A family who was also visiting "the U" left earlier this month and passed along some things they had acquired: crayons and books. The books were from a Little Free Library, so back there they will go. But the crayons were ROUGH, and we already had multiple bags of crayons, including a new box that we got at the Crayola Experience (so much fun). I had never seen so many broken crayons -- in this whole big bag I found three that were intact. The family is three boys (2, 4 and 12), but I was still surprised that most were snapped entirely. I knew my girls wouldn't use them, but what to do, what to do?
I'd made melted crayons before, when Jane was littler, and had just used a muffin tin. They'd turned into chunks that Jane played with as cookies and weren't that useful for coloring. It was a failed attempt at reusing old crayons. But after seeing the fun shapes we could make with melted wax at the Crayola Experience (bull, ring and car), I did some more googling and Amazon shopping and got some Lego-shaped silicone molds to give it another try. I did the first batch on my own, just to make sure it would work.
To unwrap the crayons I found that soaking them in warm water with dish soap worked best. I tried X-acto knife, but it wasn't as effective. Crayons from the Crayola Experience (with custom labels) wouldn't let go of their labels -- they were sticky all the way around, and normal labels are just sticky on the parts that touch the rest of the label and came off easily. So I had to trash some of the crayons anyway.
I separated the crayons by color and snapped them to fit into the molds, overfilling to allow the melted wax to fill the mold. I put the molds onto a cookie sheet for ease of in-out of the oven. The second batch I put foil on the pan to keep it clean. Important step!
I started with a low oven, about 200, but later found that higher, 250 or even 300, gave better results (and faster). It took about 30 minutes, and the smaller ones melted and filled faster than the large Lego guy (who is the favorite plaything!). I checked every 10 minutes, and stirring with a chopstick helped the last bits melt for the big guy. I let them cool completely -- I put one in the freezer and it definitely speeds things up but you need to pull them out of the freezer and let them come back to room temperature before you unmold because they're too old and will snap. (Ask me how I know... although I re-melted that guy in the next attempt and he was fine.)
Even Shawn was impressed and has been trying to think of whether we could make our own molds. We've taken what's basically trash (nubs and scrubs of crayons that we'd never use) into treasure, or at least some toys the girls will play with. They've "built" with the Lego bricks (they don't snap together since they're flat on the bottom) and had adventures with the little guys. They've colored with them a bit, mostly to smooth out the feet and make them more even. I think trying mixed colors and watching carefully before they swirl would be fun. We have a TON more crummy crayons at home in BR, so that's one more reason to look forward to going back! These would be so fun as birthday favors or just give-aways to classmates.
Edit to add: Washable crayons don't work as well. They work, but the washable part will separate and float to the top, leaving a milky top layer that won't color at all. We have a few guys with that on their back, and Jane's solution is to shave it away (in theory ... we haven't done it yet).