(P.S:The thing about wicks)

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My wick(ed) hoard ūüėČ

I promise you that after this side note, I will get back to The Steps. Cross my heart and hope to die…

An essential part of the candles you will be making, hopefully to re-use old jars and tins ( you don’t really need to worry about the protective lining of tins spoiling with heat and leaking BPA/Bisphenol, as most¬†waxes melt at a temperature much lower than the one food in these cans is sterilized¬†at), is the wick. A good wick ensures that the candle burns brightly and well.

To put it simply, you need a cotton ( hopefully unbleached and if organic – Halleluiah!) yarn, you need to soak it ( if you want to colour your wick), maybe braid it if it is too thin and then prime it and Hey presto, your very own home-made wick, stored in newspaper for when needed. You could, obviously, buy a readymade wick but what is the fun there plus who knows what it is made of….

So here is the process in a few easy peasy steps – you could go straight to step 3 if you like:

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Solution with Borax

1.Soak your cotton if you’d like to colour the flame. I soaked about 3 metres, rolled for ease, OVERNIGHT in this¬†solution:

1 Tbs salt + 2 Tbs boric acid (makes the flame deep red) + 1 cup warm water
Choose one of the following for a different color flame:
A tsp of calcium: reddish orange flame
A tsp of table salt: yellow flame
A tsp of Borax: yellowish-green flame
A tsp of potassium sulfate or saltpeter (potassium nitrate): purple flame
A tsp of Epsom salts: white flame
A tsp of alum: green flame

2. Dry the yarn: The next morning, hang the yarn until dried completely ‚Äď 1-5¬†days. If the yarn is very thin, ¬†cut and braid the dried strands together as tightly as possible. Remember that a¬†candle will burn longer and brighter with a quality wick. A loose, poorly constructed wick will shorten the life of your candle.

3. Prime your wick: Dipping your wick into hot wax until

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Dipping the wick in hot wax

it is thoroughly saturated will prime your wick. This ensures that your candles will light more easily as well as making your wick water-resistant.

Heat your chosen wax in a double boiler and when melted, use a tweezer to hold the yarn and dip it- who would have thought that a tweezer could be so useful in candle making? Take the wick out of the wax and harden it by dipping it in a bowl of water and then lay it onto a waxed paper or do as I did, hang em to dry like in the below pic:

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Primed wicks hung to dry

I didn’t want to use waxed paper as I am trying to limit¬†waste. But you don’t have to be a purist like me. Anyway, ¬†to encourage stiffness, repeat this process several times. When you are finished, primed wicks can be stored in rolled newspapers.

Trust me, the quantity made will keep you in the candle making zone for enough time to be worth the bother ūüôā

 

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Candles (..for blackout night)

img_8595I like tuna¬†and I LOVE tuna-mayonaise ( blame the Brit in me) and trust me, you have to have CANNED tuna to make a good tuna-mayo (check out my food blog re tuna mayo). But alas, I stopped eating tuna for a while¬†coz I didn’t know WHAT to do with the cans as throwing them, even into a recycling bin, was just not a satisfying¬†option; this disposable culture we live in is not for me. So, you ask, “What does tuna-mayonaise have to do with candles?” Jeez, didn’t your mum teach you patience? I am getting there!

Back to those tins – one day, it suddenly struck me, as I was running low on tea-lights for my terrace, why not use the empty cans plus also any spare glass jars as candles?13938583_10154513590232652_6554025239192039896_n That was my Eureka moment. So, this is what you do:

1. Choose what sort of wax you would like to work on. My previous post is a good pointer. I usually stick to soya, which is highly recommended for beginners and comes from a renewable source.

2. The hardest bit: Sourcing a good supplier for:

a.The wax : Hopefully organic. I have found a local supplier who, to boot, doesn’t add any plastic packaging as I have expressly requested them not to. This was my Hallelujah moment.¬†img_8497

b.The wick and metal support: These are usually sold at the same place and here you will get info to select the right sized wick ( yup, depends on the type of wax and diameter of container) for your candle.

Alternatively, you can be like me and learn to make your own wicks ( next post).

c. The Essential oils (EOs) or herbs you would like to add to make your candle smell wonderful or be practical ( ie as a mozzie repellent) – hopefully also organic. Get a few but get good quality – you don’t need to open a shop either, you know! Here are some¬†user-friendly EOs for candle making – chosen primarily for tenacity, low risk, and cost-effectiveness:
lemongrass, geranium, lemon-scented eucalyptus, benzoin, patchouli, ylang ylang, lavandin, lime, orange, spearmint, spruce or pine – and clove and cinnamon bark at low concentrations

A general rule of thumb for quantities = 1/4 oz of fragrance oil per pound of wax – and 1 teaspoon of essential oil per pound of wax.
1 teaspoon is about 5 ml essential oil – depending on viscosity.

3. You need a candy thermometer. Why? Here’s why:

You can’t add EO whenever you feel like it. You need to know something called the flash point:¬†The flash point is the temperature at which a substance can catch fire and burn the liquid.

The flash point of an essential oil must be above 65 degrees Celsius (149 Fahrenheit). If the oil is added in the candle below its flash point, then its scent will be preserved almost intact. Here you can read up on flash points for some more EOs.

4. Get a metal pot, to be used only for candle making, and if with a lip, even better. Make sure it holds double the amount of wax you will use and you can use this ‘bain marie’ (inside another pot with water in it) as melting wax directly on the flame can be extremely dangerous. The ideal temperature of melted wax is between 60 ‚Äď 80 degrees Celsius (140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit). Anything above and the wax will ignite in an instant! So be careful there, because wax is highly flammable. Make¬†sure you have some Sodium Bicarbonate on hand in case of a fire.

4. Get some good, eco, heat proof glue to stick the tab/support to your tuna tin or glass jar.

5. You need as many clothespins as candle receptacles.

12472509_10154513592612652_6798341358205927057_nMethod: Start by putting the wick into the tab/support. With a pair of pliers, squeeze the mouth¬†bit tight around the wick. Alternatively, you can pop some glue into the mouth and stick the wick. This way the mouth won’t be deformed and you can reuse the tab once your candle has been used.¬†Or once¬†melted, dip the wick end into the melted wax (only works for beeswax) and place in the center of your container. Press into the bottom of the container. The beeswax will solidify and hold your wick in place. You can also secure the wick by pouring a bottom layer of wax to cover the wick end and allow to cool while you hold the wick in place. This is a rather frustrating wait.

Pose the tab in the tin and cut off the string about an inch above the rim. You’ll see why in a sec.

Now, stick the prepared wick on to your receptacle with a dab of glue. Prepare all your receptacles like this. Done?

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Wait an hour or so, so that the metal support is tightly stuck to the bottom of your receptacle.

Ta-taaan – see why your wick needed to be longer than you expected? You need a clothespin to hold your wick upright while you pour the wax, you see. Else, as you can imagine, it will fall into the wax and that would be a pain indeed.

I have seen people buying wick supports but frankly, a clothespin does as good a job as any and everyone has some in their home. Why buy unnecessary stuff when you can make do (and perfectly at that ) with what you have?

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Put your wax in bain marie to melt. If you add dried herbs, heat it for at least 45 minutes with the herbs to get the goodness and then pick all the bits off – kinda messy and meh.

Control the temperature with your thermometer. If the wax melts at a higher temperature than the flashpoint of your EO, wait till it cools down before adding the EO and mix well either with your thermometer or a glass wand or wooden stick

Now, VERY carefully, pour the wax into your receptacles.

Wait anything from an hour to 24 hrs for your candles to set and take off the clothespins. Voil√°!

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Look, I simply re-filled a tea-light I also had.

Now to decorate your candles….fun!

Talking of candles…

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Homemade soya candles in tuna tins with homemade paper and raffia string

Talking of candles,¬†aren’t they romantic and cosy? I mentioned them in point 4 of the last post on electricity – why not try blackout night once or twice a week? Detach from electronics, experience how our forefathers lived¬†AND cut the usage of gas, oil and coal used to make electricity.

But did you know that some candles can also be toxic? I mentioned that in the previous post in a very short sentence so I would like to add more info here on this issue.

Fun Facts: Asia Pacific dominated the wax market in terms of volume and revenue in 2013 and is considered a manufacturing hub for major manufacturing industries across the globe; China is the center of the hub Рthis is actually NOT a fun fact as you will see later on. As of 2015, Europe and America are the biggest consumers, followed by China.

Now let’s go back to toxicity in candles for which you will have to understand the constituent parts: The wax, the wick and the scent.

The Wax: Candles can be made from many types of waxes which all have pros and cons:

  • Paraffin wax:¬†Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product that is created from the sludge waste when crude oil is refined into gasoline. Most candles are made from this.¬†It emits black soot loaded with¬†highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes. Sheeeeeesh! Problem is that it is cheap and you get it everywhere- Argh!
  • Palm wax: This may be the longest burning natural, vegetable-derived wax. The candles are virtually smoke-free; almost sootless with a cotton wick but since it is a challenging material to work on, these are costly to buy.
  • Soy wax: Soy is a renewable resource and pure soy wax is toxin-free. The candles, which produce little soot, last a long time.
  • Pure beeswax:¬†Burns clean and long and is the all-natural wax from honeybees The candles are virtually drip-free and no artificial scents are needed. However, the candles are expensive ūüė¶ Draaaaat
  • Bayberry wax:¬†This is an aromatic green vegetable wax. It is removed from the surface of the fruit of the bayberry shrub by boiling the fruits in water and skimming the wax from the surface of the water. Its traditional use in candles dates back to the colonial period. However, tis expensive, as you might have guessed. Parp!
  • Mineral oil and resin compounds: This is the better option for people allergic to paraffin. The candles are clean and the higher melting point means less soot and allergic reactions.
  • Mineral-oil based gel: This is an easier material to handle for candle makers as clear gel makes possible various designs, such as floating beads, glitters, underwater scenes etc. However, these candles¬†must¬†be in heat-resistant glass containers as¬†when the candle comes in a fragile glass container, glass shards and melted wax may explode and cause injury – jeez!

The Wick: Another of the main concerns over candles is the wick. Different wicks are used for different purposes and they can be divided into two main categories: cored and non-cored wicks.

Non-cored wicks are usually made of a braided or twisted cotton and considered the safest to burn.¬†Cored wicks are usually made of cotton around a paper or metal core. Zinc, tin, and lead are standard compounds used in its composition. Burning candles with lead-cored wicks is now known to cause lead poisoning, and there are similar concerns about zinc-cored wicks. Australia and the US have banned lead wicks but alas, most candles are curently coming from countries like China where no such regulations exist ūüė¶

The Scent: Top-of-the-range candles are scented with natural perfumes or essential oils. But since they are costly and difficult to add in large quantities, many of the mass-market products contain synthetic fragrances and sometimes dyes that can give off harmful particles when they are heated.

Bearing in mind that candles are often lit in poorly ventilated rooms, such as bathrooms, or during the evening when windows are likely to be closed, the release of chemicals can cause indoor pollution that is potent enough to raise the  risk of asthma, eczema and  skin complaints.

So, you wail forlornly, “what about blackout night? ” Here is my advice: stick to soya or beeswax – you don’t need to bust the bank buying tons of candles – as these two burn long and well, just a few will get you through many weeks of blackout fun ūüôā Ooooh and, why not MAKE your own candles? They can be so much fun plus you can reutilise containers! Next post!

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Glass jars, old tuna tins and any old tin have been used