Shell Candles

12 01 2016

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I’d love to call this a DIY, but I was so amateur that this may be more helpful as a “what not to do.” Anyway, last Christmas I made soap; this Christmas my DIY was shell candles!

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These beauts were collected on my last trip to Cumberland Island, and I’d wanted to do something with them ever since. Making soap was so easy, I decided making candles would be too. It starts out easy enough:

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Supplies, above, left to right: candle thermometer (which I ended up not using), soy wax shavings, blue dye, candle scent, and wicks.

Online “how to” guides weren’t as comprehensive as soap guides… but it seemed the “real” way to make candles was by melting wax in a double boiler over a stove and using the thermometer to ensure it reaches the exact right temp. That’s too exacting for me! Turns out that soy wax does pretty well in a microwave, and you can even bypass the thermometer.

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I used my giant Pyrex measuring cup (make sure it’s not also used for food), and dumped in a bunch of soy shavings. I attempted to crack one of the blue dye chips in half, not wanting too much blue.

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I melted in intervals; search online for ideas of how long to go at first. Maybe a few minutes, then stir and break it down into much shorter periods until mixed. It starts to turn a gross flaky yellow as it melts. And just when I was worried the dye wouldn’t melt…

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Well, the dye certainly did its job! So much for a “light blue” tint. So lesson #1, use a hell of a lot less of the dye than you think.

I added in some scent, stirred, and let it sit. It’s not good (especially for certain container types) to pour freshly melted wax – too hot. Better to let it sit for several minutes. Here’s where you could still use your candle thermometer. I had a hardware heat gun that mostly gave me an idea just by pointing it at the wax. Think it took about 12 minutes.

While waiting for the wax to cool, assemble your candles. I arranged my shells over a bed of gravel to prop up their ends, because if left to their natural standing state, the liquid wax would drain out of the ends of them.

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Some guides say to glue the wicks in with hot glue; others say the wax will melt that, so use wax itself. I dunno. I went with Epoxy and it worked fine. My wicks had those metal ends to them that you can make lie flat, which was helpful.

Then, pour!

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Well, it works….

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But it was definitely TOO blue. I mean, it kind of looks like that dark blue toilet cleaner stuff:

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So I had the brilliant idea of adding a thin non-dyed layer of wax on top to dilute the blue. Perfect, right?

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Just a bit, no dye this time. It poured in well…

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But as it started drying, it dried so opaque that it became basically white with little bits of dark blue peeking out.

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Still, not the worst effect, just not what I was going for. Once they dried (over a few hours), I used a metal scraper to clean some of the edges where the dark blue rose above the white. Next, I trimmed the wicks so just a small amount rose above the wax.

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Not perfect, but not too bad!

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I noticed the wax sinks a bit right around the wick on some of them. On a couple  I noticed it before drying and tried to add more melty wax to fill it in, but it still collapses. Still don’t know why it does that.

Anyway, the final test remained: would they burn properly, or combust?

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I am pleased to report, they DO burn properly! So it’s a success, though a messily done one.

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Yay! So, lessons learned:
1) Try to find shells that won’t spill wax everywhere when lit.
2) Use much, much less dye than you think you’ll need.
3) Soy wax DOES melt well in a microwave, but that candle thermometer may still come in handy.
4) Even the thinnest layers of wax dry really opaque.

Cheers. 🙂

 

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