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Start a Candle Making Business

Candles have been used for centuries and as a business candle-making has enjoyed a long and varied history.  Despite decades of technological improvements in most industries, the very best candles and the most expensive are still made by hand.  Candle-making represents a very profitable and enjoyable opening for modern day craftworkers, especially as Christmas approaches and candles are purchased for decorative and functional purposes. 

The best candles are made from beeswax, sometimes in their entirety, sometimes with beeswax added to man-made ingredients.  Beeswax is compulsory in church candles, the amount varying between churches and their ruling bodies.  Though it gives a better end result, beeswax is generally too expensive for candles designed for home use. 

 

Less costly designs such as those you see selling at craft fairs and fleamarkets can be created from synthetic waxes available from craftshops and specialist suppliers.  A tiny amount of beeswax added to artificial wax improves the appearance and fragrance of your candle.  Beeswax can be obtained from most local beekeepers' associations and from specialist suppliers like Thornes (Beehives) Ltd.  Candlemaking equipment and synthetic materials are available in most craft shops where you will also find a wide selection of useful instruction books.

Making Your Candles

Simple designs are easy to make and only when you begin to experiment with texture, colour and shape does the task become more difficult.  Popular marketable designs including unusual shapes, layers of different colours, odd textures, chunky designs, candles decorated with sequins and beads, hand-painted types and novelty shapes like Santas at Christmas, eggs at Easter, witches at Halloween.  The real secret of success in this business is to make your designs different, hopefully unique.  This blueprint is designed for the newcomer, who should supplement his knowledge by careful market research, noting what the competition is doing, and what new designs and marketing methods can be incorporated into his own business.

A Few Simple Designs

Simple Dipped Candle

Depending on the size you want your candle to be, take a piece of beeswax and melt it in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.  Take a piece of wick and dip it in the wax up to the required length.  Remove the wick and dip it again.  Do this repeatedly, allowing the wax to build up in layers until it reaches the desired thickness.  When complete, hang the candle by the wick in a cool place to harden.  Coloured candles can be made from pre-dyed wax or by giving a white candle a final dip in coloured wax.  If beeswax is too expensive or hard to find, use synthetic wax instead. 

Rolled Craftwax Candle

Prepare a large clean workspace without bumps or ridges.  Cover with craft paper.  Have all the necessary equipment at hand ruler, scissors, pins, decorations, wicks, cutters (biscuit cutters are useful), craftwax sheets.  Lay out the craftwax sheets and leave to warm to room temperature.

For a really simple candle, cut a piece of wick an inch longer than you want your candle to be and lay it along one side of the wax sheet, about 1/8th inch from the edge.  Leave the extra inch of wick protruding at the top of the 'finished' candle.  Very carefully, fold the edge of the wax over the wick.  Smooth into place and give a gentle tug to make sure the wick is properly in place.  Keep rolling the wax around the wick until you reach the desired thickness.  Cut the wax and smooth out the edges and joins.  Store somewhere cool, not cold, and out of direct sunlight. 

Moulded Candle Using Blocks of Wax

Boil some water in a double boiler, adding blocks of wax to the upper pan.  Simmer constantly until the wax is melted.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of stearin to every 450g of wax.  After the stearin has dissolved stir in a dye or colouring of your choice.  Prepare a mould.  A simple container is best with a hole added to the bottom through which the wick is passed and knotted on the underside.  Spray the inside of the mould with silicone spray to make the candle easier to remove.  With the mould standing upright, wrap the wick around a pencil or rod so the wick remains taut and centred.  Arrange the rod lengthwise across the mould.  Pour the wax from the pan into a glass jug and fill the mould slowly to prevent bubbles forming in the mixture.  Leave to stand in a bucket of cold water to the height of the wax and use a heavy object to keep the candle stable.  After 30 minutes remove the weight and check the wax has set.  Remove the candle from the mould and store somewhere safe. 

Be Different

Anything that makes your candles stand out from the rest is likely to increase your profits.  Look for unusual designs and colours and try to create something unique. 

Chunky Candles

The chunky effect is obtained from embedded pieces of different coloured wax that are visible through the walls of the candle.  Hardened blocks of wax are arranged in the mould, leaving spaces for the melted wax to settle into.  The effect can be stunning, especially where several colours are used. 

Striped Candles

To make a vertically striped candle, begin with a candle made of one colour.  Remove it from the mould and leave to cool.  Apply masking tape vertically down the candle, depending on the width you want your stripes to be.  Pour a tiny amount of dyed wax in a large shallow container (a swiss roll tin or painting tray is useful).  Now roll your candle over the wax, covering the sides evenly.  Remove from the tray, being careful not to get wax on the top of your candle.  Leave to cool before removing the strips.

Egg Candles

Empty eggshells make excellent moulds, especially for candles with an Easter design and obvious popularity at seasonal craft fairs.  One egg is needed for every candle and careful cleaning is essential.  To prepare the mould, make a hole about 1/2 inch in diameter in the large end of a raw egg. Pierce the yolk with a skewer or knitting needle and allow the contents to drain.  Wash the inside thoroughly and stand the egg on a piece of kitchen towel until completely dry.  Stand your eggs in an egg box for stability and insert the wicks leaving a long piece to trail at the top.  Fill with melted wax and leave to set.  Chip away the shells and decorate to finish.

Layered Candles

Layers of different coloured wax are attractive and colours can be chosen to reflect the season or special occasion red, white and green for Christmas; rust, orange and brown for autumn; different shades of pink or blue for a new baby, and so on.  In layered candles, each colour is poured after the previous one has hardened, producing either horizontal or angled layers, depending on the angle of the mould.  Time allowed between pouring successive layers is crucial.  The previous layer must be set before another is added or the colours will mix.  Make sure the wick is properly in place when the mould is arranged at an angle.

Candle-Making Tips and Techniques

-     Make your own moulds from everyday household items like milk cartons, eggs, rubber balls and   jelly moulds.

 

-     Be careful when choosing your wick.  If the wick is too thick, the candle will smoke.  If the wick is too thin the candle won't last long.

Marketing Your Candles

First decide whether you want to sell your candles yourself or have others market them for you.   Candles sell well at craft fairs, by mail order, through gift and souvenir shops, through garden centres, and other retail outlets.  Many candle-makers offer their goods for others to sell on a sale-or-return basis; some offer low volume wholesale packages with prices reducing for larger sales. 

As you become more proficient you might consider working to commission, literally designing and producing candles exclusively for regular buyers.  Restaurants, hotels, stately homes, souvenir shops and tourist centres are likely markets for exclusive designs.  Commissioned designs offered by one very successful Herefordshire-based firm include birthday candles with signs of the zodiac (recipients' name and date of birth included as an optional extra); wedding candles with partners' names and wedding date painted in gold; engraved local views and landmarks, and much more.  Local landmarks and tourist attractions are particularly good sellers through souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels, and are usually made to commission.  Most of this firm's candles are made using moulds and finished by hand.  This is one of several firms for which the bulk of business comes through commissions, particularly at Christmas with customers looking for unusual, more personal gifts for family and friends.  Firms' advertising messages can also be incorporated into candles, making this a popular alternative to gifts traditionally chosen by firms to promote their trade mugs, diaries, calendars, wallcharts, and so on.

Increase Your Profits

Keep your eyes open for new and unusual ways to market your work.  For example:

Consider how candles might be introduced into other businesses.  The gift basket service is a useful example, many of which package gourmet foods, trinkets, champagne and high class confectionery, but rarely candles for the celebration dinner.

Study high-pedestrian tourist areas, like stately homes, museums, tourist attractions. Offer to make candles for them, incorporating maps, advertising messages, pictures, announcements, scenes, etc.

Look for targetable groups to make and market to.  Collectors are a useful example.  People interested in collecting teddy bears, dolls, pigs and frogs might also be interested in candle designs to reflect their hobby.  Model cottages represent another product currently selling well in resin and pottery form but rarely offered in wax. 

Avril Harper Titles

Sample Chapters and Free Downloads

VIEW ALL AVRIL HARPER TITLES HERE