Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Colourful crafts - crayon candles

Bubbling away
What's the best way to make use of a drawer full of ancient crayons? Make crayon candles of course! Perfect for brightening up the cold, dark winter nights (we have far too many of those here in Matsumoto!). It's a fun little project you can try at home, and all you need are some crayons (more on crayon selection later on), wax shavings (or bashed up candles work just as well, the smaller the chunks the better), some wicks and some glass jars.

The idea is to melt and combine the crayons and wax together, and pour the mixture into a glass container so you can show off how colourful your candle is. And as for how, it boils down to either nuking the mixture in a microwave (in old Tupperware tubs) or doing it on a hob using a double boiler (empty cans are good as you can just throw them away after use, but be careful with sharp edges). Pretty straight forward, right?

Pink please
A whole afternoon spent trying and failing to melt the crayons proved otherwise. Turns out that the waxy candles we have are almost impossible to melt! The microwave left us with a stink that wafted through the entire first floor, and the crayons refused to melt even after being in a water bath for over half an hour.  Bearing in mind this was after cutting up the crayons into quite small chunks.

This left no options other than to use crayon shavings by grinding them through a crayon sharpener. Turned out to be a huge time sink, but in the end the unmeltable crayon dilemma was resolved. Hurrah! So it goes without saying that using soft and crumbly crayons are an obvious choice when making these candles. Unless you enjoy unnecessary hard work of course.

"How much longer!?"
Once you have your liquid crayon/wax mixture ready, it's a matter of assembling everything together. For the wick, what you want to do it drip a small amount of melted wax into the bottom of your jar, but enough for the wick to stand in it once it sets. This can be a bit fiddly so you can try a small blob of moulding clay instead. Once the wick is set in place, you have to move pretty quickly to pour in the crayon/wax mixture before it cools and sets, whilst simultaneously making sure you don't spill it everywhere, especially on the wick.

Then it's a waiting game for the coloured wax to set. Lower temperatures speed up the setting process ,so using your fridge/freezer is a good option. The really cool thing is that you can make multiple layers with different colours, just by repeating the melting and setting steps. The limiting factor here is time, particularly in the classroom, but if you are at home and time is not a factor, why not trying to using all the colours of the rainbow!!
Stairway to a brighter future

Luckily our students didn't have to endure the gruelling trial and error stage. They were met with a full spread of crayon shavings and wax pieces ready to be transformed into a sum greater than their parts. Everyone spooned in their favourite colour into some old cans, along with a big handful of wax, to be simmered away in the double boiler. 

Whilst waiting for the crayons and wax to melt, hands and minds were kept busy with some decorating. Sure the candles would look perfectly fine in a plain jar, but there's no harm in jazzing them up a bit is there! We used glitter glue to add a bit of sparkle and magic. It's easy to apply, works on most surfaces (even glass) and the kids love using it too. You will also be left with some fabulous fingers.

Damian's little helpers
Then came the eagerly anticipated first layer. It was a bit hectic with 8 students, but we managed to get all 8 jars filled with the correct colours. We then used the left over snow outside to our advantage by burying our candles in it. In the meantime, we got to work on our second layer. The timing seemed all too perfect as the candles had all set by the time round 2 of coloured wax was ready to go. Rinse, repeat and voila! Our very own multi-colour layered candle.

Proud students, impressed mums and big smiles all round. A successful afternoon in my book! Thanks to Yukari for helping out and taking photos.

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