How to Make Container Candles

by Megan on November 1, 2011

in Crafty Stuff

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I've tweeted quite a bit lately about the various votive candles I've been making and while doing so have received several requests for a tutorial.

Y'all, I'm not sure I can do this. But I'm willing to try. Here goes.

First off, a little word of caution: This is not a cheap hobby. It IS a cheap gift enterprise should you so embrace it, but the start up costs can turn away someone who just wants to dabble in this once or twice. For you I say, go ahead and read through this. I'll try to give a cheaper alternative when I can think of one.

Some 11 years ago I attended  a demonstration on how to make container candles given by a gal from the church we went to at that time. It was lovely and seemed right up my alley. I could see myself doing this for a long time and so…I bought the supplies. I've never once been sorry I invested in all this stuff because I'm still using it all, 11 years later.

I showed two friends how to make candles and they, too, purchased supplies. They are NOT still making candles 11 years later and have since either sold off or given away their supplies. So think about it carefully before you dive in. Okay, word of caution over. Now, how do we actually do this?

You will need:

  • A big pot to boil water in
  • A pouring pot with a handle
  • Wax (I use both paraffin and soy, equal parts)
  • A scale or some other way to weigh/measure the wax. Eyeballs can work, but I prefer numbers.
  • A cutting board
  • A knife
  • Possibly a hammer (See below)
  • Vybar
  • Candle fragrance
  • Color blocks/color chips
  • Wooden stirring stick (like those free paint sticks you can get)
  • Measuring spoon or medicine cup
  • Dixie Cups or metal votive molds
  • Glass jars/containers (should you want to make bigger candles)
  • Wicks
  • Newspaper
  • Time

Let's begin:

When I first started, I didn't bother with this pot. Instead, I used my $50 Calphalon. BIG MISTAKE. Wax WILL get into your pot. Buy a big cheap pot instead. Save your Calphalon for spaghetti. (I was thankfully able to salvage my Calphalon and I immediately went out and bought this pot for candle making.) So now, take your big (CHEAP) pot and fill it about 2/3 to 1/2 of the way with water. Bring that water to a boil. I like to keep the heat around medium or just above.

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While your water is working its way up to the proper temperature, get out your pouring pot. I've heard of some people using a coffee tin or something similar. Not a bad idea if this is just something fun you plan to do once. But honestly? That black handle there is worth the money. So is the pouring spout. I now have three of these. I bought my first one online when I first bought all of my supplies. Later, I bought another one at a local chain craft store and used a 40% off coupon. The third pot was given to me by my friend who decided this wasn't her thing after all. *grin*

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When I first started, I used only parafin wax. A few years ago I learned of some controversy surrounding paraffin candles. Apparently soy was the way to go. I bought a ginormous box of soy wax flakes and made my first few batches. They looked weird. The texture was off, it was harder to get the color right, and the kicker – when I lit a finished candle, the flame burned straight down to the bottom of the wick. It's called "tunneling" and it's not a good thing.

I decided to mix both soy and paraffin in equal parts. Presto – the texture and color were back and the tunneling was gone. For better or worse, this is how I do it. I'm open to suggestions on how to make all-soy candles without a major disaster. Until then, this is what I do.

I still have that ginormous box of soy wax. It's lasted me a super long time:

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This wax has a melting point of 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

I also buy a giant block of paraffin from my local chain craft store with a 40% off coupon:

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That melting point is important to know about. You could potentially set your house on fire and I don't want anyone blaming me for that, okay? Use a candy thermometer if you need to. I used one for several years. I don't use it anymore, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't. If I burn my house down while making candles, it's my own darn fault. Ditto to you.

Okay, now it's time to measure your wax to put in the pouring pot. I have an old digital mailing scale I donated to the cause:

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The pouring pot I show above is a 4 pound pot. I certainly try to not go over 4 pounds of wax, for obvious reasons, in fact, I will often keep each type of wax to 1 pound, 12 ounces. FYI. The block of paraffin is trickier to break off. I used to keep it in a cardboard box and pound it to death with a hammer. No reason the wax has to look pretty – it's going to be melted soon, right? I'm now more  apt to put it on my candle cutting board and stab it with a knife. You can score the wax where you think it should go (the old eyeball method) and then wiggle the knife through it in about three or four places up and down that score line. It should break off for you similar to what you see above.

The soy wax is a little easier to handle. For this, I keep a plastic box on my scale and pour flakes into that box until it's the right weight:

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Now it's time to put your wax into the pouring pot:

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Don't be alarmed – I know that looks like I've made a huge mistake, but it does all melt down. I promise.

This is the time to add some vybar too. Vybar is an additive. It makes the color consistent throughout and according to Bittercreek Candle Supply, it improves "flow, hadnress, strength, color dispersion, and fragrance retention." It's typically used in paraffin candles and, well, I'm using half paraffin here, so there you go.

It looks like tiny white plastic pellets. For this amount of wax (3.5ish pounds) I put in about 3 teaspoons of vybar.

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Now you wait. This is a good time to clean your kitchen or fold some laundry or sew some doll heads, or whatever else you need to be doing right now. Your wax isn't going anywhere and you don't need to stand there and watch it. But please. PLEASE. Don't leave your house. See that note above about me not being responsible if you catch your house on fire while doing this. *grin*

When the wax is all melted it will look something like this:

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Good, it's all melted now and ready to go. Time to decide which scent you want, and along with that, which color. I think I'll make these Christmas Tree scented.

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What color, what color, what color? Hmm…how about GREEN?

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You can buy dyes for candles in a variety of ways. I happen to prefer the blocks like you see above.

Now you need your cutting board and knife again. When I first started, I didn't realize I was sacrificing my only cutting board to the cause when I used it to slice the color blocks. So if this is a one-time shot for you, use a cardboard box or something. Don't give up your cutting board! If you plan to do this for a while, go ahead and give up your cutting board, or else buy a cheaper one to keep with your candle supplies.

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I start with a chunk I think will sufficiently color the full pot of melted wax:

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Hmmm…let's see what this does, shall we?

Take that color slice and pop it into the melted wax like so:

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After you think the color block has all melted, stir the pot a bit to make sure it gets evenly distributed. Here's where a wooden stirring stick comes in handy. Of course, I don't happen to have one just now, so I'm using a pencil.

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The next thing I do is small, but key to the overall sucess of what I'm doing – I pour just a smidge into a dixie cup like so:

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I do this because I want to test the color before I make 25 of these. The color changes as the wax cools, so what looks pretty dark in the pot isn't always that way as a candle. I test just a little bit because it cools quickly and gives me a pretty good sense for what the color is really going to be. In this case:

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Hmm. Not exactly Christmas green, is it? Okay, so I'll add some more color. No problem.

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MUCH better. You can see it's still liquified in this photo, but I can tell it's going to be darker so I'm going with it. Now, add the scent. For a pot this big (3.5ish pounds) I use 9 Tablespoons of scent.

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I usually use a metal measuring spoon, but couldn't find one on this day, so instead I used a medicine cup. It could be one of my better "mistakes" – I think I will always use a medicine cup from here on out. Okay, so we all know that 3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon, right? Tell me you knew that already. Okay, so fill this puppy up 9 times and pour it in the wax.

**IMPORTANT** If you are doing this over gas burners which are giving off an actual flame, do me a favor, would you, and turn the burner off at this point? This fragrance is flamable and if you spill it on that flame… you might start a fire and I'm pretty sure I made it clear above that you DON'T want to do that.

After you add the fragrance, stir the whole thing again with your wooden stirring implement of choice.

Now you are ready to pour. Make sure you've protected your table or counter top with newspaper before you do this. Get your containers together be they actual candle jars, Mason jars, small votive holders, or Dixie cups.

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I like to make votives out of Dixie cups because they make nice, big votives and I save on the expense of providing the container. You can also buy metal votive molds and I have a bunch of those too. I use them when I need to make a ton of candles in a hurry. They work great, but I don't think they are as pretty as their Dixie cup sisters.

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PS – If you do end up going the metal mold route, here's a hint: After the candles harden, pop them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. They will slide right out of the mold just by pulling up on the wick.

I also make these in bigger containers sometimes too. Any glass container will work. Sometimes I use these apothecary jars:

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It appears they are no longer sold with the lids at Bittercreek Candle Supply. The last time I purchased these (it's been a while), the lids came with the jars. I like the big apothecary jars to have lids, but I hardly ever used the lids with the small 4-ounce jars, so that's actually good to know.

I really like using Mason jars for candles:

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When you do container candles, I prefer to wick the jar before I pour in the wax. I have a supply of medium-length wicks that I use for jar candles:

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I used to have a supply of wick stickers – basically a double sided foam sticker that you apply to the end of the wick and also the bottom of the jar. I don't have any at the moment, so I just took my chances.

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Now you pour in the wax. Your wick will weeble wobble to the side, but you can fix that in just a second:

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You could buy a "centering" tool to fix your leaning wick problem, but I've never used one. Two knives seem to work just fine:

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If you are continuing with glass jars, then proceed as above. If you are going to do Dixie cups or metal votive molds, pour in the wax before you place the wicks like so:

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For both the Mason jar and the Dixie cups, I left quite a bit of space at the top. This is because for my second pour I'm going to change the color and want that layer thicker than I would normally do with a one-color candle.

Note on the two-pour method: With all paraffin, you have to do a second pour because the wax shrinks up and dips in toward the wick. With all soy, you don't have to do a second pour. With the soy-paraffin blend, you still have to do a second pour.

Now that you've poured your votive containers you take your votive wicks. They will be all gnarled up like this:

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You just pull on the wick to straighten it:

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Then you gently place them in the center of the votive container:

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Now that you have all the wicks in you can just walk away for a while. Let them cool and harden.

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When they cool the wicks may or may not be in the center of the candle. You gently tug it across until it is centered. You will make an indention in the wax, but you still have a second pour, so it's all good.

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In this case, oops! – I forgot to put a wick in one. I poked a hole in it and stuck it in anyway:

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Again, the second pour is your friend here.

While the first pour is setting, I go ahead and prepare the wax for the second pour. When I'm doing one-color candles, I just make sure to leave some wax in my pouring pot to melt again for later. When I'm doing two-color candles, I use up all of the first color entirely and make a new pot with the new color for the second pour. This one is now ready:

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Two important reminders. #1: Keep your pouring over the newspaper. This is so you don't accidentally wax your tile:

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#2: Wax hand treatments are a luxury at the spa. The do-it-yourself variety isn't nearly as glamorous (ie: try to remember not to dip your hand in the pouring pot):

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Okay, now we have the second pour all done:

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Now we wait. It's important to make sure the candles are completely set before you remove the Dixie cup (or try to pull them out of a metal mold). Trust me on this.

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They look done to me! Now peel off the Dixie cup:

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And presto! Isn't it cute?

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I like to finish them up with some cellophane and raffia:

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All done. Whew!

I have a lot of scent and color options. My favorites to do, particularly this time of the year are mulled cider and orange cranberry. I recently discovered honey suckle and LOVE it. It's awesome. I also have a baby powder scent and sometimes make these in baby blue, pink, or green and use them as baby shower gifts.

One more thing – these votives must be placed in a container to burn. They will melt all over your table if you don't do that. As such, I usually slap a caution sticker to the bottom of them after I wrap them. FYI.

Are you going to give this a go? It takes some effort, no doubt about it, but it really isn't that difficult. Let me know if you do it. I'd love to see your finished candles.

Feel free to link to this tutorial, or print it for personal use, but please do not copy it whole cloth and post it anywhere else on the internet. It took a boatload of time to put together. Thanks for understanding.

Cath November 1, 2011 at 10:58 pm

They look amazing, Megan. But OH! SO much work in that. Don’t think I’m up for it. Wish I could smell one though!

Monica November 2, 2011 at 5:33 am

Hey Megan – well, you know my affinity for seemingly huge projects! Wondering – how many votives would that batch make? I would love to give this a go – perhaps thrifted pots/cutting board?
Seems like I helped or observed you doing this once (Emilie Barnes tea???) but all of this info was lost during the past ten years. Thanks so much for sharing, I’m going to be watching for coupons for Michael’s!

Monica November 2, 2011 at 5:37 am

Ok, so I just went to Bitter Creek to see what my bottom line would be and the Vybar is out of stock – any place else you like to order from? I’d prefer to just order from one spot for shipping purposes. But, I’m thinking this would make a fantastic moms-night-out idea! Get together and make candles!

Megan November 2, 2011 at 8:43 am

Did you have to go through the entire check out process to discover it’s out of stock? I just put some in a “cart” and it looked like they have it now.
But you can also get this from Hobby Lobby/Michael’s as well.
In fact, you can probably get MOST of your supplies from there, but I’d get the fragrance, color, and soy wax from Bittercreek for sure. :)

Megan November 2, 2011 at 8:43 am

OH – And Monica, we did do these together in my house on Chambers Drive. Do you remember our attempt to dip pinecones in scented wax? *giggle*

Monica November 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

Yes, we used your dishwasher to let them drip didn’t we!? I remember thinking I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do something so fun :)

Kelly November 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

Megan, you are right this looks like you need a whole enterprise to do this : ) Thanks for taking the time for the tutorial for those who are interested though!

Monica November 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Megan: how many votives would this batch make?

Megan November 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I just counted the last batch of single color votives I made and it came to 25. This batch shown above made more because I used the entire batch for the first pour and made a second layer with more wax.

Lindsey November 3, 2011 at 7:45 am

Fabulous! thank you…
Still kinda skeered to try it :) Would you please board a plane to Charlotte, NC and come tutor me in person???? :)

Rebecca November 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Fabulous tutorial! I loved seeing how you made the votives, and I’m trying to imagine how amazing your house smells while you’re making them, but I know I’m not going to try it on my own. Maybe Monica will have me over for a ladies’ night out? ;)

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