I remember making dip candles for as long as I can remember. Whether at a summer troop meeting or most often at camp, dip candles were a welcome craft that I loved. It’s a remarkably easy process that even the younger girls can do with some supervision. All materials are available at your local craft store and are relatively inexpensive. You can even substitute the wax with old broken crayons, though they do have a distinct smell to them.
Remember that many times these candles are not intended for practical use – the girls put a lot of time into dipping them in the different colors to make creative layers and shapes. These are best kept on a shelf and dusted off once in a while as a camp keepsake!
- ½ lb. paraffin wax, plain
- Old wooden spoon (don’t plan on using it with food again)
- metal coffee cans (one for each color you plan to make)
- a pot full of water large enough to hold the coffee cans (you’re making a double boiler, here)
- A heat source – this can be your stove, a camp stove, or portable burners.
- wicks, your choice of length (1″ of wick makes about a 1″ candle)
- coloring chips (you can use color chips or liquids bought at your craft store or use old crayons with the papers removed)
- Most of the time the plain paraffin wax comes in blocks, so chop it up into smaller pieces (about 1″) for faster, easier melting.
- Fill the pot with water and heat on medium to a gentle boil.
- Place the wax into the coffee can and carefully insert it into the water.
- Stir the wax until it is completely melted. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should be 160°F.
- Turn the heat down; keep the water warm enough to keep the wax melted and about the same temperature.
- Add the coloring a little at a time until you’ve reached the shade of the color you want. You want the melted wax to be a shade darker than your final result because it will lighten up a little when it’s dry.
- Repeat steps 1-6 simultaneously if you want to prepare different colors.
- While an adult has been preparing steps 1-6, the younger girls can be cutting their wicks to the desired lenghts. There are metal discs you can buy in the candle aisle at the craft store to start the candles on, or you can just tie a small knot into the bottom end of the candle.
- Be sure to leave an extra inch on the wick for extra finger space to hold while dipping. The excess can be cut off once the candle cools.
- To start the candle, dip the wick in the wax for a few seconds to build it up around the knot.
- Continue dipping the wick into the wax until you’ve built up your desired candle. Leave at least 30 seconds in between dips for the wax to begin drying, or else you’ll end up dipping for a long time and just remelting the same layer.
- Once your candle is done but still warm, an adult can take a sharp knife and cut off the bottom to create a level sitting surface for the candle. Another technique is to set the candle on a flat surface and mold the still warm wax slightly to form a base.
- Set the candles aside to dry and set for a few hours. If this activity is done at camp, it’s best to let the girls have them later in the afternoon or the next day. If done at a troop meeting, you can either give the warm candles to the parents who pick them up to continue drying or pack them up carefully and give the finished candles to the girls at the next troop meeting.
- Never leave the girls unattended with the hot wax or sharp knife.
- Never leave the hot wax alone.
- Do not heat the wax above 275°F.
- Never let wax come in contact with flames. If you develop a wax fire, treat it as you would a grease fire. Do not throw water on it. Use a fire extinguisher (type ABC) or if it is contained in a pan, cover with a lid, extinguish any heat source and leave the lid in place until the area has cooled.
- Always use the double boiler water method to reduce the risk of wax fires.
- Remember to replenish the water in the pot as it evaporates keeping the wax melted.
- Do not pour the wax down the drain; it will block them.
Remember that the wax can be reused for candles at another time – that’s the beauty of using old coffee cans instead of pots for the double boiler. Just let the wax cool and dry inside and set them aside where children can’t get to them. The next time you’re ready for candle making, use an old chisel or ice pick and chop up the wax in the can for easier remelting.
Another great method that I learned once at camp is making ice candles, but we’ll leave that for another time