Warning: Candlemaking may be addictive.
Learn to Make Poured Candles
Anyone Can Make a Candle
While candlemaking is considered a craft nowadays, it was once just another household chore: Churn butter, spin yarn, make candles. Anyone can make a candle with a bit of guidance.
Special candlemaking equipment is optional; you can even use a Pringles canister as a candle mold.
Learn the Basics of Making Poured Candles
This candlemaking guide explains how to safely heat candle wax and pour it into a mold. You will learn how to add color to candles, how to add scents, and how to make wax that burns for a long time. You'll also read various candlemaking tips along the way.
What Are Candles Made Of?
Every candle has a fatty fuel source. That's the bulk of the candle. Candle fats are derived from plants, unfortunate animals and rocks. For example, the Chinese made candles from whale fat, the Tibetans used yak butter, and colonial Americans used spermaceti. (That's oil from a sperm whale's head.) Assuming you haven't got easy access to yak butter or whale parts, I explain how to make candles from paraffin.
Candles also need wicks. Early candles featured wicks made of dried reeds. Modern wicks are made primarily of braided cotton.
Finally, candles may contain dyes and scents. These are sold as both liquids and solids.
Make Candles from Paraffin
Paraffin is sold at most grocery stores and hardware stores. You can buy it in affordable one-pound packages labeled Gulf Wax.
You can also buy large slabs of wax at craft shops. That's a more economical option but breaking up a twenty-pound block is time-consuming.
Here are more specifics about what you'll need to make homemade candles.
Candle Made with Juice Carton
Fun Candle Molds: Pringles Cans
Collect Your Candlemaking Materials
1. Choose your candle molds. You can recycle food containers or buy professional candle molds.
Jelly jar molds and other thick glass containers let you finish candlemaking relatively quickly. You can pour lots of hot wax into these molds at once without breaking them.
However, you can get great shapes from non-glass containers such as rectangular juice cartons, Pringle's potato chip canisters and yogurt containers. Since these containers have lower heat tolerances, you can only add a bit of wax at once. Wait for the wax to stiffen before adding more.
Professional Candle Molds
Pro candle molds are usually made from metal or thick plastic. They're offered in plenty of shapes: cylinders, rectangles, Buddhas, bunnies, mushrooms -- you name it. Each mold can be reused countless times.
Typical candle molds cost about $8 to $16. Very large molds and unusual candle molds usually cost a lot more. For example, President Obama candle molds sell for $50.
Metal Candle Molds
Plastic Candle Molds
Metal vs. Plastic Candle Molds
Which is better, a metal or plastic mold? I prefer plastic or polycarbonate molds for a few reasons.
- Since they're clear, plastic molds give you a great view of your candle in progress.
- Plastic molds don't transfer heat like metal molds do. This helps the wax cool more quickly and makes the mold safe to touch.
- Plastic molds don't have sharp edges like metal molds sometimes do.
- Plastic molds don't leave seam marks. Some metal molds leave a tiny ridge of wax that you need to smooth away.
What Stearic Acid Looks Like
2. Get paraffin, soy wax or a blend. Paraffin is usually the most affordable and easy-to-find option. You can even buy it at grocery stores in the canning supplies section. You might find some cheap mason jars to fill with wax while you're there too.
3. Buy stearic acid. This is optional but recommended. Stearic acid is sold in white granules. It makes paraffin burn more slowly. This product is usually sourced from animals but vegan options are available too. You can buy it at craft stores and online.
Keep stearic acid away from children and pets. Label it so that nobody confuses stearic acid with sugar.
4. Choose your colors and scents. Frugal people reuse old candle wax to dye paraffin. You can also buy concentrated color blocks at most craft stores. Liquid candle dye is available too. It's a better value but might not be worth the potential mess.
Candle scents are available in solid and liquid forms. You can add natural scents using vanilla, almond oil and other extracts used for baking.
5. Buy wicks. You can buy wicks that are pre-cut or wicking on a spool. Pre-cut wicks cost more but have metal bottoms. These act as flame extinguishers and help to center the wick while you pour wax. Some wicks have wire interiors and wax coatings to give the candlemaker extra control.
The thickness of a wick is very important. Read the information about a particular wick to see what diameter candle it's best for. Otherwise your candle won't burn at the right rate.
Wax Melting in a Double Boiler
6. Devote two pots to your homemade candle adventures. The safest way to melt wax is with a double boiler. In other words, you'll rest a small pot of wax in a large pot of heated water. This will minimize the risk of letting the wax heat too quickly and catch fire.
7. Get chopsticks, twigs, Popsicle sticks or something similar. If you bought a professional candle mold, then it was probably sold with a stick for suspending the wick. If you're using the Pringles method, you'll need to improvise some wick sticks.
8. Collect small stones. You can use stones to anchor wicks. First pour a layer of wax into the mold. When it is somewhat hardened yet still pliable, stick some pebbles into the wax. Use it to hold your wick in place.
7. Get foil, newspaper or waxed paper. This is for protecting your kitchen countertop from crafty drips. You might also want to cover your stovetop with tin foil to make cleanup easy.
8. Get a craft thermometer. This is optional. Candlemakers use thermometers to make sure that their wax doesn't get too hot. They also might want to add scents or colors at a specific temperature. You can be an informal "candle cook" but it's crucial that you don't let your wax get too hot. If you use a double boiler and keep an eye on your wax, this won't be a problem.
9. Have your fire extinguisher handy. I've never started a fire while making candles, but it's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby whenever you're working with the stove.
Make Your Candles!
Once you've assembled your supplies, candlemaking is easy and mostly intuitive. Here are the steps and some more candlemaking tips.
1. Set up your mold and wick. If you're using a professional mold, thread the wick through the hole and secure it with a screw. If a screw was not included, block the minuscule opening with some softened wax. You can also buy a special tacky substance that's made just for this purpose, but that's an unnecessary expense.
If you are not using a professional mold, devise a method for keeping your wick straight. You can't just hang it from a stick and expect it to stay straight. The wick will move when the wax is poured unless you anchor it in hardened wax or with a non-flammable object (e.g., a washer or pebble).
2. Set the mold on a safe surface. There's a chance that your candle mold will leak or that you'll drip wax while pouring.
3. Melt the wax with stearic acid. Fill the bottom part of your double boiler with water and slowly heat it. Add wax and stearic acid granules to the small pot. Monitor the melting carefully! The wax should not be heated above 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It could burst into flames at about 280 degrees. This is why you're not heating the wax directly over a flame.
4. Let the melted wax cool slightly. Then add extras. Stir in your color and scent when your wax is still pourable yet isn't too hot. Avoiding higher heat will help prevent the scent from vaporizing.
5. Pour the wax into the mold. Only pour a small amount at first. Make sure that the mold isn't leaking before you pour more.
6. Save some wax. You'll need to pour wax more than once -- even if you're only using one color. That's because the wax condenses as it cools. It forms a whirlpool-shaped dip around the wick. Top off the wax after the candle hardens.
7. Patiently wait for the wax to harden. This could take more than a day if your candle is large.
8. Remove the candle from the mold, if applicable. Trim and polish it if needed.
Tip: After you make all your candles, you can dip each one in clear paraffin. This can create a good-looking uniform coat if the wax is hot enough. Otherwise this procedure will trap air bubbles. Protect your fingers from heat by holding the candle by its wick with tongs.
Creative Homemade Candle Ideas
Once you start make candles, many creative options will become apparent. Here are some of my favorites.
- Make layers of color. You can use just one shade of dye and dilute it more for each layer.
- Add blocks of color. Drop chunks of colored wax into your candle as it cools. You can use an ice-cube tray or pour wax into a shallow pan and cut out shapes.
- Make a lacy candle. Create a Swiss cheese effect by dropping ice-cubes into the candle as it cools. The cubes will leave air pockets when they melt.
- Decorate the outside of the candle. Watch the video below for a very clever way to get any image onto a candle.
Easy & Amazing Way to Decorate Any Candle
Thanks for stopping by! Please check out my other hubs or follow me for new article alerts.
- How to Make Candles from Crayons
Do you have old crayons that are small and no good? Well, fear not! Learn to make custom candles from old crayons.
- 30 Cool Candle Designs
Check out these awesome candles for inspiration.
SantaCruz (author) from Santa Cruz, CA on June 20, 2012:
Oh yeah! Candlemaking from the Deep South to the Midwest :-). Thanks for writing and I hope you do try it out!
Research Analyst on June 18, 2012:
I never thought of using pringle cans for candle molds but it is a great idea.
Denise Mai from Idaho on June 17, 2012:
Wow! I used to make a lot of candles but it has been years. I may have to get back into it--using your handy article as reference, of course. I have a lot of molds but have always wanted to try found items as molds. Maybe I'll give it a try. Thanks for the inspiration.
Kyndall Smith from Milwaukee on June 17, 2012:
This hub is awesome! I love candles and hopefully one day I can start making them! =)
singnmiss from Southern US on June 17, 2012:
Absolutely wonderful hub! Never thought about using Gulf Wax and Pringles cans to make candles--I just might have to try this out and make some lavender candles for myself sometime (I just love lavender candles!). Thanks for the ideas and the step-by-step directions!
SantaCruz (author) from Santa Cruz, CA on June 17, 2012:
Thanks so much for the shares, votes & comments. Your enthusiasm makes me smile. Happy candlemaking!
moonlake from America on June 17, 2012:
All very good ideas. Enjoyed your hub with great instructions. Voted Up.
Melissa Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on June 17, 2012:
OMG, awesome hub!! I've wanted to try candlemaking for a long time, but I had no idea how to get started! This hub was wonderfully detailed! I bookmarked it for future reference, voted it up and shared!!
Natasha from Hawaii on June 17, 2012:
Wow, cool stuff! I'm sharing, too =)
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on June 17, 2012:
Love all of your ideas for making candles. I've yet to try this but will now after reading your very easy to follow hub!
Sharing, Pinning and voting.
Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 17, 2012:
I am with Julie and will share this on line also! I love this! Well done!
Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on June 17, 2012:
This is a great hub topic and very thorough. Nice job! Sharing :)
SantaCruz (author) from Santa Cruz, CA on June 11, 2012:
If this were Facebook I'd Like that comment. Have fun being crafty with the kid :).
Shell Vera from Connecticut, USA on June 11, 2012:
This looks absolutely fun to do with my daughter. I am already thinking of all the items we can use to make fun shaped candles! I am looking forward to getting the supplies and having a great time with my little one.
SantaCruz (author) from Santa Cruz, CA on February 11, 2012:
Thanks for the comments, ladies! It's gratifying to know that people take the time to read my work :).
I'll be sure to take pictures of my next candlemaking spree. I'm inspired by that video at the end of the hub!
Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on February 11, 2012:
Good hub. I used a lot of the metal molds when we made candles in high school.
Madeleine Salin from Finland on February 11, 2012:
I don't think I've ever seen candle molds. It's great that you can use something else instead. This hub is very easy to follow and well written. I like the pictures, too.
Wendy Finn from UK on February 11, 2012:
I love how thorough this post is. Full of useful info. Voted up and useful.