How to Make a Container Candle

What you will need:

  • Wax — Usually plain paraffin with a melting point of l30° Fahrenheit

  • Stearic acid — Optional but will give a longer burn time

  • Wick — Medium-sized, one for each container; cored wicks are preferable, but not essential

  • Wick sustainers (tabs) — One for each container

  • Colorant — If you want a colored candle

  • Scent — Optional but nice

  • Double-boiler or concealed-element heater

  • Thermometer

  • Ladle and/or vessel for pouring — Preferably with a handle

  • Small sticks — A dowel or chopsticks or even a slim garden stake will work for suspending the wick over the container

  • Weights — You need to weight the wick in the container if you are using a noncored variety; small washers or nuts will work fine

  • Utensil for poking holes in the wax — This can be a skewer, a chopstick, a pencil, or a small stick

  • Containers — See above for various options

Though a thermometer is not absolutely necessary for melting plain paraffin (you can watch it carefully), if the wax is not the right temperature (the package will give the correct melting point), problems can result. Overheating the wax will change its chemical construction. Therefore, a thermometer is strongly advised.

Basic Steps to Making a Container Candle

Assemble all of your tools and materials in the order in which you will be using them before you begin your candlemaking operation. You don't want to have the wax melted and then start looking for a container or other needed tool!

Measure the wax. To ascertain how much wax is needed to fill your container (or containers, if you are making multiples), fill the container with water and pour the water into a measuring cup to determine the container's volume. Then dry the container thoroughly. To avoid this chore, you can first insert a plastic bag into the container and fill that with water to measure.

  • l27 mp wax is sold specifically for use in container candles. It has a soft consistency and low melting point, and holds scent in until the candle is burned, without additives.

  • l28 mp wax is also specially blended for use in containers (and votives), but it may require additives.

  • l30 mp requires additives.

Once you have determined how much wax you need to fill your container (see how to weigh wax, p. 83), set up your pots for melting and begin melting the wax.

Attach a wick sustainer to the wick, which should be l″ longer than the height of the container you are using. Put the wick sustainer on one end, which will be the bottom. If you are using an uncored wick, you will need to tie a small weight to the wick.

In some large diameter candles, lead cored wicks are used because they burn at a higher temperature than fabric wicks. However, there is now concern about the health hazards of leaded wicks. No one knows just what the risk is but, to me, common sense dictates not to use lead.

Lay the dowel or chopstick across the top of your container. Tie the top end of the wick to it so that the wick hangs steadily in the container.

Warm the container before pouring wax into it. You can do this step one of several ways: place it in a warming oven (l50°) for a few minutes; put it in the sink and run hot water into it; or set a pan of water on the stove on low heat and put the container (or containers) in the water to warm them before use. Be sure that the container is dried thoroughly before use.

If you are using glass containers, warm them slowly (the hot water method is safest). If metal, don't let them get so hot they burn your fingers. Always use a hot pad to handle a heated container.

After the wax has reached the proper melting point (usually l50–l60° Fahrenheit; check your thermometer frequently), you are ready to pour. If you are not coloring the wax, go ahead and pour it into the warmed container. If you are using color or scent, add it to the wax and stir well before pouring.

For a multicolored candle, or several different colored candles, transfer the melted wax into other tin cans and add the colors and/or scents to each batch before pouring. Be sure to stir thoroughly to disperse additives.

The temperature needed to melt wax varies with the type of wax used. If your wax catches fire:

  • Turn off heat immediately. Do not move the pan.

  • Smother flames with a metal lid or damp towel.

  • Never use water to put out a wax fire.

Begin pouring slowly, to one side of the dowel holding the wick. Be sure you keep the wick centered in the container, using the bottom tab or weight to do so. You may need to hold it in place for a few moments to allow it to set. This “tack pour,” of about ½″ of wax in the bottom of the container, is an important step, for a wick that is off-center will cause the candle to burn lopsidedly. Allow the ½″ of wax at the bottom to cool sufficiently enough to stabilize the centered wick.

If you are making a single-color candle, continue pouring the wax until it is about ½″ from the top. Wait a few minutes for the wax to begin to congeal. Then, with your skewer, poke a few holes into the cooling wax. Pour a bit more wax into these holes. This second pour (the “repour” or “cap pour”) is to fill in spaces caused by air bubbles that formed in the first pour.

Repeat the repouring process until the wax cools.

Inexperienced candlemakers often underestimate the amount of wax needed for the finishing (filling of holes to eliminate air spaces and leveling) process. Keep a sufficient amount melted for this. You can always reuse any leftover wax for another candle.

Wax shrinks as it cools, and the candle will develop a depression in the center. Pour some more melted wax into this center when the candle is firm to the touch in order to make a flat surface.

When the candle has cooled completely (this takes from eight to twenty-four hours, depending on the candle's diameter), trim the wick to ⅓″ above the candle's surface.

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