Did you know that you can make simple candles from the leftover fat of an animal?

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened
— Buddha
 Pictured: A fat candle made from tallow (sheep fat), an hour after it was first lit.

Pictured: A fat candle made from tallow (sheep fat), an hour after it was first lit.

 

Making your own fat candles is simple and fun. All you need are the following ingredients:

  1. Some glass jars (wide mouthed and shallow are best)
  2. Wick material (in this case inner bark fibers were harvested from the bush and twined - can also use standard cotton wicks but why not try making your own?)
  3. A wick weight (something to hold the wick at the bottom i.e. old metal nuts, washers, rocks)
  4. A small stick to go across the jar mouth to hold the wick upright while pouring
  5. Animal fat aka. Tallow (Sheep/ Cattle fat) or Lard (Pig fat) or any type of fat in an amount greater than the jar sizes you're working with as you lose volume with rendering it down (rendering is the process of boiling the fat down and separating/ straining all the excess you don't want in there).
  6. Large pot or pan to render the fat down in
  7. Wire strainer with fine mesh to stop impurities and anything else that's not wanted in the candle mix
  8. A heat source that you can use with the pot to boil the fat up i.e. open fire, stove top, camp oven, barbecue etc.
  9. Essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon etc... to give your candle a nice scent when it's burning (unscented it tends to smell a bit like a barbecue... so recommended to those with sensitive noses).

Step one: Getting FAT

 Pictured: A clean sheep skin after scraping all of the remaining fat, flesh and membrane off in the initial traditional tanning stages of preparing a fur skin (Sheep rug).

Pictured: A clean sheep skin after scraping all of the remaining fat, flesh and membrane off in the initial traditional tanning stages of preparing a fur skin (Sheep rug).

 

If you are unable to collect your own fat from an animal, there are countless other sources you can acquire animal fat from. Few of which will come from sources that are ethical and sustainable in their approaches.

To make the right decision about what fat to use for you, I suggest it either coming from someone you know who personally raised or killed the animal or someone you know through another contact who can vouch for their practices.


Step two: Rendering FAT

 Pictured: At The Bush Tannery we use an open fire pit during safe times of the year to cook over the fire. This fire will need to burn down to hot coals before cooking on.

Pictured: At The Bush Tannery we use an open fire pit during safe times of the year to cook over the fire. This fire will need to burn down to hot coals before cooking on.

 

Once you have collected your animal fat, you can can now start the rendering process of purifying the fat.

Because we are using an open fire pit on hot coals it's hard to tell you an exact recipe of how hot and how long. Basically you don't want it so hot that it's smoking, and so cold that the fat is just sitting there or it's taking forever to boil down. In this example and video, the coals are red hot, the pot on top of them and the fat is sizzling into an oil form. That's what we want... the fat to turn into oil.

While the fat is sizzling away (for 15-45 mins depending on heat and quantity of fat), you can prepare the wicks and jars if you haven't already.

 

Step three: Preparing the jars

 Pictured: Empty/ clean wide mouthed jars with hand made wicks from inner bark fibers hang from sticks at the mouth and weighted down in position by old metal nuts.

Pictured: Empty/ clean wide mouthed jars with hand made wicks from inner bark fibers hang from sticks at the mouth and weighted down in position by old metal nuts.

 

As you can see in the above photo this is where you prepare your jars for the final liquid. It's important to have the jars ready as the liquid will harden once it is taken off of the heat.

To prepare your jars you will need wick material, some weights for the ends to secure them in the centre and a stick for hanging the wick from a knot at the top.

WICK SIZE MATTERS! Depending on the size and shape of your jar, will affect the wick size and performance. There is a fine art to getting wick size to work, so be patient and experiment with different sizes to see what works and doesn't work for you.


Step four: Straining, Essential Oils, & Pouring

 Pictured: Jars have been filled with the final rendered mixture and will be left to set for a few hours.

Pictured: Jars have been filled with the final rendered mixture and will be left to set for a few hours.

 

Once you have your fat rendered down by straining it off (BE CAREFUL IT'S REALLY HOT!), you can let it stand for a few minutes to cool down a bit and add some essential oils to your mix.

**IMPORTANT: Make sure to warm your jars up before pouring in the boiled fat as the jars are prone to cracking and falling apart otherwise (you can have them in the oven or by the fire to warm them up).

Before your liquid cools down too much and starts turning from the above honey colour to a cloudy white you can add your essential oil/ 's.

It's now time to remove the wicks, pour the liquid in until the desired height and make sure to pour a little bit of the liquid on top of the wick sticking out so that the flame has a bit of oil to start with.

Great work! Now the candles will take a few hours to change colour and set ready for their first test run tonight.


Congratulations!

You've made your own 'fat candles'!!

 Pictured: The fat candles have now finished setting, the tops can be cut off and they can now be used. Just be sure to use the candles sensibly like any other open flame source.

Pictured: The fat candles have now finished setting, the tops can be cut off and they can now be used. Just be sure to use the candles sensibly like any other open flame source.


Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tutorial on how to make your own candles from animal fat. Please comment and share if this has helped you as it may help others on their journey as well. Any questions you can fill in the contact form or ask on our Youtube channel. Thanks!
— Josh McLean (Owner/ Operator)
The Bush Tannery