I hope you guys are finding some inspiration to see old, worn out or cast off items in a new way through our ongoing handmade gifts series!
Today’s handmade gift I’m sharing with you is one of my favorites (right up there with my burlap jewelry board): diy vintage glass candles, hacked from the pages of an old Pottery Barn catalog. Not only does this project use thrift store glass (which can always be found in abundance) it also is a way to use up all those old pillar candles that don’t light anymore, but still have a lot of wax.
Yes, I’m thinking you can see why I’m loving this: catalog inspiration + thrited items + using up throw-away items = lovely gift at a fraction of the price (that, by the way, no one would guess was made from cast-offs). Sigh. Seriously, this stuff makes my heart go pitter-patter.
What makes it even happier? This comparison:
While the candle set on the left isn’t available from Pottery Barn anymore, last year they were selling the three candle set for $49.00. My thrift store glasses were .99 each (the few that were marked $1.99 were half-priced the day I bought them) and I used about .50 in wicks and holders, so with the old wax from the pillar candles the price of my set comes to $3.50. Yep – that’s quite a savings, isn’t it?
There are always LOTS of glass styles to choose from at thrift stores, including the more cut-glass types like the PB version. I just chose glasses I was drawn to and that came in the three heights to make a set. It’s one of the ways to make this handmade gift tailored for your loved ones.
Oh, and maybe it goes without saying around here by now, but did I mention these are easy? Like, last-minute-gift easy?
Here are the steps to make vintage glass candles:
1. Start by assembling your supplies: a dedicated pot and measuring cup for melting wax, wicks and holders, and small dowels or chopsticks for holding the wick in place. I made candles in tea cups years ago for Mother’s Day and have simply stored the candle-making supplies in a basket since then. Use the oldest pot and cup with a spout for pouring you can find and just scrape the wax out after using it and drying – I suggest you don’t try washing them, which sends clogging wax down the drain. And never put anything with wax on it in the dishwasher – you run the risk of ruining it (and yes, I’ve seen it happen).
2. Gather your old pillar candles and cut them up, discarding the old wicks.** It’s long bothered me about what to do with pillar candles that are lopsided and don’t hold a light anymore – or worse, drip wax all over the place – but are still quite large, so I love the idea of remelting them. To cut the pillars into smaller pieces, you can use a serrated knife with a lot of arm strength and it will work. OR,
3. Optional: use a miter saw to cut the pillars into fourths. This should be done with full approval of everyone who uses the saw, ’cause the wax will go flying and coat the blade. And little pieces of wax go everywhere – oh, did I already mention that? Be prepared.
4. Different texture of candle centers. This is why the wax was flying with the power saw – some pillar candle insides are composed of rice-like textured wax (on the left in the photo) and some are solid wax all the way through. I thought the weirdly textured candles might not melt as nicely as the solid wax.
5. Melt the candle pieces in an old saucepan. Guess what I found? They all melt down beautifully – no matter what the insides looked like. Another vote for reusing.**
**Note: You don’t have to reuse candle wax – it’s easy to find at a craft store. Buy a slab of it and chip off pieces to melt in the pan, continuing with the directions.
6. Attach wicks to holders, if needed. Some, like mine, will need to be attached using needle nose pliers or however the directions suggest (here are similar ones from Amazon). There are also wicks with holders already attached (like these), but they come in only one size so wouldn’t work with taller goblets.
7. Place a wick/holder in each glass, tape it to a chopstick resting across the top of the glass and carefully pour in the melted wax. Use a steady hand and pour towards the center of the glass to avoid getting wax on the top edges of the glass (but try not to get wax on the wick).
8. Use another piece of tape, if needed, on the stick and the glass edge to hold the wick in an upright, straight position as the wax dries.
9. Let hardened until wax looks solid without moving the glasses. This is important, so make sure the glasses are in a place where they won’t be disturbed for a few hours before you start pouring the melted wax.
I made two sets at one time and it took me about an hour, start-to-finish (well, not including the time needed to harden). So this is easily a day project that you could wrap up and gift the next day. While I’m thinking mainly of Christmas, birthday, or Mother’s Day gifts for these, I think they would make fantastic wedding gifts, too, don’t you?
And you know what? When the candle is used up, the glasses are reusable (again!) as goblets or vases. This project just got even better!
Want even more ideas? Follow me on Pinterest and check out my Handmade Gifts board as well as my Thrift Store Transformations board.
Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links and when you order through them, I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you. You can read more about this on our Disclosure page. Thank you for your support of An Oregon Cottage!
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