Candle making waxes - which type?
If you are new to candle-making, then you may be a little overwhelmed by the number of different types of waxes available on the market. we hope this article will give you a better understanding of the different types of paraffin waxes used in candle making, and the type of candles they are best suited to.
Paraffin wax is a by-product of the petroleum refining industry. The waxes are generally categorised by their 'melt point'. The melt point is the temperature at which a wax will turn from a solid to liquid. They fall into 3 categories: High melt point, Medium melt point and low melt point. Each one has different characteristics, making them suitable for different applications.
Low melt point wax approx (40-54 degrees C)
This wax is best suited to container candles. It's soft and has good adhesive qualities, so it doesn't shrink from the sides of containers as it cools. The small amount of shrinkage has the added advantage of often only requiring one-pour, with no top up needed. The softness and adhesive qualities make this wax unsuitable for moulded candles. It doesn't have the rigidity to support and maintain a rigid pillar shape, and it won't release from a mould as easily as a wax that has a greater shrinkage when it cools. You will often find this wax sold as 'container wax' and is great for candle jars, filled glass containers, tea lights or any candle not designed to be removed from its container before burning.
Medium Melt Point Wax approx (54-65 degrees C)
Not as soft as container wax, but still doesn't have the rigidity to maintain a large pillar shape without the aid of additives, this wax is best suited to container candles and smaller moulded candles such as votive.
High Melt Point Wax approx (65-75 degrees C)
A strong, hard wax that lends itself to moulded and pillar candles. It has quite a bit of shrinkage as it cools, so naturally pulls away from the sides slightly, helping to release the candle from the mould. The down side is it will need 'topping up', probably a couple of times as the wax cools and shrinks, leaving a dip around the wick.
Buy Paraffin Wax
Manufacturers often blend waxes to suit certain applications. They will give a guide to the type of candles best suited, and provide the melt temperature and recommended pouring temperature of their wax.
A blend of refined paraffin wax and stearin is often available to candle makers. This wax contains the additive 'stearin' which hardens the wax making it possible to create pillar and moulded candles, and also helps the release from the mould. The addition of stearin however, makes this wax unsuitable for rubber moulds. Stearin will react with the rubber, perishing it.
Buy Blended Wax
This soft wax is usually available in a rainbow of pre-coloured sheets.
It's very malleable and adheres well to other waxes. Appliqué wax
isn't used to make candles - It's used for decorative finishes. This
wax is easy to cut with cookie cutters, sugar craft cutters or simply
with scissors or a knife. This opens up a whole world of interesting
shapes and textures, especially if using embossed sugar craft cutters.
Store appliqué wax between layers of greaseproof paper to stop the sheets from bonding with each other.
Buy Applique Wax
Modelling wax is easily obtained from most candle making suppliers. It's available in pre-coloured blocks and although it feels quite hard and rigid when you first hold it, it will soften with the heat of your hands as you knead it. Modelling wax is strong enough to hold it's shape, without being so hard that it cracks if you try to bend it. This wax can be used to make all manner of shapes from toadstools to pine cones to characters. You are only limited by your imagination!
Modelling wax doesn't adhere to other waxes readily, so bonding wax or glue may be needed to attach decorations to candles.
Bonding wax is a tacky, soft wax that adheres to most surfaces quite readily. It looks a bit like thick Vaseline, but rolls between the fingers without too much trouble. Bonding wax is used to anchor sustainers to the base of containers, for applying decorations to the outside of finished candles, or for tacking light items such as skeleton leaves to the inside of containers before pouring. Bonding wax is a real must-have in any candle makers tool chest.