Oops! Apparently I've accidentally deleted all of my images. I'll see about fixing that soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Candles for Hanukkah

Last night I celebrated the third night of Hanukkah with part of my husbands family, my mother, and some family friends. It was a fun and raucous affair filled with long discussions and my small nephews running about and giggling over everything.

from the 3rd night last year, hence the stockings in the background

Now, as anyone who has ever celebrated Hanukkah knows, candles for the holiday don't come cheap. Over the course of the holiday you light more candles every night which means you will need over 40 candles for the duration of the 8-day celebration. And the candles need to burn for a while. So a box of candles usually runs about $9 to start.


For those of us who run a tight budget, that's a lot to swallow. So, every year just as the holiday ends I run around trying to find the candles as they go on clearance. I'd be happy with a $2-3 box that can be saved for next year. But last year was a bust. No candles anywhere. And it has been hanging over my head all year. "Where am I going to get affordable candles this year?"

Well, me being me, I thought I might make some.  So I got online and did some research and found out it can be pretty easy. (I'm not posting any links, just google around a bit and you'll find a tonne of info. Granted, most of the videos, while very helpful, are filled with people who kinda creeped me out.) So I got some supplies together and ran some tests.
Gulf wax was something I already had on hand.  It's good stuff and useful for all sorts of things.  It's also pretty cheap and the box of wax was about the size of the box of candles I usually buy. 

I waxed up a wick, dipped a small candle and ran a test (i.e., I burned the candle and timed the burn). It burned great but very quickly and dripped everywhere.  So I went back to the internet to find out how to raise the melting point of my wax.

It turns out just adding some harder waxes can raise the melt point enough to give a longer burn time.  I started by adding a small piece of crayon that I was hoping to use for color anyway (having found online that they have a higher melt point, yay for cheap crayons!) which showed a small improvement to the burn time.  But I wanted more.

So I found some cheap tapers at a craft store nearby (they were out of the higher melt point wax but I think this may have been cheaper anyway) and added them to the mix. Since tapers have to be made out of higher melting point wax my next test showed that the new candle wax mix would indeed burn for quite a bit longer. So I calculated the length that I would need and got started dipping, dipping, dipping away!

So what did I use for a wick? Crochet cotton. I've had it for a while but I think it's probably Lion brand, so nothing special. The picture above is probably helpful in no way at all, but there it is anyway. lol

Now there was a little bit of a question of where to hang them, because the wax is pretty soft until it fully cools.  I found a great solution in something already in my kitchen: our pasta drying rack.  It gave me plenty of space to hang candles as I finished dipping them.

I wanted a progression of colors so I added a mix of blue, red, and purple crayons. What I ended up with were 5 mostly-distinct shades: white (no crayon), light blue (half a blue crayon), bright blue (the rest of the blue crayon), violet (added one red crayon), and purple (added one purple crayon).

Several days and several batches later I finally had enough.  Some are lumpier than others as it took me a while to figure out how to keep them smooth as the level of the hot wax went down. But overall I was happy with the effort. (If you're thinking of trying this, keep in mind that it's a lot of hours standing in one place in a hot kitchen. Don't do what I did, plan to do it on a day you don't also have to be on your feet for hours and hours at work afterward.)

We picked two of the lumpier ones to use for the first night of Hanukkah at home for just the two of us. My husband grated up a bunch of potatoes, and I fried up some latkes. It was nice.

fire and fried stuff, hooray!

And the candles did indeed last for about an hour as planned, but they are very, very drippy.  This actually seems to provide some amusement for my husband, so I guess it all works out.

After having tried several more of them I have found that the white ones, possibly having a higher proportion of the harder wax, don't drip as much (though they do drip some) and burn a little longer.  

So, how did the budget on this turn out? Well, I probably spent about $4 on wax for the tapers and an extra box of the gulf wax. The rest of the items I already had on hand. Including gas to drive around town looking for the right wax it was probably a wash this year, but I should be able to keep it in the $4 range if I can keep from doing that next year.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. While I may still keep an eye out this year for a sale deal on candles, I'm already getting ideas for next year. I think I may just make some yearly candle dipping a new family tradition for us. :)

Hope you're having a great week!

1 comment:

  1. I remember making a candle in Girl Scouts (acutally Brownies, for Christmas. We used a milk carton (box) container. Now days milk comes mostly in plastic jugs. The candle was rather large and box- like and we put glitter all over it. It was displayed every Christmas but never burned. YEARS later when Mother died I found the candle, all dusty and sad looking. Guess I should have saved it but most of the glitter was gone. Funny how a story about Hanukkah candles sparks a memory.


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