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Wick Ed: A Candle Craft How-To

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Photos by Francisco Nunez  /  Produced by Ina Jacobe

From spas to houses of worship, candles have been known to welcome peace and reflection into many environments. Light a candle at home and it acts as a “Do Not Disturb” sign, the commune of which you can enjoy while listening to an old jazz playlist or in an intimate dinner with someone special.

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Perhaps a more personal candle is the candle you make yourself. As a single mom working insurance, Milge Espinosa crafts candles to de-stress. “I wanted a way to express my creativity. Candle-making helps me do that,” says Milge, who also sells customized decorative candles via her label CanDelights. “I have to constantly think of ways to design and innovate my candles to give them a good quality burn and look unique.”

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THE START got Milge to do a step-by-step in creating your own candles at home. Of course, the most fulfilling part is getting to light the candle during one of your darker days.

Choose your wax. The most commonly used and traditional type of wax is paraffin, which is affordable and melts quickly. Otherwise, soy wax is a slow-burning and eco-friendly alternative.

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“I use both paraffin and soy wax as well as blended soy,” shares Milge. “I prefer soy wax, though—it is a lot more expensive than paraffin but it burns 20-50% longer and gives a good scent throw. It is also renewable and all natural since it is derived from soybeans, whereas paraffin is derived from petroleum.”

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Wax can be a bother to remove once spilled so prepare a crafting area accordingly. Use newspaper, old rags, or wax paper to cover the surface you’re working on.

“Pay attention to safety measures,” says Milge, who warns never to melt wax in direct heat. Instead, create a double boiler by filling a large pot halfway with water and placing a smaller pot within to melt the wax in.

Once your work area and equipment is ready, prepare your wax by cutting and shredding it small chunks or shavings. Of course, smaller pieces of wax are quicker to melt.

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Place the small pieces of wax in the smaller pot. Turn the heat up on your burner until the water comes to a boil.

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Once the wax begins to melt, use a thermometer to keep track of its temperature. If using paraffin, wax needs to be melted until its temperature is between 122 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (50 and 60 degrees Celsius). If using soy wax, the range is 170 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit (or 76.6 to 82.2 degrees Celsius).

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Should you choose to, it is now the perfect time to add oil-based coloring, as well as scent to your candles. “There are holiday scents, fruity ones, and floral ones,” says Milge of the fragrant possibilities for your candles. 

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Using double-stick tape, set your wick at the center of a mold that can withstand heat, be it a mason jar or old coffee mug. Make sure two inches of wick are sticking out once the wax is poured. So it stands straight once you pour, you may steady the wick between two sticks.

Milge recommends as a good resource for wicks, essential oils, and other candle craft supplies. Otherwise, wicks can be purchased at Divisoria.

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Pour the melted wax into your chosen mold and let cool for at least 24 hours. Once set, remove the solidified wax from the mold and trim the excess wick so that just a quarter of an inch remains sticking out of the candle. This creates a smaller, more manageable flame.

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Now you’re ready to let that candle burn through a special evening of sweetness or solitude.

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