Custom candle-making for beginners: Part I

I had decided some time ago that I wanted a low, wide, multi-wick candle for our basement family room. We have a large wooden tray that sits on the ottoman and there was a perfect space for one. However, every time I found one I liked, it was incredibly expensive. I saw prices ranging from $60-$250 for really large multi-wick candles. I wasn’t really interested in paying that much for a candle and I was never really happy with the available scents and colors anyways. So, I decided that I would do some research and figure out how to make a candle that exactly fit what I was looking for. I wanted to share what I learned in this post on custom candle-making for beginners.

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My first attempt at making a large multi-wick candle (which ultimately had to be redone)
My first attempt at making a large multi-wick candle (which ultimately had to be redone)

Project description

I found a container that I that I really liked and that was just the right size at the local thrift store. It was a slightly tarnished silver-plated vintage buffet serving dish. I really like the look of tarnished silver and have several pieces in my home. I decided that I wanted to tarnish the piece even further so I soaked it in boiling water with black lava sea salt. This helped to increase the overall tarnish on the piece.

Next, after watching several videos online, we headed to the crafts store. We had to visit two crafts stores to find the necessary supplies. The only wax available to us at that time was paraffin wax in large bricks. We also picked up candle wicks and vanilla fragrance oil. A trip to the thrift store yielded a large serving spoon for stirring the melted wax and a plastic-handled ceramic coffee pitcher that we used to melt the wax.

Once we had all of the supplies, we got to work. First, we prepared the container/serving dish by hot-gluing the wicks into place. We then used bamboo skewers and some washi tape to ensure that the wicks remained upright when the hot wax was poured into the container. 

Candle-making supplies
Candle-making supplies

Next, we chopped up the paraffin wax blocks into small cubes. The ceramic pitcher was then placed in a large pot of boiling water. This acted as a double-boiler and allowed us to heat and melt the wax. Once it was melted, we added the fragrance oil according to the instructions on the bottle. After stirring for a few minutes, we poured the wax into the container. 

The ceramic pitcher we picked up at the thrift store was not ideal for melting the wax. Because it was insulated (and intended to keep coffee warm) it took a long time for the wax to get hot enough to melt. Additionally, the ceramic pitcher wasn’t large enough to hold all of the wax needed for my large container (we used about three pounds for this project), so we had to melt it in two batches. This was not ideal and I believe it caused the wax to pull away from the sides of the container as it cooled. The end result was a decent-looking candle that was the exact size, color, and fragrance that I wanted. But we made a few mistakes.

Lessons learned

We learned a few things in this process that I had to adjust when making future candles to give as gifts: 

  1. It is worth purchasing an actual wax melting pitcher to hold more wax (up to 4 pounds) and to decrease the time it takes for the wax to melt.  You can purchase them from most crafts stores or on amazon.
  2. When making a large multi-wick candle, it is important to do research about the number of wicks needed. I didn’t put enough wicks in my candle initially. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. The standard three-wick candles you purchase from Bath and Body Works have three wicks and my container was at least three times as wide. Based on my research, it seems that you should have wicks approximately every two inches in large candles. For this reason, I decided to melt the candle down and re-make it with an appropriate number of wicks so it will burn evenly.
  3. Paraffin wax is not necessarily ideal. Through my research I learned that paraffin wax is the best at holding a scent- both when burning (hot throw) and when not burning (cold throw). In fact, most major candle brands use some paraffin wax in their candles for this reason. However, it burns very quickly and emits more soot than other types of wax. 
    • Soy wax burns much more cleanly and slowly so your candles last longer (e.g. a longer burn time) but doesn’t hold scent as well as paraffin wax. After doing some research, I decided to go with a paraffin/soy blend wax for my future candle-making. 
The final candle with the appropriate number of wicks

Supplies needed for this project

You will need several items to start making candles. Most can be purchased a local crafts stores or online.

  1. Wax (I initially used paraffin, but recommend a paraffin-soy blend)
  2. A large knife and cutting board (Depending on how you purchase your wax, you may need to cut it into small pieces to decrease melt time)
  3. Your desired container – you can reuse or purchase jars and tins or select something less conventional from the thrift store as I did
  4. Fragrance oil (optional; there are many different scents available)
  5. Wax melting pitcher
  6. Long-handled metal spoon
  7. Large pot (for heating water)
  8. Wicks
  9. Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
  10. Bamboo skewers and washi/painters tape or other method for supporting wicks
  11. Thermometer – which I didn’t use on my first candle, but purchased for future candles
  12. Candle dye (optional)

Project Overview

I found candle-making to be a lot of fun. This hobby can get a bit pricey, but I still spent less money than I would have if I had purchased a similarly-sized candle outright. Plus, I really like that I can make a candle fit my personal preferences (including scent, color, and container). I have already made several more candles to give as gifts and have shared more about what I learned in my candle making post Part II.

I have enjoyed candle making so much that I have started selling them at craft fairs on online in my Jack + Bax Etsy shop. I would love for you to visit my shop and take a look at the other candles I have made!

If you are looking for more crafty DIY inspiration, check out my post on how I made a custom growth chart rule for my niece or how I made my reusable fall window box inserts.

Have you ever tried candle-making? What candle scents and colors are your favorite?

I am so glad you visited us at Jack and Bax. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (sign up available either on the right sidebar or at the bottom of the page). And please follow me on Instagram and Facebook so that you don’t miss any of my upcoming projects!

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