Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Upcycle Your Crayons!: How to Make New Crayons from Old Crayons

When I was researching melted crayon tutorials for my last post on Crayon Crayonis, I realized, "Hey! Everybody else does it wrong!" By that I mean that everybody else does it, um, differently than me, but since you can trust that I know the absolute best way to do pretty much anything, here's how to melt crayons better:

1. Gather up all of your kids' old broken crayons. Look under the couch, among the sheets on the bed, in all the toyboxes, and in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Ignore all the other disgusting things you find in your search--it's important to stay focused here.

I'm an art snob, so my kids only use Crayola brand crayons--Prang are good, too, but Crayola is more readily available. You should know, though, that if you mix crayon brands, your crayons won't melt as neatly--they all have slightly different melting temperatures, you see, and if they have a lower melting temperature than I'm accounting for they'll get so hot that the pigment will separate from the wax, and if they have a hotter melting temperature, they won't melt at all in this oven. They'll look fine and be perfectly serviceable for your own kiddos, but might not be the peak of perfection if you're making them as gifts.

2. Peel all the paper and cat hair off of your crayons, break them into small pieces, and sort them into your molds.
While obviously you should encourage your kids to organize their crayon bits however the heck they want, if you want to make yourself a couple of very attractive crayons, consider limiting your color palette to two or three choices per crayon, and strictly limit the amount of darker colors that you put in each mold--the darker crayons will show up really well, and can be quite overwhelming.

As for molds, the muffin tin is the standard choice, but it can be very difficult to pop the crayon out when it's finished, and the same goes for bakeable candy molds. My personal favorite choice is a flexible silicone baking mold--it's much better for easing your crayon out when you're done, and it comes in lots of fancy shapes. For a silicone mold with small shapes like the heart mold in the back of the above photo, two crayons are ample; for one with medium shapes like the mold in the forefront, five or more crayons will work.

3. Put your mold into the oven, turn it to around 200 degrees, and wait at least an hour. You can melt your crayons quicker with a higher temperature, but this will also tend to separate the pigment from the wax, so you'll have a muddy brown bottom and a translucent top on every crayon.

Check on your crayons every now and then, and when all the pieces are liquid, turn off the oven and let the crayons set until they're solid again. If you need to, you can remove your mold, but this will tend to mix up your colors--if you leave the mold until they're set, they'll look much more nicely striated.

4. When your crayons are at least solid, even if only barely so, you can remove the mold to a countertop to finish cooling completely. Don't unmold the crayons prematurely, even if you want to, or you'll moosh them a little.

5. When your crayons are completely cooled, flex the edges of each mold away from the crayon, push gently on the bottom of each mold until you feel the crayon release from the bottom, and then gently ease out your crayon. You only need to be particularly careful about this part if your mold includes any fiddly bits--sticky-outies or such.

6. Do a lot of coloring.
If you're a lazybones or you don't have a couple of hours to kill or your own unreasonably large stash of crayons, check out my melted crayon autumn leaves and Christmas-colored hearts up in my etsy shop.

P.S. Check out my other tutorial, this one on sewing your own blank books, over at Eco Child's Play.

P.P.S. Interested in more upcycled craft projects? Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page!


Anonymous said...

Well, yeah, of course we know that you know the best way to do everything! ;D

You answered my question about Prang...we have one tiny box of soy crayons, and I'll keep them segregated from our Crayolas. :>

Christina said...

Thanks for your comments. I have enjoyed looking at your blog - great ideas!

julie said...

Ooh, soy crayons! I've been wanting to try those out.

I have this insane plot for making my own crayons sometime--soy wax and powdered tempera? That totally sounds like it would work, right?

I missed you so much at the soap-making workshop, teresa! It was off the hook. There were a couple of ladies there who also knew a lot about soap-making, apparently, and were asking these kinds of testing questions, and the Kitchen Ladies kind of had to throw down. Awesome.

Unknown said...

Hi, I know this is an old posting but really hoping you can help! I am new to crayon moulding and have come across a couple of problems with my first few batches. The first is that I can't seem to stop the colour from separating - I have tried lowering the temperature on the oven but still no joy! Also, after washing out the silicone trays, they are now left with a white chalky residue that does come off when wiped however this is very fiddly and time consuming. Do you know how I can prevent this from happening with any new moulds? Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Thank you!

julie said...

Your oven might run hot or the brand of crayon that you're using might have a really low melting point, so you can always continue to lower oven temps until you find the sweet spot, or you could try this method of melting crayons in layers:

It's more work to do it this way, but you'll be able to stir the crayon pigment and wax together, so there will be no separation, and I think the kids like these even better than the mish-mash ones.

I think that chalky residue is par for the course. If you're re-using the molds only for other crafts, I've found that the residue won't hurt them.

Unknown said...

Hi I know this is an old post but I was wondering why do I get this white wax on top??? Am I leaving my crayons in the oven too long? What could be the caused of rhis?!

julie said...

You're leaving it too long or letting it get too hot so that the pigment is separating out. If you're melting a single color you can stir it back together, but if you're doing a mix of color try lowering the temp or reducing the time.

Hayleyjane said...

Hi I’m having the same issue, I’ve tried stirring the colour back in which seems to work, but it then dries white on the top. Any help would be appreciated!

Hayleyjane said...

I’ve tried stirring the colour back in but I’m still having the same issue

julie said...

If you're getting clear or white wax on top of your crayon as it hardens, you've probably heated your crayon wax too high, and the pigment has separated out. For the best results, find the Material Safety Data Sheet for your brand of crayon, look for the melting point, and only heat your crayons a little above that. For instance, the MSDS for Crayola Crayons--

--states that their melting point is 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so I'd try to only heat them to about 115 or 120 when melting them into new crayons, and I'd remove them from the oven as soon as they were melted so that the pigment doesn't have time to settle out.

Unknown said...

My daughter tried this, at my suggestion. She says her crayon blocks do not color well unless she presses really hard, which would make them difficult for her 2 1/2 year old to use. She says she tried coloring with the edges and the flat surface. We are not in the same location, and are texting each other about the crayons, so I can't do a hands on activity with her to find out what the problem is. She is disappointed that they crayon blocks are not working as well as she thought they would. Any suggestions?