25 March 2011

d.i.y. tutorial // vintage-inspired candles

this tutorial is long overdue. i've wanted to try making candles with vintage glasses and vintage ceramic planters for months, ever since i saw this post at whorange and this post at design*sponge, and i finally got around to whipping a few up this past weekend.

excited? good.

first, gather all the materials you'll need.

a saucepan (or a double boiler if you've got one)

a heat-resistant glass bowl. i used a vintage pyrex bowl, but you could also go for something like...

this heat-resistant glass bowl. just make sure whatever you choose fits over your saucepan because you don't want the steam to escape. note: if you have a double boiler, you don't need either of these types of heat-resistant bowls - lucky you!

candle-making goodies! i used a 2 lb. hunk of creme candle wax and 9" wax-coated wire wicks. if you'd like your candles to smell great, add some scent! i got concentrated scent blocks (each is 1/2 oz.), but you can also find liquid scents. also (not pictured), if you'd like a color other than white, pick up some candle dye. i did a quick google search at the store because i had gel food coloring and thought that it might work; unfortunately, gel food coloring will not cut it for shading candles.

other assorted tools: a cutting board and sharp knife; a pair of scissors; a candy thermometer (you can do without this if you don't already own one); and double pointed knitting needles (or pencils or chopsticks).

candle containers. this is the fun bit! i went around my apartment and chose a variety of knick-knacks that have accumulated over months of thrifting, including spare melamine tea/coffee cups. 

i have a soft spot for vintage ceramic planters in the form of animals. i can't leave them behind at a thrift store or estate sale if i see them, but i do not have a green thumb in the least. a candle is the perfect answer and how sweet would these be as baby shower gifts?

i love vintage juice glasses! i try to pick them up whenever i see them and they rarely come in full sets, so this is the perfect way to showcase the oddball glasses in your collection.

and speaking of oddball glasses, i find that vintage cocktail glasses, even if they come in full sets, usually have one or two small flaws. put that slightly faded cup to use!

i got so fanatical about finding neat candle containers that everything i saw, i said (to keith because we were at an estate sale), "look! this could be a candle! a sugar bowl? it could be a candle! a pyrex mixing bowl? it could be a quadruple-wick candle!" it got to the point of put a bird on it (if you're not watching portlandia, uh, come on and do so). make it a candle and put a bird on it!

before you begin to heat anything, take that block of candle wax and chop it down with a sharp knife. if you've decided on a concentrated scent block, chop that up now (1/4 oz. per 1 lb. of candle wax), as well, and set aside for later.

i cut my block into 16 squares, but i could (should) have gone smaller. you want uniform-sized chunks so everything melts evenly. having smaller blocks to work with means the wax will melt faster.

after your wax is cut down, prepare the wicks. hold the wick so the bottom silver cap is flat on the bottom of the candle container. place your double pointed needles (or pencils or chopsticks) across the opening of the vessel and gently wrap the wick around the needle, being careful not to move the silver cap too much. set aside, but not too far away - you'll want to pour your hot wax into these as soon as it's melted.

pour water into your saucepan and place your heat-resistant glass bowl over the top.

place you wax chunks into the heat-resistant bowl and, with the heat source on medium, begin to heat the water and wax. i decided to melt my wax in two batches, hence only eight blocks of wax.

then wait...

and wait...

and wait until the wax is almost completely melted.

i occasionally stuck my thermometer in to check the temperature. the wax should be completely melted at 180 degrees.

**if you are going to color your candles, add the dye right now, stirring until the color is uniform and you're pleased with the shade.** 

when everything has melted away, remove the wax from the heat and let it cool to 175 degrees (or just wait a minute or so).

when the wax has cooled a bit, add your reserved scent shavings. if you're making the candles in two batches like i did, only use half a block of scent at this point.

reserving approximately 3/4-1 cup of your melted wax, pour the wax into your awesome containers. if you need to adjust the wicks at this point, do so quickly as the wax starts to harden almost immediately.

**not pictured because i'm a dunce and forgot to take a picture: after about 30 minutes, poke holes in the still-soft wax near the wicks to let built-up air escape. fill the holes with the reserved wax, but don't go over the original fill line.**

when the wax has cooled completely (about 4-6 hours), remove the double pointed needles and clip the wicks to 1/4".

that's it! it was super simple and i think they turned out pretty cute! my 2 lb. hunk o' wax made five candles in various sizes.

enjoy your handiwork!

i love this little kitty.

you can spread the candles throughout the house or...

you can group them together in what appears to be some kind of weird vintage shrine. i vote for the former.


  1. I just found your blog and what an amazing idea!! I have a couple of random glasses and I'm going to do this with them, thanks!!

  2. What a fun project! Thanks for the idea! I love those glasses.


  3. Excellent tutorial!
    Easy to follow and all your pics were great!

    I like the planter candles they are Oh so cute!

  4. thanks for all comments, ya'll!! if you make this project, let me know - i'd love to see pictures!