Many of us love the look of candles burning in the evening. It has such a nice feel to it. But if you do it regularly you find that you go through a LOT of candles. More so if you use the small to medium size candles. I don’t normally use the tall free standing (stick) candles, but instead prefer the shorter tea light candles on up to medium size free standing candles that you place on trays, or in glass containers. They just offer a more uniform light and look throughout their life, and tend to be less of a fire hazard since they are not prone to tip over, and if in a container the flame is almost always protected.
A tea light candle will normally last one evening of burning, and a small to medium size short candle can get 2-4 evenings depending on its size and how long you burn them each night. And while this isn’t too bad since those candles don’t cost much, you can still go through a lot of them. Well, welcome to the shortening candle!
Shortening Candles take advantage of the benefits of a traditional wax candle, and the benefits of an oil lamp. Cooking shortening (Crisco or generic brands) has a relatively solid form when at room temperature, but it melts very easily and becomes an oil. So while you can’t make free standing candles from it (like you can with wax) you can easily pour it into small containers and have what LOOKS like wax, but has the benefits of the longer burn times of oil lamps. And it costs a lot less than either lamp oil or candle wax!
To make these candles all you need is a can of cooking shortening, a container to melt it in (you can do stove top or microwave), containers to pour the melted shortening into, standard cotton cooking twine and a small metal nut (or small candles, I will explain below), and a crayon for color if you so desire.
The easiest way to make these is to take your shortening and melt it, and then pour into the container of your choice. Place that in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes, until it is sufficiently solid to hold a standard “birthday cake” candle upright. Take the candle and place it in the center of the solidifying shortening (push down until it hits the bottom of the container) and then just set aside for it to continue hardening in room temperatures. DONE! Yes, it was THAT easy.
Using the birthday cake candles gives you the wick you need, but the ease of not having to make it yourself. And once the birthday candle burns down to the level of your shortening, it begins to use THAT to burn and you start seeing the long life of your new Shortening Candle. Depending on the size of your container, you will want to use a standard birthday cake candle, or a JUMBO birthday cake candle. The picture above, and the one directly below uses jumbo candles, and I left them unused so you can see how they look when made and ready to use. Of course if your container was a bit deeper, less of the candle would be showing when completed.
The picture below also shows the shortening colored. That is where the crayon comes in. When you are melting the shortening, simply break off a piece of crayon of your choice, and drop it into the melting shortening. How much or how little you use is up to you. Of course you can go mild to as dark of color as you like.
Every one of the candle holders shown in these pictures cost only $1 each at a thrift / second hand store. Yes, that includes the ones in the first picture too. So you can really get some nice candles for less than pennies on the dollar from buying them pre-made from retail shops. And they only take a few minutes to make, from start to finish (minus the setting time of course).
The candles below used standard size birthday cake candles. And as you can see, once they burn down to the shortening, they simply look like normal “candles” and not a birthday cake candle stuck in shortening. But again, they burn a LONG time. To give you an idea, I burn this size candle every night in my living room (in pairs of threes). They were normally free standing wax candles of the same size, but placed in a glass candle bowl or bell. Each candle would last me 2-3 nights on average. I used these last night, and as you can see, there is no real loss of volume. Normally they would be at least 1/3 melted. Yeah, now do the math.
Oh, I didn’t mention the traditional method of making the candles. That is where the cotton cooking twine and the nut comes into play. There is another item you will need besides those though. But I didn’t mention it above because it would make it seem as if you need a lot more items than you really do for most of the candles you make.
Before I get into that though, I will add that you can also use standard size candles (the tall stick candles) for your shortening candles. You do the same technique as with the smaller ones above, but choose a container deep enough to hold the candle you chose to use. But I advise keeping them to no longer than medium size stick candles. Anything more than that and you use a LOT of shortening and in my opinion it just does not work as nice. But you WILL get some insanely long burn times. There are reports that people were getting 45 days of use out of an entire can of shortening (back when they were still using metal cans for it… do NOT do this with modern shortening cans) with a standard candle pushed into the center of it.
But ok, back to the traditional building method. You take your cotton cooking twin and tie it to a standard nut (it only needs to be heavy enough to hold the twine straight when put into the container). Then tie the twine to a chopstick, pencil, or any other object that allows you to place it across the top of the container. The completed length should be just long enough to let the nut reach the bottom of the container and keep the twine straight. Make sure the twine is centered and straight. Then pour your melted shortening into the container until it reaches the level you want.
Since you don’t need the shortening to be solid enough to hold the wick, you can just set this on your counter or table and let it solidify on its own (without the aid of the refrigerator). Just know that it will take a lot longer at room temperature than in the refrigerator. If you want, you can still place it in the fridge if you like though. And when the shortening has solidified, just cut the twine from your top “support”, leaving about 1/4 of an inch above your shortening, and wallah! You are now ready to use your Shortening Candle.
Like I said, the containers used for these are most easily found at thrift or second hand stores. Any glass container that appeals to you can be used. And they normally have a LOT of them; and for virtually no money. Be warned though, you may end up leaving the stores with a lot of glass. This can be a good thing, or bad, depending on how you look at it.
Now go have some fun!