|Man knows so much and does so little. - Inventor Buckminster Fuller|
How To Make Gel Candles
What Are Gel Candles Made Of?
Gel candle wax is not really a wax at all, but is made of a specially designed mixture of 95% mineral oil and 5% polymer resin. The resin is a powder that, when mixed with the mineral oil, transforms it to a more solid state, almost like Jell-O or hair gel.
Penreco is the US Company that produces the gel and holds the patent on this technology. Needless to say, its composition is a well kept secret. Because of its quality and consistency, many candle makers recommend using this product. Versagel™ comes in three types: CLP (low density), CMP (medium density), and CHP (high density). The thicker or denser the gel is, the more fragrance oil it will hold and heavier objects it will hold.
Which Type Of Gel Should I Use?
That all depends on what you want to make. For a basic, light to moderately scented candle, the CLP is all you need. The CMP is a little more solid and will hold more fragrance for a heavier scent. The CHP is the thickest gel produced and will hold the heaviest scent load. Use the CHP also if you plan to suspend any embeds (such as glass fish, glitter, etc.) Also, the thicker the gel, the longer it will take to melt, and the harder it will be to pour. Keep in mind gel takes longer to melt than paraffin waxes, so patience will be required.
What Equipment Do I Need?
To melt the gel, use a non-stick pot on the stove. There is no need to use a double boiler. It will take far too long with gel. You can also use a rice cooker or deep fryer to melt the gel. You’ll need a candy thermometer that reaches up to 300 degrees F and some type of container to mix and pour your gel from. You can use a glass measuring cup. You will also need the right size of wicking. Zinc wicks work best with gel candles. Set aside wick tabs and a container to burn your gel in and include any imbeds or objects you want to put in your gel.
Another fabulous thing about gel candles is that they are easy to clean up. You simply peel away any residue that is left on your equipment or counters. Remember not to pour any gel wax down the drain, what a mess!
To stir the gel, you can use metal knitting needles or a long metal or hard plastic spoon. Wooden spoons will add air bubbles into the gel, so it’s not recommended to use those.
At What Temperature Should Gel Wax Be Poured?
Heat your gel to 203 - 221 degrees F for mixing and blending color. Then, cool it to 185 - 203 degrees F for pouring. Keep in mind the hotter the gel is when poured, the more air bubbles it will have when it dries. The cooler the gel is when poured, the fewer air bubbles. Also, the more you stir the wax, the more air bubbles you will produce.
Do NOT heat the gel any higher than 230 degrees F. This can cause the resin to burn and the gel to ignite. Keep an eye on your thermometer and have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergencies. Make sure it’s a chemical kind and not water. Never put water on a wax fire, it will only cause the flames to spread. You can also throw sand or baking soda to smother the flames. Better to be safe than sorry!
What Type Of Wicking Should You Use?
Zinc wicking best suits gel wax candles. They work best because they burn safely and remain upright while the candle is setting. They also burn longer and hotter, which is what you need for burning gel candles.
A disadvantage of zinc wicks is that they will mushroom as they burn. You will need to trim these off your wicks when they appear. Before you light your candle, trim the wick to ¼” above the wax.
Cotton wicks shouldn’t be used because they absorb too much of the gel.
You will need to use wick tabs to secure the wicks to the bottom of the container. The tabs can be attached with glue dots or by dipping the tab in some gel and then pressing the tab to the bottom of the container.
If you use a wick that has been primed (wax coated), which many wicks on the market are, then you’ll need to remove the wax from the wick before placing it in the candle. If you don’t do this, then your gel candles will appear cloudy all around the wick. To remove the wax from the wicks, put them on a cookie sheet which is lined with several paper towels. Place them in the oven on warm for a couple of minutes. The wax will melt off the wick. But you’ll need to prime them again. If you simply place them in the gel wax as they are they will produce air bubbles which can be trapped in the many strands of the wicking. This time, prime them this time with the gel wax. Before you add any fragrance or color to your gel wax, dip the wicks in the wax to coat them and let them dry. Now they are ready to use in your gel candles!
What Type And How Much Fragrance Should I Use?
Gel candles require a specific type of fragrance. Fragrances should have a flashpoint of at least 170 degrees F and be non-polar. Essential oils cannot be used in gel candles.If you use the wrong fragrances, your candles will appear cloudy. If you are unsure about a fragrance, you can test it by adding a few drops to some mineral oil. If the mineral oil stays clear, it should stay clear in your gel as well. If the mineral oil turns cloudy, it will most likely make your gel candle cloudy.
The amount of fragrance to add is also a matter of personal preference. However, never add more than 5% fragrance to your gel. An easy way to figure this is to use one tablespoon of fragrance per one pound of gel. If it appears too strong for you, you can always use less. Add the fragrance after the gel is heated and right before you pour it into the container. Make sure it’s well blended to avoid fragrance pools in your candle.
How Much Color Should I Use?
After you have heated your gel and added the fragrance, you can now add the color. The amount of color to use depends on your personal preference. Just keep in mind that the less amount of color you use, the more clarity your candles will have. If you prefer to have a more solid color candle, add more color. Remember that you can always add more color but you can’t take it out! Add the color quickly before the gel has a chance to cool. If it happens to cool too quickly, just heat it back up and keep going. There are liquid dyes and color dye blocks available. If you want to get an idea of how the color will look, dribble a little of the colored gel onto wax paper before pouring it into your container.
What Type Of Objects Can I Embed In My Gel Candles?
Always use nonflammable objects in your gel. Some ideas could include glass or marbles. Premade wax items (made from a hard crystalline wax to prevent melting when the hot gel is poured over it) can include popular fruit preserves, gumballs, flowers, citrus slices, and more. You could also use natural embeds such as sea shells or sand dollars. Always wash these items with warm mineral oil before embedding to clean off any residue and prevent clouding your gel. This also helps reduce the amount of air bubbles that will occur around the shapes. Some cosmetic grade glitter can also be used in very small quantities.
Equipment and Materials Needed
Step 1 – Before starting, we recommend that you spread newspaper over your work area in case anything spills. Also, please don't pour any gel in or near your sinks because it will clog your drain. When it cools, your drains will have a coating of gel which could be very difficult to remove!
Step 2 - Heat the wax over direct heat using a non-stick pot. The gel should be poured between 230 and 250 degrees F. A higher temperature will lead to less air bubbles. Never heat gel wax over 260°F, it will cause the gel to burst into flames.
Step 3 – Use some of the melted gel to prime your wicks and coat any embeds you plan on using. Allow the embeds to rest in the gel until the bubbles stop appearing, and throw that gel away. Use tweezers to remove the embeds from the gel.
Step 4 – Arrange the coated embeds in the container and add the wick. It’s better to keep the objects around the sides of the container, that way they will be easier to see.
Step 5 – If you are using a color and fragrance, add it now and mix thoroughly.
Step 6 – Slowly pour the gel into the container trying to avoid air bubbles. Another way to avoid bubbles is to warm the empty container first in the oven (100°F for 10 minutes) or under hot running water. If you prefer more air bubbles, use a container that is at room temperature or was left in the refrigerator. Also, shaking it gently as it cools or stirring the gel will create air bubbles.
Step 7 – Allow your gel candle to cool completely and trim the wick ¼” from the top of the gel.
Make a sea candle
Pour sand into the bottom of a container and slowly pour the gel wax on top to seal it. Allow it to cool, then place gel coated shells, stones, or buried treasure on the sand. Add more gel on top of this and warm in the oven at 175 degrees F to reduce bubbles.
Make floating embeds
Tie your objects to a string and tape the string to the outside of the container or tie to sticks above the container. Pour the wax and cut the strings when the candle has cooled. You may also wait until the gel is cooling and drop the embeds into the gel, which will slowly sink. A few will remain suspended as the gel cools.
Make glitter candles
Use extra fine glitter or pewter and add it to the gel before pouring it into the container. A little goes a long way, so just use a pinch. Stir the candle to create more bubbles, which will reflect the light.
Make a jelly, drink, or cocktail candle
Use a Mason jar, drinking glass, or martini glass, and use paraffin wax fruit pieces or paraffin cut into chunks as ice cubes. Color the gel and pour it over the wax embeds at a low temperature. Use citrus slices or olives made from paraffin to help jazz it up.
Make a layer gel candle
Pour clear gel into the container and let it cool completely. On top of that, pour a colored gel and stab at the lower layer with a knife or skewer. The hot colored gel will seep into the clear gel, making streaks of color. A turkey baster or syringe can also be use to inject hot gel into a cool layer.
Get more candle information from the National Candle Association.
Melting Candle Wax
Gel Candle Making
Glass Container and Jar Candles
Metal Candle Molds
Polyurethane Candle Molds
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