Hand-dipping candles is no longer a labor-intensive pioneer chore. Using an old crock pot or a DIY stovetop bain-marie, a hand-dipped candle becomes an easy, kid-friendly craft project, one that can stock an entire season of candlelit dinners in a single afternoon.
1. Melt your solid wax in a crock pot. Score a cheap old crock pot at a thrift store, or purchase a second bowl for your current crock pot to use with crafts. Drop the solid chunks of wax into the crock pot (here I’m using a ton of beeswax bought in bulk a few months ago), turn it on low, and wait for it to melt.
If you’re using a DIY stovetop bain-marie the process is the same, but you’ll want to keep a closer eye on your work.
2. Cut wicking. You can find cotton candlewicking at any crafts store; after your wax has melted, eyeball a measurement that’s roughly double the depth of wax in the pot plus another inch or so for your fingers to hold. Don’t worry about being too fussy with the measurements, since you’ll be able to simply trim off any excess wicking later.
3. Prime the wick with wax. While this isn’t completely necessary, I find that it makes dipping the candle much easier. Next to your crock pot, set up an old cup filled with cold water. Holding the wicking by two fingers in the middle, dip both ends of the wick into the wax to the depth you’d like your candle to be, then immediately lift it up and dip it into and out of the cold water. Use your fingers to straighten the wick so that there won’t be any kinks or curves in your candle. Repeat one or two more times, until the wick comes out of the wax nice and straight. Now it’s ready to dip!
To make hand-dipping even more kid-friendly, increase the length of the wicking by another inch or so and wrap the middle around a pencil, stick, or popsicle stick to give your kids a better grip. When my kids were younger, I marked both ends of the wick with a marker at a spot a safe distance from their fingers, and instructed them to dip their candles no further than that mark.
4. Hand-dip your candles. Go back and forth, quickly dipping your wicks into the pot of melted wax, then quickly dipping them into the cup of cold water, and then back into the wax. The candles will increase in size pretty quickly, since the dips into cold water will decrease wax loss and allow the candles to take up a greater amount of wax each time.
If you have a particular candleholder in mind, you can periodically measure your candles so that you’ll know when to stop. Otherwise, whenever your candles have reached a pleasing diameter, give them one last dip in cold water, then hang them to cool. A towel bar is fine in a pinch, although a portable indoor drying rack will allow you to set your drying station up right next to where you’re hand-dipping.
To use your candles, cut them apart and trim the wicks down. They store indefinitely, and they make excellent holiday gifts.