On this bright sunny day, I am using my solar oven to help me recycle some “tunneled” candles.
For many years now, I have been trying to tell people about the many benefits of solar ovens. Personally I think it would be a really good idea if every household had at least one. (I’ve written extensively on this blog about solar cooking and solar ovens; type either of those terms into the blog’s search feature and you will find a number of posts.)
Imagine being able to use the sun’s free energy to cook a meal at an even temperature. It’s good for baking, and for crockpot-type meals￼. And you can leave the food unattended to cook on its own, without creating any danger of fire or overcooking.￼
But there are many other uses as well. I have used the oven to sterilize washcloths and rags, sterilize metal tools & utensils, pasteurize water.
One thing I just recently thought to try is using the oven to melt wax from some candles that had gotten tunneled. It works perfectly! What a great thing to not have to mess with a double-boiler on the stove! Easy peazy. The wax melts at a temperature of about 180, which the solar oven reaches very quickly, and the wax seems to get fully melted within a few minutes to a half an hour depending on the amount of wax in the container. Of course, do not put plastic containers in the oven; this is for ceramic, glass, or metal containers.
Some of the melted wax I used to soak crumpled-paper balls to add to my jar of fire-starting material. (I was going to say “tinder jar” but didn’t know if people would confuse that with a dating app LOL.)
The rest, I will attempt to make into new candles.
Update: I just now lit the new candles I made from melting down old tunneled candles. We’ll see how the wicks work. I tried two kinds of wicks: a used matchstick; and some twisted fabric dunked in wax.
Update later: the twisted T-shirt fabric wick works well. Contrary to what I thought would be true and what I read in one of the articles mentioned below, the matchstick doesn’t seem to work for some reason. The flame went out as soon as the matchstick burn down to the level of the wax surface.
The twisted T-shirt fabric dipped in wax is a fat wick so it creates a fast burn; the entire surface got melty in a few minutes.￼ ￼Having the right-sized wick to ensure￼ an evenly melty surface is a key to preventing candle tunneling.￼
Here are some good articles I found yesterday while I was looking for ways to up my candle skills:
By the way, I find that empty tuna cans are very good for making recycled candles. The relatively wide, flat shape of the can makes it handy as a candle container.
This might seem like a small thing, or just some cottage-core niche type thing. But, candles are really good to have around, as are oil lamps if you have them. (I have 3 oil lamps, two fancy glass ones and one classic old Dietz metal one, all purchased secondhand at yard sales or thrifts.)
Another aspect of this for me is that when I have a candle that gets tunneled, I have always just let it sit because I didn’t know what to do with it and yet I didn’t want to throw it away because that seems like a waste. So I would get low-grade bummed out and beat myself up, and be low-grade bummed out about the clutter. (I know this all probably sounds silly to most people, but maybe some of you have been there.)
On a deeper note, any time we can fix something without having to go buy something new, we are increasing our community self-reliance and reducing our vulnerability. The small stuff really adds up, and also it acts as an on ramp to the bigger stuff. The more we can do within our communities, the less likely it is that anyone can force us to work or live on unfavorable terms.
No, being able to fix tunneled candles probably won’t be in itself life-changing for most people. Same with being able to mend socks, etcetera etcetera.
Then again, for some people these things might well turn into a business! And even if they don’t, having some agency over these little things (instead of having to turn into a consumer solution, as our society conditions us to do), is remarkably empowering and ripples out widely into other aspects of our lives.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on candles, or any aspect of constructively disengaging from consumer society and the “endless growth” model. Let me know how your explorations are going! And do share your successes and failures as widely as you feel comfortable doing; we work better when we work together.
PS. In the comments under this post on my Art & Design by Jenny Nazak FB page, I shared a couple photos of my initial successes of my melting/remaking experiments. Twisted t-shirt pieces are working well as wicks that are thick enough to melt the whole candle surface.,