The humble container candle has much more potential than we often give it credit for. You don't have to limit yourself to just one color wax. You can make layered container candles in coffee cups, small metal buckets, shot glasses, seashells, ceramic bowls or beer glasses. If a container is fireproof and leak-proof, chances are you can make a candle out of it.
This project uses a jelly jar or similar clear glass container and goes wild with color. The technique produces a feathered, marbled, almost tie-dyed look. Each one is a unique creation.
For this project, you need the following supplies and equipment:
- Clear jelly jar or glass container
- Container blend wax
- An appropriate wick for the jar and wax
- Concentrated liquid candle dyes (dye chips won't work for this project)
- Wick bars or plastic straws to keep the wick centered
- A pot to melt the wax
- Thin wire or wick pin
- Heat gun
- Hot glue
Basic Setup and Prep
Start the candle by following the instructions for a container candle as summarized below:
- Set the wicks. Use a straw to hold the wick. Put a dab of hot glue on the bottom of the wick tab and press it into the center of the container. Attach wick bars or plastic straws to keep the wick centered.
- Weigh and melt the wax. Use an online container calculator to figure out how much was you need for your container. Weigh it on a scale and melt it in a melting pot. Heat to about 180 F.
- Add fragrance. Add fragrance to the melted wax, using about one ounce per pound of wax. Cool the wax to about 150 to 160 F.
- Pour the wax into the jar. Don't overfill. Make sure the wick is well centered.
Here's where you depart from the basic container candle instructions.
Cool the Candle and Poke Some Holes
Let the candle cool until the wax turns opaque on the sides and about 1/8 inch of skin forms on the top of the candle. This takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
Holding a thin wire or wick pin against the inner edge of the container, make a small hole in the top of the candle, pushing the wire to the bottom of the container.
Poke a Ring of Holes
If you want quite a few veins of color in your candle, poke a ring of nine holes. If you want less color, poke fewer holes.
Add the Color
Using a toothpick, dab a minute partial drop of the colorant into the top of each hole. A little goes a long way, so use no more than 1/6 of a drop with each dab.
You can always add more, but you don't want to add too much. Remember, teeny tiny bits of color in the top of the holes works best.
Pick a Color Pattern
Here's what the candle top looks like after color is dabbed on the holes. The candle on the left has three yellow, three blue and three red dabs of color. The candle on the right alternates red and yellow.
Making the Marbling
Here's where things start to heat up, literally.
Using a heat gun, first heat the top of the candle gently so that the dye starts to mix with a little melted wax.
Heat the Sides
From the outside, you can see that the melted, colored wax is seeping down the holes.
Heat the sides of the jar next, giving even coverage up and down. Heat each line, or hole or tunnel—whatever you want to call it—about 10 seconds with the heat gun up and down and then move to the next one.
The wax on the side melts and combines with the dye from above to begin the swirling and marbling effect.
Continue Heating and Swirling
Continue heating the side of the candle to melt more wax. Results here vary widely. This is just something you get the feel of...and are often surprised by.
The dye and wax continue to mix and swirl from the convection caused by the heated wax. You can help things along by swirling the jar a little yourself. If you're eager to take charge, use the wick pin to move the color around a bit too. Sometimes this is necessary to get the color all the way to the bottom of the container.
A word of caution: The convection action of the hot wax continues for a while even after you stop heating and swirling, so don't go overboard with the heating and swirling; physics does a lot of the work for you. About 30 percent of the swirling and marbling happens after you stop heating and moving the jar.
Finished Marbled Container Candles
Go away for a while and let the candles cool. When you come back, you'll be delighted and surprised at how they came out. Trim the wicks to about 1/4 inch above the top of the candle. Set the candle aside to cure for a couple of days before burning it. Go ahead and clean up the candle-making equipment.
Take good notes, and you'll be able to approximate any successes you have again, although no single candle is identical to another.