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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Candle Making, Heritage Skills, Sarah LeAnn » What Makes a Candle??

What Makes a Candle??


There are several different types of wax available today. ……

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin is a by-product of crude oil and is readily available for sale. It is good for candle making as it is relatively inexpensive (about $1.00/lb) and has a good melt point (135* F) so it burns fairly slow and clean, but can sometimes smoke. But for anyone wanting to make natural or environmentally-friendly candles, this may not be the your best choice.


This wax gets  2 thumbs up on both quality and being environmentally-friendly! The bees make wax-cells in which they store their honey, so it is a natural wax. It has a very high melt-point (150* F) so it burns very slow, clean and does not smoke like other waxes will. But, because of  this, it can be very expensive it buy, if you do not raise bees and harvest your own wax. It has a beautiful natural color and scent, so it does not require additives. It is well worth the money if you are serious about candle dipping.


 The berries of a Bayberry bush or Wax Myrtle can be harvested and boiled to extract a wax that coats the berries naturally. It is a high quality wax also, but the amount of berries required to make enough wax, makes it rather expensive. If you are looking for a way to produce your own wax, planting some Bayberry or Wax Myrtle bushes (they do well in poor, acid soil) would be a great way to do it.


 Tallow was the most common source of wax throughout history and still today in poorer regions of the world. It makes a very poor wax (with a melt point of around 108* F) that smokes horribly and stinks when burning! It often is/was the only wax available. To help with this, other waxes would be mixed with it such as beeswax and Alum would be dissolved and added to it to help firm it and raise the melt-point.

Soy Wax

Made 100% from soy plants, it is completely renewable source of wax, unlike paraffin. It makes 95 % less smoke and soot than paraffin and burns cooler, too. It  generally cost around $ 1.50/lb


Wick is braided cotton string that can be made or bought in certain sizes, depending on the type and size candle you are making. For a regular size ( 1 1/2″) taper candle, you need FLAT BRAID wick, about a 36ply. Most suppliers will have a chart on which size you need to purchase. You can also use hemp or tow to make your own. * Dried mullein leaves can also be used as wick in container candles of  tallow (they burn at the same rate as tallow) by rolling the dry leaves very tight and coating them in the wax. 

Color/ Scent

Commercial scent and dyes can be purchased relatively cheap from any candle-making supplier.   You can also use crayons to color your wax! I am currently experimenting with herb and plant dyes to use in wax. There is very little information available on this, as you can not use the typical methods because they produce water-soluble dyes ( wax and water doesn’t mix).

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Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Filed under: Candle Making, Heritage Skills, Sarah LeAnn

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