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February 01, 2002

Wax 101 Part 1: An Overview


"The En-Light-ener" February 2002
Candle Making Newsletter

As the old cliché goes, Spring is definitely in the air, and it is time to start thinking about Candles for those special occasions such as Easter, Mother's Day and even the Summer craft show circuit, which is just around the corner. We truly appreciate all the comments we have received regarding our website and newsletter. It is always encouraging when people take the time to read our publications. We have tried to keep this newsletter informative for candle makers at all levels. This will be the first in a series of articles entitled WAX 101. We will be covering a wide range of issues related to wax including paraffin waxes, natural waxes and all of the subjects in between. While some of these topics can become very technical in nature, we will keep the "chemistry" out of the equation.

WAX 101: An Overview
As a supplier of waxes for the candle industry, it is always interesting when we're asked to describe the components of wax. When one of my first supervisors (not in the candle industry) asked about my family business, I described that we processed and sold waxes. Her half-kidding response was "I thought gnomes made wax."

It is always an interesting subject, discussing the sources of paraffin wax and the components involved.

Wax in today's society is a generic term. Wax can cover a broad spectrum of products that include petroleum, animal, vegetable and synthetic based materials. The primary wax used in candles today is refined from petroleum. However, other types of waxes have become extremely popular in the last number of years. These include vegetable or plant based waxes such as soy, palm or bayberry as well as waxes from insects such as beeswax.

This series will focus on various wax types and their applications. With this information, you, the candle maker, will become more knowledgeable about waxes and better equipped to differentiate between them when choosing which wax to purchase.

Basically, paraffin wax is a petroleum product that has gone through a refining process. The end result is a product that is solid at room temperature. Within the refining process, waxes can be classified as fully refined wax, semi-refined wax, scale wax and slack wax.

Most candle makers generally work with fully refined and/or semi-refined wax, which is available in melting points ranging from 121° F to approximately 160° F. Waxes such as slack and scale can be used to make candles, but their applications are generally limited to filling containers or jars because the melting points on these waxes are generally below the 121° F level. Also, slack and scale waxes have a tendency to have an "oily" smell.

For the balance of this article we will focus on making candles with fully refined paraffin waxes.

As a candle maker there are further choices that must be made such as which melting point to use and choosing between a straight (non-blended) paraffin or a blended paraffin in your formulation. If you refer back to our March 2001 issue of the En-Light-ener we did a feature on blended vs. straight paraffin.

A straight paraffin is a wax not altered by adding additives such as vybar (r), stearic, or microcrystalline waxes. Examples include our Container Fill (CF), 3032, 3134 and 3035. A straight paraffin is for the candle maker willing to experiment and develop a unique formula that may achieve a specific finish on the candle. The candle maker creates this formula by combining additives, as mentioned, with the straight paraffin. Best uses for straight paraffin are as follows: 121° F-131° F can be used to fill jars, containers and tins, 128° F- 141° F are best for making votives, 133°-146° F are best for making pillars, novelties and figurines and 141° F-146° F are best for making tapers.

A blend is a wax that already has the additives in the formula, allowing the candle maker to save time because all that needs to be added is color dye and fragrance. Blended waxes also assist the candle maker because they are uniform from batch to batch, allowing for ease of use. One drawback with blends however, is the fact that it is more difficult to achieve different looks in the candle, because most blends are developed for specific applications such as jars, votive, pillars and tapers.

The properties of waxes can be very specific and in some applications knowing these properties becomes important, especially when using automated equipment. However, for most candle makers the important facts to know about the wax can be limited to the melting point of the wax, the oil content of the wax and in some applications the needle penetration of the wax (hardness of the wax).

All specific information about Candlewic waxes can be found on our web site under the product descriptions.

Our next issue will feature the arrival of natural waxes in candle making.

Can I use a 141° F melt point wax to make jar candles?

In most instances any type of paraffin wax can be poured into a container to create a candle that looks good. The problem with using a higher melt point wax in any container is it becomes difficult for a single wick to burn in the container. In most instances if you use a melt point as high as 141° F the largest "burning" diameter, using a 60-44-18 zinc wick, will be approximately 2-1/2" to 3".

Holiday Project ...
One of the most popular traditions at Easter time is dying Easter Eggs. I can remember from my own childhood the amount of effort and time that went into completing one single egg, and when I was finishing that last bit of detail on the egg, inevitably it would be dropped and then cracked.

As a candle maker we have the opportunity to remake these Easter Eggs into a desirable candle. Candlewic offers an egg candle mold, item # M-35 to do just that.

We would recommend using #4144 wax, adding about 5% stearic acid. Pour the candle as you would any other candle. For best results you may want to pour this candle white. When the candle is finished it can be decorated in several different ways. The first would be over-dipping the candle using several different colors. To achieve this, use the same formula (4144 with the 5% stearic acid) and warm to about 155°F -160° F and add color to the wax. You may want to make the colors more concentrated for best results. The over dipping can be of several colors, just like the Easter Egg kits.

Another possibility would be to pour layered candles using the egg mold. In this method you would dye the wax the selected color and pour either 1/3 or 1/2 of the mold. Wait for the wax to set up and then pour either the balance or the next 1/3. Complete this procedure until the mold is filled. For best result you may want to poke small holes in the wax next to the wick to ensure adhesion between the layers.

We wish to thank all of our customers who have taken advantage of the buy one get one free promotion we have been running on our website for select aluminum molds. This great sale will continue through the end of the month so don't miss this tremendous opportunity!

All 3 of Penreco's Candle Gel are at the lowest price ever for 35-pound pails. This is a great time to stock up on this product. In addition, make sure you check out all of the new inserts we have available.

We will also be entering what Candlewic is calling "WICK WEEK." With this promotion you will receive an additional 25% of your order when ordering 1,000 or more pre-wick assemblies with our Custom Wick Builder. For example, if you order 1,000 wicks you will get 1,250 wicks for the price of 1,000 wicks. If you order 2,000 wicks you will get 500 pieces free. The free wicks will not show up in your shopping cart but will show up on your packing slip. This special will apply to all wick orders placed from Thursday, February 21 at 3 p.m. until Thursday February 28 at midnight. There is no limit to this special and this makes our wick pricing UNBELEIVABLE. So don't miss out.

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