Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Crayons and more crayons and a tutorial

Now that the holidays are over and all gifts are given, I can divulge and show you some of the things I was frantically churning out this holiday season. Let’s begin with crayons.
I was literally up to my ears in crayons – 320 crayons to be exact. I made some very sweet little crayon rolls which were quite quick and easy once you get the hang of it. I used this tutorial from Skip to My Lou. I think they turned out to be very adorable and are a great way to tote around crayons for your little ones. The kids loved them. Here are the two I made for my kids. I also made two for my younger nieces.

My other crayon project was one that I had been looking forward to for weeks. I kept seeing all these fantastic shaped crayons and I wanted to make some, not only for my own kids, but I thought it would be a perfect and easy project to use as gifts for Aaron’s preschool classmates.

Originally the plan was to make multicolored crayons by cutting them up and melting them in the oven in a shaped mold (like this). My downfall on that plan was that I was using a silicone ice cube tray as my mold, thinking that it was made of the same silicone as my silicone muffin and bread pans. Yeah, don’t try that at home folks – the only thing that melted was my ice cube tray.

But I was determined to use my silicone Christmas tree shaped ice cube tray (thankfully I got 2 at the dollar store so I still had one left over after the oven incident) So I did some more research and found out that you could melt the crayons in a double boiler and then pour them into practically any type of mold – candy molds, ice cube trays, whatever. Thus began my hours long journey into the world of crayon molding, and so that those hours were not in vain, I want to share with you the tips and tricks I discovered in this little mini tutorial.

How to make shaped crayons – double boiler method.

Crayons – use high quality crayons such as Crayola, cheaper versions get all oily and wonky when melted and remolded - you will be unhappy with the results
Molds – candy molds, ice cube trays (even the silicone ones), mini cupcake pans etc.
Razor blade/utility knife
Large saucepan
Glass measuring cup or other small container to melt crayons in

Step 1 – Prepare the crayons

Gather your crayons. Any size of crayon will work though the smaller ones will melt faster and are easier to prepare. I purchased mine new because I needed a lot of them but this is a great project to make good use out of all the old broken crayon nubs at the bottom of your kid’s crayon stash as well.

Remove the paper labels. I found that the best way to do this is to slit the paper wrapper along its entire length with a razor blade, utility knife or X acto knife. It will then peel off very easily.

Cut the crayons into small pieces. You can snip them with scissors or I found the most efficient way was to cut them on a cutting board with a chopping knife. Just like dicing up some carrots!

Organize by color. Remember that these will be melted so keep like colors together. Since I was using sets of 64 colors I had a wide variety of colors and I simply grouped them into color families. The varied shades mingled together when melted.

Step 2 – Melt the crayons

Set up your double boiler by placing a small amount of water (approximately 1-2”) in the bottom of a large saucepan. Turn your burner onto medium heat.

Place your glass measuring cup* with crayon pieces into the saucepan.

*I used a glass measuring cup to melt my crayons in. The glass allowed me to easily keep tabs on the melting progress of the crayons and the spout makes for easy pouring. However, you could use any type of container as long as it can withstand the heat required for melting the wax.

Now you just sit back and wait for the crayons to melt. I stirred mine throughout the melting process (with a straw) to encourage large chunks to melt faster and to mix any varying colors together.

Step 3 – Prepare molds and pour

While the crayons are melting, prepare your molds. They don’t need any extra special preparation. Just make sure that they are clean, at room temperature and on a flat surface.

(I used some lollipop and pretzel stick molds for some of mine and the channel for the stick became a problem. I solved it by using poster tac (the silly-putty type stuff that your mother always hated you using on the wall to hang up that Tiger Beat poster of Johnny Depp). You could also use a little glob of play doh or something – really just anything disposable that you can push into the mold to stop the flow of melted crayon.)

Once the crayons are melted (make sure there are no chunks) remove the measuring cup from the saucepan (be sure to use a hot pad) and carefully pour the melted crayons into your mold.

Step 4 – Remove from mold

Allow the melted crayons to sit. They’ll start to harden fairly quickly. Once they’ve set up slightly and are not liquid you can place the mold in the freezer for a couple minutes to speed up the hardening process and to ease their transition out of the mold. I found the freezer was a necessary step for the silicone ice cube tray mold, whereas it was unnecessary for the candy mold. They popped right out of them.

Clean up any edges and that’s that. You and your kids can enjoy shapetastic coloring. (Yes, I know that shapetastic is not a word and I don’t care!)

Notes and Variations:

I did a lot of different colors so there was a lot of melting going on. The easiest cleanup method I found was to wipe the excess crayon out of the measuring cup with a paper towel while it was still hot and melted. Then I could quickly throw in my next color and place it back in the saucepan.

If you’d like a multi-colored crayons like these Christmas tree ones I did for Aaron’s classmates, follow the same instructions but don’t fill the mold all the way. Fill it partly with one color, allow that color to harden and then add a second layer of color, wait for it to harden and repeat. I found that cooling them in the freezer to ease their transition out of the mold caused the colored layers to separate in some instances, so it’s best to avoid the freezer step altogether for this multi-color technique.
As always, if something in here doesn't make sense, feel free to ask me a question in the comments or email me at pinandpaper@q.com


Kate said...

I did the same thing one year as a Christmas present for my children. The one thing I did differently was using clean tin cans (from soup or fruit) as the melting container. That way I could just trash the container afterward.

alex said...

These would be so cute as party favors or valentine gifts. I'm always saving random crayons that we get at restaurants so I can do some recycled crayons, but I LOVE the idea of using different molds. I will definitely try this!

Beth said...

So cute! Did it ruin the silicone mold, or could you clean it to use for food again?