“In case you ever want to live off the grid,” was the answer I gave my 15-year-old son as the reason he should make candles with me. As you can imagine, this was met with a jaw-dropping, wide-eyed dazed look that comes from a teen who would like nothing better than to be plugged-in and on-the-the grid much more than his parents allow. But guess what? This candle making project was more fun than anyone imagined and our house is a burning inferno these days just so we can make candles again – sooner rather than later!
I’ve been saving candles for years. Whenever the candles get to the bottom (and have cooled off) I toss them in a bag that I keep stashed in my basement, rather than throwing them in the trash. Why waste all that wax and resources? Yes, all sizes, all colors, and all types get stashed away – except tea-lights. Those seem to burn down pretty well on their own.
And smaller ones…
Materials needed to make new candles
- old candles (you could use new wax, too, if you don’t have a stash of old)
- candle wick (available at craft supply stores)
- large can or old pot to melt wax, over a double boiler
- drop cloth, in case of spills
- weights for bottom of candle, to attach wick (I used washers)
- candle molds or ceramic pots or terra cotta pots, or old jars (whatever you have and what you think would look good with a candle in it)
- pencils or twigs for tying wick to, resting on top of container
- tools – scissors, hammer, chisel, hot pads, outdoor cooker
Make sure to do this somewhere that can handle wax spills and drips. Even though everyone was careful and I had put down an old shower curtain, we still had plenty of drips and spills.
We started by chopping the old candles into smaller parts and removing the old wicks and metal parts on the bottom.
It seemed like my kids really enjoyed hammering the old candles and breaking them apart.
After the candles were broken up, we put them in an old coffee tin to melt the wax. Make sure to use a double boiler so your wax doesn’t get too hot. We used our outdoor propane gas cooker to melt the wax.
I found this big canning pot and rack at an estate sale. Use a stick to stir and stand back – this was very hot!
Make sure to use candle wicking. My sister and I made candles years ago and we didn’t know to use candle wick and we made them using nylon string. That didn’t work and we had to do the entire project over. It was fine because I was doing it with my sister but it was time consuming to do and re-do.
Have your candle forms ready to go with wick and weight before you melt the wax. We had so much fun melting the wax that when it was done, there was a little scrambling to get the forms ready.
To keep the candle wicking at the bottom of the container, I used washers. I also use these for curtain weights when sewing so I had these in my sewing studio.
Attach the washer to the candle wicking and then attach it to a pencil or stick to keep it in place.
After the wax melted completely, it was time to pour it into the forms.
Here’s where that old shower curtain/drop cloth came in handy! It was messy.
We left the candles outside on the table to dry.
It was hard not to play with the wet wax while the candles dried….
Notice the tall containers? The wax settled and left a gap in the center.
Here’s what worked making candles:
- The best containers were old terra-cotta flower pots. I don’t know if it was the wide mouth or the terra-cotta material but they seemed to work out really well.
- Doing the entire project outside! From chopping the old candles to melting the wax to pouring it into the forms to all the playing in the wax that my kids did – I was so thankful to be outside with the mess there and not inside the house in our kitchen.
Here’s what didn’t work making candles:
- Large, tall glass containers didn’t work as well as the wide mouth containers. I wouldn’t use tall glass jars again.
- More hot, melted wax probably should have been added after the initial amount was poured in, and dried. Once the initial wax was dry, I should have then added more to fill it up. I think this would have kept the wax filled to the top and not so sunken in. (To be honest, I was ready to wrap the project up and didn’t feel like doing this!)
- The inexpensive candles that had hard, colored wax on the outside probably should have been tossed into the garbage instead of melted. The wax (or whatever it was) took longer to melt and didn’t add to the color. It was probably a bad chemical that we all breathed in and shouldn’t have!!
- Don’t use containers that have ridges and expect to get the candle out. My old coffee tin with ridges won’t release the candle. It’s fine because we’re burning the candle with it still inside the coffee tin but a smooth surface lets the candle come out.
- Next time, I think I’ll use a rag to drape around the container when the wax is getting poured in. It was messy to pour and a hassle to clean off the containers. Mostly, I just left it there.
I do hope to make candles again – soon. We’ve been enjoying them indoors and out. Our front porch looks pretty with the new candles and we’ve been enjoying them out there!
Have you ever made candles? What tips would you add?
Go Gingham related links:
A reader’s question about saving old candles and what to do with them
I also like to save seeds and re-use those in my garden!
A little wine cozy sewn from an arm of old dress shirt – that was turned into a paint shirt!