Wednesday, April 15, 2020

dipping candles

I spend a lot of time at home because that's where I work, but now I'm spending more time at home, slowly even getting around to some projects that I once planned and never…

I have blocks of beeswax that are at least 25 years old. I have a roll of wicking left from the one time I made candles. I still have the tomato juice can I must have bought for its candle-dipping height, because I don't drink tomato juice. I don't dislike it, but I wouldn't put it on my desert island list. Or crave it during a pandemic.

I even have the old computer box to hang the skewers tied with the wicks. The candles need to hang between dips.

Memories. That was my first laptop, a Gateway, that I took with me to the Banff Writing Studio in 2007. So it was probably around then that I last made candles.

What I remembered about candle-making: beeswax is highly flammable. The can of wax shouldn't be put directly on the stove but in a hot water bath.

What I forgot: how LONG it takes a tomato-juice can of wax to melt. Almost 2 hours? And because it's so flammable, I couldn't leave it unattended. By the time I could begin dipping, the idea that this would be relaxing had dissipated.

Dipping takes a while too. Layers of melted wax need to accumulate before you have a candle. The repeated motion of dipping the wick into the wax, up and over to the box to hang to dry, next skewer up and over into the wax--all the time working carefully because you're doing this at the stove and wax is flammable--can give you tennis wrist and elbow and shoulder.

I stopped when the level of the wax got too low for continued dipping. I put the box aside for more dipping another one of these at-home days.

Since I didn't have any wax dye at home, I dropped a couple of oil pastels into the remaining wax to see if they would dissolve. They did! Part of being at home is figuring out what will make do.

I poured that wax into greased milk carton bottoms.

I won't wait 25 years to finish the candles. I can't. The box is on the floor in the way.

The best part was the fragrance of the melting wax and how the wax turned the colour of honey as it liquified.

And how lovely the candles will smell when they're burning.


  1. Mmmm. I can smell it from here.

  2. This is lovely, Alice. "The best part was the fragrance of the melting wax and how the wax turned the colour of honey as it liquified." We were talking the other day about handwork and how it part of a woman's life, even if it isn't (if that makes sense). For some men, too -- yes. But not in the way that it's always been part of our lives. Sewing, cooking, baking, and finding something subversively satisfying in this work. It's interesting to me that so many men are now baking sourdough bread because they're at home and they have time. Ha. They're discovering something women have always known.

    1. Thank you, Theresa.
      I believe I'm fortunate to have known a few men who do 'domestic' work with skill, even pleasure.