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October 30, 2018

School in Session II: Math 101

The 'En-Light-ener' Candle Making Newsletter
November 2018
School is in Session II: 
Math 101
Hopefully you enjoyed our September Enlightener in which we touched on the various sciences involved with making candles. To maximize your candle making business, it’s important to be a well-rounded student. For many of us who have not set foot in a classroom (other than for parent-teacher conferences) for many years, much of our learning comes from online sources or through trial and error. The resources we have available online can certainly save you time and money and help you get a head start on the learning process. 

Math is important in candle making, from the first step to the very last. The advent of Wax Blends has certainly helped to simply candle formulations; however, to achieve the best results, you should measure and weigh all other components. Weighing everything will help you ensure the consistency of your results. The more precise your scale, the better your chances of achieving consistent results, especially in smaller batch sizes.   
Fragrance Load
One of the first things new candle makers seem to hear about is fragrance load as measured in percentages. Formulations call for 5%, 6% etc. When making candles in larger batches, the math is very easy. For example, if you want a fragrance load of 5%, and you’re mixing a 100-pound batch, you would add 5 pounds of fragrance (6 pounds if you want a 6% fragrance load.) However, when you’re making smaller batches, the math is not quite as easy.

One of our suggestions is to always do batches in full pound increments and not to the candle size. If you’re making a 22-ounce jar candle, don’t just melt the amount needed to fill the container. You will need to account for some spillage to occur, shrinkage of the wax and the residue that will be left in the pot. The best thing to do is melt 2, 3 or 4 pounds of wax, and then measure the amount that you need for your candles. The quick math involved in this can be achieved by multiplying 16 ounces x 4 = 64 ounces (the capacity of the pouring pot). Your 5% of that 64 ounces is 3.2 ounces of fragrance. Many times when you’re mixing in even smaller quantities, the most common and easiest reference is that, by adding 1 ounce of fragrance per pound of wax, you will achieve 5% fragrance load. Actually it is slightly higher than 5%.

Some of the formulas for making Soy wax candles will suggest using 10-20% Palm Stearic or Beeswax. When doing this calculation, you can use the same calculations in any batch size. The important factor in any calculation is that you carefully weigh your components. When working with Soy waxes, your candle can set up differently with a 5% fragrance load vs. 6% or 7%, and the differences in a small, 1-pound batch are very insignificant.
Determining Costs
An equally important use of math in candle making is determining the cost of your candles and developing a price at which to sell them. Understanding ALL of your costs is extremely important and can mean the difference between your venture being profitable or not profitable. As things change in the economy, you must consistently measure them against your processes and costs. Is the increase in raw materials driving up your cost to the point that you should consider a price increase? Did you have to increase the scent load for a particular customer? Did the return rate from a particular customer increase?

The question many people ask is, "Where do I start?" The first step is to calculate ALL of your costs. If you have access to a spreadsheet, begin to list all of these costs, and keep them up to date so you can track potential pricing issues early in the process. We recommend that you work closely with your accountant on this project to be sure you have identified all of your expenses.
Variable Candle Making Costs
When you have a candle making business, there is the obvious cost of your waxes, fragrances, wicks, containers and color. You should also include in these costs a calculation for the cost of inbound freight. Over the years, freight costs have continued to increase and must be accounted for. These items represent the larger portion of your variable costs, but there are many other smaller expenses that you may not have considered. These include, but are not limited to, the labels you use (as you may have found, four-color labels can be expensive) and the carton and/or packing material used to ship your candles. Also, did you run out of a component and need special, overnight shipping to finish the project? Be sure to reflect this in your costs. The above expenses also are referred to as your "cost of goods," and they will change based on how many candles you produce.
Fixed Candle Making Costs
The next category is your fixed cost, or what is commonly called "overhead." This category includes rent, utilities, labor, insurance, advertising, credit card fees, catalogs, advertising and many others that may or may not exist with all candle companies. For those who run their business in a home, garage or basement, identifying fixed costs may be difficult. However, be sure not to shortchange these costs, because, if you elect to set up an operation outside of the home, it’s hard to absorb all of these costs in your cost structure. 

If you are the only employee, then be sure to add a cost for your labor. Again, do not underestimate this charge, because it will not help in the long run. When identifying your labor cost, be sure to calculate time spent picking up items, running to the post office or UPS store or anything else that takes you away from other activities. 

Identifying all of your fixed costs can be difficult, especially with utility costs that change based on cold winters and hot summers, the cost of snow removal and other costs. However, be sure you are charging enough. You need to get as close as possible to these actual, overhead costs.
Incidental Candle Making Costs
The final category is incidental cost, or what I would call the "cost of doing business." These costs are much more difficult to identify, especially for start-up companies. Typically, these include, but are not limited to, returns, promotions, testing of new products, trade show costs, samples sent to customers, donations to non-profits, and other costs that may not fit into the above two categories.

Unfortunately, it is not an easy task to put your hands on all of your costs, but, if you elect to sell candles, it is important to understand how all these costs can have an impact on your business. There is not a set formula for each candle company, because everyone's circumstances are completely different.

Math is everywhere in candle making, so it is important to hone these skills and be prepared for more problem-solving questions that may arise. For example, sometimes projects may identify temperatures in Celsius or weights in grams. Also, if you’re selling your product in a foreign country, you may need to calculate the exchange rate. The good news in all instances is that the internet has resources for calculating all of these potential issues.
Hi. I'm Chandler.
I am trying to achieve the best possible formulation for my candles. I like some of the properties of beeswax and some of soy and paraffin. Can I blend all of the waxes?
The answer is yes! You certainly can blend any of the waxes together (with the exception of gel wax). You can take any percentage of paraffin, soy, palm and beeswax and blend them together if you so desire. The extent of your blending will vary as to what you are trying to achieve as a product. Mixing soy and paraffin can help you make your candles look more natural and also improve fragrance throw, because paraffin wax is part of the formula.
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Days until...
Start of Hanukkah
End of Year
Do you remember last year driving around your town on Christmas Eve and seeing all of the driveways, or shops in a small downtown area, glowing with magnificence? These spectacular sites generally start with candles. Even if you are not a candle maker, you can get your entire neighborhood involved.
Fall Candle
Select a votive to use. For making this project you can use one that you made or a standard 15-hour votive. Also choose your bags.
Fill the bag with enough sand to prevent the bag from blowing away in the evening. Place the votive in the bag and light it. Naturally, these should only be used in outdoor displays.
Line the bags along a driveway or sidewalk. 
 Even though you’re placing these outside, you still should use extreme caution.
Cut designs into the bag or add decorations to the outside of the bag. Snowflakes, stars and candy canes always add a special holiday touch. As identified in the feature article, you may even want to think about donating these to your local businesses if you can place your label on the outside of the bag.
If you are expecting guests, try scenting the votives so your guests will be surprised with the pleasant smell of BayberryChristmas Cheer or some other wonderful holiday fragrance.
Since the votive is not seen, the color is not important. You can use up all of your scrap wax to make these candles.
If you are making these for your own use, you may want to use soup cans, pet food containers (if metal) or other metal containers.
If you have snow on the ground, make a large snowball and hollow out the middle, then put a candle in it. Make sure to keep these candles away from shrubs, trees and other flammable objects.
Social Hour:
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