Wax Formulas For Taper Candles
By Bob Sherman
Wax formulas or recipes as they are sometimes called can be quite confusing to beginners. In this article I will explain various ingredients and offer wax formulas I have had success with for making taper candles.
PLEASE NOTE!! - Candle making can be dangerous if proper safety procedures are not followed. Please read these Safety Rules before attempting any candle making projects.
What Is A Taper Candle?
Although many candle types may be tapered, when we refer to taper candles generally we are referring to long slender candles one inch or less in diameter. These are sometimes called dinner tapers because their most common use in modern times is at the dining table.
What Makes A Good Taper Candle?
Generally a well made taper candle contains a fairly hard wax formula and has a wick suitable for that formula / candle diameter combination. This will provide a candle that has:
- Long burn time.
- Sag resistance - will not sag from the heat in normal room temperature ranges.
- Good scent throw (if scented).
- Dripless - A round single wick candle should always burn dripless.
- Self trimming - A properly sized wick will normally be self trimming.
Scented Or Unscented?
The vast majority of taper candles are made unscented. This is because most tapers are used at the dinner table and scented candles can put folks off so the highest demand is for unscented tapers. This does not mean they cannot be scented and there is some demand for scented tapers, mainly in specialty markets. Should you decide to scent your tapers, bear in mind that due to the tiny melt pool the scent throw will be minimal.
The main ingredient. Paraffin wax is a complex molecule that is created at oil refineries by fractional distillation. The general assumption is that wax is wax, however the reality is that no two waxes are identical and they even vary slightly from one batch to the next from the same manufacturer.
Although on the surface that last statement does not seem too significant, the implications have an enormous bearing on your candle making:
- Any published wax formula (including mine) may need to be adjusted unless you are using the exact same wax and other ingredients.
- As far as we are concerned, Melt Point is just a simplified way of comparing waxes - however two waxes with the same melt point may have radically different properties that affect the finished candle.
The most important factor with wax is to find one that works well for you and stick with it. Every time you change waxes, you will need to test your formulas and wick sizes.
Note: traditionally taper candles are made unscented. They have a very small melt pool and do not provide a good scent throw.
If you are making scented candles, scent oil will affect your wax formula and usually the wick size needed as well. Scent oil will make the wax slightly softer and lower the viscosity (thickness) of the melted wax. The main implication of this is that you may need a different wick size for scented and unscented candles made with the same wax formula.
Some important things to know about scent oils:
- As mentioned previously, any published wax formula (including mine) may need to be adjusted unless you are using the exact same scent oil and other ingredients.
- There are virtually no standards - scent oils from different sources will have different properties.
- Most wax formulas have a maximum carrying capacity of 1 ounce scent oil per pound of wax (with some formulas it is less). because of this always use a high quality oil for the best scent throw. You cannot just double up on a cheap low quality oil.
- Avoid potpourri oils - these usually contain glycol which is not oil soluble and will make a slimy, oily mess of your molds and equipment. Some cheap "candle scents" contain glycol as well.
- If you make both scented and unscented candles, the use of carrier oil in unscented candles will allow the use of the same wick size for both which helps simplify things.
- Most scent oils have a tint - avoid using these if a white candle is desired.
Taper candles should always be colored with candle dyes. Pigments or crayons are for external use only and should never be used to color the core wax as it will cause wick clogging leading to a poorly burning candle. Pigments are well suited to overdipping your candles for color if desired.
Most taper makers prefer flat braid wick however square braid will also work. These will curl the tip into the hottest part of the flame, allowing it to burn cleaner and be self trimming. The use of a cored wick is not recommended and will cause it to burn much less cleanly and will require frequent trimming. See my Wick Selection Guide for information about choosing the correct wick.
Taper Wax Formula
This is the only taper formula I have had consistent success with over the years. This is a Stearic based formula and dates back to when I started making candles in the 1970s. You made need to adjust the stearic amount depending on your wax.
- 1 pound of 140 melt point paraffin wax
- Stearic Acid - 5 level Tablespoons
- Color - dye block or flake to desired color
- Scent Oil - Optional - 1 ounce or less per pound of wax - the actual maximum amount that can be used will vary depending on your wax
Most Stearic based formulas are inferior in nearly every way to Vybar based formulas however I find that they work better in taper candles.
Overdip Wax Formula
My personal preference is to make my tapers the same color throughout, using the formula above. Some folks prefer to make the tapers white and color them with an overdip. The following is a color overdip formula - do not use it in the core of the candle.
- 1 pound of 140 melt point paraffin wax
- Pigment Dye - 5 to 10%
Pigments contain opaque suspended solids and allow the rapid buildup of color. Those same suspended solids will clog your wick if used in the core of the candle though. Regular candle dyes are transparent and will not provide good color when used in an overdip.
Making The Candles
There are two common techniques for making tapers - dipping and molding.
- Dipping - Dipping is the fastest way to produce many tapers. Full taper dipping instructions may be found here.
- Molding - Molding tapers is a much slower process that is done the same way as any molded candle, except in taper molds.
Candle Making Supplies
The following candle making supplies are what I use to make pillar candles. Clicking on the item name will bring you to that item's page with a full description and ordering information.
Additives (Vybar, Stearic)
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Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge and common candle making practices as of the time of this writing Originally published in August 2007 and updated in July 2011. The author and the publisher accept no liability for the use or misuse of any of the information presented in this article. This article is presented for informational purposes and is used at your own risk.
Author: Bob Sherman
Publisher: Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc.
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