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Sundays Are For Candle Making

on July 11, 2011 - 9:34am

I spent most of my hot and humid Sunday hidden away in my office, trying to forget the heat outside. The best way I know to do that is to make things for Halloween.

A total of 19 candle stubs are ready for their part in my jar project. They are made with hot glue, acrylic paint, toilet paper rolls, and LED candles.

If you're waiting to see the final product of the jars, it'll be posted soon (not quite done). If you'd like to learn more about how I made these, I've included some pictures and basic instructions below.

There is a much fancier way of making prop candles that Hector of Blackstone Cemetery taught me and a group of people to do, but the idea of buying PVC pipe and insulation wasn't pragmatic for something so small. He also showed us you could dress up the LED candle with glue if you wanted something short, but that would be too small for what I wanted.

Then I was excited because I'd get to test out my tomato paste can idea for a base, but they were too tall (and I only had 2 at the ready).

Racked my brain to think of what I had on hand that would work, and remembered I have a drawer full of paper rolls (doesn't everyone have a drawer marked "Paper Rolls" in their craft stash?). I knew I wasn't completely off base with the idea because Haunted Reverb and I were both knocking around ideas of what we could use instead of PVC pipe (I with my tomato paste can epiphany, they with their paper rolls). Our methods are very different, so let me tell you what I did.

Cut the toilet paper roll into different heights, cutting the top edges so they curve and dip (not straight across).

You want the LED candle to be hidden: the base, completely; the flame, somewhat. Make sure your LED fits in the roll, and test out the height as you cut each one.

For some of these, I simply built the LEDs into the candles (the LEDs are exposed on the bottom so I can turn it off or on, or change the battery). For the taller ones, I crumpled a bit of newspaper and hot-glued it in place at the bottom of the roll (you can just see an example of this on the roll to the right in the picture). The LED will sit on top of this, and I can slide it in and out of the candle as needed.

Place the rolls on a silicone baking sheet (this way, you can make pools of wax at the bottom of the candle without gluing it to your table). I put my silicone pad on an upside-down baking tray. Remember to turn the tray, not the individual rolls, as you work around the outside of the candles adding glue.

The key is to build the wax drips in layers.

A hot glue gun, rather than the lower temp craft glue gun, works best. But remember, the word "hot" is in the title for a reason (I have a blister to prove this). Run the glue around the top edge of the roll, using enough so it spills down the outside in wide drips. This is your base. You need to let each layer dry before adding the second layer on top of it, so work on a few candles at a time.

Every time you add a layer, you want to build up that top edge. Alternate the dripping placement as you go, building over the last layer and partly on a new spot. You can also add a line of glue to the top edge, wait a moment for it to start the drying process, and then turn the candle upside down, letting gravity stretch the lip of wax up into shapes.

Be mindful of glue strings - they occur when the tip of your hot glue gun touches the wet glue. Don't panic if it happens. Most of them can be peeled off when dry.

You also want to start making drips on the inside of the candle as well. If you're building the LED into the candle, you can seal the edges with the glue. If you're using a newspaper shelf so you can pull the LED out of the candle from the top, be mindful of how thick you make the drips or else your LED won't fit.

If you want to make a pool of wax at the base of the candle, best to do this at the start (so your other drips can build on top of it). I had to keep in mind these are going into jars, so I needed the puddles to be smaller (in order to fit through the jar opening).

Once I was happy with the drips, I added a watery coat of brown paint to each one, followed by a thin coat of yellowy-white, and finally some coats of bright white (thicker on the protruding drips to add depth). The picture above shows the first two layers of paint.

That's about it.

Did I need to make them this pretty/detailed when they're going to be in coated jars? No, but I'll probably use them in other scenarios and other themes, so it makes sense to create a detailed final project. And if you know me at all, you know I'm all about the details ;)

Hope this helps you out. I promise to get around to posting the how-to for the PVC candles this season.


Dave's picture

What an excellent article.

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