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Beeswax Lantern Luminaire Tutorial
Crafting with beeswax is filled with so many possibilities – you will never have time to complete them all. One of the most beautiful projects is learning how to make beeswax lanterns or luminaries. Bringing the sparkle of light to any occasion, they are very easy to make at home.
Homemade luminaires were often used by Spanish peoples around the holidays. The idea is thought to have originated after explorers were impressed with Japanese lanterns.
No doubt about it. Handmade luminaires are beautiful and offer a subtle lighting experience. There are many ways to make them. Some are one time use and others can be reused. Using beeswax to craft homemade luminaires gives you a sustainable project.
Time needed: 1 hour.
Step by step directions for making beeswax luminaires
- Filling balloons with water
Fill balloons with warm (not hot) water. Place mouth of balloon over faucet and fill. How much water should you put in there? It depends on how large you want your beeswax luminaries to be.
Don’t overfill your balloons but they should be tight and firm. This gives the beeswax base the support needed to maintain its shape in the early stages.
Remove from faucet and tip a knot in the balloon. Dry off any water – it should be dry before dipping in the hot wax.
- Melting beeswax
Heat your beeswax to about 160°F but not over 170°F in a double boiler set up. You can use a regular double-boiler if you have one dedicated to beeswax crafts. (And you really should as it is very hard to get all the wax out when you are done.)
You can also use a slow cooker or crock pot to heat wax. By using a crockpot liner, cleanup should be very easy.
This is a great way to make beeswax lanterns for a group where you have several people creating them at one time.
- Dip water balloon in beeswax
When the pot of wax is completely melted, pick up your water filled balloon.
Smoothing dip it 4 or 5 times in the beeswax but do not dip it in further than the water line. Doing so will cause the balloon to burst and make a graciously big mess.
If you have a smooth dipping technique you will have a smoother finished product. Hesitating or stopping half way will cause a dip line in your beeswax luminaire.
Try to dip in to the same depth each time.
- Cool between dips
After 5 or so dips, carefully set the beeswax coated balloon down to cool on a piece of parchment paper. Let the wax harden by cooling the balloon for 5-6 minutes.
Then repeat the process until you have a total of 25-30 dips. Our goal is to have it thick enough to be sturdy for handing but still thin enough to let light show through.
If you choose to make several at a time, you can dip others while some are in the cooling phase. The number of dips needed to make your beeswax luminaire depends a bit on personal preference.
- Final cooling stage
After the final dip, carefully set your beeswax luminaries down on the parchment paper and let the wax cool until it is firm but still warm to the touch.
- Pop and remove balloon
Place your beeswax lantern over a dishpan or the sink and use a pin to pop the water balloon. Carefully, pour out the water and peel off the balloon.
- Trim top edge
Use scissors or an exacto knife to trim away any rough edges on the top.
- Create flat bottom
Using a hot plate or warm flat pan covered in foil, set the beeswax luminaire down for just a few seconds to create a smooth bottom. Don’t leave it on long enough to melt through. This can be done before or after smoothing the top edges.
- Stabilize base with extra wax
Let cool again and then pour a bit of melted beeswax in the bottom inside to give the item a thick base. Let cool completely.
Decorate Wax Lanterns with Flowers (Optional)
If you would like to add some floral decorations to your beeswax lantern it is easy to do.
After the lantern reaches your desired thickness, let it cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully use a glue stick to adhere pressed flowers to the outside of your lantern.
Make one final quick dip in the melted beeswax and set aside to let cool. Flat thin flowers give the best results.
How to Use Beeswax Lanterns
After letting it completely cool, you can place a tealight inside or a votive candle in a holder and enjoy. The melting point of beeswax is about 147°F.
Using a “holder” under the lit candle helps prevent any melting in the bottom of your luminaire. You may also add some sand (even colored sand) in the bottom. This helps insulate the wax bottom from the heat of the tealight.
Important note to remember. Beeswax is flammable. Do not allow flame to come in contact with your beeswax luminaire. At best, it will melt and at worse it will catch fire. Always use under constant supervision with care to prevent burns or fire.
Of course, these are just one type of luminaires, there are many other kinds to make and enjoy.
Extra Notes and Tips for Making Beeswax Luminaires
To pop the balloon – without a mess: gently pinch a tiny spot near the neck and cut with scissors or place a piece of tape on the inflated balloon and pop with a pin through the tape.
Depending on how many beeswax lanterns you are making, you may need to add more beeswax to your melting basin. Keep that in mind when you are deciding what type of dipping basin to use and when buying the beeswax for your project.
Beeswax has a higher melting point than some waxes – these instructions are for beeswax
If your beeswax luminary cracks when you set it down after the first few dips, the balloon is not tight enough.
The larger luminaire you make the larger your melting pot must be about 6 inches of melted wax is good. Don’t overfill the pot, you must leave room for the wax level to rise when you dip the balloon
If melting wax in the crockpot, be advised that it will take quite a while to melt – the double boiler method is faster.
If the beeswax is too hot, it may pop the balloon
Repeated dips not increasing the thickness? – your wax is too hot
Candlelight with Beeswax Luminaires
Enjoy the golden warm of beeswax light with your homemade beeswax lanterns or luminaries. These are beautiful creations whether plain or decorated with flowers. And they smell so good. If you like someone really well – perhaps you will make one for them too. While you have a little beeswax left – maybe you should try some Herbal Wax Sachets or natural Wax Melts.