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March 01, 2008

Straight Wax


Straight Wax

The topic of wax is one that has to come up in any discussion regarding candle making. Unfortunately, right now with oil prices where they are, the discussions on wax is not always cheerful. In the January issue of the Enlightener, we focused on using blended waxes; this month we will feature “straight wax.”

These waxes consist mostly of straight chain hydrocarbons ranging in melt points from 120°F to 160°F. In the candle world, most people refer to a wax that has no additives as a straight wax. It is also important to note that some times terms like paraffin wax, wax and candle wax generally are used interchangeably. While certain candles can be made with straight waxes, the reality is if you are scenting, coloring or trying to achieve a specific look, then an additive of some type will need to be part of the formulation. Many beginners ask the question of why use a straight wax when the blends are so much easier to use. This is an excellent question and based on sales, it appears most people find the blends too simple to pass up.

Formulating Your Own Blend

The task of formulating your own blend at the beginning can be daunting, but the end result will pay dividends in the long run. In the beginning, developing a wax formulation is a little bit of art, science and personal taste. The end result in most instances is something slightly different than what blended waxes can offer and allows you to continually improve your candle. The type of base wax you would use will vary depending on the type of candle being made. Common candles and the melt points can be found in the chart below.  

120-130 °F Melt point
128-140 °F Melt Point
140-150 °F Melt Point
139-145 °F Melt Point
140-144 °F Melt Point

There is good reason why the ranges identified should be followed where possible. For example, in the case of the containers, if you get much above a 130°F melt point, finding a single wick to burn a 4” diameter glass can be difficult. If you use too low a melt point for a pillar, then in warmer weather the candle may start to sag or lose shape if the home gets too warm. If you use too low of a melt point in a container, during shipping the wax may leak out, if the candle is put on its side.

Adding Additives

Once you have found the base/straight wax you wish to use for your specific application, the next step is to determine which and how much of a particular additive to use. While you could really drive yourself crazy with the number of additives on the market, the reality of it is that most formulations have two to three types of additives. The formulation you settle on might even just have one additive, it all depends on the look and performance you are attempting to achieve.

Right now the most popular additives of choice are the Vybars (103 and 260), microcrystallines and petrolatum. Without doubt, the Vybar family is the most common additive used and in most instances usage at levels of 1/2% can achieve great results. Vybar is good for holding fragrance in the candle, adding vibrancy to the candle and, when needed, raising the melt point. The micros can help hold the fragrance, add opacity and, when used in containers, can help with adhesion. In most instances, 3 percent to 7 percent is used. In the case of petrolatum this will help reduce shrinkage, adhere to the container and can help the wax hold fragrance. To achieve, this petrolatum must be used in 10 percent to 30 percent levels.

There are definitely other additives which can provide some good benefits to the candle. These can include Stearic Acid (Stearine) and C-15. Another growing trend is to blend natural waxes with straight paraffin wax.

Benefits of Your Own Formulation

By now you must be thinking that is a lot of work and/or effort, why go through this? One of the most compelling reasons might be the cost. Blends are developed for many different applications and in most instances, developed to hold a great deal of fragrance and therefore might be more than you would need. By developing your own formulation you are not overpaying for a blend that might have additives that your particular candle does not need. In addition to extra additives there is a premium charged by the maker whenever they sell a blend.

The second reason to have your formulation is that you can create your own look and change it throughout the year/season. Some candle makers like to have a candle that has vibrant colors for their spring and summer line, but do like darker, more opaque colors for the fall and holiday line. This can be easily accomplished by the use of additives while keeping the same base wax.

One final reason some people like straight waxes is if the manufacturer of the blend decides to discontinue that particular blend they are back to square one. With blends, even if the base wax is discontinued, switching to a different wax can be easier. No doubt that blended waxes have been a tremendous addition to the candle industry, but for many manufacturers, blending their own formulation has always been, and will always be, the way to go.


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With so many different types of coloring methods to choose from, how do I know which one is best for my application? 

The three most common forms of coloring candles are blocks, liquid and powder. Any of these types of coloring are suitable when making paraffin wax candles.

In general, the blocks are good for mixing in smaller batches (less than 100 pounds). They are easy to work with and produce very nice results. As your batches get larger, the cost of the blocks can become expensive in some instances.

If mixing in larger batches, the liquid dyes are a little more cost effective and should result in better consistency when measured properly. The liquid dyes also blend very well with the wax.

The powder dyes are generally the most concentrated and therefore the most cost effective way to color a candle. However, they are very difficult to measure in smaller quantities.

It is imperative if you are making solid burning candles that you do not use pigment dyes. Pigment dyes should only be used in cut-n-carve operations and over dips. If coloring gel candles only, then liquid dyes should be used.

March 2008

New and
Exciting Products

There are many new and exciting products which have been developed to make any of your candle making projects easier or to improve the performance of the finished candle. One of the more important issues we write about is the need to keep the wick as straight as possible. There are now products available to help accomplish this in pillars, containers and votives.

The M-63-P Votive Pin - A pin that pops right into the votive mold. You then pour your wax into the mold and when you finish topping off and the candle is ready to take out you just slide the candle out, remove the votive pin and slide a pre-wick assembly in the formed wick hole. Not only does it ensure the wick will be centered through the candle, but also lets you use any type of wick in it that will not fall over during production. These pins will last you for many pours.

CPP-1, CPP-2 and CPP-3 - Similar to the votive pin but instead these pins slide in from the outside of the aluminum mold and will form a hole for a pre-wick assembly to slide into the candle. These pins should only be used for the round aluminum molds. These pins will again ensure your wick is centered through the candle.

WS-1 Wick Stick - This stick is a lifesaver when trying to keep your wick centered in containers. You merely take your pre-wick assembly, slide it into the tube, stick a glue dot on the bottom of the sustainer and then place the wick stick into the container and apply pressure so the glue dot sticks to the bottom of the glass. Before the wax hardens, remove the wick stick and top off your candle. This product should only be used on waxes that require topping off and is not good for soy, one pour and gel waxes.

M-503 Bow Tie Wick Clip - This is a great item to help keep your wicks centered through the candle. You merely take your pre-wick assembly apply a glue dot and center in the jar and then put this part on top of the jar and put your wick in the center hole. Or if you are using two wicks, this device will also help you place the two wicks in the right location. The unique construction allows it to be used in many different diameters of containers. For best results the glue dots should be used with this part. In addition you will need to use pre-wick assemblies that are at least the height of the jar you are filling.

M-504 Plastic Jar Cap - Similar to the bow tie, this item will help you keep your wicks straight in the standard apothecary jars. This device also can help when using multiple wicks. The drawback to this part is that it can only be used with jars with 3” diameter openings. (You will be surprised how many jars are 3” in the opening.) . In addition you will need to use pre-wick assemblies that are at least the height of the jar you are filling.

GD-1 Glue Dots- A must when using the bow tie clip or plastic jar cap. These glue dots adhere the base of your wick assemblies to the bottom of your jar or container to keep them in place while pouring. These uniform dots will help keep the wicks in place at the bottom of the container will the bow tie and plastic cap will help keep it centered on top.


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