Temperature in Beeswax candle making
There are a number of key variables when it comes to making good candles. We have the beeswax itself and how clean it is. We also have the wicking and getting the right type and size of wick for the diameter of the candle. Each of these is a separate topic but in this article I would like to focus on temperature. Temperature is a key issue when it comes to candle-making using beeswax and alot of the problems in making good candles stem from variations in temperature. In order to know the temperature of the beeswax a good infrared thermometer that you can point at the hot wax and and read the temperature is really helpful.
Temperature and beeswax properties
Let’s look at the affect of temperature on beeswax. When beeswax is cold it becomes brittle (as the temperature drops below 18°C – 64.4°F). If you want to break a block of beeswax when cold give it a tap of a hammer and it will shatter. If you are in a warm climate pop the beeswax in the freezer for an hour beforehand. A freezer is really handy also when you have a candle stuck in a mould. Again pop it in the freezer for half an hour and the wax will shrink away from the mould to release the candle.
As wax warms up it become pliable. Beeswax is soft and pliable at around 35° to 40°C. You can now bend it and shape it easily.
The melting point of beeswax is 62 to 65°C. (144 to 149 °F)
Please note that if beeswax is heated above 85 °C (185 °F) discoloration occurs.
The flash point of beeswax is 204.4 °C (400 °F). The flash point means the temperature at which it will ignite. For safety never heat beeswax directly – use a double pan to ensure beeswax does not overheat and become dangerous.
It’s not just temperature of the wax
Looking at temperature we have the temperature of the wax but we also have the temperature of the moulds or containers and we also have the temperature of the room in which you are making your candles. All these will affect your results in candle making. Let’s look at these in more detail:
- Pouring temperature of the wax
This is a key variable. If you are making candles such as moulded, container or dipped candles you will be heating beeswax above the melting point. As mentioned earlier don’t heat the wax above 85 °C (185 °F) or it will discolor. But what temperature should you aim for? In general the target pouring temperature of the wax is 68 to 71 °C (155 to 160 °F). A rule of thumb is to allow the wax to cool enough to coat the sides of your pouring vessel as an indication the wax is ready to pour. If the wax is too hot it will cause sink holes and bubbles in the candles. It the wax is too cool when poured it will have solid bits when poured leading to splashes.
When it comes to dipped candles aim for a wax temperature of 68C (155F).
- Temperature of the moulds
You don’t what to pour hot wax into really cold candle moulds. This will cause lines on your candles as the hot wax solidifies quickly on the cold moulds. You can pre-heat metal or glass moulds using a few seconds of hot air from a hair dryer. You can also insulate metal moulds by wrapping the moulds in a layer of felt cloth. This will slow the cooling of the wax leading to smoother candles.
- Temperament of the room
In general when it comes to candle making aim for room temperature or around 20–22 °C (68–72 °F). You will be comfortable and your candles will be better!
If you are making rolled candles and the room is cold your wax sheets will be cold and will be brittle and it will be hard to roll the candles. If you pour hot wax in a cold room it will affect the temperature of the moulds and your resulting candles. You candles may have lines. If you make dipped candles in a cold room your dipped candles may have a lumpy appearance.
As you will realise from this article temperature really is a key variable when it comes to candle making. The important point is to keep records of everything you do so that when you do make the perfect candles you will be able to replicate them. Your notes should record pouring temperature of the wax, temperature of the room and temperature of your moulds as key variables. Another key thing to note is the type and size of the wick which we have not looked at here.
Thomas Carroll, PhD
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