a Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling in which the truly idiotic parts will be drawn directly from experience.

Having read many websites about candlemaking, we got some beeswax and cotton wick from Hobby Lobby. I found a soup can that seemed serviceable. I filled a pot with water, put some canning lid rings in it (to hold the can up from the bottom of the pan), put the soup can in, and started filling the can with chunks of beeswax (pried off the bar with a Craftsman screwdriver, which have a lifelong replacement guarantee, although I'm not sure that extends to issues like "covered with blobs of wax"). I was very cautious, not wanting to overheat the wax. Very cautious. So cautious the wax didn't melt. I'm standing there with all sorts of safety equipment (pan lids and heavy towels to smother any flames, cold water to douse any burned skin), and I'm only heating the wax to "pliable" stage, as though we're going to do some beeswax modelling.

After about an hour and a half of this, I finally got over my fear of igniting the entire kitchen and Turned Up The Heat. Okay, the wax finally started getting melty. I tied wick onto dowels, ready to dip. I pictured kids joyfully dipping candles there on the stovetop, and it hit me -- they were going to drip wax all over the stove top. I hate this stove top (which is a smooth top), but I wasn't planning on replacing it just yet. Soooo, I called to the kids to bring over the little table. I figured if I left the can in the pot of hot water the heat of the water would keep the wax liquid (just about every set of directions I had read mentioned using some sort of hot plate; guess what, they're right, but I don't own one and it didn't seem to be the best moment to run out and buy one).

For the record, the wax DID drip all over. All over the pot of water, which was a good Farberware pot. I have an icky old pot to use for messy things, but didn't think to use it. If you're ever in this position (surely no one else is this mindless, though) you can scrape off most of the wax with your fingernail you can use canola oil to clean off the residue. And I'm so proud to say that I resisted the temptation to dump all the (waxy) water down the sink where it would clog the pipes; I dumped it outside on some gravel.

The kids had a great time dipping. We counted 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 to get a dipping rhythm going. They would dip their candles in the hot wax, then in the cold water, then back to the hot wax. When the level in the can got too low to dip, I poured the remainder in a couple of cookie cutters I had coated with vaseline.

I think the kids are expecting this to be an annual event. I wonder how many years it will take until I get the hang of it.

We ate dinner by candlelight last night. The candles are lumpy, but we thought they were beautiful.


Helena Grace said...

Sounds like fun! BTW if you put something waxy in the freezer, the wax will break right off of it.

GailV said...

Thanks for the tip! I don't think we'll be dipping again this year, but I've noticed that this post gets many hits, so any additional info on dipping is appreciated. It's been especially popular this week, with Candlemas coming up.

For the record, I've considered editing it so I don't sound like quite such a twit, but I've decided to let it stand as is, so y'all can be inspired with the thought that, "if this fairly inept woman can do this *anyone* can," and give it a whirl in your own home.