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Gourd Candles

The gourd's natural form lends a lovely organic feel to an autumnal table. And since no two gourds are ever identical, these candles are all variations on a single theme, but no two will ever be exactly alike. Use beeswax for a fresh, sweet smell and a long, slow burn.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 1998

Introduction

Wicks come in flat-braided, square-braided, and cored styles and in a range of sizes. Choosing the right wick for the candle you are making is important; it will have considerable impact on the success of your candle. Suppliers of wick material usually classify candles by diameter. The larger the diameter of the candle, the larger the wick you will need. Square-braided wicks are the best choice for beeswax candles, pillars, and blocks.

materials

  • Acorn squash

  • Bleached beeswax (1 pound for a 2-pound squash)

  • Paring knife

  • 6-inch chef's knife

  • Melon baller

  • Ceramist's trimming tool

  • Utility knife

  • Pencil or chop stick

  • Aniline dyes (we used gold and blue)

  • Wicks and wick tabs

  • Tin cans or "nests" of aluminum foil (to hold gourd in place as wax cools)

  • Candy thermometer

steps

  1. Set aside one acorn squash for every candle you want to make. Cut off the top of each squash with a paring knife. Make opening large enough so that you can remove seeds and pulp. Using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds and flesh. Sculpt the inside of the squash, letting the contours of the exterior act as a guide. Use a ceramist's trimming tool to carve out the remaining flesh, getting as close to the skin as you can without breaking through. Clear out any chunks with a dry paintbrush. Make sure the interior of the squash is clear and well defined.

  2. Using a double boiler, melt the wax to a temperature of 180 degrees (check temperature with a candy thermometer). You will need approximately 1 pound of wax for each 2-pound squash (it takes about 20 minutes to melt a 1-pound block of wax).

  3. As the wax melts, add the dye. Aniline dyes are very concentrated, so all you need is a small chip. Use a utility knife to chip off a few tiny pieces. Allow the dye to melt into the wax.

  4. While the wax is heating, cut a piece of wicking 3 inches longer than the height of the squash. Attach a metal wick tab to one end. Crimp the tab shut using pliers.

  5. Prime the wick by saturating it with wax; this eliminates trapped air. Dip the wick into the wax for 60 seconds. You will see air bubbles exiting the braid. Keep the wick submerged in the wax until there are no more air bubbles. Remove the wick, and pull it taut until it cools.

  6. Set the squash in a tin can, or make a "nest" out of foil, to steady it as you work. Pour the melted wax into the squash, just shy of the top. Pour slowly to avoid creating air bubbles. Be sure to wipe the water from the bottom of the pot so you don't drip any water into the wax. Drop the wick into the wax at the squash's center (it will sink to the bottom). Place the pencil across the top of the gourd, and wrap or tie the wick around the pencil.

  7. Let the squash sit until it is cool to the touch, 4 to 5 hours. (If the center of the candle sinks during cooling, you can add more hot wax.)

  8. When the squash is cool, peel away the skin. It may be necessary to score the surface with a utility knife. The skin of the gourd should break away easily, leaving a uniquely formed candle. The flesh of the squash will endow your candle with a beautiful texture and patina.

  9. Flatten the bottom of your candle so that it sits properly by rubbing it against a flat heated surface to melt and flatten it slightly. An old pie tin set briefly atop the double boiler will do the trick. Place the candle on the heated tin, and simply move it in a circular motion until the candle sits squarely on a flat surface. Place the candle on parchment paper, and let it cool.

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