How to Make Candles: A Beginner Candlemaking Guide
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Candle making is a lost art, but you can join those who feel it should be brought back. With this How to Make Candles tutorial, you can learn the basics of candle making and help to revive a dying craft.
An Introduction to Candlemaking
Candles are so much more than just a source of light or heat in this day and age; they’ve evolved from their original utility to become decorative and scented. You can even breath new life into an old candle that’s looking worse for its wear by remaking it into a new candle. When you learn how to make your own candles, you can personalize the aesthetic to match your decorative style, or scent your candle however you like. For example, you could make your very own tea scented candle in an adorable tea cup.
Making candles at home is probably easier than you think. Below, you’ll find all the basic supplies and instructions for making homemade candles. Plus, don’t forget to make some DIY candle holders to display your beauties. Imagine the satisfaction you’ll feel from learning a new skill. Learn how to make your own candles and enjoy the pride of creating from scratch with this DIY tutorial.
The History of Candlemaking
Candle making has a long and interesting history! The process developed independently in many places throughout history. Ancient Egyptians used rushlights made by soaking the pithy core of reeds in melted animal fat. Ancient Romans are generally credited with developing the wicked candle before that by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. Evidence for candles made from whale fat in China dates back to the Qin Dynasty. In Japan, candles were made of wax extracted from tree nuts. In India, candle wax was made by boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree. In parts of Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, where lamp oil made from olives was readily available, candle making remained unknown until the early middle-ages; then candles were made from tallow and beeswax. So, as you can see, over time, cultures around the world created their own ways of making candles.
Manufacturing candles became an industrialized mass market in the mid 19th century. In 1834, Joseph Morgan, from Manchester, England, patented a machine that allowed for continuous production of molded candles. With this mechanized production, candles became an easily affordable to many people. Other advances, like the use of stearin wax, paraffin wax, also occurred in this century. However, in 1879 with the introduction of the light bulb, candle making began to decline.
In the 20th century, candles regained popularity as a decorative item. Candles became available as mood setters in a vast array of sizes, shapes, scents, and colors. Instead of just paraffin wax (which is more costly) soy, palm, and flax-seed oil have been used in various parts of the world for candle making. Nowadays, candles symbolize celebration, romance, and ceremony, and are also used to add to home decor. There has even been a renewed interest in learning how to make candles in your own home! Candles may no longer be a main source of light, but they continue to be popular all over the world today.
Basic Candle Making Supplies, Ingredients, and Tools
- Wax is the base of every candle, so obviously, you'll need some. There are different kinds of wax you can use, for example, you can use paraffin wax, soy wax, beeswax, or recycle used candles.
Pro tip: Soy wax tends to burn the longest, so consider that when choosing your wax.
- Knife or grater for the wax
- Large pot
Pro tip: If you plan to make candles again, consider having designated pots, containers, and utensils specifically for candle making, since wax is difficult to clean.
- Glass container
Pro tip: Use a glass measuring cup with a handle you could hook on the side of the pot.
- Spoon (Try making your own DIY spoon)
- Heat resistant container to mold the candle. Try a fun mason jar craft and use it as your mold.
- Weight to hold the wick.
- Stick to hold the wick.
- Oven mitts (sew up a pair of DIY oven mitts if you need to).
Scents - Essential oils work well for this.
Coloring - Be sure to get oil-based dye, or try coloring your DIY candle with crayons.
How to Make Candles: A Basic Candle Tutorial
- Prepare a work space. Wax can get messy, and as we've mentioned, it's difficult to clean up, so start by clearing a large, flat surface for your work area and lay down some old newspaper to make the clean up easy when you're done.
- Grate or chop your wax into small chunks with your knife or grater. The smaller the pieces of wax, the easier they will melt, so it's worth putting your back into it. Scoop up all your wax chunks and place them in the glass vessel.
- Fill a medium to large size pot with water. Don't fill the water too high, because as your high school science class taught you, when you put a mass into a body of water, the water level rises. Melting wax requires a make-shift double boiler, so leave enough room for your glass vessel as well as enough space for the water the get to a boil. Place the glass vessel into the pot and put it on the stove top to boil.
- As your water is boiling, use a thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the wax. If you are going to add a fragrance, you'll want the wax to be heated to about 185 degrees Farenheit before adding.
- Optional Steps:
Add coloring. Follow dye instructions or if you're using crayons then add slowly until you have your desired color. Be sure to stir it in.
Add fragrance. Remember to get your wax to the correct temperature before adding the fragrance. Follow the fragrance instructions for how much to add to your wax. Stir well.
- Prepare your wick. Tie one end to the middle of a stick-like object, whether it be a kabob skewer, a pencil, or some other long, thin, sturdy object. Attach a small weight that you don't mind sacrificing to your candle to the other end to be sure the wick with hang straight. Suspend your wick into your chosen candle mold.
- When your wax has melted sufficiently, remove the pot from heat and carefully lift the glass vessel from the pot. This is where your oven mitts come in. Slowly pour the wax into your mold, making sure that the wick doesn't become dislodged in the process.
- Let the wax cool. The suggested time is 24 hours, though different types of wax will cool at different rates.
- Once your candle is fully cooled, cut the wick to a quarter inch and light it.
"I have found that I can make my own candles for less than I can buy them at the store. One of the benefits in this is I know exactly what is going into my candles. I can make candles scented according to the season, or use essential oils to create custom scents I know I will love. Even if you don't consider yourself crafty, making your own candles really is easy!" -- Katie Femia, The Homespun Hydrangea
Why Should You Make Candles?
Candles have many benefits! Here are just a few:
- Home Decor
- Bug-Repellant (Learn How to Make Citronella Candles)
- Holiday Scents
- Hiding offensive odors
- Even removing earwax!
"I decided to try making my own candles because I know every ingredient that goes into them. Nothing artificial. Creating my own candles also allows me to experiment with different fragrance combinations, which can be fun to do." -- Erin, Lemons, Lavender, and Laundry
How to Make a Candle Holder: The Best DIY Candle Holders
Sometimes the candle holder is just as decorative and exciting as the candle itself! Here are some of our favorite DIY candle holders:
The Best Homemade Candles: Our Favorite DIY Candle Tutorials
Now that you have learned a basic model for how to make a candle, expand on your skills and learn about the variety of candles you can make with these DIY candle tutorials:
- Darling Beeswax DIY Candles
- Coconut Oil DIY Candles
- How to Make an Orange Peel Candle
- Cinnamon Pumpkin DIY Candles
- How to Make Citronella Candles
- Emergency Butter Candle
- How to Recycle Old Candles into Ice Candles
- How to Make Candles Out of Old Candles
- DIY Cute Chevron Candles
- Chai DIY Candle
- Mosquito Repellent DIY Candles
- Tinted DIY Mason Jar Candle
- DIY Scented Candle with Eucalyptus Oil
- Teacup DIY Soy Candle
Pro tip! Additional candle making advice:
"I highly recommended melting the candle wax in an aluminum can (like a soup can) set in a saucepan with a couple of inches of water. Or even better, if you're using a heat-proof glass jar, you can melt the wax right in your candle container! Because - and I learned this the hard way - it's beyond tedious to scrape wax out of measuring cups!"
--- Stephanie Gerber, Hello Glow
Find joy in crafting your own candles:
"I love doing projects like this because it reminds me to slow my pace and appreciate the work that goes into creating - even if it’s just a small candle.” --- Caitlin, The Merrythought
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