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 DIY Survival Candles

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Astraea

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Number of posts : 2726
Age : 56
Location : Arizona, USA
Favorite Quote : Beware the deadly donkey falling from the sky You may choose the way you live, my friend But not the way you die
Registration date : 2007-08-11

PostSubject: DIY Survival Candles   Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:16 pm

http://teotwawkiblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/diy-survival-candles.html

Candles are an easy-to-use source of emergency lighting and a little bit of heat. I'm shocked to see some of the prices that are charged for long burning candles sold for survival or emergency preparedness - if you want to buy a dozen or so candles, the cost really starts to add up.

Never fear! You can make your own survival candles at home for cheap, using high-quality, long burning soy wax. It's an easy project - the materials are easy to buy and you won't need any specialized tools.

The materials you will need are:

Soy wax flakes. These are commonly used in making scented candles and are sold in craft stores or Amazon. I bought a 5 pound bag from Amazon for 12.79 shipped - right here. A pound of wax will fill around a 24 ounce container, give or take. You can use other wax, but soy is affordable, typically has a longer burn time than other waxes and has some other beneficial qualities (all-natural, renewable, etc.).
Canning jars. I purchased a dozen 8 ounce jars from Wal Mart for around $8. If you have jars around the house, no need to buy 'em. We've used jars from jams, sauces and so on for candles in the past.
Wicks and Tabs. You can find these on Amazon, eBay and at your craft stores. You'll want your wicks to be a bit longer than your candle holder is tall. I have 100 tabs and 100 nine inch wicks on eBay for about $10 total.

The tools you will need are:

Scissors: For cutting the wicks to size
Double Boiler: For melting the wax. I don't have an actual double boiler, so I just get a large pot, fill it about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with water, and then nest a slightly smaller pot inside.
A Pouring Device: I just used a pyrex measuring cup.
Protective Gloves: We'll be using boiling water and hot wax, so you want to keep you hands safe.

The steps are simple.


First, you'll want to get your wicks ready. If your wicks are way too long for your container, you'll want to trim them down to approximate size. I had 9" wicks here. Insert the wick into the tab - I found it helpful to use my Leathman to "tighten" the mouth of the tab around the wick, but it's not a must. If you buy pre-tabbed wicks then you can skip this part.

Put your wicks in the jars. Don't worry if they're not centered - we'll fix that after we pour the wax. Now it's meltin' time!

This is my "double boiler." Works well enough. Using a double boiler helps melt the wax gently, avoiding risk of it catching fire, burning, etc. You could probably do it without, but it's not hard to improvise so why not?

Here are the flakes beginning to melt.

And now fully melted.

Carefully transfer the melted wax into your pouring container. Then, pour away! Don't worry about the container - soy wax is all natural, non-toxic and cleans up fairly easily. Beware if you have a soy allergy, though.

Don't fill the jar up the whole way - leave some room between the wax and the top of the container. You'll want to center the wicks at this point. Then, take a break and let the wax cool and harden up. Almost done!

Last step. After the wax has cooled, trim the wicks as needed--you want the wick to be about 1/4" above the wax. Then, screw the lids on and you're ready for storage!

While some advertise 70+ hours of burn time for 8 ounce candles like this, they're more in the ballpark of 40 to 50 hours, and you'll get the most life out of them if you burn the candles four hours at a time. Since you would only use the candle for about 4 hours every evening, a single candle should last for around 10 days of regular use. Not bad! You can of course use different sized jars--bigger for longer burn time, or multiple wicks for more light.

Including the purchase of new jars, my cost per candle is around $1.62. With recycled jars, it's under a dollar.

These aren't crap materials, either--these are the same quality of materials use for high-end aromatherapy candles that sell for $20 a pop. Another plus - the combination of soy wax's lower melting point and the protective glass jar make this a safer source of light when compared to other candles, oil lanterns and so on.

One modification that I plan to make it to include a booklet of matches inside of each jar - cheap and makes sure you've got a way to light the candle if it's pulled out of storage during a power outage, etc.

Anyways, give it a shot and let us know how it goes! Have fun!
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Astraea

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Number of posts : 2726
Age : 56
Location : Arizona, USA
Favorite Quote : Beware the deadly donkey falling from the sky You may choose the way you live, my friend But not the way you die
Registration date : 2007-08-11

PostSubject: Beeswax survival candles   Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:32 pm

DIY Beeswax Survival Candles
I was surprised by the overwhelming reaction to our post on DIY Survival Candles back in February--it has become by far the most popular single post on T-Blog.

I wanted to follow up with a how-to for using beeswax for candle making. A good, 100% natural, chemical-free beeswax is the highest quality wax you can get, burning brighter and hotter for longer than other waxes. All good qualities in a survival candle.



Beeswax is more expensive than the soy wax that we used on the survival candles--around three to five times the cost, I've found. It can be purchased on Amazon and elsewhere online - look for 100% beeswax, organic, filtered, cosmetic grade and collected from bees who aren't exposed to pesticides. The wax itself will be a shade of yellow/orange and smell like honey--very pleasant, but doesn't mix well with other scents. If you have a local beekeeper, they might also be a good source to develop.

Because of its expense, beeswax is probably best when you really need to maximize your candle horsepower in a given size/weight package. If you're only going to have a few tealights or a small candle and want the best performance--as in most survival kits--beeswax is your ticket. If the size/weight to performance ratio isn't as important, I'd stick with another wax. As an example, most tea lights will burn around 3-4 hours, and a good beeswax tea light will burn 5 to 6 hours. Beeswax tea lights sell for around $1 a pop.

Beeswax also has a high melting point of 144 to 147 degrees, so if you want to leave a candle in a vehicle, beeswax is your best bet.

To make beeswax candles, the procedures are similar. Beeswax has a higher melt point, cools/hardens remarkably fast, and is a lot harder than soy wax, which means it's a heck of a lot harder to clean up--don't use your good cookware here! All safety precautions apply here - make candles at your own risk! You're working with hot wax and fire, so bad things can certainly happen.

Supplies Needed:

Beeswax
Wicks - square braid cotton wicks are traditionally used for beeswax candles. I'm using some random wicks that I have on hand--I think they're zinc cored--and they work, but they're not optimal. For a tea light sized beeswax candles, I've heard #4/0 square braid wicks recommended; you may want to play around with different wick sizes to get the best performance. That's on my to-do list.
Container - I'm using plundered tealight cups and an altoid tin. Make sure it's not going to explode from heat/burst into flames.
Wick tabs

Tools Needed:

Melting pot/container - unlike soy wax, beeswax is very difficult to clean up, so use something you don't mind getting semi-permanently beeswaxed.
Scissors for trimming the wick
Gloves, hot pads, multitool - whatever you need for handling the hot container during pouring

Melt the Wax
I melt the wax in a double boiler, and use a double boiler as a safety precaution - beeswax has a flashpoint of almost 400 degrees, so it's probably not going to ignite on you if you keep an eye on it. I used an old can for melting, poured directly from the can into the containers and then chucked the can afterwards. Not fancy, but it works.

Beeswax melting in improvised double boiler.

You can also just use the ol' microwave to melt the wax--using a microwaveable container, take your time and keep an eye on it. I haven't tried the microwave method yet, so I can't give specific guidance there.

Again, beeswax is difficult to clean up. Dedicated candle making supplies are probably a good idea if you're going to be making 'em regularly.

Prep the Wicks and Containers
Get your wicks and containers ready for wax pouring. Thread the wicks through the tabs and trim to a rough length of where you wan them to be--I usually leave a bit extra at this point and come back and do a final trim later. Place the wick tabs into whatever container you're going to use--here I'm using aluminum tea light cups. These were salvaged from a stash of paraffin tea lights, but you can also purchase the tea light cups online from Amazon and other sellers.



Depending on the wick you're using, you may also need to "prime" the wick, which is basically tossing a length of the wick into your melted wax. You should see some air bubbles rise to the surface. Let the wick sit, submerged in the wax for about two to three minutes, then pull it out, drip the excess wax back into your melt pot and set the wick aside to cool. Make sure to straighten the wick at this point, as it will be hard and un-bendy after the wax has cooled.

The altoid tin was a bit of an unscientific experiment. I cleaned out the altoid tin and lined up 3 wick/tabs.

Pour Melt Wax into Containers
Be careful pouring, the wax will very hot! After pouring, you may need to straighten your wicks carefully. Beeswax starts firming up quickly, so don't dilly-dally if the wicks need major correcting.

After pouring. You can see the wicks I'm using are a bit on the fat side.

Let Wax Cool & Trim Wicks
Let the wax cool for a couple hours, though beeswax hardens up much faster than the soy waxes I've worked with. You'll also want to do a final trim of the wicks, getting them to around 1/4 an inch above your wax.

Altoid tin candle cooling, prior to final trimming.
There you go! Very simple process. Unlike soy wax, beeswax is tough enough to use in pillar and votive candles - I haven't experimented there, but will probably give it a go in the near future.

As mentioned, beeswax is on the spendy side, but it is all natural good stuff, and should give you better burn times for a given size of candle.

The altoid tin experiment turned out pretty well; the candle kicks off a good amount of light and some heat, and the lid of the tin can be used as a reflector. Haven't done a full burn time test yet, but like any multi-wick candle, you can extend the life by lighting one wick at a time. With the high melt point of beeswax, could be a good addition to a car kit.

Have fun, experiment a bit and be careful!
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Astraea

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Age : 56
Location : Arizona, USA
Favorite Quote : Beware the deadly donkey falling from the sky You may choose the way you live, my friend But not the way you die
Registration date : 2007-08-11

PostSubject: Cheap DIY candles   Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:35 pm

My wife is a teacher, and has, over the years, accumulated what seems like a ton of broken and used crayons. A majority of these are made from soy wax (with a colorant added). These can be a ready source of literally "free" wax, as they are for us. Just have your free labor force (in my case the kids) peel the paper covering off each one before melting. SAVE THIS PAPER, it makes an excellent addition to home made "wax cup" fire starter/tinder (paper egg cartons with each depression stuffed with lint, paper and/or pencil shavings. Hot wax is poured into each cup and allowed to solidify. Cut each cup our and you have a waterproof, highly transportable fire starting fuel. Just break chunks off with a knife, set in your tinder and light).

Wicks can be made by soaking cotton string in a borax, salt, & water solution, and the very wax you are melting for candles.

Making regular cotton candle wicks is simple. Youíll just need some salt, borax, water, candle wax, and cotton string, yarn, or twine. You can usually find borax in the laundry detergent aisle of your grocery store. Some people use it to make their own laundry soap. You can vary the width of the string you use to make your wick in order to get wicks of different diameters.

1. Youíll need to make a solution to dip the string in to make it into a wick. Mix 2 tablespoons of regular table salt, with 4 tablespoons of borax, and then dissolve that mixture in 1 Ĺ cups of warm water.

2. Drop a string into the mixture and leave it there for 15 minutes. If youíre not sure how much string to use, measure your candle mold and add about 3 inches to your measurement. Thatís how long youíll want your wick to be.

3 .Pull the string out of the mixture and hang it up to dry. A clothesline and clothespins work perfectly for this.

4. After the wick is completely dry, melt some wax in a double boiler and dip the wick into it. Make sure the wick is completely saturated with wax before you take it out. Youíll need to use either a pair of tweezers or a paper clip to dip the wick into the wax so you donít burn yourself.

5. Pull the wick out of the melted wax and give the wax a few moments to cool enough so you can safely touch the wick. Then grab both ends of the wick and pull it tight.

6. Lay the primed wick out flat on a piece of wax paper to dry. Make sure itís stretched out when you lay it down so youíll have a nice straight wick when itís time to put it into a candle.

Using two hands, you can hold the wick (or wicks if you have a mind to make multi-wick candles) upright in your candle "container" as you pour the melted wax in. If you make the wick slightly longer than you need, you can tie a loop (for holding the wick when you are pouring wax into the candle container, slip a pencil, pen, or chopstick through the loop and rest it on the lip of the container) in one end and do not dip that end in the wax.

Cotton string - like "butchers twine" can be bought for $3.00 for 185 FEET. If you reuse small Christmas tins, old (GLASS) jelly jars, you have reduced you cost down even further. My wife has made "milk carton" candles using old paper "quart sized" milk or half and half cartons to make some very nice square "pillar" candles as well. Just cut the top off, pour the wax (with the wick in place). Once it cools completely, just peel the paper container off the candle.

Yeah, I'm cheap, but saving money on stuff like candles, even cutting my cost down by a $1.00 each, is one more dollar I can spend on other preps.
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