Monday, November 14, 2011

~Molded Squash Candles~

    picture from
    Step 1

    Prepare the Squash

    Remove stem and top of an acorn squash to make a flat opening big enough to fit your hand. Remove seeds and pulp with a spoon. Use a melon baller to remove more pulp in vertical strips, so the shell is thin and the hollowed inside of the squash mimics the shape of the outside. Smooth lines with back of spoon.
    Step 2

    Add Wax to Squash Shell

    Melt wax (we used old candles) in a saucepan set over, but not touching, a pot of boiling water, until a candy thermometer registers 180 degrees. As wax is heating, cut a piece of wicking 3 inches longer than height of squash, and attach a metal wick tab to one end. Carefully pour wax into squash (steady squash, if necessary, in a wide-mouthed glass). Then, holding top of wick, drop metal tab into squash; it will sink to bottom. Trim wick 2 to 3 inches above surface of wax.
    Step 3

    Remove Squash Skin from Candle

    Let sit until squash is cool to the touch, four to five hours (if center sinks during cooling, fill with more hot wax). When cooled, squash skin should peel away easily, leaving a patina on the wax. To even the bottom of candle, carve with a knife, or heat a knife and rub along bottom.
    Read more at Molded Squash Candles - Martha Stewart Crafts
    It's a good thing...or is it?
    Beautiful idea, isn't it?  Well, I tried and tried to get the picture-perfect results and couldn't re-create it. Candle-making is always an iffy process as you can't hide imperfections very easily. It is what it is.  Satisfaction comes with practice.
     After several attempts I slowly began to improve my squash candle making skills.  Quite possibly my results differed from what is pictured because I didn't use the suggested acorn squash for the project.  Instead, I used what was on our doorstep, because using what I had grown myself was my only option.
    I discovered through trial and error that the outside of the squash bears little resemblance to what's actually going on inside. This means that a cute, funky squash won't necessarily yield a candle mold that mirrors its original.
     In any case, these squash candles are very festive table decorations.  Hey, even if they don't turn out to be drop dead gorgeous, at least you can feel good about creating something by hand.  For me, that's the whole point.  Creative journeys are all about the process and not the product.
    Photo Gallery
    I started out with some wax.   Ben melted down a few of our old candles so that we'd have more wax to work with.  Until I nailed this process, I didn't want to use up my precious beeswax for the candles.  Practicing first with recycled wax was helpful. 
I have a large tin kettle for candle making.  It's designed just for melting candle wax. 
The wicks that I used come in long threads.  Unfortunately, they don't have a weighted bottom so I had to find a way to make it work.  This handy trick worked well. 
After melting and coloring the wax it was poured into the squash.
I made two green candles and one beeswax for the first trial.  Once the wax cooled, I broke the sides open to reveal what was inside.
Hmmm.  This is a bit different than what I had expected.  Here's what I learned.  First, the shape of the squash on the inside determines the candle's shape.  The molds here did not have inside ridges, therefore I was left with simple, rock-looking candles. 
Trial 2.  The squash duo here seemed to have more ridges, thus making it a better mold.  I gave my beeswax another meltdown and then waited for everything to cool. I wasn't happy with the odd looking things that emerged.  So, I re-melted the candles and moved along to trial 3.
I searched my front steps (it's decorated for fall) for an even more shapely squash.  Now that I figured out what makes a good mold, I worked hard to make sure that the inside ridges were deeply etched. 
While waiting for my candle to cool, I enjoyed perusing the pages of my November Martha Stewart Living magazine. 
I love the smell and appearance of beeswax candles.  Plus, they burn for hours and are better for your health and the environment.  I would like to thank our hardworking honeybees for making the wax. 

~It's none of your beeswax!~

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