The mold and four of the candles it produces.
I do love making candles, and the process of making them certainly doesn’t require any great skill…but that doesn’t mean it is complication free. With making molded tapers — the type I make and use most frequently — there are a whole litany of annoyances. The molds can be tricky to wick if you don’t have the appropriate tool. They have a high center of gravity for the size of their base, so they can tip over with the slightest nudge. They are a pain in the neck to clean, since it’s practically impossible to scrub out all traces of leftover wax. And, of course, trace amounts of wax left in the mold means that subsequent batches are far more likely to stick in the mold than those made with new or scrupulously cleaned molds. If you attempt to get a stuck candle to release, you can end up with a marred finish, a cracked candle, or — if you’re strong and clueless enough — you can even pull a wick clean out of the candle and be forced to melt the wax out of the mold. Silicone sprays can lubricate things a bit, but thanks to the long, thin cavity, you end up with an uneven application…not to mention trace silicone on the candle. It’s also ridiculously easy to over pour the candles as you can’t see very far into them while pouring, and that usually means wax pools and drips that flake off and stick to everything.
So when I came across Mighty Molds and saw their innovative prototype design, I was intrigued. Unlike most silicone taper molds, which are basically cast individually in solid “tubes”, Mighty Molds has created a series of interlocking layers that peel entirely apart. This means it is incredibly easy to remove the finished candles and to keep the mold clean. It also eliminates the need for any mold racks, for the entire mold is self-supporting and impossible to tip over. It certainly appeared to me that this mold had the promise to make casual candle making far more consistent and enjoyable for hobbyists like myself, but I was not able to find much information on the product from users outside the company. So I contacted the Mighty Molds Team to see if they would let me review the mold, and to my delight they agreed! The mold arrived a couple weeks later.
I’m not a sucker for packaging, and normally wouldn’t make a fuss over “unboxing”, but I have to say…I was pretty pleased by the recycling-friendly packing philosophy. I suppose part of that is the nature of this particular product. After all, it is pretty hard to destroy a silicone brick in shipping. So all they needed was some air fillers to space out the box, a sheet of instructions, and a wrapping of brown paper to keep everything clean.
I was also very thankful to see that the mold arrived completely assembled. This allowed me to easily see how to position and wrap the Velcro band that “ties” all the layers of the mold together, as well as how tight to make it. After all, if you make it too loose, there’s really no point at all in even using it. Conversely, if it is too tight, the top and bottom ends will actually bow out a bit and allow wax to creep between the layers.
The mold also came with one taper cavity wicked in each layer. This proved to be invaluable later on when I went to figure out how to wick the mold…but more on that later.
As you can see here, what makes Mighty Molds so innovative is their modular system. Silicone candle molds have been around for ages, and they’re not particularly hard to make. But most molds are all one piece. When you make a cut or a split in a mold, such as what I had to do with my spiral taper molds, you have to be very careful to fit the mold together perfectly and reinforce it very well, or the “join” will be incredibly obvious. If you do it especially poorly, the mold could even leak. Mighty Molds, however, has embraced the split and has made the fitting practically foolproof by making layers with male and female sides. As you can hopefully see in the above photo, the left end cap has raised male sections along each side of a cavity. These sections fit into corresponding female holes in the left side of the middle section. On the right side of the middle section are more male bits, which fit into the holes on the right end cap.
The especially cool part about this design is that — in theory at least — you have the potential to continue to add to your mold as your production needs (or desires) increase. You could potentially start off with just a male and female end cap, which would make 4 candles. Each “Mighty Multiplier” middle section added thereafter would allow you to make an additional four. You could also subtract Multipliers if you wanted to make fewer candles. However, for right now, Mighty Molds does not sell individual Mighty Multipliers nor does it recommend subtracting Multipliers from your mold set up. I think that perhaps the former might be because they are still standardizing their mold design, so subsequent multipliers might not exactly match up, and the latter is likely because you would need a different sized strap if you used additional or fewer Multipliers, and Mighty Molds does not currently sell additional straps.
The hardest part of using these molds, at least for me, was getting them wicked. With a standard silicone tube mold, the wicking process requires the use of something called a “wicking needle”, which is basically just a 15-inch long needle. You thread that needle with your wicking, stick the needle in the hole at the bottom of the mold, and thread it through. It takes maybe 20 seconds, start to finish.
The Mighty Mold, however, does not have a wicking hole. Instead, a little slit is cut on the inside of the mold, and you sort of “tuck” the wicking into the slit. It’s not a hard process, but there is a bit of a learning curve and I ultimately found it a bit fiddly. In trying to figure out how I’d wick the mold, the fact that two wells came pre-wicked was a godsend. I studied the wicked mold shown above for ages trying to sort out the best way to do it.
For my first batch, I tried to use the blunt end of a tapestry needle to tuck the wicks into the slits. It took forever since I kept either impaling the wick or having the wick roll off the tip of the needle. In my second batch, I realized I needed a wider edge. I thought about using a flat-head screwdriver as that long, flat edge would help keep the wick from rolling off the edge. However, I was worried the square edges of the screw driver would tear the mold. I also worried about the thickness of the screwdriver wedge loosening the slit over time, so I wanted as thin a “poker” as I could find. After a solid rummage through all my cupboards for something appropriately thin and “blunt-but-round”, I happened upon a set of hair clips used to temporarily hold sections of hair while you’re styling or to pin curls while they cool. I used a screwdriver to pry the top part off one of these pins and ended up with something close to my ideal “wick poker”.
This worked far better to tuck the wicks into the slot, though I still struggled to keep the wick from rolling off to one side. In the end, the process I worked out was to fold the wick over the tip of my “poker”, and sort of crease it to hold it better. Then I positioned it against the slot as best as I could and eased it in. The friction against the silicone holds the wick in place nicely, so it doesn’t pull out when you remove the poker. And I do have to say, there is something incredibly satisfying about correctly seating the wick.
The Mighty Molds are only wicked on the male sides, so there’s no risk of ending up with two wicks in a candle. Once you’ve got your wells wicked, I found it was easiest to assemble the mold by first laying the wicked male end cap flat on my surface. I then checked to make sure the wicking was laying flat in the wells (and not crossing over into the seam), then taking my Mighty Multiplier and laying the female side over the male end cap. It seamlessly locked into place, and I repeated that process with my female end cap.
The different layers hold together so well, I thought I might not even need to strap them shut…but strap them I did. Mighty Molds does say that with enough use, the Velcro strap more or less becomes permanently “kinked” at the corners of the mold, which makes placement fairly easy…but mine was new. I found that if I lined up the seam at the buckle end with a corner, however, I got perfect placement every time.
Once the mold is assembled, all that is left is to pin the wicks to center them and pour the wax. I opted to use standard-sized bobby pins for this round, entirely because I had a full package on my work table. I thought that the mold wells would be spaced too closely together for me to use them, but I found that when I set them on a diagonal, they spaced out just fine. I also found that I could definitely get the wicks plenty taut for pouring without any risk of the mold coming unwicked, which was a huge plus. I am a little worried that the wick slot won’t hold as strongly on my 50th use of the mold as it does on the 5th…but that is to be determined sometime in the future.
A very unexpected bonus of the Mighty Mold was how clean it made the pouring process. The actual candle mold stops a good inch or so below the mold’s surface. A little “well” flares out from the candle base. I did, at first, think this was a rather silly part of the mold design since it meant that, unless you were a very precise pourer, you’d end up having to trim your candle bases.
You will have to trim your candle bases, but the beauty of these wells means that your over pour doesn’t end up pooling on your surface or dripping down the sides of your mold. It made for some of the cleanest pouring I’ve ever done. It also helped to ensure a very easy job when it came to “topping up” the molds with additional wax once the candles had begun to set and shrink up. I am a definite convert to the recessed opening.
I did notice that heat doesn’t dissipate as quickly as it does with the individual tube molds. This makes a lot of sense as there’s a lot of candles fairly close together in the Mighty Mold, so there’s a lot greater mass of hot wax in a smaller area with it. That does slow down the “time to release”, though. With those four spiral taper molds you see of to the side in the picture above, I can safely remove the candle about a half hour or so after I pour. In the batch above, I’d actually let both sit for about 45 minutes (or one episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix, to be precise). I did notice that the sides of the Mighty Mold were still warm, but decided to risk unmolding anyway. It isn’t terribly evident in the photo, but the candle shafts were soft enough that even though they were set, they were still pliable. Even though they easily removed, I had to be very careful to not bend the candles.
In a traditional mold, these candles would obviously not have been able to be removed. I was able to do so with the Mighty Mold, but it was a delicate process to avoid bending the candles. Therefore, I would recommend waiting until the sides of the mold were completely cool before unmolding. I generally found that the candles were cool enough to unmold after about 90 minutes, but I think two hours would make it foolproof.
One removed from the mold, the candle bottoms do need to be trimmed. I found that the easiest way to do so was to heat up the blade of a cheap, non-serrated knife and to just slice through the join. After each cut, I wiped residual wax off the blade using a paper towel, then reheated the knife before I made the next cut. In my opinion, the cut ends of the candle were neat enough that I didn’t feel it necessary to do my frying pan trick (lining a pan with aluminum foil, heating it, and running the butt end of the candle over the foil to lightly melt the wax), though doing so did make for a prettier final appearance.
There is a fair bit of “wasted” wax in the cut stubs, but it is easy to pull the extra wick out of the remaining wax stub, which made a clean job of recycling the wax for a future candlemaking session. When the stubs were larger or the wick more stubborn, it was simple enough to slice along side the wick and tug it out sideways.
I have to say, the Mighty Mold comes incredibly close to being my ideal candle mold. Nothing beats its ease of release, and it was a total dream to clean up. After each batch of candles, I could inspect each well half for residual wax. It took all of a few seconds to heat any wax spots up with a hair dryer or heat gun and use a paper towel to dab away the melted wax. When I was all finished with my batches for the day, each half cleaned right up with hot water and dish soap. I blotted them dry with paper towels (I did find that a cotton dish towel left some lint behind), then let them air dry overnight. I could not identify any remaining wax the next morning, which was a total coup.
The only major point of criticism I have for this mold was that I found them comparatively difficult to wick. Even after I had worked out the process with my hair clip “poker”, it was still a fiddly business. I timed the process when I did my third round with the mold and had “perfected” my wicking technique, and found that it took me twenty three minutes to wick eight wells. While I did have some wells wicked within 30 seconds, I struggled for several minutes on others. As I mentioned previously, I can have one of my standard molds wicked in about 20 seconds…and then I don’t have to do it again at all in subsequent batches, provided I measure out enough wicking to ensure a clean “pull through”.
At first, I thought that perhaps Mighty Molds chose not to use a hole wicking system because of how close to the edge of the mold that hole would fall. If someone were very aggressive, they could rip that wick straight through the silicone when wicking or removing. But honestly, I probably came closer to damaging the mold when trying to stab the wick into the silicone slit than I would have if threading it through a hole. I then thought that perhaps Mighty Molds was trying to avoid the customer needing a specialty wicking needle. But because these molds allow you access to the full length of the candle, there’s no need for a special wicking needle. As you can see, there’s plenty of room to poke through a regular blunt tapestry needle (available at practically every craft, yarn, or sewing store) and pull it through safely in the well.
I do think a threading hole as opposed to the slit would have also helped solve four minor issues I had:
- I experienced minor flashing (wax escaping through the mold join) on two of my test runs. The flashing was only around the bell tip of the candle. I did notice that having the doubled over length of 2/0 wicking that I used did leave a sizeable “bump” in the silicone, and I think that bump was the likely cause of the imperfect seal.
- Having to poke the wick into the silicone loosened the braiding of the wick, which left some fraying at the top of each candle I made, as shown above. Unfortunately, the amount of wicking that gets tucked into the slit is only about a half-inch as is…which is just about the amount you want to leave for lighting. If I’d trimmed the fray away, my candle might not have had enough wick left to light.
- On several candles, the wick wasn’t centered in the candle at all. This was especially obvious given the bell-style tip, which naturally points your eye to a single central point. When the wick isn’t at that point, it’s easy to see.
- The wick slit didn’t fully close around the wick in many candles, which led to some light flashing around the wick in the finished candle. That flashing did come off fairly easily with a light brushing, though.
Between the issues of wick fray, uncentered placement, and flashing around the wick, I felt that there were only about three candles in the 24 I made in my test batches that I felt were cosmetically acceptable to sell. Luckily for me, I don’t intend to go into the candlemaking business anytime soon, so that wasn’t much of a deal breaker, and the issues didn’t impact the burn much, if at all.
The only other quibble I had with this mold was in the size of the candle it makes. Mighty Molds is still working on perfecting their mold, and they’ve chosen to do their testing with a classic “household” style taper. A household taper is almost always a 6-inch long, 3/4-inch wide cylinder with a tapered “bell” top. In the days before electric lighting was common (at least in the servant’s quarters), these were candles made out of cheap waxes that could be bought in boxes of 50 or so and were intended to be used by household staff to get another 3-4 hours of light to work by at the end of the day. The shorter size meant you could get your work closer to the light more easily, and the smaller 3/4 inch diameter made it easier to wedge the candle into the holder socket without cleaning out any remaining wax from the previous use. Today, almost all taper candle holders are sized for the wider 7/8-inch diameter “dinner tapers”. We tend to clean these up after using them, which means that it will be tricky to get these smaller diameter household tapers to stay upright in a standard holder. I tend to use “taper tacky” (beeswax softened with a bit of oil) to build a foundation for these candles to sit in, but melted wax or candle adhesive would be fine, too. All of these methods work well, but are a bit annoying. I don’t think too many casual consumers of candles would want to fiddle with making this smaller size work for their candleholders.
As the mold that Mighty Molds sent me was a review mold, they took the opportunity to beta-test a new male joiner on me. In the photo above, the low-profile male join is the new beta design, and the more raised version is the current standard design. They did ask me to let them know which I preferred.
To be honest, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Both models joined very well with very little effort. With the beta design, all I had to do was lightly drag the female side over the male surface, and it just sort of “tugged” itself into place. I did have to more conscientiously line up the standard design and push the female side onto the male side, but it wasn’t difficult in the least. In fact, I felt I preferred it. I’m sure it was entirely psychological, but it felt like snapping Legos together. When they were joined, I didn’t question it. But I found myself positioning and repositioning the beta side over and over again because I didn’t trust I’d made the join.
If you take a moment to look at the wells on both the beta and standard designs, you’ll see that the beta mold is situated a bit closer to the candle’s center than the standard design, which is a bit off to one side. This meant that the bell point in the beta mold was a little wider than the standard. It was just a fraction of a degree different, but that fraction made a huge difference in being able to wick the mold. It took me about half the time to wick the beta version than it did the standard version. I think it was because I had just enough field of vision on the beta to not make that poke entirely blind, so my accuracy was better.
I think that if Mighty Molds continues to use the slit method for wicking this mold, the beta version would probably be the better choice for ease of use. It does, however, make that slit even closer to the edges of the mold, which could also increase the probability of tearing. I think it would probably be a better overall choice to keep the larger male joiners and keep the well more “off center” and to just switch to a threaded wicking system.
I certainly did enjoy all the candles I made with the molds, and I found that my test rounds with beeswax and 2/0 braided wicking created perfectly dripless candles with a nice bright, tall flame. In fact, I think I could have sized the wick down to a 3/0 for better overall performance as the flame was a bit on the big side.
I definitely recommend the Mighty Molds for anyone interested in taking up candle making. The current wick system will likely annoy anyone used to threading silicone molds, but the payoff in release and ease of cleaning is totally worth it. I think that once Mighty Molds expands their candle line into more forms than household tapers and “dragon eggs”, they’ll have an unstoppable product.
If they do ever diversify their taper line, I know that I’d certainly buy:
- 7/8-inch diameter tapers with rounded tips. I’d probably go for one “short” size, like 6 or 8 inches, and one “long” size, like 10 or 12 inches.
- Half-inch diameter tapers (a.k.a. skinny tapers, tiny tapers, or half-size tapers) are becoming more and more popular, and I’d love molds for them, too. In fact, I actually tried to make a mold for 7-inch long skinny tapers this summer…but it was a total failure. Almost all cracked when I went to de-mold them.
- Spiral tapers. Everyone oohs and ahhs whenever I give them a pair of spirals, and they are a royal pain to make. Frankly, they’d be a stellar application for the Mighty Mold system since they practically require a split mold anyway.
- “Chime candles”. I have been in the market for a mold for these 4-inch tall, 1/2-inch wide jobs for ages. No one seems to offer them (likely because you can buy five of those candles for a dollar), but I’d still love to make my own.
A girl can dream, right?
UPDATE (1/7/19): Mighty Molds re-worked their wicking system after I initially published this review, and they have subsequently released a new, threaded wicking system with their molds. I hereby dub them the best candle molds in all the land! Looks like I better start saving for their line expansion!
I stole this image from Mighty Molds’ Facebook…I don’t think they’ll mind. 🙂