Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No One Told Me There Would Be Math Involved

Many years ago when I began pouring candles I was a little discouraged to find out how much math was involved.  Pounds and ounces, ratios, fractions...yes, fractions.  For example, if I want to pour two six-inch candles and three three-inch candles how many pounds of wax should I melt?  And if I want to scent those candles I have to figure out how much oil to use with a formula.  It's kind of hard and makes my head hurt sometimes.

If you're thinking about going into the candle-making business, know upfront that there will indeed be lots of math involved.  It helps a lot to have a math whiz living in the house with you for those times when you need to figure something out but don't want to take the time of energy to remember, figure, or even look it up on the internets.  Husby is my math whiz.

Quite a while ago I asked him, "how do I translate a decimal number into ounces?"  He knows there really is such a thing as a dumb question because I ask them all the time.  It's actually an issue of articulation.  He told me to ask the question again in a way he could understand. 

"I need sixty-seven ounces of wax to make my candles.  That translates into 4.1875 pounds of wax. 

67 (oz) ÷ 16 (oz/lb) = 4.1875 pounds

How do I figure out how many ounces .1875 pounds is?"  And just like that, Husby spat out the forumula as though he had just learned it yesterday.

.1875 (lb) X 16 (oz/lb) = 3 oz

So there you have it.  I need four pounds and 3 ounces of wax.  Now try to figure out how much fragrance oil to add.  I use 1/2 ounce (by weight) per pound of wax. 

4.1875 (lbs wax) X 1/2 (oz fragrance) = 2.09 oz

Son of a...!  I have to do that icky decimal to fraction thing!  Well, I won't bore you with any more of this, but believe me when I say it takes 2 1/8 ounces of fragrance oil.  That's rounding up because my scale doesn't measure 16ths and plus that little bit of extra added fragrance will probably be appreciated.

I'm not really sure why I decided to write this post.  Partly because I want people to know pouring candles isn't as easy as Martha Stewart would lead you to believe* and partly because I need to validate my knowledge of numbers, even though I need Husby's help from time to time.

*Note: Martha scents beeswax, which I think is a cardinal sin of chandlers.  Martha also doesn't specify the size and type of wick to use and says to add fragrance oil, essential oil no less, in accord with your preference.  This sort of whimiscal candle making will make for a big fail and could not only be a smokey mess but could also be a fire hazard.  I get kind of mad when I see Martha's careless instructions.  

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