Five Green Acres Mary Jo + Andrew Borchardt Poynette, WI
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It’s beginning to smell a lot like Solstice.

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Solstice.
December 18, 2012 Mary Jo

Sweet, vital, enveloping beeswax – it is the defining aroma of the Solstice and the days leading up to it, when big blocks of golden light incarnate are melted down on the woodstove and poured into votive molds to await summoning on Solstice night.  We celebrated our first family Yule by illuminating the night with candles and sharing a meal with friends; this year marks our fourth observance and the ritual remains the same.  Pouring the candles that usher in the special night has quickly become one of my favorite holiday preparations, sometimes one of the few that I hold on to when the chaos spins too wildly.

Should you want to try your hand at making some beeswax candles of your own, (and I hope you do!) I can offer a few resources to get you started.

+ Beeswax is thicker, stickier, and longer-lasting than paraffin or other waxes, so it requires different wick considerations.  Look out – there are seemingly infinite wick options, which make it bit intimidating to puzzle out which is best.  The first year I made candles, I opted for the thrifty route and used cotton string on hand, the way I imagined old-timers would have.  Bad idea – they didn’t burn worth a damn. The following year I bought legitimate wick in a few assorted diameters but failed to note which I used where.  The votives I made burned perfectly, but the chic little vintage jelly jars I filled proved to be too wide of a diameter to burn as well as desired.  This year I’ve made a slew of trusty votives and only one jar candle, as a test case. I might pick up some hemp cord and give that a go, as suggested in the tutorial linked below.  Multiple wicks in each jar make sense, too. + Update + The test jar candle burns well! I used this wick.

+ Here’s what’s worked well: Votives

Mold + Wick Pin + Wick  The wicks are 6″ long, so each one yields two candles with some spare wick tabs.  Clever, you! (Wick pin is totally not necessary, but so clever and handy and great. If those adjectives don’t sway you, skip it and get yourself some poster putty to keep the wick tab stuck to the bottom of the mold when filling, or else it will float to the top)

+ Last year I blew some Christmas gift money on a handy taper mold made for cranking out 6 at a time.  As instructed, I sprayed the insides with a mold release, but still had a helluva time getting those suckers out.  Even after leaving them outside to chill/shrink overnight. Even after some profanity.  The resulting candles were cracked and thus, garbage. I might try it again, this year spraying the piss out of the mold before pouring in the wax. The few good tapers I got seemed to burn well enough with this wick+ Update + Perfect, uniform, easy-to-extract candles by simply applying that mold release very, very heavily. Well! Making more today.

+ To hedge my bets, I’m also trying my hand at dipping tapers. (not tapirs) I hadn’t done this since the days of youth 4-H camp.   Now that I think about it, the smell of hot wax unfailingly transports me directly to the craft cabin of Camp Bird, where we made all manner of campy crafts – rainbow-dipped candles, sand candles, the ubiquitous lanyard bracelets.  Good, good stuff.  So I set up a hack operation last night and tried dipping 4 candles at once.  They came out looking like gnarled witch fingers, prompting me to take a few steps back and research how they’re legitimately made.  Here’s a good start for you and me alike: Hand-Dipped Taper Tutorial  + Update + Made two sets of two tapers over the course of 45 minutes.  It was tedious (45 minutes for only 4 candles!) and the resulting tapers were bumpy and weird.  Surely that would improve with practice, but considering the roaring success of the taper mold (see above) I think I shan’t ever again hand-dip a candle, save for historical reenactment purposes.

Whatever the results, the house smells indescribably good.



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