Making Snow Candles
Interested in making the snow candles we created in our previous post? Here's how (as well as tips for avoiding some of the mistakes we made in our own candle creations. Oops).
Wax for melting (I like beeswax pellets like these best, because they melt quickly and smell wonderful). I used about half a one-pound bag of beeswax pellets and got several small candles. Alternatively, you can melt old candles using the same double-boiler method, which we did as well.
An improvised double-boiler - I use a coffee can and an old saucepan that I keep just for wax-melting projects. Hint: don't use your best stuff; cleaning wax off of surfaces can be a real pain.
Mounted wicks or braided wicking. Both have their advantages (plain wicking is cheaper and more environmentally friendly), but we found that the pre-mounted wicks were much easier to deal with, especially outdoors where our wax tended to harden before we could set things up properly.
Skewers, chopsticks, or other straight sticks to hold up wicks/wicking
Molds - A small orange, the bottom of a half-pint jar, anything small that can be pressed into the snow to make your finished candle shape will work.
Snow! Our cold, fluffy snow was not ideal for candle-making, but yielded an interesting result.
First of all, decide whether you are going to attempt to make your candles outdoors "in the wild" or indoors. I was determined to try the outdoor method, but with the temperature at 15 degrees Fahrenheit, our melted wax hardened almost more quickly than we could pour it! Plus, manipulating wicks and snow when it was this cold meant very frigid fingers. We ended up doing both the indoor and outdoor method. If you do attempt to do your candle-making outdoors, be sure to set up ahead of time so you can rush out and pour your hot wax right away. Or, you could melt wax over a fire/grill using the same double-boiler method and have it right within reach. How fun would that be!
You can start boiling water in your double-boiler setup while you prep.
Start by making your molds. Aim to create wells in the snow about 2-3 inches deep. Next time, I may attempt a deeper, thinner well for our candles, so we don't end up with "lily pads."
If using wicking, cut lengths to the depth of your candle with enough leftover to tie onto your stick. Lay your sticks over your wells so wicks dangle downward inside. Alternatively, place your mounted wicks in your wells. You may need to use sticks to keep them upright.
For the indoor method, scoop snow into a shallow heatproof dish, like a pie tin or cake pan, and prepare your wicks and molds the same way you would outdoors. Wait to bring it inside until you are ready to pour your candles.
Melt your wax. Turn your boiling water down to a simmer and add the wax, a small handful at a time, to the inner part of your double boiler, letting it fully melt before adding more. Or, if you're using old candles, just plop them in there and wait! Be sure to remove any old wicks, metal pieces, or other yucky stuff before pouring.
Once your wax is fully liquid, carry it - quickly but carefully! - to your molds and pour. You may need to use a potholder to handle the can of wax, but I found it cooled quickly enough to handle without. Also, if using wicking rather than mounted wicks, be sure to gently guide the wicks down into the melted wax with a stick or skewer to ensure that they don't just float on top. Depending on the temperature, you may need to wait anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before your candles are hard enough to handle.
Cut candle wicks to a length of about a half-inch.
Light, and enjoy! I actually love the way these quirky little candles turned out. The texture on the bottom is the best part. We plan to display them in a bowl of snow for our Candlemas dinner centerpiece, so their weird shape won't be a hindrance to burning them.
Our theme for the week around Candlemas is "Ice and Fire." We've been exploring the concepts of melting and freezing this week and the way these two processes occur in nature. For the most part, I tried to let the activity speak for itself, but Hawthorne and I did discuss how the wax behaved differently when it was exposed to fire (the stove) and ice (the snow). We were definitely more enchanted by the process; the product itself was secondary - but charming, nonetheless.