Paschal Candle Making
Paschal candles are a central symbol in the church's worship life. The paschal candle, lit at the Easter Vigil and throughout the Easter season, as well as at baptisms and funerals, shines forth with the light of Christ's resurrection, reminding the baptized that they have new life in Jesus' death and resurrection.
There are many options for buying paschal candles, but a congregation may wish to make their own. It makes the candle a hand-crafted, local expression of a universal tradition.
Making a 100 percent beeswax candle reflects the praise given God for the bees that made the wax for this holy candle, sung in the Easter Vigil Proclamation (or Exsultet). Beeswax gives the candle its own inherent natural beauty. Beeswax, however, is expensive, and buying a premade all beeswax candle can be cost prohibitive. Making your own can be much less expensive, and allow a congregation to reuse old paschal candles for making new ones.
Here are my instructions for making a beeswax paschal candle based on a couple years of experience.
What You Need
- Beeswax (for a 2" candle that is 39" long you need 5 pounds; for a 3" candle that is 44" long you need 12 pounds)
- Stearin (stearic acid powder, around 3 tbs or 0.8 oz per pound of wax)
- Candle mold release spray
- Wick (cotton, square braid, #6 for a 2” or 3” diameter candle)
- PVC pipe (2” x 42" or 3” x 48")
- PVC pipe test cap
- PVC pipe end cap
- Wax pouring pitchers (2 or 3 depending on size of candle; 3 pitchers hold 12 pounds)
- 2 long dowels
- Wood skewer, or pencil
- Bungie cord or twine
- Large roasting pan or other deep pan to place water and pitchers in (the pan will get wax in it and be difficult to clean so you might want to use an old pan that can dedicated to candle making)
- Flattened carboard box or tarp
- Parchment paper
- Wax carving tools
- If you are starting with new beeswax, buy it in pellet form. If you are starting with old paschal candles or altar candles, place the candle(s) in a towel, set on a concrete surface, and hit with a hammer to break up the wax. Keep breaking wax until the pieces are small enough to fit into the pouring pitchers and the wick can be removed. Weigh the wax and add enough new wax to make the new candle. If you're using smaller altar candles, you can place them in the pitcher whole and remove the wicks after they melt.
- To melt the wax, place the roasting pan on a grill or on multiple burners on a stove (I highly recommend doing this outside on a grill because of the mess the wax can make.) Fill the pan with water about halfway up, and place the pitchers in the pan. Heat the water to a simmer using medium high heat. It can take 2 to 3 hours for the wax to melt completely. Do not leave the wax unattended; it can burn or catch on fire if placed near to high a heat source. Add more water as needed so the pan doesn't run dry.
- While the wax is melting, clean the inside of the pipe by bundling wet cloth or paper towels and pushing them through a few times with a broom handle or long dowel.
- Use a marker and measuring tape to draw a line on the inside of the pipe with the Sharpie where the top of the candle should be.
- Cut the wick about 12 inches longer than the pipe.
- Cut a small notch in the center of the PVC test cap. Push one end of the wick through the notch using a flat screw driver. Push through from the inner side of the cap (the raised side) through to the outer side. Tie a large knot in the wick and pull back through so the knot is against the cap.
the wax has completely melted add the stearin powder to the wax (equal amounts per pound) and stir to melt.
- Spray the inside of the pipe from both ends with the mold release spray, spraying toward the middle of the pipe out to the endges. It doesn't take a lot of spray to work.
- Holding the pipe upright the top down (the top is the end with the marker line inside), drop the wick through the pipe and push the test cap onto the pipe firmly. Cover this with the end cap, pushing on all the way.
- Grab the wick at the other end of the pipe. Pull slightly to make it snug but not tight and tie it to the skewer. Center the wick on the pipe
- Place the pipe on top of the cardboard or tarp where you plan to fill it. An outdoor patio or garage is a safe place where spilled wax won’t cause much damage. Using a bungie cord or twine secure the pipe vertically against a shelf or some other area where it will stand up without falling.
- Carefully pour into the top of the pipe. Let the wax
coat the wick as you pour to prime the wick for burning. Pour wax until it
reaches the line you marked on the inside. There should be wax left in the
pitcher for the second and third pours. Return the pitcher that still has wax in it to the simmering water and keep warm.
- As the wax cools, the edges will harden first. After an hour or more, the top of the wax will harden. When the wax cools it contracts and forms voids inside the candle so you need to make holes for the second pour to fill the void. Using a dowel, poke through the top between the edge and the wick, down through the candle at 3 or 4 places.
- Pour more wax into the candle until it fills any voids and comes up to the top of the candle.
the procedure and make a third pour. A fourth pour might be needed.
- Let the candle cool completely for 24 hours.
- To unmold the candle, first remove the end cap by knocking it off with a hammer. Then cut the wick with a knife between the pipe and the test cap and remove the cap. Cut the wick at the top and remove the skewer.
- The candle should slide easily out of the pipe. Be careful not to let the candle touch any surfaces -- the wax collects any debris. Wrap the candle in a long piece of parchment paper to protect it until time to carve.
- Before carving the candle, use a paper template for the alpha, omega, year numbers and cross. Tape the template to the candle and poke through the lines every 1/8" with a wax tool to mark the design. Then during the Easter Vigil, or before, carve the design with a wax carving tool.
- Before burning, cut the wick to ¼ inch. When first burning, let it burn at least 2 hours to get the whole top melted. This will help it burn properly for future burns.