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Friday, July 8, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Making Candles

I have been wanting to make my own candles for a while now, so I was really excited to finally do it.  In my effort to find crafts that are A)  Actually useful in some way, and B) Not expensive, I determined to use as much stuff that I already had as possible. 

I should back this up.  Yesterday, I went to the library to get them to sign off on the next five books on my summer reading sheet ('cause I'm a nerd), and while I was there, I thought, "Well, I'll just check out the craft section and see what they have."  This may have been a mistake.  Seven books later, I had all kinds of new ideas for crafts!  One of the books was about candle making. 

Ok, now to continue.

As I have been cleaning out my house and getting things packed, I have found lots of extra candles that I never use.  I mean, I have lots of candles I use all the time, but these were taper candles and a whole bag of votive candles that weren't scented and I never used because I don't like having to find the holders.  I prefer candles that come in jars so you can just light them. 

The only things I needed to buy were some scent oils and some wicks.  I went to Hobby Lobby and their candle section has quite a lot of stuff in it, actually.  They have wax that you can use, although I didn't get any, and lots of scents, wicks, jars, molds, etc.  It was very tempting to get one of everything, but I am trying very hard to spend less money, so all I ended up getting was one box of medium-length wicks and one small jar of scent oil.  Total cost was $5.00.  Not bad!

When I got home, I was so excited to start that I kinda forgot to get prepared at first.  This was a mistake.  I put some wax in a tin can left over from last night's dinner (washed) and put the can in some water in a pot.  I did this because wax is apparently flammable, which doesn't make sense to me, but I didn't want to burn the apartment down one week before we move out.

I had trouble with the can because it wasn't heavy enough and it kept trying to float around in the water, so I  had to put something on top of it.

That's duct tape around the edges because the can kept lacerating me.

It was at this point that I realized I should gather everything I need for this project.

I actually used quite a few more candles than that.  The cheap, white votives that I had in a bag of like 100 were great.  I just pulled the wick out and popped them in the can.  The long tapers I had to break into smaller pieces and pull the wick out, but a couple of them wouldn't come out, so I just waited until they melted and then took it out.

It didn't take very long for the wax to start melting.

I'm melting! I'm melting!

For the jars, I just found some old candles that I had used up and just had a little layer of wax in the bottom.  I'm always nervous about burning them at that stage because one time I had three candles shatter at the same time because they had all burned down too low.  Scary.  So I don't throw them away because I'm like, "Well, there's still some left," but I don't burn them because I'm like, "I don't want to die."  Now I have a solution!  I pried the little piece of wax and wick out, which was easy, and then rinsed and dried the jar.  Voila!  New candle jar for free!  You can even put that bit of wax in the can and melt it down to make the new candle, if the scents are compatible.

I also used a couple of condiment cups that I had bought for a party and then never used.  They were just the right size for a votive-style candle or wax melting tart.

So the wax was liquid at this point, and it's time to pour it.  I take it out of the boiling water with my tongs and add 1/2 teaspoon of scented oil.  I don't know if this is the right amount, because the "recipes" in the book were made in much bigger batches, but it seemed right.  Sure.  Why not?  Then, using my tongs, I pick up the can and start pouring the wax carefully into the jar.

It was awesome!  I felt like I was forging the One Ring or something, pouring the hot liquid carefully into the mold.  It was so hardcore.

This is the point where the can slips out of the tongs and spills wax all over my stove.


At first, I was really worried, but then I realized that if you just let it dry for a second, to where it's still warm but a little harder, you can gently scrape it up and put it back in the can.  It's like, a craft with a redo button!

I made a couple more batches, and I used more wax this time, so the can didn't float all over the place.  I tried to keep the colors separate, so I would use the blue taper and a bunch of white candles, and then I'd do a batch with the red taper and a bunch of white candles.  That way I didn't end up with brown candles.  Eww.

And by the way, the scent I got was pineapple cilantro, because I really like food scents apparently, and because pineapple is a great scent.  It smells like happiness.

The trick to pouring the wax (besides using a pot holder instead of tongs) is to pour just a little bit into the bottom of the jar and let it start to harden.  Then you stick the wick, with its little metal holder thingy, down in there and let it set.  That way when you pour the rest of the candle, the wick is already in place and you don't have to worry about it falling over, unless you were impatient and tried to pour too soon after you stuck the wick in there.

Not that I would know about that.

In the end, I ended up with two big candles, one votive, and two tarts.  I made the votive with a wick that I pulled out of another candle, so that was cool, too. 

I'm burning one now, and it smells nice.  Not too strong, but I can definitely smell it. 

This is kind of a messy craft, but it cleans up pretty well.  After all, wax melts at a really low temperature, so all you have to do is run hot water over something and the wax melts right off.  My hands did smell like the candles for the rest of the evening, but that was ok.  And I still have eight wicks and half a bottle of scent to use later.  If I did this a lot, I would want to get one of the big bottles of scent they have, but that's no biggie.  As far as time goes, I did it in about an hour and a half or two hours.  Not bad, from start to finish, including clean up.

Ok, so let's grade candle making:

Time: A
Difficulty: A
Expense:  A+
Fun: A+
Relaxing: A

This is a fun craft.  I would definitely do it again.  Plus, it makes something I actually use, and would actually give to a friend.

Next time:  Dipped Candles!


  1. Awesome!!! Yeah, wax is very flammable...we were banned from cooking in our dorm one semester when somebody accidentally lit wax on fire in the community kitchen. It was the one time we had to evacuate the building (out of probably 100 times) that was actually legit!

  2. This is so cool. I am showing to Nate. He knows I love candles and has suggested I save money and make my own.

  3. Great job. That was really fun to see. A little fun from my candle making days in teh 70's. you can use milk or cream cartons as your mold. Just be sure they are well washed. AND... for super coolness, fill the milk carton with ice after you lay down the first layer, and pour in portions or different colors (letting them dry just a little between colors. It makes a cool candle with little holes in it! the water stays in place till you peel off the carton and like, hey man... a really groovy candle. :) PEACE!