How to Make Simple Jar Candles

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How to Make Simple Jar Candles


Have you ever wanted to make a candle? I certainly have! I decided to learn candle making because I just couldn't bear to pay the ridiculous prices at the stores!! My husband likes pine ones in his office because he works from home all day. I wanted candles for the bathroom--a must!!  And the kids each wanted their own specially colored and scented one. Hence the black and red striped one on the left. My daughter loves cookies scents and has a western themed she wanted a earth-toned layered on.

It was a bit of an investment..but I knew it would pay off for the rest of our life for candle making needs, so it was worth it!

Even though I have given you this tutorial with a list of store bought supplies, that doesn't mean you need to get everything new!  I started out with new because I was learning. By the end of my candle making day, though, I was melting every old candle in the house that I could find to remake into candles for my craft sale. I even recycled wicks and tabs for the last batch I made. I also used a bunch of tabs from a cheap bag of tealights I didn't need. (Melted the wax down too!)

Before I was done I had made 48 candles using a whole box of old candles my mom had collected from area thrift stores plus the ones in the laundry room. I also bought a whole box of jars from a local thrift store for .25c a piece and friends from church donated jelly jars for my project which was so neat!  I used them for Christmas gifts and sold them for money to buy gifts.

Making simple jar candles is a lot of fun!  Candle making can be a very involved process, but we don't have to learn all the ins and outs...we just want to make candles for our home, to use in our bathrooms, or to brighten our kitchens.  This isn't the cheapest craft in the world either, but it is a lot of fun and there are ways to cut corners.

Important Note: There are whole books on the subject of candlemaking and so many kinds to make!!!  They each need the proper wax, additives, containers or lack of, and temperatures for heating and for adding stuff and for pouring. You can't make molded candles this way.  These instructions are ONLY for "Container Candles".  Please follow them exactly.

Getting Started: I know this isn't the simplest thing in the world to get started in, but it's not that hard. Candlemaking is so much fun and makes such nice gifts!  Once you buy the stuff to begin, you can save it all in a box and make candles anytime you like! Consider it an investment in a lifetime supply of candles.  It's great fun for the kids!  You'll need some of this stuff for my sand making project coming up soon too!

We will need some supplies:

First you need a candy thermometer!  Don't even bother with this project unless you buy one of those first.!!
  • Containers: jars, coffee cups, thrift store votives etc. (not too thin)
  • Wax - paraffin by the pound at Wal-mart or by the 10lb block at Hobby-Lobby (use a coupon!), or old candles that don't have a thick outer coating
  • Vybar (this is not cheap...again, use a coupon at Hobby-lobby) $5.99--goes a long ways! (for strength and clear color)
  • Coloring - I use crayons, but they will leave a little powdery residue at the base of the wick which you can see through the melted wax when it burns, but I don't mind about that. Whatever you use  MUST BE MADE for candles! Don't use food coloring or other water or alcohol based additives. If you spend a little bit more, you can buy coloring just for the purpose of candle making. 
 Note:  I also use thrift store candles which have a colored outside layer.  That is enough to color the candles I make from them.  If you use thrift store candles for the wax, be sure to crack off that outside layer, because it will color your wax and possibly scent it too. 
    • Scent - I bought a $10.00 bottle at Hobby-Lobby of Apple spice for 40% off and last year I bought Sugar Cookie.  (large bottle) You can buy little bottles too but they don't last long.  (I haven't tried essential oils yet.)  The must be oil based! Don't use alcohol based or candy scents!
    • wicks - come in several sizes depending on how big a circle of wax you want to burn.  I buy the 2-3" diameter burning wicks. They seem to work well with most jars. ($1.99 per package)
    • metal tabs from Hobby-Lobby ($1.99 per package)  (You can use metal tabs from tea lights too) 
    sauce pan, wooden spoon, candy thermometer,large knife and cutting board, paring knife, toothpick or ice pick, wax paper, sticks (like skewers or chopsticks), glass measuring cup, pliers

    Here's how you do it...
    1.Prepare to work:  Lay out wax paper and set open jars on paper on counter, and set wicks, tabs, pliers, toothpick or ice pick nearby. Set pan, spoon, measuring cup, scent, Vybar and candy thermometer by stove.  Set wax, knives, crayolas, and cuttingboard on other side of stove but near by.

    2. Melt the Wax: Chop up chunks of wax into about 1-2" pieces and put several in a pan on the stove on LOW HEAT! VERY LOW.

    Let it start to melt slowly.  When you have an inch of melted wax, add more wax and turn to medium if you want to melt the wax faster, but stay close by and watch the temperature at all times.

    NEVER LET TEMPERATURE GET ABOVE 250--WAX IS FLAMMABLE!!!!  Did I say that loud enough?!(I just leave it on low while I do the rest of the preparation.)

    3. Prepare tabs.  (You can pull these out of tea lights if you want.)  Cut the wick the height of the candle plus one more inch.  Push it through the hole in the metal tab with a toothpick or ice pick if you use tea light tabs. They are smaller than the wick size we normally use.

    Crimp it down tight with the pliers.

    Dip the wick in a little melted wax and hold it straight while it cools so it will stay straight and stiff in the jar.

    Hang the waxed strings with the tabs dangling over a skewer into the jar. You want the tab to be in the center of the jar.

    Set all the jars with their tabs on the waxed paper to protect the counter.

    You must have a candy thermometer for this project!  Temperature is so so important!  It has to be just right.  To make jar candles, we want to heat our wax to between 170 and 180 degrees but never as high as 250!  If you get it a little too hot, just take it off the heat source and let it cool to this range.  This is the proper pouring range for "container candles".    
    5. Stir in additives: Vybar, Coloring, and Fragrance.  While you are waiting for the wax to get hot enough, peel the crayon that is the color you want. Cut in up in little pieces.  When the temperature is above 170 but below 180, add about 1 teaspoon of Vybar per pound, 1/2-1oz of fragrance per pound or 1 tsp. of potpourri oil and 1 stick of crayon per pound. Note: If you put the fragrance in while the wax is too hot, it can burn off the be sure to wait until the proper temperature.

    6. If you want a layer candlepick three shades of one color or three separate colors.  I like to do the three shades.  I use the lightest shade first, pour out a third of the wax into the jars. While the first layer is cooling, I add a darker shade (about 1/3 of a crayon), pour that on top, then stir in the darkest crayon (about 1/2 a crayon) and pour it last.

    7.  POUR the 1st Inch of wax to set the wick:  Pour about one inch of wax to set the wick at the bottom. While it is cooling, I use a skewer or ice pick and push the metal tab down firmly on the bottom of the jar and make sure the wick is hanging straight.  You will want to regularly check and straighten your wick as it is cooling anyway. It is important that the wick be as perfectly centered as possible or when you go to light your candle, the circle of burning wax will be off center and look funny.

    8. Pour the rest of the wax in all at once. (Make sure it is still hot, or re-heat to the 170-180 range.) If your wax is too cool it will trap bubbles and will also get dull little cracks and lines between the jar and the candle.  I had this happen to some of my layers and used a blow dryer to reheat the side of the glass, though boiling water might work too. It worked pretty well but not perfectly.  This happens when the wax cools too quickly.

    9. Reserve about a cup of colored, scented wax  in a glass measuring cup to fill the sunken place in the middle. When the candles cool completely, they sink in the middle a bit.  They say to poke a hole near the wick so that the top layer stays 'up' while the middle sinks.

    I think I'm starting to figure out that that works, but most of mine just sank and I re-filled them later.   You will have to re-heat the wax which I do either in a pan of boiling water or the microwave (very carefully!)
    10. Wait 24 hours for the candle to harden completely before burning. Trim the wick.  And your done!!!

    Recommended Reading:   The Candle Maker and   How to Make Wax Candles. 

    These are the websites I studied before making candles.  Print my instructions and keep nearby to refer to for the first few times.  It will help!


    Shona Cole said...

    DOnna, this is a great and thorough tutorial! You are the perfect person to do how to's as you can explain everything so well and completely.

    thanks for sharing


    Trudy said...

    Donna, your blog should be titled, "Homemaking Diva." You are the most incredible homemaker I know, talented in so many ways. You are the one I aspire to be. Thank you for your example and for sharing much of your knowledge and enthusiasm for the home and family.

    Shona Cole said...

    I added this to my crafty links post :)

    Donna said...

    Wow! I'm honored that both of you like my blog! And that you added it to your crafty links Shona. Thank you both. :o)

    It's all just been waiting to 'come out'. I love teaching and this is such an outlet for long as I know it helps or inspires someone else. :o)

    I'm saving the canning and pickling pix for the summer. And I hope I can find the pix I did when I taught the Robison kids how to make sand candles while staying with them at the beach house in Galveston.

    And hopefully I'll get some chicken how to's soon. Hee...hee! I've got all the pix for building a coop.

    It's going to be a fun year!

    Amy said...

    Miss Donna! I am just getting around to checking Shona's crafty links. I am so excited to have found your are such a great teacher. I look forward to visiting here often and learning all these wonderful skills. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this!


    Amy said...

    Oh, and I meant to say...can't wait for the chicken how to's. I have some space to have chickens and I sooooo want to do it, but I'm too chicken - no pun intended!


    Donna said...

    Amy, I didn't recognize your picture! I just signed up to follow your photo blog. It's so good to hear from you again! I'm glad you like my blog.

    I'll be checking back soon!

    Melissa said...

    I was fortunate enough to receive one of these candles. They smell even better than they look, and they look wonderful!

    Donna said...

    Thanks so much Melissa. I'm glad you like them as much as I do. :o)

    Shannon R said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Shannon R said...

    will search my photo archives for the sand candles. Those were so much fun to do and what a fun trip too!

    Donna said...

    Hi Shannon! I would love to have those pictures. They would make a great post!

    It was a wonderful trip. :o)

    Ann @ makethebestofthings said...

    Great tutorial and your pictures really help the process. I've been doing this with candles for awhile, but I wish I could find a source for cheap scents! Of course, my idea for cheap is really cheap, lol!

    Cass @ That Old House said...

    what a terrific tutorial! Great advice and instruction. The last time I made candles was with a Vacation Bible School class i was leading. Ruined one of my crockpots that way, but it was worth it!


    Anonymous said...

    is the temperature 180 celsius or fahrenheit ??

    Anonymous said...

    This looks great! thank you for this, I can't wait to try it. And I'm sure it is Fahrenheit and not Celsius!

    Donna said...'s is Farenheit. :o)

    tyler said...

    Great tutorial. This is a great thing for family to do and kids love it!

    Katie Wollenberg said...

    How do you clean the saucepan and measuring cup of all of the wax?

    Katie Wollenberg said...

    How do you clean the saucepan and measuring cup of all of the wax?

    littledinnerparty said...

    Just used your candle recipe for a Black Licorice scented candle! Seems like it worked well, I made a few changes, but we'll see in 24 hours :)

    Sarah said...

    This is so excellent. Oddly enough in my family all birthdays are around Christmas so... this is a great way for a 15 year old to spend her money and make candles for everyone's birthday and Christmas. I'm so excited to begin, I just need to go buy the stuff. Thank you so much!

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you I've looked everywhere and they were super complicated or expensive so thanks

    Unknown said...

    Great detail in this post. I definitely like how you focus on reusing candles. Making candles can be expensive and tips like this are helpful.

    C Phillips
    How to Make Candles at Home

    Unknown said...

    Donna i love this do you need a double boiler

    Donna said...

    Frankly a double boiler is much safe.

    Also, to be honest I made one mistake on this that I need to clarify, the wax I used is really best for pillar candles. Soy wax or other softer waxes that tend to liquify are better for jar candles. However, this works fine. It's just that the problem of seperation from the walls and looking cloudy is always an issue. One advantage of using pillar wax for jar candles is they are way safer for little hands as the whole candle doesn't melt as jar wax does.

    Clean up: It's a pain.. No way around it. So the more you cover the surfaces the better. I usually reheated whatever pan needed to be cleaned to the point of just melting the wax then wiped out and off with a paper towel. Then I used soap and water to finish up.

    When you make as many candles at once as I did.. you need to be as neat as possible.

    If you plan to do a lot of candle making, you might want to invest in some pans or a crockpot just for candlemaking purposes.

    Unknown said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Nikki said...

    What a great tutorial! My daughter has decided that she wants to make candles, and we tried a batch yesterday. However, all of them are "cloudy" or "milky". They set up just fine but they don't have that good consistent color. Any ideas on how to fix that? :(

    Donna said...

    I'm wondering what kind of wax you used. If you are using old candles and any of them are soy based they will be milky.

    If you use soy wax, it always has a consistent milky/creamy color to it, which is actually one of it's unique qualities.

    Soy wax, I have learned since making this post is really the ideal wax for jar candles. It's designed to be used for that purpose rather than for say, "pillar' candles.

    If you mean that her candle wax kind of 'cracked' or seperated from the glass, the problem is usually that your jars were not pre-heated and were too cold when she poured. So then you get hairline cracks. Using a blow-dryer will re-melt the surface and clear up the appearance. Hope this helps. :)

    Donna said...

    About the milky color, by any chance was the wax too cool? I think if you poured and the wax was too cool it might get cloudy too.

    Also, if you are reusing old candles, I think I may have neglected to mention removing the hard weird outer shell that some pillar candles have.

    I am not sure what kind of wax that is, but I discarded it and only used the softer wax on the inside.

    Unknown said...

    I've been wanting to make something like this with my family. I just feel like it's a really fun project that we can all work on. If you don't mind, I'll probably do something really similar to what you did. I just feel like your idea is really cool.

    Unknown said...

    Your step by step directions on how to make these wonderful home made candles is very helpful. I would have never thought to melt down crayons to use as the wax. This does not look to take to much time or cost very much. Do you have any other great craft ideas like these?

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