Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crafting Attempts, Part One

I love being crafty. I love repurposing things, making things, out of any material at all.

Unfortunately, I hate buying supplies. Even, um, necessary supplies. Like, say, molds, for candles. So, I go around doing everything I can think of to avoid getting these essentials. Usually, I try and fail--or try, and achieve utter mediocrity--with whatever I have lying around or can dig out of the trash or recycle bin.

("I can't help it," said the snake, "it is my nature.")

Anyway. Occasionally I do get pretty good results, or at least results I can work with, or learn from.

As mentioned above, candles. (Hopefully.)

I save all wax, because in addition to wanting to be crafty and not buy anything new, I also hate to throw anything away. I LOVE candles, burn a TON of candles, and occasionally feel guilty--as a replacement for fossil-fuel-fueled electricity, they're not so hot. Disproportionate carbon emissions, etc, but they're also frequently made of paraffin--which is (tada!) a petroleum product.

Plus, they're often dyed. And scented. Preeeetty. Smell goooood.

In short, there's no way I'm throwing this shit away.

So, I stock up big bags full of wax--pillars that have burned their wicks down. Chunks that have dripped free of votives. Occasionally even the little ring of wax left inside the edges of tealights. And then, when I get tapers from Trader Joe's, which come in pairs connected by a long piece of wick, I save the wick I cut from the middle.

I did a little internet research, and hmm'd and hah'd. "Hah," I thought, "I will melt all of these reddish ones together. Alas, I have no mold, and no wick long enough for making dip tapers--I will stick a wick inside of a glass tealight holder, and then pour the wax in around it, and it will make a kind of jar candle. Genius!"

This did not work. The wick floated up immediately. The wax sank hard in the middle. And if I could get the wick to stay down a little, when I lit them, they became gooey pools, and they swallowed their own wicks, and then I couldn't even light them again to get their wicks to float back up for me to light. Or else, they melted all the way down, and the wick floated up from the bottom again, before (yes) getting sealed in the wax and beyond fishing back up.

So I tried attaching the wicks to the little metal things that come in tealights (which I also could fish out of the trash can). I did a little more minimal research, and tried to find ways to keep the tip of the wick up. Then I melted all the bluish wax I had, and tried again.

The little metal things float, too, when a bucket of wax hits them. And they still sink into the still-present pit while burning.

Sadness and woe!

About this point in any project (i.e., utter failure), I take one of two routes: admit defeat, and put it away, or return to research. Or I combine the two: put it away for many months and sulk, before being prompted back into wanting to do it again (once the sting of shame has worn off), and then start researching properly. (This was the candle route; last night we did the Earth Hour thing, and had a candlelit cocktail hour or three, and I started Hmming and Hahing about candle efficiency, again.)

This brings on the Googling. And this mighty Googling inevitably leads me back to the need for Supplies. Which I still won't buy.

However, it gives me better ideas for improvisation.

I look up recycling wax. This works approximately how I thought; save it up, melt it down in a double boiler when you're going to use it. Try to use similar kinds of wax--wax from the same kind of candle, etc. Don't mix smells that won't go together or colors that'll look muddy. Then (these sites say casually), pour it in your mold.

Screw your mold, websites, I'm not waiting on a trip to the Michael's and the inevitable ensuing moment of weakness. I want instant gratification.

So I look up alternate molds.

"Milk carton candles?" I say. "This is promising. But they're too big. I'm not spending all that wax, when I'm not even sure I'll get my wick to stick. Plus, nowhere to put a candle so thick." So I'm going with a toilet paper tube, gently stuck down to part of a cereal-box-style lid with a little wax. I have no idea if this will come off of the cooled candle, in the end, but I can hope. I stuck one of the little metal wick holders down with wax, too, thinking this might help.

I read about layered votives, too. Using up multiple kinds of leftover or recycled wax, with different smells and different colors. THIS is where the genius tips came in.

Pour a little at a time, they say, and let it cool partway, so the layer remains distinct, and so it has a chance to get a little structural integrity. And so far, this has stopped the wick from floating all over (at least if I don't pour so much that it completely melts all the wax below it). But don't let it cool completely, they say--it'll shrink in, and then you'll get the next layer poured all over, between the lower layer and the mold, and then you have no pretty striations. Poke holes occasionally in the cooling wax near the wick--then when you pour your next layer, it'll fill in a bit where the shrinking is happening, and it won't just dissolve from lack of density. When the candle has cooled some, they say, it'll still have a pit (which I knew from experience); pour a tiny bit more wax into the center, or run a hair dryer over the top to melt in the edges, before letting it cool again and before unmolding. Repeat as necessary.

Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!

So now I've got my old Pumpkin Spice candle remains (earthy browny orange). And my old Mexican Pumpkin candle remains (brighter orange). And my Cinnamon votive remains. All melting in different bowls, traded on and off of the hot pot of water

And I am layering. Oh, yes. And occasionally poking holes. And making different widthed layers. And I am hoping very hard that the toilet paper tube will tear away, when all is said and done, and that the candle will lift off of the box lid.

There may still be incredible Fail. But I will keep you Posted.

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