Candle making is so much easier than you think — and they make wonderful, inexpensive, handmade gifts!
In this post I’ll tell you
- how I started to make my own candles, even sold them in stores
- all my tips of how to get the best results (smooth finish)
- step-by-step instructions
- the supplies you’ll need and might already have
- and how I find pretty vintage cups and containers for less
DIY Candle Making
I love the shabby chic decorating style and find myself drawn to vintage china in thrift stores or at tag sales all the time. I have quite the collection.
Years ago I saw candles in vintage teacups for sale — but they were so expensive! One candle can cost $30!
I decided that I wanted to make them myself. How hard could it be?
So I raided the local thrift stores for beautiful, inexpensive containers and finally poured my first batch of candles.
Here is my step-by-step, how-to tutorial of how I made my soy candles in vintage teacups and other containers.
Container Candle Making at Home
I started making my own candles when I saw the idea of repurposing cups and learned how toxic most store-bought candles are.
I had so much fun to making them that I even sold them for a while in local stores and my Etsy store. I still give them away as gifts all the time!
Let me tell you, people are so impressed and grateful to get a candle you made yourself.
Candle making is so much easier than you think! And it’s very inexpensive!
I find these containers in thrift stores and at tag sales, and they usually cost me not more than a $1 each.
You don’t even have buy pounds of soy wax like I do — you could save burned-down candles for a while that you can melt down to make new candles in container you already have at home.
I like reusing vintage containers and bone china teacups from England for my candles, but any tea cups or glasses, mason jars or little bowls will work to make DIY candles.
Here is a sample of candles I’ve made. Aren’t these sweet?
I especially love these jello mold candles I made during my latest batch.
And here is a selection of glasses I turned into candles:
You can see my mason jar candles here.
Do you want to try making your own candles? Here are all the supplies you need, and the full tutorial:
It’s so much fun to source candle containers and to make your own handmade candles!
Handmade candles make wonderful gifts and can be customized to any person’s taste.
Not into shabby chic? Why not make a candle out of a coffee cup with a fun saying?
Candle Making Supplies you will need to make your own candles:
This post includes includes affiliate links. See my disclosure policy here.
- Teacups or other containers: use Grandma’s vintage teacups or buy any cups or mason jars you like. I love everything vintage or shabby chic, so I always look for cute teacups with flowers on them when I visit thrift stores or a yard sale. These are also really inexpensive!
- Waxed wicks with metal tabs: Make sure you buy them thick and long enough — you can always cut them shorter. Don’t buy the ones you have to assemble yourself! I like this kit that comes with soy wax, waxed wicks, and centering pieces. I don’t use centering pieces for the wicks, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to have them.
- A pouring pot to melt the wax in: I bought an aluminum measuring cup for $2.99 at Home Goods, but you can buy one specifically made for candle making. This set includes the kind I’m talking about.
- A big pot: you’ll fill this with water and melt the wax in the smaller pot in it.
- A thermometer: I had a new meat thermometer from the dollar store I used for my first batch. I kind of figured out the right temperature just by waiting for a certain consistency of the wax, but you can also buy candle-making thermometers with a hook that secures it to the pot.
- Soy wax: I only buy high-quality soy wax because other wax gives off unhealthy fumes.
- Fragrances (optional): they let you make candles with your favorite smell, like gardenia or lilac. I don’t add them because I’m very sensitive to smells and not a fan of fragrances, but you can buy all kind of fragrance oils you can add.
- Essential oils (optional): You can also add essential oils! The trick to using essential oils is adding the oils when the wax is hot, but not so hot that they evaporate.
- Heavy glass dish: I needed this to weigh down the small pot with the wax because it kept floating up in the water and turning sideways even with the wax in it.
- Two pot holders: the water, the wax, and the pots get very hot, so be careful.
- Wax paper: I lined our kitchen counter with wax paper and put the teacups on top of it, just in case some wax dripped on it.
Make sure there are no kids or pets in the kitchen when you are making candles so they don’t accidentally get burned.
My friend Viktoria, who makes candles and fragrances for a living, gave me three great tips for candle making:
- don’t cut the wicks too short
- glue the wicks to the bottom of the cups with a little bit of wax before you pour the wax
- the more you let the wax cool before you pour it, the nicer the candles will be
Start by melting the wax. Put the wax into the aluminum pouring pot, and put that one into another, bigger pot filled with water. NEVER put the pouring pot directly onto a burner.
Heat up the water, but don’t let it boil. You might have to put a heavy plate on the top of the pot to keep it from floating up — that’s what I do.
While the wax melts, wash your containers and dry them.
Line your countertop with wax paper or paper or placemats that can get ruined.
After the soy wax melts, which takes a while, I put the wax pot on a plate on the counter to let it cool down.
While the wax cools down a bit, take the wick and dunk the tab into the wax and then place it in the bottom of the cup or jar. That will glue down the wick and keep it in place.
You don’t need a thermometer to know when you have the ideal temperature for pouring the candles. When you stir the wax, you want it to look like thick maple syrup, at least with the kind of wax I use.
When the wax is cooled down and looks thicker when you stir it, slowly pour the wax into the cups or mason jars, but not all the way to the top.
I pour my candles in two stages – the surface layer looks smoother that way. Since you will pour another layer on this one, the first one doesn’t have to be perfect.
When the first wax layer hardens, double-check that the wicks are centered before you pour the last layer.
If there are any bubbles in the top of the wax, pop them.
Depending on the design on the cup, you might not want to fill the cups all the way. For this cup, I wanted the flower on the inside to peek out, for example.
It takes about 30 minutes for the wax to harden again.
Once the second layer is completely cool, after about an hour, cut the wick shorter.
Please remember: it is important to keep trimming the wick when you or the recipient burns the candle. Never burn a candle for more than four hours.
Give the candle away with written instructions or add a warning sticker to the candle.
I had my own printed when I was selling a lot of them.
Learn From My Candle Making Mistakes
My first batch of candles turned out like this – the surface was “muddled.”
And a few were smoother but had these little indentations.
There had to be a way to get them smoother. So I reached out on Twitter and was told I can fix that by either using a hair dryer or by warming up the candles in the oven.
I didn’t do either, although both ideas sounded logical. Instead, I let the wax cool down more, to less than 120 F before I poured it. And that really made a difference and resulted in a much smoother top surface.
See how great the next batch turned out? And I fixed some of the first batch by adding a thin coat of the cooler wax.
I made these teacup candles for my girlfriend’s Artists’ Open House and also made tons of gift baskets.
It took me hours to wrap everything and attach cute gift tags to them, but this is my idea of fun – I loved it.
I couldn’t stop myself, see?
This is what some of the teacups looked like after I turned them into candles and gift wrapped them.
How sweet is this little vintage jewelry box I made into a candle?
I found these four heart-shaped cookie cutters for just a few dollars and though they made a cute Mother’s Day gift with these two coffee cups. These handmade candles don’t have to have a saucer to look cute.
There you have it: candle making for beginners! If I can make them, you certainly can as well. Here is even more information about it.
Give it a try yourself, and you’ll want to make more when you are done. It’s kind of addicting :)