How to Make a Volcano Candle
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We watched a documentary on the TV of an entrepreneur who repurposed junk in an old factory to make moulds for gigantic candles with multiple wicks as a commercial enterprise. Then building on his initial success he went on to expand his business to design and make his own bespoke candle moulds to order.
This interested me in that every Christmas I make a large batch of scented candles for my wife from recycled candle wax; predominantly using wax from the candles she burnt the previous year. However, with people periodically giving us decorative candles as gifts, over the years my stock of used candle wax has just grown; rather than shrinking.
At the time of watching the documentary I had bucket loads of old wax; far more than I need to make a year’s supply of modest sized candles, made using plastic drink cups as moulds.
Therefore, getting my inspiration from the documentary we watched, I decided to use all surplus old candle wax to make a couple of supersized multi-wicked candles.
Safely Melting the Wax
Wax is highly flammable and will ignite at temperatures above 200 Celsius (390 F); so you shouldn’t melt it over a direct heat.
However candle wax will melt between 55 and 70 Celsius (130 and 160 Fahrenheit), so heating it over hot water is ideal. I achieve this by placing a double handled pan inside of large saucepan of simmering water. Thus, the bottom of the pan is well away from the direct heat, so the wax inside can never exceed 100 Celsius (212 F); the boiling point of water.
The pan and saucepan I use for melting the wax are old ones I picked up from a junk shop for just a few pounds (dollars).
Choosing a Suitable Mould
A plastic bucket is ideal, but don’t use your best bucket as you will need to make holes in the bottom for the wicks.
Plastic buckets are cheap to buy and you can get some good bargains in places like Poundland in the UK (or I guess a Thrift Store in the USA). Poundland specialises in selling most items (always new) for £1 (about $1.50), largely clearance stock of popular brand products but also includes a range of their own branded goods.
It’s ideal to use two buckets (one inside the other) so for the first pour any wax that leaks out where the wicks go through the bottom of the bucket will be contained by the outer bucket. After the first pour the wax will have hardened and seal the gaps anyway.
Choosing the Correct Wick Size
Wicks come in different burn sizes (the diameter of the burn area); which should be clearly marked on the packet when you buy your wick.
- If you use wicks that are too small then they will drown in a pool of their own melted wax.
- If the wick is too big then it will burn too fiercely, and the candle too quickly.
The wicks I was using to make my other candles have a burn diameter of between 25mm and 50mm (1 & 2 inches); which is just ideal for the plastic cup sized candles I normally make.
Therefore, with making such a large candle this time, I would need to use more than one wick and to space the wicks between two and three inches apart (4 inches at the most).
Preparing the Wicks in the Mould
For this candle I decided to use 9 wicks, 8 in a circle and one in the centre; with the bottom of the bucket eventually becoming the top of the candle.
- To fit the wicks in the bottom of the bucket I needed to drill small holes (the same size as the thickness of the wick) in the apocopate places.
- I pushed a wick through each hole and pulled it up, cutting it off at the top leaving a generous amount flopping over the side of the bucket.
- Using the existing drain holes in the top lip of the bucket I then tied three canes and a couple of pencils in place, to create spokes of a wheel. I could have used all canes, but a couple of pencils meeting in the middle did the job just as well as a cane stretching across the whole diameter of the bucket; the pencils being supported by the other canes. Also, if your bucket doesn’t have drain holes in the lip you could pre-drill your own holes to tie the canes in place.
- I then pulled the wicks taut as I tied each one to its appropriate cane.
- Finally, I placed the bucket inside another bucket, so that any wax that leaked out through the bottom would be trapped in the outer bucket, and after the first pour would form a seal to prevent further leakage.
Dyes and Scents
Adding colour dye and or scent is optional, but they don’t take a moment to add to the melted wax just before pouring into the mould, and they don’t cost much to buy; just follow the manufactures instructions for best results.
Filling the Bucket in Stages
With the wicks in place and the buckets ready, it was just a simple case of melting the wax, adding colour dye and scent, and filling the bucket.
When making candles I like to fill the moulds in stages so that I can add different colour dyes to each layer. Besides with such a large mould I couldn’t melt enough candle wax to fill the bucket in one go anyway.
After you’ve poured the first batch of wax in, by the time you’ve melted the next batch for pouring the first layer will have started to solidify so the colours don’t mix and when made the different layers become distinctive.
Once you’ve filled the bucket you need to leave it overnight to set, over which time the wax is likely to shrink significantly; therefore the following day you will need to make up another to top it up. With such a large candle, you may need to repeat this process a couple of times.
Removing the Candle From Its Mould
Once the wax has set hard:-
- Remove the outer bucket.
- Using a Stanley knife, where they are tied to the canes and trim the wicks and any protruding wax; to make the bottom reasonably flat and level.
- Turn the mould upside down, so the bottom becomes the top.
- Knock off any excess wax from around the wicks at this end, and cut off the knots; which would otherwise prevent the candle from slipping out of its mould.
- Gently squeeze and tap the side of the plastic bucket, and tap the bottom to try to encourage the candle to slip out.
- In all likelihood the candle will not want to come out of its mould. If this is the case, stand the bucket in the sink or a washing up bowl of hot water. Eventually the outer layer of wax will start to melt a little, which should help in easing the candle from its mould.
How to Make Candles From Left Over Wax
Once you’ve made your first candle give it a test run; from this you should know whether you need to use more or less wicks, and whether the wicks should be a bigger or smaller burn size.
Other Fun Ideas
After making the volcano candle I experimented with other moulds. In particular I tried a Vimto bottle, but the hot wax melted and distorted the plastic. Consequently the resulting candle was somewhat misshapen, giving it a rather gothic look; which my wife and son like. So it’s something I will be doing again; albeit you can only use the same plastic drinks bottle the once as a mould, and to free the candle from the bottle you need to cut and peel the plastic away using a Stanley knife.