Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recycled Crayons

I recently tried my hand at so-called recycled crayons. The basic premise is to take the broken, free, and/or over-abundant crayons in your home, melt them down, and reform them into "new" crayons, like the ones below.
I looked up several tutorials online and came up with what was the best method for me.

1. Gather the crayons you want to use. If you don't have a kid around the house to supply you with broken or excess crayons you can cheat and buy inexpensive ones from your local dollar store, grocery store, or big box retailer.

2. Sort the crayons into small groups. My method uses a household microwave and I found that half a dozen crayons per group melted the easiest. I sorted mine by color, then shade - i.e., I sorted by the rainbow first, then divided pastels from brights.

3. Remove the paper wrappers. Sometimes this is hard, sometimes it isn't, but it can be the most time consuming and tedious part of the process - at least it was for me.

4. Break up the crayons into the smallest pieces you can into a microwave-safe (in my case, glass) container by group. The smaller and more uniform the pieces, the smoother the melting process.

5. Select your molds and lay out flat on a surface close to your microwave. I used plastic molds intended for chocolate; they can be found for $1-2 at craft and hobby stores. You could also use plastic ice trays for bulkier crayons but you will need to melt larger groups of color at one time.

6. Place four of the containers, with crayon pieces inside of course, in the microwave at equal distances apart and cover with a paper towel. Heat on high for about three to five minutes, or however long it takes for your microwave to melt the crayon pieces. My old microwave was very weak and my mother-in-laws is very strong, so times can vary wildly.

7. Using an oven mitt or other hand protector (the containers and wax will be HOT!), remove the containers and CAREFULLY pour the melted wax into the molds. You can stir around any unmelted bits with a wooden skewer, before pouring, to remove lumps. The less you stir, the more you are likely to see visible swirls and variations in color, the more you stir, the more uniform the color blending.

8. Leave the molds alone until the crayons thoroughly harden or they will crack. I am impatient so I stuck mine in the freezer and the process only took a few minutes instead of the roughly 5-10 it took on my counter (depending on the size of the new crayon shape). They should pop out of the molds easily if they have hardened and cooled completely.

Alternatively, you can place larger chunks of crayons into muffin tins and melt at 350 in a conventional oven (don't reuse the tin for anything other than crayons though). You could also melt your crayon chunks in empty canning jars or aluminum cans in a modified double-boiler method on the stove top. I even saw a tutorial where chunks of crayon were put into molds that were left in the sun to melt naturally but I imagine that would take a long time in most parts of the country, far longer than I have patience for anyway.

You can use this method to make themed crayons to use as party favors or non-edible holiday treats (especially at Easter and Halloween), or just to save money on having to buy new crayons when the old ones get broken.

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