Gel candles are one of the newer innovations in candle making. These candles, instead of using a wax
as fuel use mineral oil
mixed with a resin
. The resin congeal
s the oil into something that resembles the consistency
. These candles are known for extremely long lasting burn times - an 8 ounce candle will burn for about 100 hours.
Like wax, candle gel is rated at its melting point. With gel this is related to the amount of resin that was added. The more resin that is added, the "firmer" the gel and the more scent that is able to be added. Most often, the gel used in candles is either a "CMP" or "CHP" (medium polymer and high polymer). The "CLP" gel has a tendency to run even at room temperature and thus make it unacceptable for shipping or warmer climates. Furthermore the "CHP" gel is able to better support any embeds within the candle.
Melt pool temperature:
- CLP = 258 F
- CMP = 275 F
- CHP = 281 F
"Embeds" are essentially anything that you stick in the candle. Gel candles, being clear or nearly clear (as opposed to the barely translucent to opaque nature of wax candles) are paticularly suited for embeds however things that are embedded must either be wax or objects that are not able to burn (such as marbles, sea shells, metal, sand). Plastic
and wood are never acceptable objects to embed within a candle of any sort.
Fragrances added to gel candles must be non-polar. The gel itself is a non-polar substance and thus will only mix with other non-polar substances. This can be seen with things such as oil and water not mixing. If the fragrance is polar at some point down the road it is likely to separate itself from the gel and produce pockets of oil that may cause flare ups. If uncertain, make sure to look for "gel safe" in the fragrance.
Wicks used for gel candles need to burn at a higher temperature than those for wax candles. Most often a zinc core wick is used. If this type of wick cannot be found, use a larger sized candle wick than would otherwise be recommended for that size candle to get the necessary amount of flame to maintain a melt pool. Furthermore, avoid wax coating on wicks - the wax will melt during the gel pouring and cloud the gel. The tab base for the candle needs to be taller than those of the wax candle to make certain that the flame is snuffed out before it reaches the bottom. Potentially dangerous situations occur with all candles when they reach the bottom of the candle and possibly flare up.
Candle gel is available from many hobby stores and candle making shops and is able to be purchased as either tubs of ready to use gel or materials. A 36 pound bucket runs about $50 (this will make quite a number of candles). It is possible to make your own candle gel. These items can typically be purchased at a hobby store:
- Mineral Oil
- CP9000 Resin
- Candle Wick and base (for gel candles)
- Fragrance and color
- Mix 2 cups of mineral oil with 25 grams of resin.
- Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally
- Slowly heat, bringing temperature up to 200 - 210 F. A double boiler is recommended as it prevents the temperature from going over 212 degrees F. If the temperature goes over 230 degrees F, the gel will become damaged and smell 'bad'.
- Maintain heat for 1 hour. Gel should be the consistency of corn syrup at this point. Stir often.
- Add fragrance