Introduction: Ice Candles
While helping my wife get things organized for her Girl Scout event, we began experimenting with ice candles as a fun little activity for the 60-odd girls that would be attending. Of course, the first thing we did was ask our daughter how she did it, because, well, she had done this before in a previous Girl Scout gathering. Her answer was, of course, "I don't remember", so we headed for the internet!
There is a wealth of information with regards to candle making online, and ice candles are no exception. We got the general idea from sites both informal (usually a 4-step process) and professional (25-40 steps, if you can believe it). The problem was, no matter how in-depth the site was on the process (they were all easy to understand and follow), no one site actually talked about the nuances and tweaks we found were necessary to make it work smoothly for what would be 60 girls in a two-hour time span.
Now, you can get as complicated or as simple as you wish. I made two candles last night. One was a single-pour ice candle, while the other involved a second pour with two colors of wax. The single pour model, which is what Kim will be teaching to the girls today, used a simple cardboard, half-pint milk carton as a form, while mine used a mold from our candle making supplies which can be cheaply purchased from any craft or hobby store.
Now, before we begin, I feel the need to mention that paraffin is a very flammable substance! Yes, it is easy to melt and to pour, but it does have a flash point (the point at which a substance will catch fire).
- Paraffin wax ignites at 199°C (390°F)
- Paraffin wax with additives ignites at higher temps, usually 249°C (480°F)
- This shouldn't be a problem, as paraffin begins to melt above 37 °C (99 °F)
Now, I used a commercially available melter designed specifically for candle making. Many home enthusiasts use a double-boiler, as it will allow you to melt on the stovetop without hitting those dangerous temperatures. It should also be noted that, as paraffin exceeds 127°C (261°F), it will begin to turn brown and smell bitter. What I'm getting at here is do not try to melt wax in a pan directly on your stovetop or other heat source unless it is specifically designed for melting wax!
One last note on safety: Paraffin, when ignited, acts like any other petroleum product as it burns. Do not pour water over it, as this will cause an explosion!!! Shut off the heat source and place a lid over the fire to smother it!
Okay! Enough boring stuff! Let's make some candles!
Step 1: A Quick Note on Materials. . .
As I said before, the materials to do this are readily available and pretty cheap, depending how you want to go. You can get paraffin from your local grocery store (or anywhere else that sells canning supplies), or just melt down old candles for their wax!
The pictures show both ways to set up the candle mold, whether you want to use a commercially-produced mold, or just go for the total cheap. Whichever way you go, it is very important that you have the wick anchored in some manner to the bottom of the mold, because when you pour the ice in, it is going to push the wick around. You want to keep the wick as close to the center of the container as you possibly can throughout the process, to make for a more even-burning candle.
Commercially-produced molds already have a way to anchor the wick, so you won't have much of a problem there. With the milk carton, I used a hot-glue gun to put a dollop of glue on the bottom of the wick keeper to hold it in place. The candle wax does not get hot enough to melt the hot glue, so it will hold well through the process.
When tying the wick, you will need to make it as taut as you possibly can, also to keep it centered in the candle. This will take some practice. A curvy wick will not make for even burning.
Step 2: Getting Violent. . .
Now we need to crush some ice. I put some cubes in a freezer bag and went to town with a rolling pin. The size of the ice you use will determine the shape of the candle. If you go to big, you will have massive caverns. This may not be a bad thing if you intend to do a second pour. Smaller pieces lead to smaller cavities that will be isolated from one another, which will not allow wax to get in, should you want to pour to fill. As you can see from the pic, I went for a middle ground, with chunks and total crush.
Step 3: First, the Ice. . .
As I mentioned before, keeping the wick centered and tight is crucial to an even-burning candle. Loosely fill to the top. Remember, the wax will melt the ice as it pours in, but not completely, as it will also begin to solidify around it.
Step 4: Then, the Wax. . .
Okay, now for the main event. Pour the wax down the center of the candle, letting it flow close to the wick. Ice candles, because they are not completely solid, will tend to burn more quickly than regular candles. Pouring the wax down the center of the candle will form a shaft of wax around the wick, extending the candle's burn time. Carefully fill the molds to just below the top and then set aside to cool.
Step 5: Pour Out the Water. . .
After letting the wax cool (a process made faster by the melting ice inside), pour out the water and then set the candle upside-down on a plate or tray with a paper towel to catch any drips. This could take a little while, as there are a lot of nooks and crannies to hide in. The whole cooling/draining time for these candles was about 45 minutes.
Step 6: Wait. What Was the Crayon For?
For basic ice candles, you are done, minus some extra drying time. For one of my candles, though, I decided to do a second pour. Along with a little more wax, I melted part of a turquoise crayon, to give this pour some relief from the main body of the candle. Crayons are nothing more than colored wax, and will melt easily and evenly with the rest of the batch (though you will have to stir it a bit with a popsicle stick to get the color even. Pick the biggest ice cavern visible on the bottom of the candle and slowly begin pouring to fill. Stop when you get an even flow of wax on top of the first pour (see pic).
Step 7: Aaaaand, There We Go. . .
That's it! Let your wax solidify long enough, then remove the candle from the mold. You can just peel the milk carton off of the candle. Usually, when using the commercially-made molds, they will just pull out (assuming you do not have one of those wonky, odd-shaped molds that require a judicious application of the Force to make the wax release). Because water was involved in the process, it is best to let these sit for 24 hours and let the wicks dry out thoroughly. Trim the wicks to about a quarter of an inch, and you're all done!
Please comment accordingly with questions, or to just tell us how things worked!