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01/02/2012 / thriftomancer

Recycled Container Candles

Like last post, this project carries a risk of grease fires so if you haven’t already, go read my post on fire safety before you begin.

Candles are essentially the same as oil lamps when it comes to the way they work. They’re not nearly as old, originating around 200 BCE in China and coming into use around the fall of the Roman Empire in 400 CE, but they still function by drawing liquid wax up the wick by capillary action where it vaporizes and combusts. The real difference between candles and oil lamps is the type of fuel used. Instead of a flammable liquid, candles use a solid or semisolid flammable material (usually naturally occurring or petroleum-based waxes and fats) for fuel which eliminates the need for a container. That’s about it.

The fact that the fuel is solid at room temperature makes candlemaking a little more complex than most projects I’ve attempted thus far, if only because you need semi-specialized equipment like molds to make candles in the traditional way. I’ve managed to pick up a few of the basic supplies from garage sales. A couple molds, a thermometer, a beat-up pot already encrusted with wax to serve as a double boiler, nothing special but enough to get a novice chandler on their way.

If you’ve got the necessary equipment, by all means, use it. If you don’t, don’t worry. I specifically picked this project because none of that special equipment is actually necessary for you to get a good result.

Today, we’re making container candles.

A container candle is exactly what it sounds like. A candle, inside a container. Unlike a molded candle where you make it in the mold then remove it to burn, a container candle is made in a holder (its container, natch) and never expected to leave it. To make a candle like this you pick a container, melt your wax down, pour it into the container (or melt it directly in said container), and add a wick. Simple, right? Once again, I’ve gone out questing for well-written tutorials to help you in your endeavors. Go read these, then… Well, this time it’s not as important that you come back since there’s no science to follow. I will, however, be showing off the candle I made. You don’t want to miss that, right?

Now, the tutorials:

Since we’re (well, I was, at least) doing this project in the spirit of recycling and repurposing, read this lad’s tutorial first. He focuses on the recycle aspect; taking the stubs of old candles and random containers and turning them back into new things to burn. Quite entertaining too.

She takes the recycle/repurpose ethic further in her tutorial and uses old tin cans as her container. I used her method of using the container as the inner section of the double boiler instead of pouring the melted wax when making my candles. It worked great and it’s nice not having to clean up an extra pot at the end.

This gal’s tutorial is helpful too. While she’s making her candles from new materials, she outlines the steps and techniques clearly.

And while you’ve got the wax hot, why not try making a ghost candle? It’s a different technique to be sure, but way cool.

Keep in mind that any water-tight object can be a container. I’ve seen candles like this made in everything from empty jars to teacups to halves of coconut shells to human skulls (don’t worry, just Halloween decorations). As long as will hold wax, you can use it, so go nuts.

This is my candle, brought to you by bees.

Container candle - Unlit

Really, bees had a hand in every part of this candle.

The jar is from some fancy honey I got as a gift a few years back. I thought that with that past and its hexagon shape (hexagons, everywhere) it’d be perfect, since I was working with beeswax.

My wax came (initially from the beekeeper’s/honey shop at the Renaissance Festival) from an older candle I made that was looking overly distressed due to all the times it had melted and recongealed. I chopped it up, removing any bits with ashes embedded in them, then threw it into the jar to melt along with a few cakes of fresh beeswax to fill the jar. (The old candle accounted for about half the jar’s volume.)

The wick was much easier to make this time, as it was willing to cooperate on the first try. It’s a three-strand braid of cotton (which is pollinated by bees) twine with a small hex nut tied on the end to weight it and keep the wick anchored and straight as the wax cooled. (You can see the nut if you look at the bottom of the jar, but that just means it did its job.)

All in all, I like it. Yes, this candle has its flaws. There’s a big crack running down the center that I suppose I could “fix” by melting some more wax and filling it in (Don’t actually think that would work, as this wax always seems to crack.), but I think it adds character. It burns and smells like honey. What more can you ask of a candle? In fact, when viewed from the top, the crack reminds me of a smile.

Reginald, the cyclops

My candle is a happy cyclops whose eye shoots fire when you light it. I’ve named him Reginald. I deem this project a success.

It works!


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