September 2012
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Lorrie [userpic]
Candle Babble: Second Pour: Now with SCIENCE!


The other day, I poured three candles that were one part soft soy wax to two parts unfiltered beeswax.

Candles poured into cylindrical glasses of roughly 55 mm interior diameter (ID) would burn as expected for awhile (perhaps an hour?) and then the flame would, judging by its appearance, become underfueled while standing in a pool of its own wax. In the case of the tall narrow candle (55 mm ID, 200 mm tall), the candle self-extinguished, leaving a rather tall wick standing out of the wax once it had cooled. At that point, the wax was approximately 37 mm from the top of the glass.

The shorter candle (55 mm ID, 87 mm height) exhibited the same behavior, but did not self-extinguish.

In both cases where candles became underfueled, the color of the flame became much redder, and the overall flame was much shorter, than in an all-paraffin control candle lit at the same time. Pouring out the currently molten wax immediately restored the bee/soy blend's flame to an appearance near to that of the paraffin, but the former underfueled condition soon reasserted itself.

The third of the three 2:1 bee:soy blended candles was in a glass with the shape of a conical frustum* with a 65 mm ID at its wider, upper base. Flame behaviour on this candle was much healthier, with the same wax blend, than in the other two candles in their cylindrical glasses. It burned very nearly a perfect cylindrical section out of its frustum mold with an OD of 40 mm, but this flame continued to burn healthily long after the short cylinder had started to labor, and the tall cylinder had self-extinguished. It was starting to labor when I extinguished both shorter candles myself last night.

The cylindrical glasses had formerly held all-paraffin candles, and the conical frustum had formerly held a soft soy scented candle (brand "Pacifica", scent "Avalon Juniper", purchased at Oakland Whole Foods Market because THERE WAS A RAVEN ON THE BOX; I am occasionally predictable). The previous candle had also had a problem with self-extinguishment, but not until it was nearly depleted.


The candle burns normally until it has melted enough of the blend to get underway. Then, it consumes the soy part of the blend (with its melting point of 49-52° C) first, but the flame is not hot enough to consume the beeswax portion of the blend (melting point 66° C). This would explain the flame slowly extinguishing in a thick pool of perfectly good melted wax. The wider ID of the frustum candle allows greater airflow, permitting a higher flame temperature and thus more complete combustion.


A candle with a lower soy content will burn with a hotter flame and combust more completely.


I returned to where I had purchased the previous batch of wax and obtained more. Unfortunately, there was no more pre-chipped unfiltered wax‡, necessitating the replacement of this with pelletized filtered beeswax. Approximately 765 g of filtered beeswax pellets and 85 g of soft soy were obtained for the next batch of experimental candles, all of which would use the previously used, and cleaned, cylindrical glasses I had had. Alas, no data is available on the compositions of the glasses, and there are small variations in size and shape. Still, all are roughly 200 mm tall and with an ID of approximately 55 mm. In this picture, the glasses are prepared for pouring, with a wick suspended in each between a wick grommet and a chopstick with a bit of Tacky Wax to affix the grommet to the bottom of the candle glass. I'm sorry it's a bit blurry:

Blurry picture of three candle glasses in pie tins. Each has a wick suspended from a chopstick at the top to a grommet at the bottom.

I divided the waxes, by weight, as follows1:

Picture of three bowls with different proportions of waxes in each:

From left to right:
A 284 g beeswax / 0 g soft soy (100% beeswax)
B 255 g beeswax / 28 g soft soy (90% beeswax / 10% soy)
C 227 g beeswax / 57 g soft soy (80% beeswax / 20% soy)
These were melted in my double boiler over 82° C (simmering) water2. A lack of a useful thermometer kept me from noting melting points, but as soon as the waxes were completely melted, I poured into the waiting glasses. I started with batch A (100% bee) and worked my way down in purity to avoid any soy contaminant in the all-bee batch.

Here they are just after the last one had been poured:

Picture of three candles freshly poured into glasses

To avoid sinkholes, in each case, as the cooling wax formed a lid across the top of the candle, I opened the lid and pushed the wax down to join the main body of the candle. Properly, I should have reserved some wax from each pour and added it at this point instead, but time did not permit. As this only affects aesthetics until shortly after each candle has been lit, this was not deemed significant for this experiment.

Also, yes, I fixed that wobbly wick on the right, there.

After all candles had been poured and permitted to cool, they were lit. Well, we lit the 100% beeswax one as soon as we could, the mixes were lit a couple hours later, and the paraffin had already been going for twenty-four hours, but the blends are all fairly freshly lit:

Five! Five lit candles! AH HA HA HA HA!

These are standing in a lipped cookie tray in case one of the glasses breaks. As it is presumed that the glass holding the 100% beeswax candle will break, it is further protected by being placed in a glass container (in this case, a flower vase).

From L to R:

A - 100% beeswax
B - 90% beeswax, 10% soft soy
C - 80% beeswax, 10% soft soy
D - 66% beeswax, 33% soft soy
Z - 100% paraffin

The behavior cited in the original observation is not evident in Candle D (let alone B or C) because it does not appear until more than an hour after ignition.

In the time (72 min) since that picture was taken, D is starting to exhibit the expected, "sickly" behaviour. A, B, and C have healthy flames. A, D, and Z (the paraffin) are all performing as expected. In 6-8 house (i.e., "after I sleep"), I will see what comes of a longer run.

Speaking of sleep...I do that now. G'night!

-- Lorrie

* - A word I learned in High School Geometry that I never get to use, yet which I find strangely fun. Frustum frustum frustum! 8-)
- Almost like Real Science™, only short on tools and a usefully-sized statistical universe. However, I plan to make up for this with HUMOR. Which one? Well, not bile, by preference.
- Unfortunate in that it makes for an inconsistency among my beeswax sources and that they cost twice as much, fortunately in that the pellets melt cleanly and do not leave me earwax-looking goo composed, I am convinced, of bee bits. Ew.
1 - No, those aren't corn kernels topped with coconut shreds. Or breakfast cereal and cheese. It's all wax.
2 - Well, theoretically. It's an observed simmer. My probe thermometer (Polder brand thermistor) agreed that 212° F was boiling, but allowed that an obvious simmer was also boiling. I called it a dirty, filthy liar and gave the probe an icewater bath. When the temperature of the ice water (after temperature equilibrium had been reached) was reported as 40° F, the probe was discarded for being bloody useless--fortunately, I bought this brand in part because replacement probes are available. As a result of this, the part where my Science would look like SCIENCE! for being full of numbers? Not so much. Well, that and there's a lot of other numbers I have no way to get.3
3 - But science is not about numbers--the numbers do provide a consistent way to quantify data, yes, but science is a method. Observe. Hypothesize. Predict. Experiment--and back to Observe.

Current Mood: geekygeeky

You have done SCIENCE on it! <3


Let us know what the results of B and C are! It sounds like those are the most viable while still avoiding paraffin, did I read your SCIENCE! correctly?

Would be really happy to find a consistent source of non-petroleum-based 7-day candles, BTW.

Well, the common wisdom is that a seven-day candle that's all beeswax is going to break its glass. Period-space-the-end.

Now, that said, I've had paraffin seven-days break their glass, and the beeswax I poured hasn't broken its glass yet.

Paraffin can have any of several melting points. However, the paraffin candle I have going is behaving nearly identically to the all-beeswax one (the paraffin's flame is summat whiter), and this suggests to me that the paraffin blend from my random grocery store candle has a melting point similar to that of beeswax--which is possible with the highest-temperature paraffins.

So we'll have to see how it goes along.

There are two problems with using beeswax (or a blend) as a seven-day candle over paraffin:

1) Expense. Paraffin seven-days will cost me anywhere between $1.50 (at the grocery store) to $3 and up (at an occult shop). Beeswax can run anywhere from $6.50 a pound for unfiltered to...well, the prices get increasingly stupid from there. Beeswax being very roughly as dense as water, this means three-quarters of a pound of beeswax per candle. I just got taken for $11/lb on filtered, pelletized beeswax--however, I just found much better prices for pelletized beeswax online, $7/lb for pelletized and filtered (woohoo) before shipping. If with those same people I bought a ten-lb bag, it would be $7/lb after shipping, which is nice.

2) Color. Unbleached beeswax is not white. There are ways to bleach beeswax, but they run anywhere from "time-consuming" (in the sun for weeks) to "hazardous to your health" (chlorine bleach is partly absorbed by the wax; don't breathe that!).

However, while researching this reply, I happened across candlescience.com, whose prices I have cited above. On top of yellow beeswax, they also have white beeswax that they insist is cosmetic-grade. Empty seven-day glasses can be hard to find--unless it's by the "collect leftovers" method, and then they're free. Wick and tabs (I was calling them "grommets") are of a negligible cost when purchased in quantity.

The price break for filtered vs unfiltered would have to be very good for me to consider using unfiltered again; cleaning the bee spoodge (apparently this is called "slumgum") out of my melting vessel is a pain in the arse.

Soy and paraffin are a LOT cheaper per pound (a quarter the price!), but if I'm going to go through all the fuss and bother (and cleanup) of pouring my own candles, I'm going with the bee.

I couldn't easily find non-paraffin seven-days...which is why I'm having a kitchen full of science and a moderately fussy husband instead of a candle! >.<

Future experiments in this vein are probably going to be with mail-order wax unless the local bee shop (as opposed to the local candlemaking shop) gives me an excellent deal on local wax. It'd have to be really good, though, to get me to put up with the Slumgum Factor--although Slumgum Factor would be a fun name for a spy thriller or a rock band.

-- Lorrie

Yeah, sounds like 80% beeswax, 20% soy is the way to go then -- cheaper than 100% beeswax, but they still burn pretty well, is that right?

I like the bright-white color of white paraffin candles (and that's what my Momi uses), but it would be easy enough, IMO, to get an unbleached yellow beeswax candle, and just dress it appropriately for the spirit in question.

That reminds me, are you planning to dress these festively once they're finished? :)

I'd want it to burn all the way down to make sure that I'm not going to have the same problem with 80/20 that I had with 66/33, but for now, yes, that's a valid hypothesis, and a couple shades paler than all-bee.

Now that I've found a reasonable source for white beeswax, that does help the color issue. Still, because the chemical structure of beeswax is changes as it pales, if I buy that bag of white wax pellets, I should to run another set of burn-in tests to see if that affects the burn. The local candle shop was not precise on which soft soy they were selling as their container blend, but from the data I have, I believe it's EcoSoya CB 135 (itself not actually soy, but a blend of soy plus vegetable oil)--candlescience.com sells this as well, so I should employ it in the second round of testing.

As for dressing...I hadn't gotten that far. Right now, all I want is a reasonably white candle that doesn't put itself out and isn't made of dead dinosaurs. Typically, when I have a candle going, it's because some (number of) people want healing (etc), and every time I see the candle, I throw another small woo packet. I reckon white is best for this, with neutral colors not so bad after that.

At the very least, I can start thinking about dressing once I have a stable wax (or blend) together--color and scent are apparently easy, and we can always consider glass etching. 8-)

-- Lorrie

Also, to me, "Slumgum" sounds like the maintenance guy who gets stuck cleaning up after Screwtape & Wormwood.

*snrk* Yes! That too!


===If you have folks about that are allergic to soy, I would be interested to hear if they react to them as I do. (I get very tired and achey after exposure to burnining soy candles after about 30 minutes. I also get more easily annoyed...(if it is due to the other reactions, is another question...(grins))

Eeerm, I'm not going to run around waving candles under the noses of people who are allergic to soy to see if they have a reaction...friends don't let friends get anaphylactic. ;)

But thanks for your interest!

-- Lorrie

===(laughter) Worry not, if they have a similar reaction to mine, all it has to be is burning in the same room. I will say that I no longer go anywhere near PizzaHut, due to the level of soy in the air from the pizza ovens (I had clients who I supervised at one, and that was....entertaining.) I also now have to be careful when I go into new age/pagan stores, sadly.

===I am always interested in such geekery. I plan on making my own candles once my hives are doing well, and experimenting with different home-made wicks and such...(grins)

Soy is rather ubiquitous...but good luck on your hives!

-- Lorrie

Continues to be interesting, thanks for posting both your experiments and your thoughts.
I honestly don't have the time or patience currently to make my own candles.
I used to be able to get great pillar candles from the Anglican Dioscean bookroom but that place closed, those candles were paraffin but yes they were cheap. I have bought some beeswax candles but they are expensive and I have had them break glass holders, never had this happen with paraffin ones. I have made lots of rolled beeswax candles but they are not really intended for votive or prayer purposes and don't last very long.
I wonder if craft supply places like Michael's sells beeswax and how much they charge for it? Probably too much too.
I don't live in a large city and there is only one occult bookstore here and they do sell candles but they are not cheap.

Keep up the great science experiments and research, maybe find some way to bribe or soothe the husband:)
thanks for sharing all this!!!

You're welcome! Thanks for your interest!

-- Lorrie

Good gods, don't buy beeswax from Michaels!! You will get taken to the cleaners! Look on eBay. $4 - $6 per pound, in 5 or more pound lots, shipped. Don't buy at the crap craft stores.

Yes, some may be poorly filtered, but with the right melting tools the sludgy stuff can be allowed to settle, and then the clean stuff is poured off. Or you can filter it through cheesecloth, but that's a PITA.