Welcome to the third post in my Candle Making Series. In the first post we looked at the items that make great candle containers, which is great for getting creative and upcycling, then in the second post I talked about how to make container candles.
Making pillar candles is something I’m hoping to branch out into more this year. I’ve done a bit of playing around with this particular area of candle making, but I’ve not made lots and I certainly haven’t gained consistency in this craft. So maybe this is a good time to learn a new skill together?
One of the major differences between soy container candles and soy pillar candles – besides the shape and lack of container in the latter – is the wax blend used. Because pillar candles aren’t in a container, the wax needs to hold its shape as the candle burns down so it doesn’t just collapse in a huge mess. For this reason, pillar blend wax melts at a higher temperature than container blend wax.
Pillar wax also has the property of shrinking away from the sides of the mould, meaning you should (note that I say SHOULD!) be able to demould the candle relatively easily when it has set. Container wax is designed to adhere to the container, so a pillar candle made with container wax will likely not come out of the mould (and then when you do finally get it out of the mould, you’ll have all kinds of fun watching it melt all over the place when you light it).
One final note: you can use the water method mentioned in the previous post to figure out how much wax and fragrance to use in your candle. It works exactly the same for candle moulds as it does for containers, although you will obviously need to block the hole in the mould before filling it with water!
So, onto the actual process for how to make a pillar candle. Let me know how you get on!
- Never leave melting wax unattended.
- Hot wax can burn, so this isn’t an activity for children, and keep pets well away.
- Cover your work area and clothing to protect against any spillages.
- Never overheat wax; it doesn’t boil to signify that it is too hot, it will just catch fire.
- In the unlikely event of a fire, DO NOT try to dowse with water but cover the fire with a damp cloth or a fire blanket.
- Vegetable oil or mould release spray
- Mould sealant (blutack will work fine)
- Wick pin/skewer/pencil
- Pillar blend wax
- Dye (optional)
- Fragrance (optional)
MELTING THE WAX
Melt the soy wax in a double boiler or a bowl over a pan of water. DO NOT melt the wax in a pan directly on the cooker as this is a fire hazard. For the best possible result, you should use a thermometer to check the temperature of the wax when you are melting it. It should reach somewhere in the range of 70-75°C if you’re adding dye and scent. If you’re not adding any colour or scent, you can pour the wax as soon as it has all melted.
PREPARING THE MOULD
Cut the wick to length, allowing around 5cm more than the length of your mould. Dip it into your wax and hold it stretched tight until the wax sets. This will make it easier to work with and get central in your candle. Wipe the inside of the mould with the oil or mould release spray and then push the wick through the hole in the mould. Pull it through so around 2cm is poking out and use the mould sealant to hold it in place and plug the hole so no wax escapes. Stand the mould up and pull the remaining wick to the top of the mould where you need to wind it round or otherwise attach it to your pencil or skewer (use more blutack or some sticky tape). The wick should be central in the mould and nice and taut – but be careful not to pull it right through. It’s always a good idea to stand the mould in a tray, just in case you discover you haven’t sealed it quite as well as you think when you pour the wax!
ADDING THE DYE
You now need to add the dye to the wax, if you’re using it. The colour of the molten wax will be more intense than the colour when it sets, so bear than in mind when adding the dye. If in doubt, allow a little of the coloured wax to set on a white plate or something similar so that you can see the colour the finished candle will be. Bear in mind that you can add more dye but you can’t take it away! Ensure the wax is in the range of 70-75°C before you add the dye, and then stir it well to thoroughly incorporate. Take the wax off the heat and pour it into a jug if it’s not in one already – this will make the final pour a lot less messy.
ADDING THE FRAGRANCE
The fragrance goes into the molten wax next, if you’re using it. Remove the wax from the heat if you haven’t already and stir the scent in well to make sure it’s properly combined with the wax and to avoid pools of fragrance in the finished candle. Adding the fragrance oil will bring the temperature down so make sure you are ready to pour after stirring this in.
POURING THE WAX
The ideal pouring temperature for the wax is 65°C, so if adding the dye and scent hasn’t brought it down to this temperature, wait until it’s there. Pour the wax slowly into the mould. You will almost certainly need to top up the candle to ensure a flat bottom (the wax has a tendency to sink around the wick), and this can be one of the trickier aspects of pillar candle making. When the wax has partially set, so that it’s set around the edges but still molten under the surface in the centre, poke a few holes around the wick and pour more wax. You’ll probably need to remelt the wax to do this, but only melt it until it is liquid enough to pour. You don’t want to bring the temperature up too high as you’ll burn off the fragrance oil. You may need to repeat this process of topping up the candle but it’s important that you only top up the dip in the centre and don’t go past the original pour line or you may find your candle sticks to the mould.
DEMOULDING YOUR CANDLE
Leave the candle to cool and set completely. For best results, it should be out of any draughts and not in a cold place. Don’t put the candle in the fridge to speed up the setting process as the wax may crack. Remove the mould sealant and wick pin/skewer/pencil and hopefully your candle should slide out of the mould. If it doesn’t, put it in the fridge for half an hour and try again. You should leave your candle to stand for at least twenty-four hours before burning.
BURNING YOUR CANDLE
Before lighting, trim the wick so it is no more than 0.5cm long. Then you’re ready to enjoy your homemade candle!
It may seem like common sense, but there are a few rules to follow when burning candles to ensure you and those around you can enjoy your candle safely:
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Keep a lit candle away from draughts and vibrations.
- Keep the candle out of reach of children and pets.
- Never burn your candle on or near anything that can catch fire.
- Trim wick to 5mm before lighting to prevent smoking or flickering flame.
- Keep candle free of any foreign materials, including matches and wick trimmings.
- Only burn the candle on a level, fire resistant surface.
- Do not burn the candle for more than 4 hours at a time.