Like many crafters, I have trouble throwing away items that might be useful craft supplies. Because of this trait, I had a cabinet full of glass yogurt jars, waiting to be turned into something. So in an effort to stash bust (and clean out that cabinet) I picked up a few supplies, and made a ton of Christmas presents. After receiving some questions about candle making in the Snapshot thread, I thought I’d write up a tutorial in case anyone else wants to make some.
soy wax flakes - I used Golden Wax 464 Soy Wax Flakes
candle fragrance oil of your choice
candle dye blocks (optional, needed for colorful candles)
popsicle sticks or wick holders
plastic straw (optional, but highly useful and will be used over many batches)
candle pouring pot
saucepan to use as double boiler
clip on thermometer for candy or candle making
cutting board (one you don’t mind sacrificing)
wooden spoon (again, that you don’t mind sacrificing)
sharp pairing knife
sturdy glass containers (I used Oui yogurt jars)
printable labels (optional)
heat gun (optional - I’ve linked to the $23 one I use for multiple crafts)
Assemble all your supplies, so you don’t have to go looking for something with wax heating on the stove.
Start by prepping your jars and wicks. Make sure the jars are clean. See my note below on removing labels & cleaning.
Next you’ll need your pre-tabbed wicks, glue dots, and a plastic drinking straw. Yes, it needs to be plastic. A rigid stainless steel reusable one won’t work. But I promise you’ll be able to use the same plastic straw for batch after batch of candles. Place a glue dot onto the bottom of each tab. (I’m sorry you can’t see them in the photo, but they are clear, so nearly impossible to see.)
Slide the wick into your drinking straw, and pinch the straw to hold the wick in place. Now that your wick is rigid, due to the straw, you can aim for the center of your jars, and press them into place.
Now thread a wick holder onto each wick. This will keep the wicks straight up while your candle cools. You can buy fancy wick holders, but I just use a popsicle stick that I popped a hole into the center of with a pair of pliers intended for making holes in jewelry components. You could also use a small hand drill. You should have done the math for how many candles you will be making per batch, based on the size of your jars, but I do recommend having at least 1 spare jar ready, in case you have more melted wax than you think you will. See my notes on candle math below. I like to push the wick holders towards the back edge of my jars, so I have room to pour my wax. Note how the popsicle sticks are each pushed towards the back of their jars.
You can also use wood wicks, to create candles that sound like a crackling fire. These should generally be used in larger containers, but attach in the same way.
Just slide a wood wick into a metal wick clip, and place a glue dot onto the bottom of the holder, and insert into a mason jar.
Now we’re ready to melt some wax. Use your kitchen scale to measure out 1lb of wax flakes. In a 2 lb pouring pot, this will be nearly full. (Don’t worry, they will melt down, and you will have room to add another 1 lb of flakes, hence using a 2 lb pot.) I measure out the second pound of flakes, and keep them in stainless steel bowl nearby, so I will have them ready to add.
Place your candle pouring pot inside your saucepan, and add about 1 inch of water. You want enough to gently heat the candle wax, but not so much water that the pouring pot floats around on top. Place over low to medium-low heat. Be sure to keep your pouring pot handle away from the flame. You can see here that my first pound of wax has melted down, making room for more flakes. Add in more flakes as you have room, until you have 2 lbs in the pouring pot.
Each individual wax will have a specific melting temperature, heat-to temperature, and pouring temperature, so you will need to monitor it closely. Clip your thermometer to the side of the pouring pot, and turn so that you can read the dial. Make sure the tip is fully submerged in the liquid wax, but is not touching the bottom or sides of the pot. Stir gently. The wax flakes will melt into a big ball, before becoming liquid, and you can use the spoon to gently break up the wax ball. My wax needed to be heated to 185 degrees.
Once it reaches the heat-to temperature, remove from the heat, and add in your fragrance oil, and any colorant. Each type of wax will have a fragrance load, which is the amount of liquid fragrance that can be added to the wax. Using too much can result in the oil separating out, while using too little can result in weak scented candles. Be sure to check your specific wax, and to use fragrance oils designed for candles. A good rule of thumb though is 1 ounce of fragrance oil, per pound of wax.
Candle coloring comes in blocks, that look much like baking chocolate. Start by cutting off a small amount, about a teaspoon, and add it to the melted wax. It can be hard to tell how the color will look when dry and solid. I drip a small amount onto a folded up paper towel, and this gives a close indication of how vivid your color will be. If it’s not colorful enough for you, add more colorant a bit at a time, till you get to what you’re looking for. Be careful what you choose to cut your colorant on. It can stain cutting boards. (Ask me how I know.) I use an old plastic board that is dedicated to crafting and not cooking.
Remember, these are candles, not crayons, and soy wax, so you will not get very dark colors like solid black or navy blue. Here is my sample drip, compared to my finished candles. I was using a ‘burgundy’ color block.
After you’ve added your colorant and fragrance oil, you must wait till the wax cools to the appropriate pouring temperature. Each wax will be different, so check yours. Mine was 130-145 degrees, meaning it had to cool 40-50 degrees. Just keep an eye on the thermometer and stir occasionally, until it’s down to the correct temperature. Then carefully pour the liquid wax into each jar, trying to make them even with one another. Once all the wax is used up, straighten the wicks & wick holders, so the wicks are standing straight upright. Now let them cool as slowly as possible.
Once the candles are cool enough that the wicks will stay in place, (the wax will be opaque, but you could still squish it if you tried) you can remove your wick holders, and start a new batch. You should let your candles cool and cure for a full 24 hours before burning.
If you have dribbled any wax on the sides of your containers, or if your candle tops are uneven, or there is any cratering or sinking, you can use a heat gun to even off the tops. Here’s an example of cratering.
Set the heat gun to its lowest setting, and keep it moving constantly. If you point it directly at the wick and don’t move it, you can light your wick with the gun, so be careful. Just gently melt a little of the top of the candle evenly across the top, and allow to cool again. Here’s the same candle after evening off the top.
Cleaning up dripped wax is simple too. Again, keep your heat gun moving, and gently melt the drip of wax, then wipe away with a paper towel.
Now you will need to trim the wicks. Any pair of craft or kitchen scissors will do for both the braided cotton wicks and wood wicks. Finally you can add labels if you wish. I had a package of Avery printable labels in my stash, and used their website to design them. I imported simple black & white clip art images for each one, and picked a font to go with each scent; Alpine Cheer, Apple Cider Donut, Orange & Spice, Cranberry Chutney, and Macintosh Apple.
I had a little wax leftover because I was actually doing batches of 1 lb 14 ounces. The Flaming Candle Co sent me a free 1 ounce sample of their Coffee House fragrance oil, which was just enough to use up the last of the wax in 3 more candles, which you can see on the far left. The Macintosh Apple were made for myself, so I made 2 larger mason jar candles with wood wicks, and 2 oui jars in that batch. All in all 10 lbs of wax made 33 5-ounce candles, 1 half-pint jar, and 1 pint jar, for a total of 35 candles.
Note on jars: I used Oui yogurt jars. I found the labels come off easily, and in one piece if I fill the jars with the hottest water that comes out of my tap, let it sit a few minutes, dump, and refill again. I do this a few times, and after they’ve sat with hot hot water for about 20 minutes, I just start at once corner and peel. Most often, they come off with no glue left behind, but when there is some glue left, I use a little spritz of Goo Gone and a bit of paper towel to remove it, then wash again with hot water and lots of soap to get the oil of the Goo Gone off.
Note on candle math: You will want to estimate how many jars you are planning to fill in order to estimate how much wax and fragrance oil to buy. In my case, I wanted to make 5 different scents, and I had tons of jars to use, so I decided to order 10 lbs of wax flakes. I wanted to make one scent per batch, which means 2 lbs of wax per scent. This is perfect as my candle pot holds 2 lbs of wax, or 32 ounces. My containers were 5 oz yogurt jars. 32 ounces of wax divided by 5 ounce jars comes out to 6 candles with 2 ounces left over, so I should prep 7 jars per batch. (Yes, I do recognize that weight in ounces and volume in ounces are different measurements, but it’s just a good rough estimate.) I found after doing this a few times, that using 1 lb 14oz of wax flakes was the perfect amount of wax to fill all 7 jars each time, with nothing left over. Your jars may be different, so figure out what works best for you. Also, be sure not to fill to the top of your jars, as you don’t want any wax to pour over when you burn your candles.
Note on wax: For this batch, I used Golden Wax 464 Soy Wax Flakes from The Flaming Candle Co, but I’ve also used their GW 444 in the past. Both are for container candles, and should not be used for wax melts or tarts.
Note on fragrance oil: The amount of fragrance oil to use will depend on the wax you choose. Each wax will list its specific fragrance load. But a good rule of thumb is that 1 ounce of oil does 1 lb of soy wax flakes. If you want to get very specific and include every possible drop of fragrance you can, then check the website you order your wax & fragrance oil from, for detailed information, and use a kitchen scale to weigh your supplies. Please note that essential oils and fragrance oils are two different things, and should not be used interchangeably. If you wish to use only essential oils, you should seek out information on using them with your candle wax. I myself am sensitive to scents which can give me headaches, and so I am careful when ordering fragrance oils, to go with items unlikely to bother me. I also don’t try to push more fragrance into my candles than called for. So far, all the scents I’ve tried have been pleasant, noticeable as they burn around the house, but not overpowering.