The Candle Cauldron - Everything You Want to Know About Candlemaking!
 Tools & Tricks of the Trade 

Here are some helpful tricks and tools that will make your candlemaking life easier!

~ Tools ~
~ Tricks ~
Presto Kitchen Kettle - (aka Presto "Options")
These are a necessity for the small to medium sized candlemaker!  I can't begin to tell you how great these things are!  The Kitchen Kettle (Presto is the brand name) is a multi-cooker made of black metal, and looks like a cross between a crock pot and a fry daddy.  They have a non-stick coating which makes them so easy to clean, and they have a temperature dial built into the cord that you just plug into any standard outlet.  Do not confuse these with Fry Daddy's, they are not the same!  You need to have the temperature control, and Fry Daddy's don't have an exact temp dial.  Presto pots can be found at Walmart or Target stores for around $25, and they will hold about 7 pounds of wax and melt it in a snap!  They have an enclosed heating element and are safe to use without water (as in the double boiler method), just melt the wax right in the pot!  They are also great for melting Gel or Melt & Pour soap bases!  Many crafters have several of these pots so they can melt several colors and scents at once!  I guarantee these are one of the best investments you'll ever make for your candlemaking biz! 
Make your own wick holders -
Take some wooden skewers like you find in the grocery store, and break them in half.  Use a rubber band wrapped around several times to hold the sticks tightly together.  Lay this across the top of your jar and pull the wick up through and between the sticks until it is standing nice and straight.  The sticks will hold the wick up while you pour the hot wax into the jar, and you won't have to worry about the wick falling over!  A similar holder can be made using wooden popsicle sticks and a clothes pin, or by drilling a hole in the stick and clamping the wick with an alligator clip. 
Another Method - (Thanks Tricia!)
Take a 1/4" dowel you can buy at any craft store or hardware store cut the dowel up into 5" pieces, then drill a small hole in the middle of the piece. The hole should be loose enough to slip the wick through easily. Once the wick is through the hole, place a round toothpick next to the wick in the hole. This keeps the wick centered in the container and tight even after pouring in the wax.  One dowel makes a lot of "wick sticks". They can be cleaned easy and used over and over.  Make the sticks however long you want, depending on the width of your mold or jar. For double wicks drill two holes in the same stick. 
Heating Pad - (Thanks Suzanne!)
Heating pads can be used to set jars on to pre-warm before pouring, and to keep them warm while the wax is setting up so they set up slowly and with less shrinkage.  Try putting your metal cookie tray on a heating pad covered with a towel, and set it to medium heat next time you need to warm your jars!

Heat Pen -
This is a metal tool that looks like a pen and heats up when you plug it in.  It has a pointed tip that can be used to carve designs into the surface of pillars or molded candles!
Separating slabs of soft wax - (Thanks Lois!)
If you use a "one pour" or low shrink type wax, you'll love this tip!  Know how those soft sticky slabs can be so hard to get apart?  Well try standing the case of wax on it's end (tall wise) instead of flat on it's bottom like you normally would.  Store the case like this and those slabs will come apart so much easier!  It also helps to store the wax in a cool place such as a basement or a garage (in cooler weather). 
Another Method - (Thanks Lynn!)
Heat a large butcher knife with a heat gun, then slice the slab to the size you want.  Heat the knife with the heat gun again and slide it in between the slabs lifting it a little as I go. The wax almost falls apart.
Heat Gun -
Heat guns are one of the Candlemaker's best friends!  They are great for fixing surface flaws in a candle such as bubbles, wet spots, tiny sink holes, etc.  They're also handy for pre-warming a container or re-melting the wax residue in your pouring pot so you can clean it!  They are generally used for paint stripping and can be found in most hardware or home improvement stores, and in most Sears and Walmarts.  The cost can range from $25 - $35 but they are well worth it and will prove to be a great investment!
Getting the scent to throw -
One trick is to let the candles "cure" for awhile before test burning them.  This seems to make a definite difference in many types of waxes, including paraffins and vegetable waxes.  Some people say 24 hours, some say a week and some say 2 weeks.  Keep the lids tightly on the candles while they're curing and keep them away from heat or sunlight.  Another trick to scent throw is a good melt pool.  The melt pool is the vehicle for scent throw!  Your pool needs to reach from edge to edge and be about 1/8 to 1/4" deep.  Half an inch deep is still okay, but any deeper than that and it's time to extinguish the candle, allow it to cool and trim the wick so the glass doesn't get too hot.  Also make sure the room is not too huge for the candle (you can't expect a small candle to scent a huge room).
Electric Frying Pan/Skillet/Griddle -
These are great for leveling those slightly slanted or bumpy bottomed pillars!  Just heat up the skillet and set the pillar candle on it, slowly rubbing the bottom of the candle around on the skillet until it's nice and flat.  Many times you can find these used at garage sales or at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store! 
Keeping the wick straight - (Thanks Rich!)
You know those skinny drink mixing straws you see in the bar?  They work great for keeping your wicks straight while pouring!  Just slip the straw down over the wick and lean it against a popsicle stick laid across the top of the jar.  When the wax is semi solid, slowly and carefully slide the straw out and viola!  It also seems to help with the skinny tunnels or sink holes that sometimes form next to the wick.  This trick works especially well with "one pour" type waxes!  Another idea is to try this method in Gel candles.  The cocktail straw will sheild the wick, keeping the wax coating in place and preventing it from clouding the rest of the candle!
Gardening Gloves - (From Doneen)
These serve a couple of purposes.  They protect your hands from being stained by messy candle dyes, and they also protect your hands from being burned when touching a hot pouring pot.  I use the kind with the rubber grip dots on the palms, so they also help you grab hold of the handles without it slipping and spilling!
Checking your scale for accuracy - (From Doneen)
The easiest way to check to make sure your scale is right is to find a common household item that you know weighs exactly 1 pound.  Try a bag of M&Ms or a 1lb tub of margarine!  To check it for accuracy in ounces, weigh an item like a 5 ounce tube of toothpaste.  Just make sure you haven't used any of the item so you know it's exact weight :)
*Note:  Take into consideration the weight of the butter tub or the toothpaste tube, etc.  This method will get you close, but will not be accurate to the fraction of an ounce.
Heat Lamp - (Thanks Rich!)
These are nice for placing your poured candles under to keep them warm while setting up, and also for warming jars before hand.  Sometimes you can find used heat lamps at rummage sales.

Turn Tables or Lazy Susans - (From Doneen)
These are a great pouring aid!  Place your empty pre-wicked jars on the turn table and you're ready to pour.  Just pour a jar, rotate and pour the next one, rotate and pour another... you get the idea :)

No Leak Mold Wicking Method - (Thanks Alice!)
Take a 1 1/2 inch piece of a thick wide rubber band (like the kind used to hold ceramic molds together), use a hot large needle and make a hole in it. Then thread the wick through the hole and pull the wick through the prongs of a cotter key* (found at hardware stores, looks like a bobby pin), loop it underneath the cotter key and back up the other side and through the prongs again. Pull the wick tight from the top of the mold and use a wick holder across the top to hold it tight. If you don't have wick holders, take a popsicle stick and slit it half way and pull the wick into the slit.  When the wick is pulled tight and held in place, it will not leak.  You could use a straight pin through the wick at the bottom of the mold instead, but they bend too easily when tightened. 
*You want one that is about an inch long and medium weight. One that you can pull the prongs apart slightly to put the wick between them. The way the wick is wrapped around the cotter key is kind of a knot so it shouldn't slip through. 
Quilting Iron - (Thanks Lillian!)
I picked this tip up at the 2001 IGCA convention in Lillian's class!  She used an old quilting iron (small flat iron with no steam holes) to melt off the side of a block candle she had overdipped in a different color.  This melted off the layers on that side of the candle to reveal the inner color which had a cookie cutter shape in it.  These irons can also be used to flatten the bottom of the candle and remove those drips that hang down after dipping :)
Mixing stubborn fragrance oils -
Ugh those vanillas just don't want to blend with the wax!  Certain fragrance oils you'll find are harder to blend than others and it can be very frustrating.  Here are a few proven methods to try!  First try warming your oil before adding it to the wax.  Pour it in slowly and stir stir stir!  Stirring with a wire wisk has also been said to help.  And when all else fails, try adding a little extra Vybar.  That should help it bind with the wax so it doesn't seep out or separate.  You may need to let it cook and stir longer too!
Food Processor - (Thanks Alice!)
This is another great idea I learned in a class at the convention!  Make several different colored batches of wax and pour them into cookie trays.  Once they've hardened, break them up in to pieces small enough to fit into the food processor, and grind away!  You end up with various shapes and sizes of multi colored chunks for great looking chunk candles!  You may want to get a used one since you won't be using it for food ;)
Testing Colors - (Thanks Lois!)
When doing test candles, cover your counter with freezer wrap, paper side up.  After mixing in your color, pour a little wax onto the paper to test the color, and write on the paper how much dye was used next to the wax spot. All the mess is on this paper.  When you're done and you've gotten the shade you wanted, just copy your final results from the freezer paper into your notebook and throw it away.  You're left with a nice clean counter!
Glass Coffee Pots - (from Doneen)
These can make great pouring pots and you can usually find used ones real cheap at garage sales or Goodwill stores.  You do have to be more careful because they're glass and are breakable, but the nice thing about them is you can see through the pot and get a better idea of your color!  They're also handy for making sure those little specs of dye block are completely melted in the bottom ;)
Clear your nose - 
Keep a jar of coffee grounds on your table at craft shows.  After sniffing several scents, everything starts to smell the same or not smell at all.  So when your customers get fragrance overload, have them sniff the coffee and it will clear their palette so they can smell more of your scents!
Toenail Clippers - 
These are just the thing for clipping new wicks off to 1/4" before putting the lids on your candles!  They are long enough to reach down into most common sized jars and they're sharp enough to clip even metal core wicks!
Liquid Dye Stains - 
Don't have any dye remover on hand?  Don't worry!  Believe it or not, fragrance oil works great for removing liquid candle dye off countertops!  Just use a little bit of the oil on a cloth or paper towel and rub firmly in circles.  We've found this to remove most dyes off of most surfaces and even clothing sometimes!  Don't shout it out... smell it out!
Metal Gravy Ladel - 
These are perfect for drizzling wax over cinnamon bun candles for that drizzled frosting look!  
Removing Scent from Molds - (Thanks Bev!)
Do your metal molds smell like the fragrance you just used?  Try putting them in the oven on a cookie sheet covered with tin foil to melt out any excess wax residue, and then wipe them out with a paper towel.  Once they are cool, spray them inside with some non-stick cooking spray and wipe again!
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