Paschal Candle Making
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
Wick (cotton, square braid, #6 for a 2” or 3” diameter candle)
PVC pipe (2” or 3” diamter)
PVC pipe test cap
PVC pipe end cap
Wax pouring pitchers (2 or 3 depending on size of candle)
Vegetable oil (or canola, olive, etc.)
Long wood skewers
Digital food thermometer (optional)
Bungie cord or twine
Wax carving tools
- If you are starting with new beeswax, buy it in pellet form. For a 2” candle that is 39” long, you’ll need 5 pounds. For a 3” candle that is 44” long, you’ll need 12 pounds.
- If you are starting with old paschal candles, place the candle(s) in a heavy duty garbage bag, set on a concrete surface, and hit with a hammer to break up the wax. Keeping breaking wax until the pieces are small enough to fit into the pouring pitchers and the wick can be removed. Small amounts of decorative wax won’t affect the candle very much. Weigh the wax and add enough new wax to make the new candle.
- Cut the PVC pipe on the table saw 3 to 4 inches longer than the length of the candle you want. Clean out the inside of the pipe by bundling wet paper towels and pushing them through a few times with a broom handle or long dowel. At the cut end of the pipe, use a marker and measuring tape to draw a line on the inside of the pipe where the top of the candle should be.
- Melt the wax in the pouring pitchers. Never melt wax on high – it can burn, smoke, and catch fire. Melt slowly on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wood skewer. You can place the pitchers in a large pot of boiling water a few inches deep, or by placing the pitchers on a cast iron griddle or pan on the stove top. You can also melt the wax on an outdoor grill or cooker stand. Do not leave wax unattended while melting. It can take 30 minutes or more to completely melt the wax. Each pitcher can hold about 4 pounds of wax. If all the solid wax doesn’t fit at first, wait until some melts and then add more. While the wax is melting, do steps 5 to 7.
- Cut the wick about 8 inches longer than the pipe.
- Cut a 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.
- Using tacky wax, cover the notch where the wick is pulled through to seal, and cover the inside of the test cap lip.
- When the wax has completely melted remove it from the heat. Let it cool in the pitchers until it is between 150 and 160 degrees F, using a digital food thermometer. You’ll know it is ready when the wax just begins to harden on the sides of the pitcher or on the top of the wax.
- While the wax is cooling, and before it is ready to pour, oil the inside of the PVC pipe by taking bundled paper towels and dipping them in the oil to get the oil on all sides of the towels. Push through the pipe several times to get the inside coated.
- Holding the pipe upright the top down (the top should be the cut edge), drop the wick through the pipe and push the test cap onto the pipe firmly. The tacky wax should form a seal all around. Cover this with the end cap, pushing on all the way.
- Grab the wick at the other end of the pipe, and tie it to half of a skewer. Pull slightly to make it snug but not tight. Center the wick on the pipe
- Place the pipe where you plan to fill it. A 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.
- When the wax is ready to pour, 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.
- As the wax cools, the edges will harden first. Eventually, the top of the wax will start to harden. Using a skewer, poke and stir the top of the liquid wax as it cools and starts to harden. This will help prevent a void forming inside the candle as the wax contacts. Check every few minutes and poke and stir the hardening wax again. The inside of the candle will look like a hollow narrowing tube as it cools and hardens.
- Once the wax has hardened (it doesn’t have to be completely cool, just firm) reheat the remaining wax. For the second pour, do not cool the wax first. Pour the wax directly in the center of the candle until it just comes up to the top of the candle (do not pour beyond the top). Use the skewer again to poke and stir the wax as it cools.
- Repeat the procedure and make a third pour.
- When the third pour is nearly hardened. check to see if there is a void below the top surface by poking a hole. If it looks solid below the top, the candle should be fine. If there a void, make one more small pour.
- Let the candle completely cool overnight.
- To unmold the candle, first remove the end cap by twisting and pulling. Then cut the knot off the wick, and remove the test cap. Cut the wick at the top to remove the skewer.
- Make a mark at the top of the candle at the top and bottom, each directly across from each other, half way around.
- Set the table saw blade height to the thickness of the PVC pipe, or slightly higher. Set the stop to the radius of the pipe, measuring to the outer edge of the pipe.
- Using the marks on the end, run the pipe lengthwise on the table saw, making a cut through the pipe from top to bottom. Then turn the pipe over and cut starting at the other mark. This will likely make a small cut into the candle, forming a small line on each side.
- Lay the pipe down and gently pull the top half off the candle. If it doesn’t come loose easily, gently start pry at the end and along the sides.
- Turn the candle over and remove the other half of the pipe. Only pull gently on the end of the candle to loosen so you do not bend or break the candle.
- When decorating the candle, draw the design on the candle first with pencil, then use the tools to carve the wax. You can add colored wax in the carved lines and other decorations to complete.
- 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.