Friday 26 November 2021

Caveman Candles

Are you looking for something to make with the kids during the Christmas holiday? This is one of my favourite winter-time craft projects.

I learned to make these candles in Girl Guides. It was a simple enough project that it could be completed within the course of a single meeting and still have time left over to do other stuff, but to 10-year-old me it was pure magic. 

I've been making them ever since, and that's a LONG time!

Back in the day, we began our project by sprinkling glitter over the inside of the candle mold, and we made the candle with Parowax; a petroleum product. Parowax has a low melting and setting point and it's pure white, giving the candles the appearance of melting ice. These days I leave out the glitter (it's not biodegradeable) and I use beeswax instead of Parowax. The finished candles aren't as sparkly or pretty looking as the Parowax ones were but they sure smell wonderful, scenting the air with honey as they burn. 

The colour of the beeswax and the holes that honeycomb the finished candles reminded my husband of Tafoni, a coastal sandstone formation. Tafoni stone is intricately carved by the ocean into organic shapes with round or hexagonal indentations. (You should Google it and look at the photos. It's really cool.) With stone in mind, he dubbed these "Caveman Candles." The name stuck.

The supplies for this project are really basic.  You'll need:
  • beeswax and a tin to melt it in
  • a saucepan
  • a milk carton 
  • a pencil 
  • a candle wick
  • scissors
  • ice cubes
Ordinarily, I use braided cotton candlewick that comes in a coil. Unfortunately candlemaking supplies are really hard to come by here right now.  I did manage to find wax coated wicks with the little metal tabs on the bottom. They worked.

Begin by melting the wax. Put the wax in the tin and put the tin in a saucepan with some water.  Heat the water to a simmer and keep the tin in the water until the wax melts.

I used a pair of pliers to make a spout on the tin before putting the wax in. It's totally optional but my hands are very shaky so the spout makes pouring much less messy.

While the wax is melting, cut the top off the milk carton so you have a rectangular container with roughly level edges all around.  

Wind the wick around the pencil and then use the pencil to suspend the wick at mid-point in the carton.

Carefully fill the carton with ice cubes, being careful not to displace the wick. The ice cylinders with hollow middles that you buy in a bag from a freezer at the grocery store work best for this project but, really, any ice cubes will do. The effect will vary according to the shape of the ice cubes you use.. 

I don't have an icemaker and my freezer is too small to accommodate a bag of ice so I had to improvise. When the wax was melted, I left it in the hot water to keep it liquid while I ran to the MacDonald's on the corner and got a cup full of ice. MacDonald's used to use those hollow ice cylinders, but no more.  Now they use small flat chips of ice. They leave smaller holes in the wax so the finished candle is a little different but still not awful.

Pour the melted wax over the ice until the carton is almost full. The wax will begin to set up almost immediately and should harden completely within an hour.  

When the wax has hardened, unwind the wick from the pencil and cut away the milk carton. There will be water inside from the melted ice so it's probably best to do this step over a sink. 

Once the candle is unmolded a put it on a rack in the sink to dry. 

Once all the water has drained out and the candle has dried, it's ready to use. When you light it and let it burn down so the flame sinks below the top of the candle, the light will carry through the holes in the wax, making a soft and varied light.  Kids love that.  

Happy crafting!  If you make some of these candles over the holidays, I'd love to see them. You're welcome to share photos of your projects on my Facebook page.

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