Tips and Tricks of the Trade

Tips and Tricks of the Trade
The following are some of my favorite and most used tips and tricks that I have learned along my candle making journey. Some I’ve learned on my own and some I’m sure I’ve picked up from the Internet or books.

If you’re new to candle making, these ideas and suggestions could make things easier and possibly save you a headache or two. There might even be ideas that can help the seasoned candle maker. Take a look and if you find one you think is particularly genius or one that you don’t understand or agree with - drop me a line in my forum so we can all discuss it or contact me directly for a personal inquiry. Feel free to tell me about your tips too, if you would like to share.

This list is by no means all-inclusive, but just some basics off the top of my head. I’m sure I will be sharing more ideas in the future. Anyway these are some of the things I like to do to make my candle making life easier:

1. I almost always use a chopstick to guide my pouring stream. Simply hold a chopstick at the edge of your pouring container and aim it downward into the candle mold you are trying to fill. The hot wax will follow the chopstick, for the most part, and you won’t have it dripping off the pouring pot onto your table, floor or feet.

2. To get your glass containers or aluminum molds hot before pouring your wax, place them on a heating tray. After you’ve poured your wax, turn it off (or better yet, unplug it). This will keep your molds or containers warm longer and will give your candles a nice smooth finish.

3. Wick Stickums (a brand from Bitter Creek Candle Supply) – these little gems are used to hold wicks to the bottom of your containers. I actually use these to seal my pillar candle molds and have never had a leak! No matter what kind of fancy sealer, plug or gunk I have used in the past, I always had some sort of leak. I still pour my candles on a tray, just in case. Nevertheless, this has worked like a charm. Note: So far I only know this works with molds when you are using a wick pin on the inside of the mold.

4. Craft sticks with a small hole drilled into the center make great wick holders! Just poke any wick through the hole and if you want to make it tight, wrap it around once or twice. You could even trace the edges of your favorite molds or containers onto these sticks so when you use them your wick is sure to be centered when you line up the marks. If wax gets on them, just scrape it off and use them again!

5. There are different wick types and sizes that work better for pillars, votives, containers, natural waxes and paraffin. Knowing which one to choose for your given project is sometimes a challenge. To make this easier on yourself, make a list or chart of all of your wick types by names, diameter sizes and candle styles (pillar, votive, container, soy, paraffin, etc.) that the manufacturer has suggested for each wick you have. Post this right where you keep your wick supplies. If the information is not already printed on the bag of wicks or the spools, you should write it on there too. By looking at your list before you begin to make your candles, you can get a good idea of exactly which wick to use. More times than not, having this information at my fingertips has helped me choose the perfect wick on my first test try and that makes me happy!

6. Have a container specifically dedicated to scrap wax (a metal coffee can works great). This scrap wax container will be where you pour little bits of leftover wax from your pouring pitchers and from old candles that you melt down to clean the containers. This will fill up quickly sometimes and makes a great batch of wax for making fire starters. I keep an old Kleenex box on my dryer and stuff all of the lint in there to save for when I make my fire starters. You can stuff the lint into the sections of a cardboard egg carton, pour wax over that and you have yourself some fire starters!

7. Keep a plastic scraper and pieces of old nylons next to your trash can (or scrap wax container) so when you need to clean a tool (such as thermometers, forks, tongs, chopsticks, etc.) you simply scrape as much wax off your tools as you can, and then rub the remaining residue off with the old piece of nylons. Your tools will be good as new and ready to use again.

8. To keep your scale clean and free of wax or oil buildup, place it in a thin plastic bag. When the bag gets dirty, replace it. I wish I had thought about this before I wrecked one of my scales with fragrance oil that ate it away in places. It still works, it’s just ugly.

9. Use a Lazy Susan when pouring votives or other smaller candles. Slowly rotate your molds into a better pouring position and less chance of dripping.

10. I don’t know how handy this next tip is, but it sure is a good idea. Whenever you purchase new supplies, you should add them to some sort of an inventory list that you keep. Document the item by name, the supplier, the flash point (when applicable), price and note if there is a suggested shelf life. If you can, make a note on your future calendar to use up that product before the expiration date. I have some fragrances that have gone beyond their shelf life and some are still fine. Others have turned to Vick’s Vapor Rub! I do keep my fragrances in a cool basement and inside cupboards away from light. This helps to keep many of the fragrances stable and fresh. When they go bad, I just use them up in my fire starters.

11. Use bent wire as a measuring tool when trying to figure out when to stop pouring in a taller pillar mold when you only want to make a three-inch pillar. Bend a length of wire to a size that suits your needs and let the end dangle from the edge of the mold on the inside, just above where you will want to stop pouring for your desired candle height.

12. When you use a pipette to extract and measure fragrance oils, keep that pipette for just that fragrance. Wrap a rubber band around your fragrance bottle and slip the used pipette under it. Place it under the rubber band upside-down so the bulbous part is at the bottom and any remnants of the oil will not leak out. Note: If you also use your fragrances for soaps or body products, you will NOT want to use this process due to the possibility of contaminations in your oils. Use new and clean pipettes every time instead.

13. Keep a big box of baking soda handy in case of a grease fire. It’s also a good idea to keep a class ABC fire extinguisher handy. That class of fire extinguisher is good for grease fires and other types of fire, including combustibles and electrical fires. Never pour or spray water on a grease/oil fire. That will just make it shoot everywhere!

14. If you are using old cans for any of your wax melting, use a pair of pliers to flatten down any sharp pieces of metal that may be left sticking out after using a can opener. Also, bend one side of the can at the rim, into a pouring spout shape. If you are not able to securely get your hand around the can with a rubber dotted garden glove or mitt, then you will need to use two hands. Sometimes the cans don’t pour as easily as regular wax pouring pitchers, so using a chopstick at the spout to guide the pouring stream into the mold or container really helps. This is where you will need to be extra careful that the hot wax doesn’t drip down the outside of the can and onto your fingers or feet or anything else underneath you. It’s best to always wear closed toe shoes for this reason. If you can’t manage the can with one hand and the chopstick with the other, you should invest in a pouring pitcher.

15. Never allow small children or animals to be around while you are working with hot wax. It’s just a bad idea all the way around and accidents happen. At the very least, you could end up with a dog hair or something in your perfect candle.

Well, enough tips for today. These could really go on and on but I’ll give you a chance to absorb whatever ones you think you might like to use in your candle making techniques. I hope you found something helpful. If you have any tips or advice, I'd love to hear about them - twelve years of making candles and I’m still learning!

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