Kristi Cook 


Of all the self-reliant skills I’ve learned over the years, one of my favorites is turning ordinary animal fats into emergency lighting. I’m talking plain, old-fashioned candles using whatever animal fat is on hand just as our ancestors did. This often free and readily available material makes creating candles in a pinch an easy task to accomplish, with the added bonus of requiring only basic equipment commonly found in the kitchen, a few items from the tool shed, and purchased or handmade wicking material.

While paraffin and beeswax candle bases have been around for many years, animal fat remains the most reliable material in times of need. Free to the livestock owner and hunter, any animal fat — sheep, elk, caribou, bear — may be used with mostly minor differences. For instance, lard made from pig fat tends to be softer and faster burning than tallow from beef or venison, thus making it difficult to create pillars or dipped candles. However, this softer fat is well suited for container candles that have the added benefit of being tidy and drip free. Tallow, on the other hand, makes excellent pillars and dipped candles perfect for situations when drips and melting tallow can be contained.


Molds and containers may also be made from readily available materials. Potato chip containers, waxed drink boxes, even sturdy, old paper towel rolls will work. These will, of course, be one use molds as they will need to be pulled off the candle prior to lighting. Other options include PVC pipe sliced down the middle to make a two piece mold. Just duct tape the two pieces together with a piece of cardboard taped to the bottom. Once the wax hardens and cools, cut the tape away and pull the candle out. For container candles, almost any nonflammable container will do. Old jelly jars, mason jars, soup cans, and even sturdy, heat proof pottery works nicely. Be creative, and you’ll find molds and containers just about anywhere.

11/22/2017 3:27:17 PM

Yes, the process of making your own candles is quite simple and very enjoyable. As for fragrance oils, they work well in tallow candles, although experimentation is key to obtaining the exact strength desired. Personally, I save the FOs for my paraffin candles as my tallow candles are used primarily for emergency situations when our power is out. As for obtaining tallow or lard, a lot of area butchers/processors are happy to set aside fat (venison/beef to make tallow and pig fat to make lard) for those willing to take it off their hands. Oftentimes, this fat is provided free of charge or at the most, for a nominal fee. Once you have a supply of animal fats, simply render your own tallow or lard to create your own candles. Happy candling!

11/14/2017 6:09:56 PM

Kristi, good information about making candles. The process doesn't seem to be that complicated. I burn jar candles in my computer room just to keep a nice smell in the room. You didn't mention it in your post but I suspect a bit of fragrance oils could be added to the candles, don't you think? I buy my candles from the bargain bin because I just don't have access to tallow or lard and don't know anyone that does. It's the urban living deprivation. ***** Have a great candle making day. ***** Nebraska Dave

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