There is nothing like the old-fashioned, authentic look of hand-dipped tapers. It’s easy to do–but time-intensive. There’s a reason hand-dipped tapers are expensive! Even so, it’s a simple and very satisfying project, and the sheer quaintness of hanging candles makes them a great gift, too. (Give them in pairs, uncut, and your recipients will hate to burn them!)
How to make Hand-Dipped Tapers:
Along with basic candlemaking supplies (see So You Want to Make Candles–Basic Supplies to Get Started), you’ll specifically need taper wax and small flat braid wick sized for tapers. Taper wax has a higher melting point, which will give you a cleaner-burning result. You can find taper wax, sold in blocks, at large craft stores. Flat braid wick is sold in rolls, also at large craft stores. If you like, add scent and dye. (I used a vanilla fragrance and some yellow dye here.)
You’ll also need some kind of setup to drape your candles between dips. The height you’ll need depends on the height you’re planning to make your tapers. I was making approximately six-inch tapers. After putting down newspaper, I set up quart jars, balancing boxes of pasta across them. That made the height I needed to hang my candles without them touching the paper below.
The candles are dipped in pairs, so after determining the height of your tapers, measure off double (for two tapers) then figure the length in between. (Your tapers will hang in pairs from the portion of unwaxed wick left in the middle.) Cut the number of lengths you’re intending to use. I made twenty tapers, so I cut ten lengths of wick.
To get started, melt the wax in a double boiler at the temperature specified in the packaging instructions for the type of wax you’re using. (Remember: Never leave melting wax unattended on your stovetop.) You need enough wax in the pot to reach the depth required for dipping tapers, so you’ll need a pretty full pot.
Once the wax is melted, the fun begins! Holding the strand of wick doubled over evenly, dip the two wick ends to the height you’ve planned for your tapers. On the first dip for each wick length, hold the dip for a full minute to really soak the wick.
Hang the length of wick to cool and continue on until you’ve done the initial dip for each one. Go back to the first length of wick and dip it again–this time, only for about three seconds. Hang to cool and go on to the next. Gradually with each round, the wax starts building up.
Go on and on….
Each dip builds the coating surrounding the wick, turning it into a taper. As you dip the candles, blobs of wax will build up on the bottoms of the tapers. You can stop periodically, cut the blob off with a knife, and drop the extra wax back into the pot.
Dip your candles however many times you need to in order to get the result you want. This is the time-intensive part. It takes dozens of dips to build up to the width of a standard-size taper that will fit your average candlestick holder. (Set aside a couple of hours to work on this project.)
As a finishing touch, you can do the last few dips in different colors of wax to add stripes. You can also roll the candles flat (except for the last inch or two) and twist them while they’re still warm for a special effect. (I like the plainer, more primitive look.)
That’s all there is to it! To use, simply cut the wicks to the top of the tapers. (Hang the candles to harden for a day before burning.)
Hand-dipping tapers is really nothing more than cutting lengths of wick and dipping them repeatedly into wax. This is easy–but not fast. It’s not uncommon to see pairs of hand-dipped tapers selling for 10-15 dollars, so it’s well worth doing yourself as you can make a couple dozen for the same price.
By the way, you won’t be able to use the wax for dipping all the way to the bottom, of course, so once the wax reaches below the point that’s usable for dipping tapers, the remaining wax can be used for other projects such as molded votives. Or add more taper wax and make some more! You can also cut short lengths of wick and make….
….hand-dipped birthday candles!