Gift of light
No one can hold a candle to this creation
Michael Reintsma stands facing her class behind a square, cabinet-style, centralized table. Upon the table are three hot plates, several small plastic bottles containing different liquid scents (heather, cinnamon, plum and so on), a glass jar with 15 or 16 of those thin, wooden shish-kebab sticks, and several metal pitchers holding, for the moment, hardened beeswax.
Reintsma is guiding us through the step-by-step process by which one creates a candle. Twelve class members and I are seated along two separate perpendicular counters within the oblong, aromatic and comfortably knick-knack-filled confines of Sticks, at 250 East First St.
Michael and her husband Ken have been making candles for roughly eight years now. They moved their shop from Oroville to its current location in Chico a year ago last November. “The wax we use here is basically beeswax,” Michael explains. “We don’t use paraffin.” While she admits beeswax is more expensive than paraffin, Michael points out that beeswax burns better and more evenly; you don’t end up with an ever-sinking cavity down the candle’s center like you might get with the paraffin type.
After Michael’s introduction, we select aluminum candle molds, which range in size and shape. As I’m mostly experimenting, I choose a short cylindrical mold. This gets threaded through with a thick wick, centralized and tied off at the open end on a shorter piece of shish-kebab stick, and tied off again through a hole in the center of the bottom of the mold, this then sealed off with a bit of wax.
Eventually, the various containers of wax heat up on the hotplates, becoming liquid. We are given the option of scenting and coloring straight molten beeswax ourselves or simply going with whatever pre-colored and pre-scented batches are already at hand. Being notoriously leisure-prone, I opt to utilize a container of previously enhanced wax, specifically the “clove” batch.
I pour in the wax about a third of the mold at a time, allowing each amount to harden a bit before continuing. Michael instructs us to push one of the shish-kebab sticks down into the wax alongside the wick and add a bit more molten beeswax—this fills in any “caverns” that occasionally form as the wax cools. It takes an overnight period for the candle to completely harden, so I schedule a time for the next day to pick up my finished project.
The Reintsmas hold one candle-making class a month. It costs roughly $30 and includes instructions, scents, wicking and personalized labels. An additional amount is charged for beeswax used. The next session happens Wednesday, Dec. 12, beginning at 6:30 p.m. sharp. Space is limited, so be sure to pre-register by calling 894-8285.
Oh, and by the way, my holiday candle turned out just fine.