My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.
Get Started in Candle Making
Using Recycled Wax to Make More Candles
Candle making is an easy craft suitable for the whole family; anyone can make candles with little or no previous experience or skill. To get started in this fascinating and rewarding craft all you need is a basic candle making starter kit and a good 'how to' candle making book packed with ideas and tips.
Once you get started all you then need to continue with this most fascinating handy craft is to regular stock-up on candle wicks (of suitable sizes) and dyes as and when required, and old candle wax to supplement the supply of new wax. Once you get stated with candle making you may find that you never, or rarely, need to buy new candle wax again as much of the candle wax tends to melt rather than burn; and if you collect and save it the candle wax can be recycled over and over again for making new candles.
Below I give the essentials for good candle making, a list of basic ingredients, and a step by step guide to making good candles which you can use around the home or give to your family and friends as gifts for all occasion.
Essentials for Good Candle Making
What You Need and Need to Know
In the beginning a good candle making kit with basic instructions is all you need to get started, but this is only the start of an easy and very rewarding craft anyone can do; an inexpensive craft where you can explore your creativity and make great gifts for family and friends.
My mother bought me a candle making kit and book many moons ago I've been making my own candles ever since; almost exclusively from recycled candle wax so the original dyes have lasted and all I've needed to replenish is wick.
The basic essential ingredients are candle wicks (suitable size for mould), candle wax (recycled, with new when needed), dye when required (which isn't often when recycling candle wax), your chosen candle making moulds and optionally, scent e.g. a few drops of aromatherapy oils.
Step by Step Guide for Making Candles
From Recycled Wax
Below is a four stage step by step guide to make your own candles from recycled wax from preparation through to the unveiling of the finished candle. The four basic steps, each discussed in detail are:-
- Preparation - Getting all the materials and ingredients together and getting yourself organised.
- Making the Candle Moulds.
- Melting and Pouring the Candle Wax.
- Setting the Candles and Removing the Moulds.
Each step includes tips and ideas based on my experience and includes a selection of photos as a visual guide.
Candle Making Kits
Get started with a fun, rewarding, practical, inexpensive and easy to do craft for the whole family with a candle making kit. The starter kits are just enough to make a few candles, which is enough to get you started and to help you decide on what type of candles you may wish to make next; with some idea of what addition equipment and materials you may need.
Some kits of course have more equipment and materials than others dependant on how much you wish to pay to get started in this most fascinating hobby.
Stage 1 - Preparation for Candle Making
An Initial Check List
The first thing you want to make sure is that you have everything you need. If this is your first time and you're using a candle making starter kit the chances are you have everything you need (including mould if it's a comprehensive kit) to make your first candle. All you need do is follow the instructions in the kit; or use the candle making crafts book for tips and ideas if you were given this at the same time as the kit.
So whether this is the first time or not the first thing you need to do is lay everything out in front of you and double that you have everything needed including the following:-
i. Candle Wax
new or recycled
If you're new to this you'll have enough wax in your new candle making kit to make your first candle, which will be a good practice run giving you some ideas of where you wish to go with candle making so next time when you go online or to your local store you have a good idea of what candle supplies and quantities you want to stock up on.
Having made my own candles for years the only supplies I need to buy from time to time is more wicks for the candles as throughout the year I save all the candle wax that melts from the candles and collects at the bottom. I put all the wax I collect into one big tub in the shed and when I'm ready to make a fresh batch of candles I quickly sort out the wax into a few basic colours e.g. light colours, reds, blues and greens etc., it doesn't matter if the shades of a particular colour varies as when it's all melted together it will form one uniform colour.
Of a Suitable Size
Different thickness of wicks will give a different strength of burn, so for thin candles you need a thin wick and for thick candles a thick wick. If the wick is too thin for the thickness of candle it'll not burn well and the flame will frequently be extinguished by melting wax. If the wick is far too thick for the candle then it will burn like a volcano which could be a fire hazard; so once you start experimenting with your own moulds it can be a little bit of trial and error at first so you might want to start out with just making a few candles at a time until you are confident with your wick sizes.
iii. Candle Moulds
With Means for Holding the Moulds and Wicks in Place and Stopping the Wax From Leaking Until Set
This is the fun part and one where you can experiment with lots of ideas. In the past I've mainly used rubber moulds designed for making 'Plaster of Paris' models, making a hole in the bottom of the mould to thread the wick through, and using plastic cups for moulds. My favourite is using plastic cups with grooves in the side as a cheap and quick way of making lots of decorative candles in one batch, as demonstrated in this article. So next time you hold a party or BBQ or when out, or when at a friend's BBQ salvage those plastic cups and start saving them in your shed so that they can be recycled as candle moulds for your next batch of candle making.
Occasionally I will also use small metal and glass containers to make small candles; and one popular candle I am keen to make is candles set in old small clay flower pots.
iv. Candle Dyes
When melting the recycled wax I'm only tempted to add dye if the colour is a bit yucky, which isn't too often so the dye I had with the original candle making kit many years ago has lasted a long time; I've only got green and blue dye left but plenty of it to last a while yet. The instructions on the back of the dye packet I have are unnecessarily complex involving several stages to add and mix the dye; it's not an exact science, so all I do is add a very small chunk of dye to the melting wax and stir it in; the dye is strong and will mask the existing similar colour of the melting wax quite effectively; as shown in the photos below where I've used some of the green and blue dye; the red in the candles is the natural colour of the recycled candle wax of similar colours, including orange wax.
v. Scents, aromatherapy oils
You can buy special candle scents but aromatherapy oils works just as well as you only need to add a few drops to each batch of melted wax; lavender being one obvious option for a scent, but it's something you may wish to experiment with.
If you use small clay flower pots for making candles you can experiment with adding just a few petal leaves from fragrant flowers as you pour the hot wax into the pot for a natural scent to slowly be released as the candle burns.
vi. Utensils for Melting Candle Wax
Wax is notorious difficult to get off of kitchen utensils so rather than use your best pudding basin, spoon for stirring and best saucepan it's better to claim some of your older utensils and use them exclusively for candle making; storing them in the shed with your candle making supplies afterwards until the next time you make candles.
vii. Scissors and a Sharp Knife
Crafts Knife or Stanley Knife and Spoon
Scissors and a sharp knife will be required to cut the wick to size at the start and to cut the knots off the top and bottom of your wick once the candle is set and to get your candle out of its mould, especially if you use plastic cups as the mould. The spoon (or similar) for stirring the hot wax; I use an old fork.
I don't use a thermometer myself, but if it's the first time for you making candles you may wish to; the instructions in candle making guides generally give you the optimum temperatures for when to add the dye, fragrances and for when to pour the hot wax into the moulds.
Getting Organised Before You Start
Stage 2 - Making Candle Moulds
Recycling Plastic Cups
This article concentrates on using recycling plastic drinks cups as a convenient candle mould for inexpensive and great looking candles, although there are ample of other containers that can be used for candle moulds. Candle moulds like the plastic cups and 'Plaster of Paris' moulds are removed once the wax is fully set, other candle moulds such as metal and glass containers and clay flower pots becomes a decorative part of the finished candle.
If using small metal or glass containers as moulds you can't put the wick through the bottom so for this type of candle you use special wicks which you can buy with a metal base to weigh down the wick and hold it in place until the wax is set.
When using a small clay flowerpot as your candle wick is held in position by feeding one end through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot which is then sealed with wick sealant (or you could use blu tack or putty) to prevent the melted wax from leaking, and the top of the wick is tied in position by tying it to an old pencil (pen or dowel) as shown in the illustrative photos below.
Using Recycled Plastic Drinks Cups as Candle Moulds
To prepare your plastic cups as moulds requires a few simple steps that can either be done before you start melting the wax or be done while you are waiting for the wax to melt. In the batch of candles I made demonstrated in the photos in this article I started to prepare the candle moulds while the wax was gently melting so I could gauge the number of cups I needed to match the quantity of recycled wax I had to make candles. As I progressed with the candle making there were times when the wax was ready for pouring before I had enough moulds made so I turned the stove down to the lowest heat to keep the wax melted but not hot enough to ignite.
The few simple steps for preparing the plastic drinks cups as moulds are as follows:-
- Make a small hole in the bottom of the cup, a bradawl is ideal for this but you could use a craft knife, Stanley knife or poke a hole through the plastic with the end of a sharp pair of scissors.
- Cut a piece of wick to the length of the candle plus extra few inches to allow for tying simple knots at both ends.
- Push one end of the wick through the bottom of the plastic cup with the bradawl (or similar tool) and from the inside of the cup put it through to the top of the cup.
- Tie a knot in the wick at the bottom of the cup to prevent it from pulling through and when pulled tight against the cups bottom helps to act as a plug to prevent leakage when you pour hot wax into the mould; alternatively you could hold the wick in place and seal the bottom with wax seal (blu tack or putty).
- Create a loop in the wick just below the top of the cup and slip an old pencil (pen or dowel) into the loop and pull up, tightening the loop as you go, propping both ends of the pencil on the rim of the plastic cup to make the wick fairly taught and straight; it doesn't need to be too taught to stay straight, and making it too taught will distort the side of the cup.
- Place the cup inside another cup, this will help to keep it stable and help prevent too much wax from escaping through the bottom; although the knot in the wick pulling against the bottom of the cup does tend to make a good seal so there is usually little or no wax leakage.
That's it, the moulds are now ready to accept the melted candle wax.
Recycling Old Plastic Drinks Cups as Candle Moulds
Melting the Candle Wax
All candle making books and instructions will tell you the importance of gently heating the wax over water not allowing it to overheat because as a flammable material the risk of it bursting into flames; and they all talk about monitoring the temperature and ensuring the hot wax doesn't exceed the recommended temperature.
All good sound advice, except that each book and each product will give slightly different temperature ranges. Having scoured the Internet on this subject the best advice I've seen, which takes into account different temperatures for different candle wax products and adding fragrance oils, is to aim for around 180 degrees Celsius (about 360 F).
I myself don't use a thermometer, I just gently melt the candle wax in an old saucepan placed inside a bigger saucepan containing water until its fully melted; heating it up slightly at the last minute, by turning the heat up on the hob, just before adding the fragrance oils and pouring into the moulds. If the wax starts to smoke then I know it's too hot and I can take it off the stove to cool a little; but heating it gently there's little risk of that. The only disadvantages in not using a thermometer is that you may not be close enough to the ideal temperature for the fragrance to properly infuse into the wax when you add it (the hotter the better) and there may be a greater chance for the wax to slump and shrink back in the middle of the candle as it cools; which if it's at the bottom of the candle isn't going to show, or matter e.g. when using recycled plastic cups as moulds where the bottom of the cup is the top of the candle. However, if making candles using metal and glass containers or old clay flower pots where the top of the container is the top of the candle then once the candle has fully set you may need to make up a small batch of extra wax just to top it up.
Melting the Wax and Adding Dye in Batches of Different Colours
Adding Colour Dye to the Wax
If you wish to use colour, add the dye when melting the wax. If you're using recycled wax and it's a good colour that's fine, if the colour is a bit yucky you may wish to add a complementary dye e.g. a dye similar in colour to make the colour brighter and more vibrant. For the latest batch of candles I made the only dyes I used were Green and Blue; the reds and other colours as shown in the photos in article are the natural colours of the recycled candle wax.
If making a candle in a metal container or a clay flowerpot then the whole candle will not be visible and therefore the colour of the candle is less important; whereas making candles where the sides will be visible such as in a glass container, Plaster of Paris Moulds or recycled plastic cups then colour is important, and when making these types of candles I layer the colours.
To layer the colours in candles whether you're using recycled candle was or new candle wax (which will be white) the coloured layers need to be built up in the candle mould, letting each layer harden a little before adding the new layer.
When using recycled candle wax I start by separating the wax pieces into several piles of different general colours such as whites, creams and yellows in one pile, with all the blues, reds and greens etc. in other piles, and melt the candle wax in each batch separately. Once the candle wax is melted (and I've added any fragrant oil and if required dye to the wax) I pour a little of the melted candle wax into the bottom of each of the prepared candle moulds and leave it to set a little while I make the next batch of candle was, using a different colour. And I keep adding the layers up until I've filled all the candle moulds. Then it's just a case of waiting for them to fully set before removing them from the moulds and storing them away for Christmas or other family gathering or events and parties; with perhaps giving some of the hand crafted candles as Christmas and birthday gifts to family and friends.
Pouring the Candle Wax and Making up the Colours in Layers
Stage 4 - Setting the Candles and Removing the Moulds
Just like making Jelly
Once the candles are made you need to let them cool and set, just like making jelly. You could leave them at room temperature overnight or for a more expedient setting, place them in the fridge for a few hours.
Once fully set hard, if the candles were made in metal or glass containers or clay flowerpots they are ready for use; unless the wax has slumped in the middle and you want to top up with a little extra wax.
If a mould was used it needs to be removed by either carefully pealing or cutting away the mould; a little warm soapy water may help.
And that's it the candles are ready for use; and as they make great gifts you may wish to give a few away to new homes by giving them as presents your friends and family for Christmas and other special occasions.
Taking the Candles Out of the Moulds
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Arthur Russ
Leave Your Crafting Ideas and Comments Here
Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 15, 2017:
Thanks Sharon and Virginia for your feedback; greatly appreciated.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on November 03, 2012:
I bought one of those wax melting candle-making machines. Sure like the idea of using plastic drink cups for molds. We used up a lot of old useless candles and turned them into new candles using odd glasses we had.
Sharon Bellissimo from Toronto, Canada on October 28, 2012:
I have thought about starting candle making again. I remember making candles as a child and loving it. Pinning this!