Blocks of wax
First thing the judge looks for is a good colour and clearness of the wax. S/He may shine a torch through it to check for cloudiness due to water content.
Blocks should be:-
- correct weight
- good colour
- nice aroma when rubbed
- flat topped
- well cast with no moulding faults such as adhesions or lines
- with no inclusions that show on the base, such as dust, which is easily seen, or water drops which leave little voids in the surface.
- Watery wax often has a creamy or milky look and may have colour differences in layers.
- Gently rub off any sharp edges using the palm of your (very clean) hand.
- Old blocks generally suffer surface damage and they lose their aroma, so cast fresh for each competition or short season.
- Try to find a nice presentation box so that your wax looks good – even though this is not supposed to influence the result. Some use special glass topped wooden boxes but a Ferrero Rocher chocolate box is a good substitute.
- Selecting your brightest (not necessarily the palest) colour wax but do not overheat it or it will go browner.
- Good filtering, although sedimentation over water can be very nearly as good with far less hassle.
- Only take wax for the mould from the top layer in the melting pot. Try not to disturb any sediment.
- Pre-heat the mould so no lines form on the sides of the wax.
- Very slow cooling as it sets, in particular cover the mould so that the wax does not cool from the top surface.
- There are all sorts of “tricks of the trade” about wax blocks, mostly to do with very slow even cooling to get a really flat topped block rather than the wavy surface that open-air cooling gives.
The same rules apply but these must also be well-matched in colour and size. If you make two pourings from the same saucepan, the later one may well be a different colour, so have the full number of moulds.
Better still, have more moulds and make too many all at the same time, then pick the best.
The wax must be good quality and colour just as for blocks, and well cast or made.
Present your candles upright in firm fireproof candlesticks unless otherwise instructed as at The National.
The candlesticks should not influence the judge – it’s the candle and its performance that count.
The wick must be correct thickness for the size of candle (this puts tapered and fancy shaped candles at a disadvantage).
Wick should be waxed so that it stands well and is easy to light.
Wicks central (look at the base)
Candles are always burned by the judge, so make an extra one and check this yourself. You are looking for a clear light, no tall smoky flames (the wick should self-trim correctly) no deposits collecting on the wick, silence because of no water drops hissing as they boil, no smouldering beyond about 20 seconds when blown out, and ease of re-lighting.
I usually make a batch of about 15 and choose the best for the show.
Flame should be clear and still with no spitting due to included water.
A candle should not smoulder more than about 20 seconds when blown out or it may be hard to relight due to shortened wick. This can happen if the wax contains propolis or dust. The judge will re-light candles when cooled, to check this.
Fancy shape candles often have serious faults when it comes to burning, such as bits falling off or tapers, meaning the wick is never the right thickness, Simple candles, well made from clean wax, usually win.