You should be able to find all of the basic equipment and supplies mentioned here–pouring pot, wax, dyes, scents, wicks, etc.–at any large craft store.
For more about making container candles, see How to Make Container Candles.
Creating a Work Area
First of all, be sure to protect your work space. If you’re making candles in your kitchen, cover your countertops to prevent staining from dyes if you spill while you’re pouring the prepared wax. You can use newspaper, aluminum foil, or wax paper. You need access to a heat source to melt your wax as well as a work counter, so the kitchen is an obvious location. If you have a space in your home you can dedicate for candlemaking, you’ll need a table and a portable burner.
Finding a Pouring Pot
The basic equipment to make container candles can be very basic and doesn’t involve a huge expenditure of money. I don’t want to melt wax in a container that is pricey and/or that I would want to use also for food purposes. It just makes cleanup less of a hassle if I’m not worried about using the melting pot for food. I found this pot at Michael’s. I like the handy pouring spout.
I don’t intend to use this pot for food and I find once I’ve used all the wax, it wipes out easily with a paper towel to remove the residual wax. (Wipe it out while the pot is still warm.) You could make do with any other suitable container as a melting pot, but your best bet would be to use something you can dedicate to candlemaking, that is stainless steel, and preferably something with a pouring spout. (An old coffee pot from a thriftstore, for example, would be great!)
Making a Double Boiler
You need a double boiler as you shouldn’t melt wax in a pot on direct heat. (This can cause fire! Don’t do it! To be extra cautious, keep some baking soda onhand while you’re melting wax–baking soda acts as a fire extinguisher. Don’t try to use water to put out a wax fire!) I don’t have a double boiler, nor did I want to invest in one for candlemaking purposes. To create a double boiler facsimile, I use a medium-size stainless steel pot for the base. I place three canning rings inside the pot as a makeshift trivet or rack.
You can use anything similar that you have available to you to do the same thing. The point is to keep the pouring pot in which you’re melting the wax set up off the direct heat. To melt the wax, I just pour water into the base pot and set the pouring pot on top of the canning rings.
There are many different types of wax. Paraffin wax comes in beads or slabs, and you can even buy specially prepared container wax, which is actually a wax blend. It’s formulated to hold more fragrance and yield less shrinkage. Some container waxes are formulated for “single-pour” use, which means no topping off is required. (This type of wax blend is more expensive. Topping off isn’t that big of a deal. What is topping off? As the wax sets, a well or depression forms around the wick. You’ll need to top off a few times to “fill the well” so remember not to pour your container too high at first as you will be adding more wax as you top off.) “Household” wax, often sold in grocery stores, is a very soft, low MP (melting point) paraffin.
You can use low MP paraffin for container candles, but you may want to add stearic acid, which is a hardening agent that raises the wax melting point. (Stearic acid is hard to find in craft stores, but you can order it online.) You can make container candles out of “household” wax without adding stearic acid–just expect your candle to burn more quickly. Higher MP paraffin, which sets up harder, is ideal for molded candles or tapers, etc. To get started making container candles, the simplest thing to do is pick up a couple pounds of container wax from a craft store. You can also find soy and gel candlemaking supplies at most craft stores. There are tons of online sources for bulk wax if you really get into it. (Bulk is cheaper for everything–wax, wicks, scents, dyes, etc.)
Another easy way to get started making candles is to use wax that’s free or nearly free by recycling your own old candles. You can also snap up the cheap sets of candles at stores like Dollar General or Wal-Mart.
This set of pillar candles came from my cousin, who is sensitive to scented candles so passed them on to me to melt down. I’ll transform them into container candles. Keep an eye out for cheap candle sets when you’re out shopping. Sometimes you find those for just a few bucks and can melt them down into your own containers for less than buying the plain wax–and the wax comes with the dye already in it! (Cheap candles tend to not be well-scented, so you’ll still have to add your own scent.)
See Recycling Candles.
You can buy designated candlemaking thermometers, but may find you have something in your kitchen already that will do. I’ve been using a candy thermometer. (Just wipe it off while the wax is still warm and it cleans up easily.) It’s important not to overheat wax. (This could cause a fire!) If you buy small boxes of wax at a craft store, temperature guidelines should be included in the packaging. Always follow package directions. Most “household” waxes have a melting point of 130 degrees. Research melting points for various types of waxes when you’re recycling wax. For example, a common melting point for pillar and votive wax blends is 145 degrees. (You can find out more about wax melting points and other information by buying a candlemaking book. Search on “candlemaking” on Amazon or pick up a candlemaking guide at your local bookstore or craft store. Search on “candle wax melting points” in a search engine and you can also find information online.)
Note: When you’re recycling wax, if you’re not sure what type of wax it is, melt it at the lowest temperature it is pourable for safety’s sake. Also–never leave melting wax unattended.
You can buy pre-waxed wire wick and tab assemblies that making wicking container candles easy. Check the packaging–it’s important to use the right size wick for the width of the jars you intend to use. Also, check to make sure the wick brand is lead-free–the packaging should specify. You can buy wick assemblies in various heights. Use “Tacky Wax” to affix the wick tab to the bottom of your jar to keep it from moving around when you pour the wax.
You’ll also want some kind of implement to support the wick before the wax sets up. I use butter knives positioned to keep the wicks in place.
Jars can be anything! Canning jars are great as they are intended to withstand heat. Recycled jars from old candles are free. All sorts of different items can be turned into a container for a candle. Your container needs to be able to withstand heat and flame and also be stable for safety.
You can buy dye in solids or liquids. Get a dropper, both for dyes and scents, to make dispensing easy. You can also use measuring spoons. You can even use crayons for the dye, but dyes specifically prepared for candlemaking work best.
Scents made for candlemaking purposes hold their scent best over time, but you can use any oil-based fragrance, such as natural/essential oils, perfumes, aromatherapy or potpourri oils. Remember to add scent at the very last minute before pouring or you’ll cook your scent out.
Experiment with dyes and scents! Start out with a few small packages of inexpensive dye and scent formulated for candlemaking and follow the label directions for amounts per pound of wax. Once you get a feel for it, start playing. A good idea is to keep notes on how much dye and scent (and the combinations) you use as you’re experimenting, then you can recreate what you end up liking best.
As I mentioned, I’ve found it easy to wipe out my melting pot while the wax is still warm. If you forget to do that, you can either briefly reheat the pot to wipe it out or, as some of you have suggested, stick it in the freezer. When the wax is frozen, it will pop right off. The freezer trick also works for aiding in getting leftover wax out of jars for recycling.
See how cheap and easy this is? Now you can be as crazy about candles as I am!
Also see Fun with Container Candles.