Simply put, pure and natural, beeswax is my candle of choice! Did you know…

A chandler is a maker or seller of candles.

Women in colonial America had to make their own candles since neither paraffin nor the technology to mass produce candles had yet been discovered. In the cool days of autumn, the housewife gathered natural wax materials and dipped her candles in preparation for the dark months of winter. Beeswax was the preferred candle material because it burned the longest and dripped the least. After gathering wax from hives, a wick tied to a twig was dipped repeatedly into the molten beeswax to build up layers. Aging the candles for at least three months enabled the wax to burn longer and with little dripping.  Hand-dipped candles burn longer than molded candles of the same material because it is built layer by layer and each layer is contracting (shrinking) as it cools, making a very dense candle.

Did you know that ‘thread wax’ was also used for quilting and darning socks to strengthen the thread and keep it from tangling?

“Pure beeswax cakes will help each time, when you need a thread for sewing fine, just rub the thread across the wax, to make it slip through cotton and flax.”

Bayberry wax was also esteemed for candle making because of its pleasant aroma (a contrast to the undesirable odor of more common tallow candles).

The bayberry bush still grows abundantly along the Atlantic seacoast. Its waxen, blue-gray berries are gathered in the fall.  When the berries are dropped into boiling water, the greenish wax melts and rises to the surface. Approximately one peck of berries is needed to make a single candle.

Manufacture of bayberry candles appears to have been an American innovation. Possibly learned from the Native Americans, it was economically important during the colonial period. In the latter part of the 17th century, quantities of bayberry wax were exported from southern colonies.

Bayberry candles do not sag in hot weather; however, they are not entirely dripless. They should not be left burning unattended. After a time, bayberry candles may turn gray. Rubbing the candles with a soft cloth will remove this discoloration or ‘bloom’.

 A traditional verse associated with bayberry candles claims that:

“If, on Christmas Eve you light one, make a wish and burn it to the socket;

You will have health in your heart, and wealth in your pocket.”

A few candle making tips:

If you would like to make hand-dipped candles, remember candle dipping is very dangerous!  Wax is highly flammable.  Never try to move a pot of wax once it is in liquid form.  All it takes is a little spill to create a disaster.  Do not leave the room while the kettle is heating! In case of an emergency, use baking soda to extinguish a flame.

It is also easy to get burned when you are working with hot wax.  Use extra care!  If you do get burned, you can run cold water on the affected area.  Aloe also helps to soothe and heal the burned skin faster.

When dipping at home on an electric or gas stove, always use a double boiler to melt the wax.  That is, there should be a pan of water under the wax container at all times.

And now a word about prim grunged candles – which are charming decor and so popular – are mostly for aesthetics and not really meant to be burned… due to the potential for the ‘grunged’ materials to catch fire.

Hint: They’re easy to make. Use any size pillar-type or other stick-type candle. Prepare your grunge mixture, such as spices, coffee grinds, bits of crushed rose hips, etc. and place onto a wax paper covered baking sheet. 1) Melt wax and dip your candle into the molten wax and then roll the candle in the spice/grunge mix until desired look – OR – 2) Use diluted mod podge ‘painted’ onto the surface of the candle and rolled into grunge mix. (Instant coffee will add color to the mod podge). Allow to air dry. HINT: You can drill an opening in the top of a pillar-type candle to accommodate a tea-lite (instead of actually burning the grunged pillar!).

Sometimes, a flame is too dangerous – so why not use electric tea lites – available at most craft stores. BUT, I prefer to GRUNGE them to disguise the icky plastic! They look soooo sweet in a little earthenware bowl  or perhaps vintage tin (filled with potpourri and a sprig of pine)!

HOW-TO: First, place masking tape on the bottom of the tea lite to protect the on-off switch! Simply and carefully dip the tea lite into melted beeswax (up to the bulb) & roll/sprinkle with grunge mixture. Repeat to achieve desired grunge effect. When cooled, remove masking tape and ‘reclaim’ wax.

We have a limited supply of hand-made beeswas, bayberry and soy candles at Sheepy Hollow…but, another source for hand-made in Dexter, Michigan!  authentic prim candles (and other needfuls) may be found at The Happy Peasant at


2 thoughts on “Candlemaking

  1. I’m an author writing a book on my ancestor and his encounter with Black Hawk. In the story, my ancestors are making candles. Would you consider letting me have a copy of the first photo above (of the candles hanging in the window?) I would gladly give your website credit. It’s a book for 4th and 5th grade students.

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