Measurements For Candle Making
By Bob Sherman
New candle makers commonly find measuring ingredients confusing. This article will take the confusion out of it for you.
Common Wax Formula Abbreviations
Throughout my articles I often use abbreviations for the measurements. If you are not familiar with common abbreviations for measurements, you may wish to print out this Abbreviation Chart (opens in a new window).
Wax Formula Basics
The most accurate way to handle any materials for candle making is by weight. Additionally, most of these products are sold by weight as well. If you have a candle product that requires absolute repeatability, there is no way to avoid buying an accurate scale. Smaller batches of wax require more accurate scales since will be using tiny quantities of most ingredients.
If you only do the occasional candle and a scale just doesn't fit into your budget, all is not lost. Repeatable (although less accurate) results can be obtained with common measuring tools. Printing out this Conversion Table will help you convert weights into other units of measure. The important thing is being able to reproduce good results, not how you get good results. Using measuring spoons and cups to measure candle ingredients is not a very accurate way to work, yet it works well for most candle making.
|1 lb =||16 oz||454g||454ml||~96tsp*||~32TBS*|
|1 oz =||28.4g||6tsp*||2TBS*|
|1 c * =||8 oz*||1/2lb*||48tsp*||16TBS*|
|1 g =||~1/5tsp*|
|1 tsp * =||~1/6oz||1/3Tbs*||~4.7g||4.7ml|
The Asterisk (*) denotes a volume measure. Generally these are close enough for calculating liquid weights. The equivalents shown above are based on the weight of a volume of water. For example 96 tsp of water is very close to 1 lb. Most of the ingredients used in candle making are oil based, making them slightly lighter than water so there is some inaccuracy in using volume measures. They are very close however, and you should find them usable for most working formulas.
The above weight to volume conversions are useless for dry measures. For example 1tsp of Vybar 260 weighs approximately 1/10 oz, not 1/6 oz. One cup of granulated wax weighs just under 4oz, not 8 oz. With a bit of experimentation, you should be able to find a measuring spoon amount for most dry products allowing repeatability in future batches.
Apparently many candle makers do not do much cooking / baking because the most common measuring error is using tableware to measure ingredients. Teaspoon and Tablespoon refers to Measuring Spoons - not the spoons you stir your tea or eat with. The same applies to a Cup. These are standardized measuring tools and commonly available at any store selling housewares. Because these are standard sizes, everyone using one measures the same amount.
Although I understand the metric system, I find it very difficult to "think in metric" since I have used pounds, gallons, inches, Fahrenheit, etc... all my life. Because of this, all projects and formulas I compile are given in the English measuring system. If you prefer to work in metric, a quick internet search should turn up several good metric conversion calculators.
The best way to weigh wax is with a scale, however most inexpensive scales are very inaccurate. If a good scale is not in your budget, the following techniques will help you get a very close calculation of wax weight.
Slab Wax - Use a ruler or yardstick to measure and mark the slab into 10 or 12 equal size rectangles before cutting. It is helpful to know the average weight of the slab before starting - slab weights vary from one wax supplier to the next. Typical slab weights range from 10.3 to 12 pounds.
- A 10 pound slab should be divided into ten equal parts.
- An 11 pound slab should also be divided into 10, just be aware that each is slightly over one pound.
- A 12 pound slab should be divided into 12 equal parts.
Granulated wax - typically one level cup of finely granulated wax will weigh slightly less than 4 ounces so calculate at 4 level cups per pound.
Working With Wax Formulas
Per Pound Formulas
In recent years the popular form of providing wax formulas is to give the exact amount that needs to be added per pound of wax used. This is by far the simplest way to measure out wax formulas. If you need more or less than than one pound it requires only simple multiplication or division.
1 pound 140 melt point paraffin
1 level teaspoon of Vybar 103
1 Ounce of Scent oil
If we needed 7 pounds of this, we simply multiply each ingredient by 7.
If we needed 1/4 pound of this we would divide each by 4.
For the sake of completeness, I have included this, however giving formulas as percentages is not common these days. You may find a limited use for this when referencing old candle making books.
All percentage formulas add up to 100%. One percent is one onehundreth or
1/100. A sample percentage formula might look like this:
1% Vybar 103
6% scent oil
If we wanted to make 100 pounds of this formula we would use 93 lbs of paraffin, 1 lb Vybar, and 6 lbs of scent. These same would hold true for 100 ounces or 100 grams.
Percentage formulas are easily scaled up or down. For example if we needed 10 pounds of this mix we would divide the 100 pound formula by 10 Giving us 9.3 lbs paraffin, 1/10 lb Vybar, and 6/10 lb of scent. To scale up we would multiply. For example if we needed 150 pounds of this formula, multiply all ingredients by 1.5
Proportional formulas are also not common in candle making, however I have
included them in case you encounter one. Unlike percentage formulas, the total
of all ingredients need not add up to 100. Proportional formulas are typically
expressed in parts or units. A typical proportional formula might look like
90 parts wax
1 part vybar
6 parts scent oil
Each part could be used to represent pounds to make 97 pounds of this formula. It would work as well in ounces to make 97 ounces, or in grams to make 97 grams of this mix.
If you needed only 50 pounds of this formula it could be scaled down using
the following technique Divide 97 by 50 = 1.94 Now divide each ingredient
90 / 1.94 = 46.39 lb wax
1 / 1.94 = .52 lb vybar
6 / 1.94 = 3.09 lb. scent oil
If you needed 150 pounds of this formula it could be scaled up using the
following technique Divide 150 by 97 = 1.55 Now multiply each ingredient by
90 x 1.55 = 139.5 lb wax
1 x 1.55 = 1.55 lb vybar
6 x 1.55 = 9.3 lb scent oil
Converting Proportional To Percentage
The formula (parts / total parts) x 100 = percentage can be applied to the
above formula to get the percentage of each ingredient if you would rather
work with percentages:
(90 / 97) x 100 = 92.78% wax
(1 / 97) x 100 = 1.03% vybar
(6 / 97) x 100 = 6.19% scent oil
Candle making is much like cooking in that most wax formulas have a fair tolerance for inaccurate measurements. It is far more important to be able to reproduce good results than it is to know the exact weights of the materials. If you get good results with a cup of X, 2 scoops of Y, and a capful of Z that is all you need - just make sure you use the same cup, scoop, and cap next time.
Look for more instructions coming soon.
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Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge and common candle making practices as of the time of this writing. Originally published in February 2008 and updated in June 2011. The author and the publisher accept no liability for the use or misuse of any of the information presented in this article. This article is presented for informational purposes and is used at your own risk.
Author: Bob Sherman
Publisher: Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc.
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