Brighten the holidays

  • To make your own candles, you'll need paraffin wax, cotton string, weights, hangers and a double boiler. Sarah Kinney—Monitor staff

  • To spare your pots from waxy residue, consider repurposing recyclables to melt wax in.

  • Once your candles are thick enough that they don't need the weights anymore, trim the bottom. Then continue dipping. Sarah Kinney—Monitor staff

  • Hang the candles to let them cool and the wax harden between dips.

  • You'll need eight candles for a Chanukah menorah. Sarah Kinney photos /Monitor staff

  • LEFT: Hang candles to cool and harden in between dips and work in a rotation. RIGHT: You can use diced crayons to dye the wax. An Advent wreath, which counts down the four Sundays before Christmas, requires three purple and one pink candle. Sarah Kinney photos / Monitor staff

  • Package tapers in pairs to give as gifts.

LiveWell editor
Published: 12/1/2016 2:03:50 PM

As autumn turns to winter and days grow shorter, people around the world celebrate the light.

Diwali, the festival of light, was celebrated in October by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

Christians count down the weeks until Christmas by lighting weekly candles during Advent.

Jewish people will celebrate Chanukah from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, marking the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and a miracle of enough oil for one day lasting a week.

On Dec. 21, the day will be the shortest of the year, the winter solstice. Some cultures will celebrate it as Yule and Midwinter Festival.

These celebrations all utilize candles as a traditional means of bringing light to the darkness.

While its not too expensive to pick up candles from the store, there’s a certain meditative quality to making your own. Making taper candles, which are used for many winter holiday celebrations, requires patience.

To make dipped candles, use paraffin wax, which can usually be found with canning supplies in the grocery store. Gulf Wax is a popular brand.

You should melt wax in a double-boiler. I use a clean container from the recycling bin, as it makes it easier to clean up. To make tapers, you’ll want a container that is tall and at least 5 inches in diameter. I used a half-gallon milk jug with the top cut off. Another good option would be a 32 oz. tin can.

Wax tends to coat whatever it comes in contact with, which can make it difficult to clean utensils. If you do get wax on your dishware, you’ll need to use very hot water to wash it off, essentially remelting the wax.

Using a double boiler also helps control the temperature of the wax. You need it to be hot enough that it stays liquid, but not so hot it melts the candles as you dunk.

You can use a wire hanger to make hooks to hold the strings of your tapers.

At your workspace you will need a place to hang the mini hangers. I was able to hang a hanger from a cupboard door to hold the candles while working. You might also be able to use a dishrack or potrack in your kitchen.

Weights can be anything small and dense enough – glass beads, screws, washers or fishing sinker weights.

You’ll also want to let the candles cool and harden inbetween dipping. Dip your strings in the wax for a second or two, then let it rest for at least 30 seconds. If you are working with multiple pairs of candles, you should be able to work in a rotation. If your wax is too hot and you find the candles are remelting as you dip, lower the temperature of your water and also stick the candles in the freezer for a few minutes to help the existing wax set up.


Paraffin wax (at least 32 oz. or more if you want taller candles)

Cotton string


Wire hanger

Crayons (optional)

To prepare, cover your work area with newspaper or a crafting tablecover.

Using cutting pliers, cut the wire hanger in five pieces and bend so there is a single upper hook and two lower hooks.

Put water in the lower half of the double boiler. Cut wax into small chunks, about 1-inch cubes) and place in top of double boiler. If you want to make colored candles, cut crayons into pieces and add to the paraffin wax. It will take about one crayon to 10 oz. of white to get the color. More crayons mean a darker shade. Normal color mixing rules apply: red and blue make purple, yellow and blue is green, and red and yellow makes orange. It may take a while for the wax to melt initially.

Decide how tall you’d like your candles. Double the length and add 8 inches; that is how long you should cut lengths of cotton string. Each string will make two candles.

Tie weights to the bottom of each end of each string.

Fold the string in half and drape over the mini hangers you made out of the wire hanger.

Once you are ready and the wax is melted, start by dipping the strings into the wax. Keep it in for a two seconds, then hang and move on to the next pair.

It may be slow going at first, but wax will build up over continued dunking and the larger the candle gets, the faster it will grow. Periodic breaks in the freezer will also help the candles set up.

Continue dunking until the candles are wide enough to fit in whatever candle holder you plan to use. Taper candles are generally ½-inch to -inch in diameter.

After making the taper candles, you’ll be left with wax that isn’t deep enough to make dipped candles.

You can either let it re-harden in a container lined with wax paper for the next time you want to make candles or make poured candles.

To make poured candles, take a container (like a mason jar or tea cup) and cut a length of string a little longer than the container is tall. Tie the string to a stick wider than the mouth of the container. Try a pencil, grill skewer or a dowel. Line up the string in the center of the opening, then pour in the wax. It will take several hours for the wax to harden.

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