How to Make Beeswax Luminaries

Welcome! Make yourself cozy and have a look around. Crafy tutorials, fabulous eats, natural parenting musings (like this favorite), and other inspiration abounds. Peace, Rachel

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Glowing beeswax luminaries. Magical? Heck yeah. Add to that easy, affordable, natural, and DIY and that's my kind of decorating.

It all started with Pinterest. I saw this tutorial for making luminaries with paraffin wax and balloons. And I though: how about beeswax? Beeswax would be warm and sweet and wonderful. So much more alive than paraffin and more "me". Oh, yes. That sounds exceptionally nice.

So with a goal of warm golden globes scattered around our home on New Year's Eve, glowing warmly and scenting the room with the sweetness of summer I dug in. We're having friends over this weekend. Ambiance, anyone? I'm in.

I jotted down a quick tutorial for you, too. If you have some beeswax and balloons you're pretty much set.

DIY Beeswax Luminaries

Supplies

9" balloons

Beeswax (2 lbs or so with plenty left for other projects…)

Double-boiler, slow cooker, or stainless pot

Parchment paper

Process

Fill balloons with warm water. (Or if the only faucet in your house that will take a balloon is cold water only, fill a basin with warmish-hot water and soak your cold balloon's for a while.) Fill them to the size that you want your luminary to be.

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Your balloons should be full enough that they are plump/taught. If you want smaller luminaries, simply knot them off as tightly as possible like the balloon above (note the long "tail"). I say this because I had trouble with under-filled balloon's. The luminary cracked when I set them down to cool, an issue I did not have with full or tied-with-a-long-tail balloons.

Heat your beeswax. Ideally you want it around 160-170F. I do this in a slow cooker that I picked up at a thrift store just for this job. If you don't have a slow cooker you can simply use a cooking pot on low heat or fashion a double boiler out of two pots. (Be prepared to donate the wax pot to wax forever more. Though it is possible – and a bit of a headache – to clean out.)

Melt the wax on high, then turn it to low before you set to work. I only checked the temp twice during a 40 minutes of luminary making and it held temp well. No thermometer? No worries.

Troubleshooting Temperature

If you don't have a thermometer, wing it. Here's how you know you have the right temp:

  • Is the wax sticking smoothly to your balloon? Then it's your temp is good! Dip.
  • Is the wax lumpy? Too cool! Heat it up.
  • Is the wax melting the previous layer off when you re-dip? Too hot! Allow to cool.

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Dip your balloon repeatedly. Do not dip beyond the water/air line on your balloon. If you wonder why and decide to try it your balloon will dramatically explode, filling your wax pot with water and causing you much grief. (Ask me how I know…)

Every six dips or so gently place the balloon on a piece of parchment paper to flatten the bottom. Let it sit for a bit to cool. Between every dip allow 5-10 seconds for the wax to cool before you immerse it in the wax another time. (I like to do two balloons at a time, alternating between them.)

Random sidebar to answer the question you are asking: that's my dry erase board in the background above. The tutorial for making that is over here.)

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After approximately 20-30 dips, gently place your balloon on the parchment and allow to cool. Your goal is a luminary that is thick enough to hold up to use, yet thin enough to let the light through. Once it feels firm to the touch (though still warm) take your balloon to the sink and pop it! It will startle you every time. I promise. And you will likely get a little wet if your aim is off. Peel away and discard the balloon.

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Trim any ragged edges with a pair of sharp scissors while the luminary is still warm. Then place a tea light or votive (in a cup) inside and enjoy. (The brighter your candle the warmer the glow.)

Happy New Year to you. I'll be back her next week with more treats in store.

Love,
Rachel

23 thoughts on “How to Make Beeswax Luminaries

  1. chloe says:

    Instead of popping the balloons over a sink at the end, you could just snip the neck a little with scissors and empty the water that way. (Some littles I have known were not ones for loud noises! I’ve used this work around for all manners of balloons instead of popping.)

  2. Mikaela says:

    I adore luminaries and lanterns, of any type. We made globe ice lanterns this Christmas (with this kit:http://wintercraft.com/shop/kits/wintercraft-starter-kit-original) which were superb! We also made snowball lanterns (à la Christmas in Noisy Village)–pyramids of snowballs with a candle in a jar inside. Unbelievably magical. (Can you tell I was in Northern Minnesota? It’s not quite cold enough for these crafts here yet…) Perhaps these luminaries will be next!

    Unbeknownst to my family, our Christmas was heavily influenced by your blog–glass dharma smoothie straws, felted soap kits (because I didn’t have time to make them myself, which turned out to be a wonderful mistake), and (very!) thick eggnog. Thanks so much for your contributions to our celebration!

    Best wishes to you and your family in the new year.

  3. kjponto@aol.com says:

    I did this with a group of Waldorf friends, we all ended up with many lovely presents. We added bits of greenery to the exterior to some to them.
    We found that the warm water balloons popped when they touched the beeswax- our wax may have also been too hot, but using cool balloons fixed our problem. If a balloon pops, it’s no big deal, just leave it in the wax if the balloon is too difficult to fish out and the water will evaporate.
    If you don’t want to dedicate a crockpot to beeswax- you could use a crockpot liner. We just pulled out the bags after they cooled a bit and donated the bag of unused wax to the kindergarten teacher. Other friends I know have prepared votive molds for the remaining wax.
    They smell so good!
    Happy New Year!

  4. Xava says:

    you could use pressed flowers like pansies and dip one light layer over it as well, like the ones you find in stores… love them! I thought of this idea when I saw that paraffin idea on pinterest as well!

  5. wendy says:

    What is the melting point of beeswax? I ask because when I did this project with regular paraffin instead of the high melt stuff, the tea lights caused it to melt through the bottom.

  6. aurel lee says:

    is your luminaries gone well? i mean it didn’t melted after you lit the votive…
    i did this as the tutorial, with ordinary candle, not beewax, and it melted… it broke my heart…
    what can i do to fix it?

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Aurel,

    How sad! My tutorial was designed for beeswax which has a higher melting point than the wax that you used. The only suggestion I have it to repeat your project with beeswax instead of candle wax. Good luck!

  8. elf says:

    In the instruction is writen that if you use tea lights…to put them in a glass or cup or something……(if I have read correctly) or put something else under the tea cup…so that the tealight hasn’t direct contact with the beewax.

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    Because tea lights are sold in small metal cups, they can be placed directly in the candle holder. Weve never had an issue! However if you are more comfortable you can of course put them in a small glass candle holder. Enjoy!

  10. Rebecca Ednie says:

    This is awesome. Thank you. Just a suggestion. If you want to make sure you little candle holder inside doesn’t get hot and melt thru the bottom of your beeswax, try adding a cork circle underneath. You can get cork sheets at any craft store. They are cheap too unless you have to buy a huge pack. Maybe a dollar store too? Likely they would sell smaller packs. Just cut a circle that matches the bottom of your candle holder. Or maybe two if they are thinner than 1/4″.

  11. leticia says:

    How many illuminaries did this make.. I want to make sure I got enough wax to make 60 illuminaries for my wedding tables

  12. Diane G says:

    one other balloon suggestion- if you put a small piece of tape on the balloon then pierce it through the tape it will deflate without popping.

  13. emily phillips says:

    hi, I am wondering how many lanterns 2 lbs of wax can make? And also how long it takes to make one? I am hoping to use this craft for my son’s class, but have only a 15 minute window and lots of students.

  14. Eliz says:

    Hand dipping candles is not a good choice of activity for less than 30 minutes. Candles and lanterns need to be dipped 15 – 20 times for strength and beauty. Each dip must cool in between or the next layer melts off. For a shorter beeswax candle activity you can try pouring sand candles or decorating pre-dipped candles. How many depends on how big and how much wax is used.

  15. Eliz says:

    It is easiest to melt and repeat. Seams will generally still show unless it is early in the process and only in an lower layer. Could be the wax was too hot or the water too cold. Try adjusting one or the other.

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