Let There Be Light: Bean Can Candles


I’ve just read a superb post on making emergency candles from all kind of stuff you have  lying around the house. You can read it here.

Now maybe I do things a bit differently because I’m British – or it could be because I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to hunt around in an emergency. Here’s how I make sure that I have emergency candles always available as well as making sure I have the means to make more if required.

Okay, I start with a couple of tin cans, baked bean cans are ideal. Wash and dry them and leave them to air dry until there’s no moisture at all left.

The wicks are just regular cotton string. I wax half a dozen each time I make a candle. I cut the string to 10 inches and leave the two inches give or take un-waxed. ant each end. To keep them flat, when they have dried I put them into a kitchen roll inner smashed and taped at one end.

Okay on with the plot.

  1. Take the dried can and using a darning needle thread the thread it with the string and push it through a blob of blu-tac leaving a tail large enough tie a knot in. Knot the string and pull the knot into the tac and press it into the bottom of the can. Rest a pencil across the top of the can and pull the wick taut and knot it around the pencil.

The wax comes from the tail end of other candles, wax melts I use to perfume the air and any old crayons I can get my hands on. It has got to the point where people give me their leftover wax so there’s always a good supply. I know roughly how much wax fills my can but it doesn’t matter if there’s any left as I always use the same melting pan.

2. Pour the melted wax into the can stopping just a fraction from the top. Do this on a baking tray, one woof from the dog or a sneeze and it’s everywhere, a tray saves the mess. Do as many can candles as you have wax for, slide the tray to the back of the counter and leave it for a day or two.

3. When they are totally set cut the string below the pencils, turn your candles upside down and cut the bottom off the can. A quick dunk in a bowl of hot water and the can will slide off.

4. Take a wax crayon and put a flame to the end of it and drip wax on any exposed un-waxed wick.

5. Wrap in greaseproof paper and put in the freezer. This makes them burn longer when you come to use them. They come out after a couple of weeks and get stored in a drawer unit in the garage.

The process for making grease candles is almost identical. Once I have used the fat as much as possible I sieve it through muslin and pour it into the cans, with a wick set exactly as before. No need to wax these as the fat soaks into the string. These I leave in the tins for obvious reasons. These also go in the bottom of the freezer.

Any left over fats I have go into a large jar ( a huge glass sweet jar) until I make the candles. For the literally pennies it costs I mix in two blocks of lard if the fat is liquid at room temperature. I find this makes a firmer candle that seems to burn somewhat longer.

Most of the ‘bits’ in the used fat sink to the bottom but sieving it catches small sediments. Now these candles don’t smell good but adding any perfumed oil you have to hand will help. Oil based food flavourings, perfumed room freshener oils…anything as long as it’s oil based will work.

These I leave in the freezer for a couple of weeks to really harden up then I take one out and check that it doesn’t liquefy after a day sitting on the counter. If it stays solid they get packed into a cardboard box in a cupboard in the garage.

The dregs and sediments in the bottom of the sweet jar are mixed with stale bread, and wild bird food and made into fat balls to hang in the trees in winter. Waste not want not.

i think the ’emergency candle’ article mentioned at the start is brilliant and I have printed and saved it and very useful for if I was away from home. At home though I think I’ll continue with my method, I like them made and cured in advance.

With a kid at home and a husband working 6,000 miles away if anything did kick off I would have enough to think about and knowing I have drawers full of ready made candles makes me feel better than doing it on the fly.

Take care


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