Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Tutorial: Colourful Smiling Dipped Candles

My friend Courtney and I are co-counsellors of the grade six group at GEMS, our church's girls club. We asked the girls weeks ago what were some of the badges the would like to work on as a class.

One of their requests was the Candle Making Badge. So Friday, we made two different candle crafts. The first was stamping on candles (that will be a future tutorial) and the second was dipped candles. The girls had a great time; for whimsical touch we added faces to our candles.

This was my fourth time making dipped candles with kids. The first time was when I was in a Girl Guild, probably in grade 4 or 5. The second I was 16 and a jr. counselor at a Girl Guide camp. The third was in 2010 during Backyard Clubs. There was not an incident because we were prepared.

When making candles with children:
  • There must be clear instructions
  • A warning that the wax is hot and they need to be careful. I often include a remembered that there will be no fooling around or horse play or those involved will not be allowed to finish.
  • Enough adults supervising (including one adult always watching the melting wax and when the dipping was happening else where an adult monitoring the dipping).
  • Since we kept our wax in the double boiler with the oven on we only allowed one girl in the kitchen at a time and had two adults in the kitchen. The rest were lined up outside the kitchen.
Now on with the tutorial...

Supplies: paraffin wax. broken crayons, tins (we used four old apple juice tins, wick (I got a spool of wick string at Michaels), a pot to use as a double boiler, oven mitts, pail or bowl of water, butter knife, googly eyes, and we needed a large knife to cut our paraffin wax brick.  

Step 1: Prepare Your Supplies
If you are using broken crayons, peel off any labels and divided them into different tins. I have a red and orange crayon tin, blue and purple crayon tin, and yellow and green crayon tin. I added a bit of paraffin wax to each of these tins to help balance the quality of different crayon wax. The fourth tin is just for paraffin wax.
This is where your double boiler pot comes in. First fill it half way full with water. I placed the four tins in the pot to make sure the water level wouldn't raise too much when they were added later. I then remove the tins. Place the pot on the stove top and bring to a boil.

Step 2: Melt the wax
Once the water is boiling turn down the heat and add your tins. It is important to have an adult watching the wax. If I wasn't at the stove, my co-councillor was monitoring the wax. It worked out well.

We started melting the wax 2 hours before our craft time with the girls.

What we discovered was that paraffin wax and crayon wax have different melting points (yay science). The paraffin wax would melt and stay melted in the simmering water but the other tins were still lumpy, especially the red. We had to turn the heat back up and keep the water boiling so that the red wax would stay melted. We had to add water to the double boiler at least once, so that is something to watch for

Step 3: Cut Wicks
While the wax was melting I used the waiting time to cut lengths of string of my spool of wick cord. I cut our cords to be 2ft (24in or 60cm). It worked but I found it length a bit too long. Next time I would try 14-18 in (35-45cm).

Step 4: Set up a place for the candles to rest
If you are making more than one candle at a time it is useful to have a place to hang your candles. I made our area before starting to melt the wax. It is a old wrapping paper tube on top of craft storage boxes. I used a bit of tape on both ends to stop the tube from rolling.

Step 5: Dip in Wax - Dip in Water -Repeat
Hold the wick in the middle keeping the two ends separate. Dip the wick in the wax. Quickly lift it up. Hold it above for a moment or two to let any wax drip off. This helps conserve your wax and saves on clean up time later.

Once the drips have stopped place the wax/wick in the water.

Then repeat until you are satisfied with the thickness of your candles.

Useful Suggestions, Tips, and Ideas:
  • Before the girls arrived we dipped the wicks 10 times in the clear paraffin wax (with water dips in between) so they would have a base to work with. I find starting is the hardest because you don't notice the candle is forming till about the 5th dip.
  • If the crayon wax is too lumpy or isn't melting at the same temperature as the other tins add more paraffin wax.
  • You can buy coloured paraffin wax and paraffin dyes at craft stores. Theses will produce a better quality candle. We used broken crayons because it is away to recycle.
  • It is important to dip quickly. I find children want to leave their candles in the wax to help it grow more. Only that has the opposite effect. Their candle starts to melt and comes out thinner.
  • If you are making candles with a group of children, consider having another activity happening in another area. We had the other candle craft happening in our classroom (with another leader supervising). We would have one girl in the kitchen dipping 10 times. Then they would hang their candle on our rack (with their name below) and it would be the next girls turn. Once everyone had a turn dipping 10 times we had them line up outside the kitchen. The girl in the kitchen would dip twice in the colour of their choice then go to the end of the line to wait for their next turn. It worked very well.

Optional: Add a Face
To add a face we dipped a single candle in the clear paraffin wax and quickly added the googly eyes. Then we re-dipped that candle in the paraffin wax (covering the eyes) before dipping the candle in the water. For safety reasons and the need to add the googly eyes quickly I did the actual dipping and adding. The girls would hold their candle and the googly eyes. Then we did the same thing with the second candle.

Last I inserted a hot butter knife just below the eyes. I had set it in the boiling water for a few moments to heat up. Then I carefully pulled the wax down to make a mouth. I had to be careful only to insert the knife part way so the candle didn't break. I only felt worried on some of the girls' thinner candles; I didn't want to ruin their candles.

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