When I was a child growing up in New England, I attended “Colonial Camp” at Nathan Hale Homestead, home of the Revolutionary War hero. At this camp, we learned how to dip candles, and it gave me a deep appreciation for the “old way” of doing things. So much, in fact, that I would walk around my house, turn off all the lights, and light the candles. It cast a soft glow throughout the house.
Nothing replaces the relaxing glow of a candle, especially during the darkest days of winter. But, store-bought candles can be wildly expensive and contain unnatural chemicals that contribute to air pollution. Here’s the lowdown on candle dipping so you can enjoy the clean warmth of homemade candles all winter long.
The ancient history of candle dipping
Thomas Edison didn’t come around until the 18oos, so for centuries before the incandescent light bulb was invented, civilizations across the globe relied on candlelight.
From the Ancient Romans to Asian and Indian cultures, many societies have used candlelight, but the practice of candle dipping–and the materials used–differed throughout time and place. In 500 BC, the Ancient Romans made candles out of tallow wax, and candles in Asia were typically made from whale fat. By the time the 1700s rolled around, Colonial America was using mostly tallow or beeswax for their candles.
Why beeswax is the best for candles
Many store-bought candles contain paraffins, which pollute the air and leave mucky soot. Beeswax is a much cleaner, more sustainable way to craft candles as it’s non-toxic and all-natural.
Furthermore, beeswax candles have a longer burn time than traditional paraffin candles, lasting up to five hours for a tiny tealight.
What you need for beeswax candle dipping
You can get these at your local candle supplies store or craft store.
Wicking—make sure it is a good thickness (12-ply flat braid is always a good bet)
At least 1.5 lb. of beeswax (this will make about 20 taper candles)
Two tall, narrow metal containers or candle pots
A tall bucket of cold water
A cooling rack
A steel nut or weight
- Place the 1.5 lb. block of beeswax in one of the long metal containers over the stove on high to melt the wax.
- Fill the second container with cold water and place beside the wax pot.
- Cut a desired length of the candle wicking (the length of your wick should be however long you want your candle to be!).
- Tie both ends of the wicking to steel nuts. These act as a weight to keep the wicking straight when you go to dip!
- Once the wax is melted, dip both ends of the wicking into the wax, going back and forth between the hot wax and the cold water until you see enough wax build up on the wicking.
- Once you have a full candle, take a pair of scissors and cut the nut from the bottom of each candle. Dunk each candle one or two more times to round off the bottoms of the candles.
- Voila! Now you have sustainable, clean, homemade candles that will last all season.