My dad raised honey bees when I was growing up so we had a lot of wax. One year, my mom and dad bought some molds and we cast candles. For wicks, we used heavy cotton string. When you put string in hot liquid wax, capillary action occurs and the wax is “wicked” into the string. The candle then cools and away you go. Now I had pretty much forgotten about this for about 20 years until I saw our growing collection of almost empty candles or candles in glass bottles that had burned the way around wick but left a ton of wax on the jar walls. It was one of those “Gee, I bet I can fix that” moments.
Here are some supplies and tools to gather up: #36 cotton twine (it has to be cotton and not a synthetic), a washer to serve as weight, gloves to handle the hot containers, needlenose piers, a screw driver, cutters and a piece of cardboard to protect the table in case I spilled wax.
Also, your work area should be near the microwave. The counter I used was about eight feet away. Make sure there are no trip/fall hazards between the microwave and work area and that you have a drop cloth, piece of card board, newspaper or something to deal with spatters and spills. You do not need to be in a rush – indeed, take your time!! It takes wax a while to cool off. I just want the work center close by to reduce the chances of dropping the hot wax.
So, step by step if you just want to melt the wax down into the bottom and add a new wick:
- Use a cloth to firmly rub the glass rim and remove any waxy soot (the black junk on the glass). It will come off.
- If the current metal weight/anchor is exposed, remove it with your needlenose pliers. If you don’t, you’ll see arching in your microwave and potentially hurt the microwave. Seriously, this is not a joke – you can ruin your microwave my putting exposed metal in it.
- Microwave the candle in the glass jar until it all melts. The time to melt will depend on the formulation of the wax, how strong your microwave is and how much wax there is. On one candle it took about 5-6 minutes and on another it was much longer. Go for a minute, check, go for a minute, check, over and over – don’t try and do it all at once. You don’t want molten wax bubbling all over inside your microwave as it will be a HUGE mess to clean. Have you ever heated water too much in a microwave and had it bubble over everywhere? This is the same thing but when the wax cools it is a bear to get off. So, be careful and go slow. Don’t heat it any more than you need to.
- Tie a weight to the end of the string so it will sink to the bottom – I used an old washer I had laying on my bench
- Take the candle out wearing gloves. The glass can be very hot so you don’t want to get burned or drop the molten wax as it will be a bear to clean up. Just be careful and have a good grip. I wear lined work gloves. You only need to hold the container long enough to get it from the microwave to your work area that should be close by.
- If you haven’t done so already, use your pliers and remove the old wick.
- lower the weighted end of the string into the center of the candle. When the string bends, it has reached the bottom so lift up slightly until the string is straight
- Lay your screw driver or something else across the mouth of the jar and make sure the string is still centered. Put something on the ball of string / extra string so it stays in position. I found I could move the ball around and the weight of the ball was usually enough. Another time I put a pair of pliers across the string so the weight of the pliers would hold the string in place.
Now if you want to consolidate candles, do the above to the first candle, let it cool (if you want), and then heat the next candle and poor it into the first one. Don’t forget to remove the old wick and weight. Take your time, be safe, the wax will not cool fast. So here is the second candle. The wick weight is buried under the wax so I will remove it once the wax is molten. If it were exposed or close to the surface, I would dig it out.
Here is is after I melted it, removed the anchor and poured it into the first candle.
After a little over an hour, the candle has cooled enough that I could cut the wick. The wick will burn down to whatever height the wax can reach and burn so don’t worry about it being too long. You do need to be patient and let it cool or you will make a big mess while trying to cut it (I made that mistake with another candle where it looked solid but was still way too soft and I made a mess). You just need to be patient and let it cool all the way is the bottom line.
That’s it. I like this kind of stuff. It’s a great distraction from the normal work. You can combine waxes, try different thicknesses of cotton string, etc. Have fun!
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Note, go to Ace or your local hardware store for the cotton string. It should be $4-6 for a ball that will last you a long time considering you are using maybe 6″ at a time.