This excerpt comes from “Alternative Power”, a chapter in Jack Lawson’ two volume masterpiece, “Civil Defense Manual”. You can grab a copy of his book here. Jack is a strong supporter of American Partisan, and even had NC Scout write the chapter on Radio Communications (Chapter 17 in Volume I). I bought my copy the day it become available and I highly recommend you do as well.
How to make candles
Let’s talk wax fueled candles. For a candle to burn, the candle’s wick is lit by another fire source. The flame of the wick melts and vaporizes a small amount of the combustible wax, which is fuel, surrounding the flame. The vaporized wax combines with oxygen through convection (circulation currents from heat) movement around the wick flame to ignite and form a consistent flame on the wick, just above the candle wax. What determines the burning time of a candle is the dimension and shape of what holds the wax and wick… and the quality of the wick.
Ah! Times haven’t changed much. In days of yore, the rich would use beeswax candles while the peasants, now referred to as Joe Schmoe, would use rendered animal fat… tallow. That being said, even in the High Mucky Muck’s castle rooms, candles of wax might be used only on special occasions. Light from the fireplace, the oil lamp and torch were much more common sources of illumination.
How to make candle wax from bee honeycomb
Somewhere there will bees, or someone will have bees (no pun intended) as a business, in a Grid Down situation. You need their honeycomb which is beeswax, not the honey, for candles. Beeswax candles emit a pleasant scent of nectar and honey and are they’re naturally smokeless.
Bees wax is essentially the equivalent, to a bee, as our poop is to us. Going through the work of making beeswax candles will encourage you to never throw any candle wax away. You can collect it, re-melt it to make new candles… then, you just need the candle wick material.
Let’s make beeswax for candles…
- Crush and strain honey from the honeycomb.
- Put the crushed pieces of honeycomb in a cheese cloth type towel bundle and tie the four corners at the top.
- Place the bundle in a large pot of water and heat to just over 150o Fahrenheit, but do not go over 180o.
- Once it appears that most of the wax has melted out of the bundle, slowly pull the bundle from the pot using a stick to lift it out. Twist the tied ends of the bundle from the top down to the remaining honeycomb, to extract the remaining wax from the bundle.
- The honeycomb wax will float to the surface of the water and when the pot cools remove the surface wax.
- There will be some pure honey in the bottom of the pot so slowly pour off the water.
- Discard the remnants of the bundle from the towel.
- The surface wax can be further melted into thin sheets or melted into the container for your candle once you put a wick in the container… or, you can roll the thin sheets of beeswax tightly around a wick and place in a jar.
- Shazam! Fire it… and there will be light!
How to make wick material
If you buy wick material you will notice that most consist of flat woven material. The reason for this is when the wick burns, it curls over into the flame where it is completely burned and doesn’t leave ashes that contaminate the candle wax. Natural fibers work best for wicks. Like cotton thread, dried plant fiber or even a wooden dowel will work for a wick (wood needs periodic trimming off the burnt wood if it gets much over a ¼ inch long).
Other resources that can be used for wick materials… wooden splinters, cotton threads from clothes twisted into a string, hemp and like stringy fibers from dried plants, white cotton kite string (does anyone even know what a kite is now days) or gardener’s string, non-synthetic mop head fibers, non-synthetic twine, toilet paper, cotton shoe laces.
Wick material soaked in a solution of borax and salt produces a brighter candle, reduces the smoke produced and slows the burning process for a longer burning candle. Keep your children and pets away from borax as it’s toxic when it’s ingested or the dust is inhaled. You’ll use this Borax solution to treat the base wick material when it has no wax on it.
Let’s make some bright burning and long-lasting candle wick material…
- Dissolve a solution of 1 tablespoon of borax and 3 tablespoons of salt by stirring it into a quart of boiling water.
- While the solution is cooling, submerse your twisted cotton string or braided flat cotton rope into the solution. Leave the rope soak in the borax and salt solution for 24 hours.
- Take the rope out with a fork and hang it outside to dry for 48 hours.
- At this point the candle wick is ready to use unless you want to coat it with candle wax to stiffen it… as follows….
- Melt 4 tablespoons of candle wax in a small container.
- Dip the borax/salt impregnated wick into the molten candle wax covering the wick rope completely with wax.
- Hang the wax covered wick as a straight waxed string to dry. Do this process again if you want a stiffer wick.
Candles that are a natural mosquito repellent when burned
Citronella candles. Citronella Oil can be used as an antiseptic, deodorant, insecticide and for parasite control. But let’s concentrate on one aspect of Citronella Oil that is a definite… it’s a natural mosquito repellant. More accurately, Citronella Oil makes humans invisible to mosquitos. Only the female mosquito detects human beings by sensing the carbon dioxide we exhale. A female mosquito knows that if she follows the smell of carbon dioxide to the source, she’ll find a red-blooded animal that she can suck blood out of to feed her eggs and provide her nutrition.
Blood sucking females!? I’ve known a few females like that!
Citronella Oil masks carbon dioxide which keeps the mosquito from zeroing in on us. Whether it’s part of the candle burning or the oil put directly on skin, the fragrance from it conceals us from the mosquito. Citronella Oil stains clothes and is not good for the lungs if inhaled constantly.
How to make citronella oil
You need 1/4 ounce of nard grass (aka Lemongrass and Cymbopogon) leaves and stems. Lemongrass is gown in the United States, but depending on where you live, you may have trouble finding it. Get a book on the botany of your area and learn to identify Lemongrass in the wild now, during Normal Civility.
You need one cup of olive oil or a like neutral ‘medium’ oil to absorb the Citronella Oil.
Use a slow cooker such as Crock-Pot or a low temperature Dutch oven buried at the edge of a fire. You need to keep the fire going for six hours to keep the temperature high enough.
- Cut the nard grass leaves and stems into one-inch pieces.
- Combine the olive oil and nard grass leaves and stems in the slow cooker.
- Cook the oil and nard grass mixture for six hours.
- Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth. The strained mixture is your citronella oil. Discard the nard grass.
- Mix the oil into your candle wax at a ratio of 10 drops of Citronella Oil to a pound of melted candle wax.
How to make lamp oil
Your NPP should have located and marked any birch trees close by. The bark of other trees may work, but birch bark is easy to pull off the birch tree. As the birch tree grows, it ‘sheds’ its bark in pieces. These cannot be too dry. The birch tree is a hardwood tree and is a member of the same family of trees as the alder tree.
Birch trees are considered ‘weed’ trees by many arborists. They have a short life span but are considered an invasive problem tree that are akin to unwanted weeds. Once they get into an area… they are like Cousin Gretchen the mooch… they’re hard to get rid of and they keep coming back.
Birch trees also require sunny areas, so look for them in open areas and near streams, lakes or rivers. Birch trees typically grow in lowland areas in the Continental United States. Birch trees can be found where the soil is cool and consistently moist, but it also grows well in soil that most shrubs, trees and plants do not do well in.
However, birch trees have shallow root systems that will not withstand dry, hot areas and soil. Their shallow root systems are sensitive to drought but ironically, birch trees are often one of the first trees to pop up after a fire.
The birch tree has long been a source for beer, tea, and syrup (from the sap of the sweet white birch), through different processes. The ‘birch still’ was as popular as the ‘moonshine’ still at one time, but not as illegal. This oil was referred to ‘Birch Oil’ and ‘Oil of Wintergreen’ that was used to flavor candy and medicines way back. It has been replaced by synthetic wintergreen flavoring.
Birch oil is Mother Nature’s fuel oil. Unlike other oils, birch oil extract is heavier than water and will float to the bottom. This oil can be extracted by heat and used for lamp fuel, lubricating grease and sealant.
As a sealant, it’s one heck of a lot less messy than pine pitch. You know, pine pitch like the kind Clark Griswold got off his Christmas tree when he was lying in bed trying to turn pages of a magazine with his fingers stuck to them with pine pitch in the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
I hope you love trees as much as I do. So, if you’re going to start stripping birch trees of their bark, look for trees recently fallen that have bark on them that is not totally dried out.
You can easily extract birch oil by building a fire and using the two can extraction method. One can is the ‘still can’ with a hole in the bottom, centered over the ‘collection can’ underneath. Pack the ‘still can,’ with a ½” hole cut in the center of the bottom, with birch bark. Pack the birch bark in like toilet paper is layered on itself. Strip the birch bark off in pieces that will set edgewise below the top of your ‘still can.’
Start from the outer edge and lay the birch pieces close together until the can’s packed full. The other can sits underneath to collect the oil tar that will drip from the hole in the top can. Bury your collection can at the bottom of the fire pit with the edge above the bottom to keep ashes out. Put the ‘still can’ on top of the ‘collection can,’ cover the ‘still can’ to keep the birch bark from catching fire.
Place your firewood around the ‘still can’ and fire your pit. The heat from the fire will soon produce a collection can full of birch black oil tar. Actually, it will look like the oil from the engine of one of my past girlfriend’s brand-new car that she never knew needed to be changed… black, smelly and thick.
Birch black oil tar is very smelly, but can be immediately used in lamps, including the Ye Olde Englishe Oile Lampe type, as in the photo. I am still perplexed and amused by the English putting an ‘e’ at the end of every word in the Old English written language. So is pointe pronounced “pointy” or “point” and if not “pointy” then why?
Back on subject… If you want to make a super-good tar like sealant, cook off more of the liquid until you get the consistency of birch tar you want. The oily tar extracted from birch makes great waterproofing for winter snow boots. I sealed an old pair of leather boots that allowed melted snow to seep in and wet my socks.
I am not a shoe store’s best friend… I had these boots for over 45 years like most clothes and shoes I own that I can still fit into… which is not my Rhodesian Army camouflaged fatigue jacket… that was a much thinner Jack.
I used a pasty consistency of birch tar, thoroughly working the tar into the sole to uppers joins with a stiff toothbrush. My feet didn’t get wet for years, as long as I put mink oil over or kept the uppers wax polished.
I hope you got some good information from this essay… a peek at the information that will benefit you from the Civil Defense Manual, as our many Readers have commented to me or our staff that they have.
As I say and recommend…
Be prepared. Then relax, enjoy each and every moment of life… and love your family with uninhibited passion.
– Jack Lawson