Yesterday I spent the day making beeswax candles. This is a Christmas tradition at Joybilee Farm. The house fills with the honey-sweet smell of melting beeswax. The warm glow of natural, unfiltered beeswax is beautiful even in a messy house.
Health Benefits of Beeswax Candles
Unlike paraffin wax which is a toxic, petroleum-based wax, beeswax gives health benefits.
- Beeswax burns clean
- It has the highest melting point of any wax
- The flame is smokeless
- It gives off more light than any other wax
- Virtually drip-less if kept away from drafts or fans
- Burns slower and longer than paraffin candles
- Renewable and sustainable resource
- Normally smokeless – Any smoke that is produced is pure carbon without toxic byproducts
- Has a sweet natural scent, no need to add synthetic fragrances to natural beeswax
- Emits negative ions when burning – cleans the air of positive ions (particles such as dust, dander, allergens, odours and toxins are positively charged)
- Cleans the air of odours naturally without emitting toxic chemicals
- Only wax that exists in nature
- Burns without producing soot, won’t harm your lungs
- Reduces stress
- Lifts mood
Although beeswax candles seem to cost more, since they burn longer they are a better value for your money.
What goes into the making of a beeswax candle?
To produce enough beeswax for a pair of 11-inch taper candles, bees must travel 50,000 miles visit 11 million flowers and make 3 1/2 lbs. of honey. Beeswax is a byproduct of honey making. The hive produces 10 lbs of honey for every lb of wax. The wax is excreted by the bee’s abdomen and formed into a honeycomb. The honeycomb is the storage cellar for the honey. Bees make honey for their own food and a winter food supply. However, bees often abandon their hive if it gets too filled with honey, so the beekeeper needs to harvest a portion to keep the bees happy. This excess is where we get organic honey. To harvest a portion of the honey, the beekeeper takes just the cap wax from the comb, and this is the wax that is cleaned for beeswax. The wax varies in colour depending on the flowers that the bees gather pollen from. White beeswax has had the pollen removed by ultra-filtering. You’ve probably seen beeswax tapers for sale at high-end shops, craft fairs, or art gallery gift shops. They are exquisite, burn clean, and make a wonderful gift. You can make your own if you have a source of natural beeswax. In this tutorial, I teach you how to make another kind of beeswax candle, a luminary that echoes the shape of the full moon, and casts a romantic glow on the snow along with your walkways. Or add its beautiful, peaceful glow to your table by supporting it on a ceramic plate.
How to make a beeswax candle luminary
- Large water balloons
- Water to fill the balloons half full
- 1 kg. of bee’s wax – each luminary takes 60 grams of beeswax but you need excess wax to cover the balloon to a good depth.
- Tea lights to put inside the luminaries. — If you are burning these in your house get beeswax tea lights. If you are burning them outside, paraffin tea lights can substitute.
- Tin Can that can be sacrificed to wax. — You want the mouth of the can to be large enough to take the water-filled balloon without the balloon dragging against the side of the can while dipping.
- A pot that will hold water and the can of wax — don’t use your best cookware for this, the wax tends to spill from the can and mess up the pot with wax.
- A heat source to boil water and melt the wax. I use my wood cook-stove.
Steps to make beeswax luminaries
1. Melt wax in a can inside a pot of boiling water, over medium heat. Beeswax melts at a higher temperature than other waxes so you need the water at almost boiling to be successful. Keep an eye on it as beeswax is flammable. Don’t try to melt beeswax directly over a heat source. If it boils over it can cause a fire. Don’t leave the pot unattended.
2. While the wax is melting fill enough large water balloons half-full to use as a form. Vary the fullness of the water balloons if you want to vary the size of your finished luminary. When you add hot wax the water inside the balloon will expand, so don’t fill them too full.
3. Now you are ready to begin dipping the water balloon into the wax. Hold the water balloon by the knot. Eyeball a place on the balloon above the curve of the widest point. This will be your dip line. While holding the balloon securely, gently dip the balloon into the wax, just to the imaginary dip line. Lift it out of the wax, while holding the balloon just above the melted wax, and let the excess wax drip back into the wax can.
4. Dip the balloon in this manner at least 4 times, each time lifting the balloon above the can and allowing the excess wax to fall back into the can. Once the wax has hardened on the balloon, which doesn’t take long, place the balloon on a piece of kitchen parchment paper to cool and harden completely, while you dip the other balloons in the same manner.
5. Each time you place the wax-dipped balloon on the parchment paper press it down lightly to form a level bottom. This is very important. If the bottom is not level when you place the tea light into the luminary it won’t be level and the flame, sitting at an angle, will burn the lip of the luminary, melting it.
6. Go back to the first balloon and dip again 4 times, in the same way. Once the dripping has stopped, place it again on the parchment paper to cool and harden, while you dip the other balloons.
7. Cool all balloons, while you get the water in your pot back to a high simmer and increase the temperature of the wax slightly. For the final 2 dippings, you want the wax hotter to create a smooth surface. If the wax cools it will make a rippled, bumpy surface. Beeswax at the correct temperature will leave a smooth even surface on your luminary.
8. Form the bottom of the luminary again when you place it on the parchment paper to cool. Allow to cool completely, so there is no warmth to your touch. Your luminary now has 10 layers of bee’s wax.
9. Holding the luminary over the sink, gently cut the knot from the balloon. The water, which is under pressure from the wax, will spurt so don’t hold the balloon where spurting water will cause damage. The balloon will expel the water and shrivel away from the wax so that you can remove it easily.
10. Trim the top of the luminary with scissors to create a smooth, even wax edge. You can remelt excess wax for further candle making adventures.
11. Add a tea light to the luminary. Before lighting prop up the wick so that it burns upright rather than to the side.
12. If you burn the wax luminary in the house, place it on a non-combustible plate or candle holder. The lip of the luminary may melt as the tea light is burning, depending on how narrow the opening is. You can also burn the luminary outside in the snow, especially effective during on a night like tonight, during the full moon.
The colour of the luminary echoes the eclipse of the full moon, which is happening tonight or very early tomorrow morning depending on where you live. (Blood moon lunar eclipse at 6 am on December 10th, 2011 — it was beautiful.)
Of course, use precautions when burning candles — never leave an open flame unattended. Keep away from children. Once I caused a fire in my dining room by leaving burning candles on the table, while I entertained guests in the living room. I was using wooden candle holders and the paraffin candles dripped down over the wooden candle holder. When the candle burned down, which happens more quickly with paraffin candles, it caught the whole thing on fire and flames leaped up, creating eerie shadows on the dining room wall.
Thankfully I saw the eerie shadows and grabbed the whole thing into a table cloth and heaved it outside into the snow before any serious damage was done. Never leave an open flame unattended, just saying. Beeswax candles are safer than paraffin candles because they don’t drip, and they burn at a higher temperature. So this kind of issue shouldn’t happen in the same way.
You can buy beeswax from your local honey grower. Expect it to be more expensive than honey because the bees make more honey than they make wax.
Want to try to make your own candle wicking?
Here’s a tutorial that will show you how. The candle wick is the heart of the candle and your investment in candle wicking will ensure the success, of your candle making venture. You can make your own non-toxic candle wicks following the easy steps in this tutorial, whether you want to hand spin your own linen or begin with commercial threads.
Be inspired with more beeswax recipes from my book The Beeswax Workshop:
Beeswax is easy to work with and a versatile ingredient for DIY Perfumes, salves, and personal care products. It’s not just for candles, even though DIY candles are wonderful, too. Grab my book The Beeswax Workshop , and learn more about this amazing ingredient.