Make It New: Candles
Here’s what you need:
- Old candle’s wax and parts of candles - in similar colors. The amount depends on the size and quantity of candles you are making, just overestimate and save the leftovers for future candles. I break up what’s left at the bottom of my candles in a jar, and keep large melted chunks to reuse in new candles.
- Candle containers - options include: mason jars (you know you have a pile of ‘em…), teacups, mugs, small vases, used votive holders, vintage candy dishes, vintage glasses… or whatever else you can find!
- Wicks - I ended up buying mine at my local craft/hobby store. You can make your own with 100% cotton string and melted wax, but I somehow never have full cotton string around, so I just bought a pack of pre-made wicks for a couple bucks.
- Rubbing alcohol and cotton balls/cotton swabs - if you have any “gunk” on your containers, this helps clean it before. These are also helpful for cleaning any splashes after.
- Tin can, label removed and washed and dried.
- Deep pot
- Heat proof clamps - at least 2, or 1 clamp and a pliers.
- Chopsticks/skewers/sticks or something similar. Enough for each candle you are making. Depending on the length of your wicks, you made need some smaller clamps or paper clips to hold the wick to the stick.
- Hot pads
- Newspaper or large flexible cutting boards for your work space. Wax is a bear to clean up spills.
Start by gathering and/or saving some wax. I had a bunch of candles that were on their last leg so I never used them, or the wick melted into the candle, or tea lights that were too low to be used again. (Be sure to keep similarly colored candles or your final color will be a little brown.)
Clean out pieces of wicks and ashy things, you don’t want the black specks in your final candles, and separate larger candle chunks into something that will fit in your tin can.
The amount of wax shown above made about 3 of my candles, which are on the smaller end.
Pick out your container or containers. I collected a wide variety to give you some inspiration. If you are going to gift a set, I recommend keeping a “theme” as it looks a little more lovely and cohesive. Such as: a set of mason jars, a variety of tea cups, or a variety of vintage glass things. I had a bunch of things around, but maybe that’s because nick-nacks are my weakness…
Be sure to clean off labels and other marks if possible. This small glass votive holder was some name brand candle that came in another gift bag. You can just use a dinner knife to get as much peeled off as possible, then soak and rub the rubbing alcohol, and scratch more off as it loosens, then clean up more with the rubbing alcohol… and continue until the surface is clean.
Once your wax and glasses/cups/containers are set to go, let’s get the wicks ready. If you are cooler than me, you’ll google how to make your own wicks, because it doesn’t look too hard, and then your candles are entirely home made. If you are only semi cool, you’ll buy your wicks are the craft store and THEN google how to make your own wicks. Choose wisely…
Stick your wick in your container. Grab a chopstick, lay it across your container and line it up with the wick. If it’s long enough, you can simply wrap it around the chopstick.
If it’s not quite long enough, use a clip to connect the wick and the chopstick.
Set up all wicks. Lay out newspaper or flexible cutting boards and set a couple candles to start with. Make sure you have the wicks centered and straight.
Next, start melting your wax with our cheap-man’s disposable double boiler. Simply fill your pot with water, high enough to submerge the tin can at least halfway. Clamp the clean and dry tin can to the side of your pot, and fill it with wax pieces.
Turn the stove on high until it begins to boil, then lower the heat to a slow rolling boil. As the water boils, the wax will melt without burning. As the wax melts down, you should be able to add some more wax to the can.
Continue until you have a relatively full can of melted wax. More melted than the pic below. If you have a disposable skewer or chopstick, use it to stir this up and make sure it all melts.
Use another clamp or pliers to hold onto the can as you release the clamp holding it to the pot.
Set the can down and grab it with a pot-holder. I have found a good grippy pot-holder is the best way to pour the candle wax.
Carefully pour wax into your container. Don’t go too slow or it will dribble down the can instead of pouring into the candle. Don’t worry too much about nudging the wicks, you have a few seconds to re-center then if you need to.
Once they’ve begin to set, move them out of the way to completely cool off, and make the rest of your candles!
Some of mine dried with interesting textures on top. Candle making is a surprisingly exact science, and the shape of your containers and the temperature of your wax and where it cools all can have an effect on how it looks when it cools. If you want a more even top, you could pour a little more melted wax on top to even it out, but I personally like a little character.
Quick tip on cleaning, if you ended up with wax on your knifes or clamps or anything else, just toss them in the boiling water and the wax melts right off. Take them out with some tongs, and give it all a quick wash. No scraping or rubbing alcohol required! Also, the tin can is super nice for making candles, just pour some of the boiling water into the can, give it a good hot rinse, and it should be clean enough to put back in the recycling.
Once the sides of your candles are room temperature, remove the chopsticks, and trim the wick.
If you have any splashes of wax, use a toothpick to scrape it off, and clean it up with a little more rubbing alcohol and cotton swab.
And then they are ready to go! Slap a bow on it, put it in a gift bag, or strategically place them around your coolest or smartest looking books and hand them out as gifts.
I’d love to hear what you come up with for your own candles!