I love making candles and making beeswax ornaments. When I first began my adventures in wax, I discovered I needed a double boiler to melt the wax. It’s necessary to use a double boiler because you need some separation from the intense heat of the hot pan and the wax. A double boiler allows water to boil, and the steam from that then heats the bowl of wax. It’s safer this way. While I understood the need, the beeswax cost me so much that I hesitated to go buy a pricey double boiler just to melt some darn beeswax. So I came up with a DIY double boiler that has worked well these past five years.
I have two different DIY double boiler setups — one heats faster (method #1) while the other is easier to put the wax from (method #2). Use what works best for you!
DIY Double Boiler (Method #1)
For this DIY double boiler, you need a fairly deep sauce pan and a heavy, heat-safe glass bowl that fits inside the sauce pan. It’s imperative that the glass bowl fit without being too low (which is difficult to get out) or too high (tippy!). You also want to be wary of the glass bowl fitting so tightly that the steam cannot escape (that is an explosion hazard). Here’s what I use:
I got this glass bowl at the thrift store for 50 cents because it won’t be usable for anything but melting wax after this!
To create a double boiler from a sauce pan and a glass bowl, simply put water in the sauce pan and put the bowl on top.
The water boils and heats the glass, which melts your wax! Steam escapes out around the sides, but plenty of it stays in the pot to heat the glass. iIt works pretty quickly, too. Be careful when you pull out the glass bowl (use a potholder and do not tip it).
The biggest issue is pouring the melted wax (or candy) from a glass bowl — it ends to want to drip down the side of the bowl and make a mess! This is why I prefer this next method:
DIY Double Boiler (Method #2)
Instead of using a plain glass bowl as part of your DIY double boiler, I like to use a large Pyrex glass measuring cup with an integrated handle, like this:
I put the glass measuring cup on an old tuna can with the top and bottom cut off (shown in photo). You can also use an old canning ring, according to a SoapDeliNews.com (check it out at DIY Quick Tips and Must Have Soapmaking Equipment). This is important because it allows the boiling water to get under the glass. I also think it’s a bit safer, as you really don’t want the glass measuring cup in direct contact with the hot pan.
For this DIY double boiler method, just put water in your sauce pan, put your can or ring in the bottom of the sauce pan, and rest your measuring cup on the can/ring with the handle on the outside of the pan. Now when your wax or candy is melted, you can pick it up by the handle (use a oven mitt!!) and it’s much easier to pour out.
Note: This technically isn’t a double boiler as the water is touching the glass, but it’s been working really well for me for many years.
DIY Double Boiler Safety
Here are important tips for using a double boiler of any kind:
- Don’t use too much water. In method #1, you want your water just high enough so it does NOT touch the bowl — it’s better if it heats by steam than water. In method #2, I allow the water to come up the side of the glass measuring cup just 1-2 inches — any more than this and the cup will start to float, and that’s not safe!
- If you use a bowl in a pan, be sure steam is escaping. If the steam cannot escape, it can build up pressure and push the glass bowl off explosively. Read The Explosion of 2004 – A true story of combustible chocolate and a homemade double boiler by the Undomestic Diva and you’ll understand.
- Once you wanter gets to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.
- The glass will be VERY hot. Use an oven mitt whenever you touch it.
- Whenever you a double boiler of any kind, it’s important you stay near it at all times.