What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is classified as an organic compound made up primarily of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. It is produced by bees in the form of tiny scales which are "sweated" from the segments on the underside of the abdomen. To stimulate production the bees gorge themselves with honey or sugar syrup and huddle together to raise the temperature of the cluster. The wax emerges as a transparent liquid which the bees then chew and mould into the cells of their comb. When the wax dries it turns into a hard, white substance, though because of the addition of propolis and other natural products of the beehive such as honey and pollen it is often a lemony-yellow colour retaining the faint smell of honey.
Why were beeswax candles burnt in churches?
In the past beeswax was involved in many aspects of life and greatly used by religious communities for the souls of the departed; for the high altars in churches. Such was the demand in medieval times that wax suppliers in their endeavour to meet the market requirements became influential and prosperous. It was the wish and law of the Church that candles, which were used on the altar in liturgical functions, be made from pure beeswax. However, because of difficulties of procuring 100% beeswax candles, the law in effect was changed by papal decree that the candle be comprised of at least 51% beeswax. It is not surprising then that traditionally beeswax was always regarded as a superior candle and was afforded only by the privileged royalty and church. Today beeswax candles are considered an affordable luxury, prized as a renewable resource and an air purifier.
Why is a beeswax candle said to be an air purifier and what is negative ionisation?
Negative ions help freshen and purify the air by causing allergens such as pollen, mould spores and dust floating in the air (which have either a neutral or a positive charge) to be attracted to and stick to each other, forming “clumps (because opposite charges attract). These clumps of particles then become heavy enough so that gravity can pull them down to the floor, where they can be vacuumed up, rather than staying in suspension where they can be breathed in and cause allergic reactions. Burning a beeswax candle, a negative ioniser, is a simple and effective way of purifying the air that you breathe.
What type of wicks are used in your candles?
Our beeswax candles use environmentally friendly and safe square braid cotton wicks which contain no metal core. Candles with lead wicks have been banned in Australia since 1999. When candles with more than 95% lead in the wick are burnt they emit 500 –1000 micrograms of lead per hour. Over one year, ˝ to 1 micrograms of lead per cubic metre of air is regarded as the maximum level a child or adult should be exposed to. Young children and unborn babies are particularly at risk. Even small quantities of lead are capable of causing I.Q. loss and learning difficulties and behavioural problems. Refer to www.lead.org.au for further details.
Please tell me about the size of the wick used in beeswax candles.
The wick is one of the most important ingredients in a well-burning candle. Its job is to bring the fuel to feed the flame. If you have the wrong type or size of wick your candle may not burn properly. Beeswax has more viscosity (stickiness) than many other waxes and requires a substantially larger wick than the same size candle in paraffin.
There are many different types of wick with flat-braided and square-braided 100% cotton wick being the most common. Square braided wick is the only wick recommended for beeswax candles. It has a more sturdy structure and is used in moulded candles, container candles and dipped candles and comes in many different sizes.
Wick size is determined by the number of threads in the bundles. Each thread is called a ply (or plait) and a specific number of ply are braided together for each different size of wick.
A numbering system is used to describe the various sizes of square-braided wicks ranging from 6/0 to 1/0 from small to large. For wicks larger than size 1/0 there is a different number system that goes from #1/0 to #10.
Generally a larger wick should be used for a larger candle although experiment to determine which size works best for your method of candle making. If your candle burns too quickly, you might try a thinner wick. If your candle “tunnels” try a larger wick. Wick size generally relates to candle diameter.
What is the white powder which sometimes appears on a beeswax candle?
This is called bloom. It is a white powdery dust which usually appears when the wax is cold and exposed to air. Its exact cause is still unclear but seems to be linked to a chemical change in the structure of the wax molecules on the surface. Bloom is a good indication that the beeswax is pure. It is not harmful and may be removed by buffing the candle with a nylon stocking although this does not work well with hand rolled honeycomb candles.
Apart from candles, what is beeswax used for?
The uses for beeswax are many but these days the most common, apart from better quality candles, are soap, skin care products, the coatings of sweets and pills, furniture polish, batik art, putting on drawer runners to make them slide smoothly and in quilting and heavy sewing it's put on the thread to ease its passing through tough materials. It is also used for lubricant in metal shops, die casters, printing presses, on surf boards, boogie boards, ice skates and many other items that need lubricating. Check out some formulae on our recipe pages.
Why don’t you scent your candles?
Beeswax candles have a natural scent and has a higher melting point than oil based waxes. We choose therefore to retain the natural perfume without additives. Many candles particularly those imported from overseas countries, have an increased use of synthetic fragrance oils to achieve the desired and fashionable “smell appeal”. As a result Black Soot Deposition, a direct effect of burning overly scented candles, is becoming more and more widespread. The black soot being found in homes is on the walls and furniture, is damaging air and heating units and lungs.
How do I melt beeswax?
Beeswax melts at 64C (147F). When melting beeswax always use a water bath by placing the container of wax - probably a small saucepan - inside a larger pan of water. Never place a pan of wax directly on a hot plate or gas ring. Beeswax can easily become damaged by localised overheating and if it ignites can burn more ferociously than any chip pan fire. Beeswax does not boil - it just gets hotter and hotter until it ignites.
Wax should only be melted in stainless steel, plastic, or tin plated containers. Iron rust and containers of galvanised iron, brass or copper all impart a colour to beeswax and aluminium is said to make the wax dull and mud coloured.
What safety procedures should I follow when burning candles?
Burning candles is safe if you follow some basic common sense rules:-
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