I’m a DIYer at heart. I don’t know if this is because I’m insanely curious or if I’m simply cheap. It’s usually more cost effective to do things on your own than to pay others to do it. Think home repair projects, car repair projects, or growing your own food in a garden. Sure these things take time to complete but since you don’t have to pay others for their time it’s usually cheaper. Usually. It also gives me a reason to avoid people in general, which is always a nice perk when you’re an introvert.
A few projects I’ve been doing lately besides the typical car repairs are making my own USB solar charger and making my own vape juice. I’ve also been making my own window washer fluid for my car which has been a total pain in the ass because water apparently freezes when it gets cold out. Huh. I’ve had to figure out what to add to the mix to keep it from freezing. Rubbing alcohol (found at Farm and Fleet in the farming section) and ethanol/methanol also works great. My latest project though: candlemaking.
Making candles is easy as fuck. You buy wax, buy wicks, melt the wax and let it solidify. The hardest is keeping the wick centered while the candle cools; I’ve made some shitty tool with cut up soda cans to hold the wick. I had purchased a ten pound brick of paraffin wax from Amazon last year and have almost went through the entire thing.
Soy wax is another alternative but seems rather pricey. I did some research on what soy wax actually was and apparently it’s made from soybean oil, the same shit you can buy in a grocery store. Apparently soy wax is simply hydrogenated vegetable oil, and I started wondering how difficult it would be to hydrogenate my own oil. I wouldn’t even have to use soybean oil and could use cheap vegetable or corn oil. Surely this would be the most cost effective way to make candles and I wouldn’t be forced to order wax from Amazon anymore.
Trying to find any information on hydrogenating your own oil was nearly impossible. A ton of websites showed up with information on how to make candles but these just tell you to melt wax into a jar. Duh. Other websites talked about the health effects of eating saturated fats which wasn’t what I was after either. The Wikipedia page on hydrogenation is about as complex as you can imagine and has zero practical information for the would-be home chemist/candle maker.
I found a good YouTube video that explained how to hydrogenate oils. You need oil, a hot plate, and a source of hydrogen. Okay. That’s not too bad. Hydrogen is kinda funky to make but can be done. (Protip: hydrochloric acid and aluminum!) But then he mentioned something about a catalyst for the reaction which was something like iridium or platinum (it was palladium). Platinum? For fucks sake where was I supposed to find platinum? It’s more expensive than gold. This put an end to my plan of hydrogenating my own oil at home; it wasn’t cost effective or easy if I needed precious metal catalysts. I wasn’t about to drop hundreds of dollars to make my own damn candles. Back to the drawing board.
If only I could buy hydrogenated oil. Oh wait, you can. It’s called Crisco, a brand of vegetable shortening. It’s solid at room temperature and should work in a candle. I went to the store and bought a giant six-pound tub for like $10. That’s cheaper than Amazon paraffin wax.
I only wanted to do this for the sake of doing it, but little did I know that using Crisco to make candles has almost no downside to it. It’s an edible fat, so I don’t have to worry about getting wax all over cooking pans and pots. Like butter, you can also melt the shit in a microwave. No more melting paraffin wax on the stove which is terrifying when you image dripping liquid wax all over the floor or carpet. Here’s what I did. I took an empty candle jar and cleaned the wax and old wick out of it. I then scooped as much Crisco into the damn thing as I could and microwaved it for two minutes. Bingo, liquid fat. I put the wick into the jar and let it cool. I wasn’t trying to be a total heathen about it so added some apple blossom scent to it along with some green dye. Here’s what it looks like.
And it works beautifully! I mean it’s a candle so it burns and that’s about all there is to it, but there’s literally no downside to making candles from Crisco. It burns cleaner than paraffin wax, it’s cheaper to make, and it’s easier to make. It was a really stupid thing to try and I hate to recommend this seriously to anyone, but if you want to try making your own candles grab some Crisco and give it a shot. It was very fulfilling.