Make Gel Candles for Wedding Centerpieces

DIY Wedding Centerpieces - Gel Candles in Martini Glass

Make Martini Glass Gel Candles for wedding centerpieces! DIY!

Gel candles in a martini glass make creative DIY Wedding Centerpieces that will not only add style to your wedding, they’ll serve as a great conversation piece among guests at your wedding reception.

This project is a fun way to use interesting glasses with classic shapes. Glass swizzle sticks, which add a nice retro flair, are available in unique and eclectic designs. This project uses martini glasses, but you can make drink-theme candles in wine, margarita, and cocktail glasses, as well.

Gel candle crafting can be done in 10 easy steps. You may find that you wish to change the order in which you do things or even skip some of the steps, depending on your project or personal preferences. However, if you are new to gel candle crafting, follow the order of these 10 steps until you feel comfortable with the process.

Here’s How to Do It:

1. Set Up the Workspace

Assemble your materials and cover your work surface with newspaper.

2. Prepare the Container

Wash your container with soap and water and dry it thoroughly with a lint-free cloth. If you wish, wipe the inside and the outside with some rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or commercial glass cleaner to remove fingerprints and the last bit of soapy residue.

3. Set the Wick

Your choice of wick is very important to your success at crafting a safe and evenly burning candle. Once you have chosen the proper wick, trim it so that it stands about 1 inch higher than the mouth of the container. If it is too short or too long, you’ll find it hard to keep it in place while the gel cools. Next, straighten the wick out with your fingers. If the wick isn’t straight, your candle will burn off center as it follows the wick’s curve.

Also, since you are working with a transparent medium, people will see that the wick is not straight and the candle may look odd. Finally, set the wick in the container by using one of the following methods:

Use fast-setting clear epoxy glue to adhere the wick to the bottom of the container. Make sure the glue is completely dry and hard before you pour in the melted gel, or the glue will contaminate the gel and make it appear cloudy.

Use Sticky Wicky or a bit of clay to adhere the wick to the bottom of the container. Use these products sparingly, though, as they can contaminate the clarity of the gel.

Pour a little melted candle gel into the bottom of the container and then quickly set the wick on top. This method is the easiest and fastest, but it’ s also the least stable, so be careful to not knock the wick out of place as you move on to the next steps. After you pour in the hot gel, you’ll need to make sure that the top of the wick stays centered in the candle. The easiest way to do this is to place two skewers, chopsticks, or pencils in an X shape across the top of the container and prop the wick in one corner to keep it straight as the gel cools. Once the gel is almost cool, gently tug the wick straight.

4. Melt the Gel

Candle gel is usually packaged in a tub of some sort. Tear it out with your fingers or cut it out with a knife or scissors. Melt enough gel to fill the container to the top, less 1/4 inch for headroom. You can estimate this amount by eyeballing the container and comparing it to the amount of gel in your melting pot, but if you do, be sure to overestimate. If you under fill the container and then top it off with another batch of melted gel, you will end up with a visible line where the two separate pours meet.

Rather than estimating the quantity of gel you will need for a container, it ’s better to measure the amount precisely. Simply fill the container with water, stopping 1/4 inch from the top. Pour the water into a measuring cup to figure out how much gel you will need. Be sure to dry the container carefully before pouring in the melted gel.

After you determine how much gel you need, cut or tear the gel into small pieces about 1/2 inch across and put the pieces into the pot. If you drop one large chunk of candle gel into the pot, it will take longer to melt and parts of it will get very hot before other parts have even begun to liquefy. This creates a fire hazard and forces you to stir more frequently. More stirring will create more bubbles in the final candle. If you are working with direct heat on the stovetop, set the temperature to medium-low. If you are using an enclosed heating device, such as a freestanding electric pot, set the temperature control to 200–225°F. Leave the container uncovered; otherwise, steam will rise to the lid and then condense back down onto the candle gel, resulting in a candle that burns poorly and contains excessive bubbles.

Using a thermometer, heat the gel until it is 190–225°F. How hot you make the gel depends on the density of the gel and on your project. A good general temperature is 200°F. At this temperature, fragrances and colors will blend well. You can heat the gel up to 225°F if you want to reduce the amount bubbles but, for safety, don’t exceed 225°F.

5. Add Fragrance

Add about 1/2 ounce of fragrance per 16 ounces of candle gel, or 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of gel. If you add too much fragrance oil, you will we taken the gel and make it mushy. Also, completely stir the fragrance into the gel or it will be trapped in the cooled candle as little hot spots of flammable matter, creating a fire hazard.

6. Add Color

The uniqueness of candle gel lies in its clarity, so your candle will be beautiful even when it is crystal clear. There are also dyes specifically formulated for use with candle gel. However, most of the candle colorants on the market are made to color traditional opaque candles, which require more dye than transparent candles do in order to achieve a medium shade. While just one drop of concentrated liquid candle color may be fine for a pound of paraffin wax, it can overpower a pound of candle gel.

I strongly suggest that before you begin your adventure into gel candle crafting, you take the time to make up some color nuggets by blending a little colorant with candle gel. You will then be able to tear off pieces of less concentrated color to add to the melting gel.

7. Position Embedments

Candle gel by itself is very pretty. But part of the fun of gel candle crafting is to tell a story or create a montage with various embedments and decorations, such as glass animals, beads, shells, sand, and the like.

8. Pour the Gel and Let it Cool

Do not pour the melted gel all the way to the top of the container. Leave about 1/4 inch of space between the top of the gel and the top of the container. How you pour the gel into the container determines the amount of bubbles in the finished candle. Think of it like pouring beer or soda into a glass — if you tilt the glass to meet the bottle as you pour, there will be less foam. If you pour the liquid straight from the top, there will be more foam.

In a similar way, if you carefully tilt the container as you pour the gel in, you will reduce the amount of bubbles. If you pour the gel without tilting the container, you will produce more bubbles.

9. Finish the Candle and Attach a Warning Label

Once the candle has fully cooled, trim the wick to 1/4 inch. Carefully wipe down the container to remove any spills or fingerprints. Use an oven, a heat gun, a blow dryer, or a heat lamp to polish the surface of the candle and create a more finished appearance.

Don’t forget that any candle you give away or sell should come with a warning label. Many people take candles for granted and forget that candles are a small source of fire, and therefore potentially hazardous. Please remind them.

10. Clean Up

Cleaning up is simple if you let the extra bit of melted gel in the pot, the pouring cups, and the other utensils cool. When the gel is cool, you can simply peel it out of a container or off a tool. Put the scraps in a covered container to use in your next project. Then wash all the utensils with soap and water. Some people use the same utensils for cooking later, but I recommend that you dedicate them to candle crafting only.

Important Note About Candle Making and Fire Safety

Candle gel is flammable. For your safety, carefully read and follow these tips.

• Don’t melt the gel over high heat or heat it to more than 225°F. If the gel begins to smoke, it’s getting dangerously hot.

• If a fire does break out, do not try to put it out with water. Water can make the hot gel splatter and burn your skin. Instead, use a fire extinguisher or smother the flame with a metal pan or lid. Alternatively, throw baking soda on the flame or cover it with a damp cloth.

• Never leave melting candle gel unattended. If you are going to be distracted for even a short time, turn the heat off and return to your project when you can be more focused.

• If hot candle gel splashes onto your skin, flush it immediately with cold water to reduce the risk of a burn.

• Do not pour melted candle gel down the sink. Avoid getting solid bits of candle gel into your drainpipes, too. Candle gel will most definitely cause plumbing problems.

• Always attach a warning label to candles that you give away or sell.

Cool Variations!
Pouring a Martini – When using martini, margarita, and other types of glasses with narrow bases, string glass beads along the wick so the gel doesn’t burn down to the bottom and become a fire hazard (see page 19 for more information). Scent and color the candle gel. Set the swizzle stick in the glass, then pour in the gel.

Making Wine and Margaritas – For wine, margaritas, and other drinks that have no natural carbonation, remove bubbles from the gel with the heat technique. To finish off a margarita, wait until the candle is completely cool. Then, run a thin bead of glue around the rim of the glass and immediately dip it into a plate of salt.

Gel candle crafting is far simpler and less messy than candle making with traditional waxes. Gel is easy to handle — you just cut it with scissors or tear it with your hands. Unlike paraffin wax, which turns a lighter shade as it dries, candle gel is easy to color with candle dyes — what you see is what you get.

No matter which candle project you make, the basic steps are always the same; you simply vary the colors, scents, containers, and embedments. Once you’ve learned the 10 easy steps of gel candle crafting, you’ll be ready to tackle the simple projects in the next chapter and then the more complicated projects that follow.

About Working With Candle Gel

What is Candle Gel? Candle gel is not a wax. Like paraffin, it is made from hydrocarbons, but rather than being solid and white, candle gel has a soft, gelatin-like consistency and is crystal clear.
Candle gel has two big advantages over traditional paraffin waxes. First, the gel burns three to four times longer than paraffin, making it more cost-effective. Second, the gel is transparent, which allows the crafter to create some really fabulous designs that look completely different than those of traditional wax candles.

Most candle gel products have one important limitation, however. Since they are not solid like paraffin wax, they can’t stand alone as a taper or pillar candle. Instead, they are usually cast into some type of container. This isn’t really a drawback, though, as selecting and decorating the containers is a fun part of gel candle design.

Candle gel is one of the hottest products in candle crafting. Candle gel (95% mineral oil, 5% resin) is transparent, is extremely easy to clean up, and has a significantly longer burning time than traditional waxes. In the book Gel Candles, 40 Creative Projects, Author Kaila Westerman gives the basics of gel candle crafting in ten easy steps, then explores the endless possibilities for creating special effects and embediments such as glass, botanicals, shells, stones, and pieces of solid paraffin candle wax. Readers can create candles that look like rainbows, aquariums, seascapes, playful sodas and other drinks, and more. Since gel candles cannot stand alone, each design is enhanced by wonderful whimsical, vintage, or even sophisticated containers.

Excerpted from the book Gel Candles: 40 Creative Projects by C. Kaila Westerman (Published by Storey Books)
Ready for more gorgeous gel candle projects like this? You’ll find oodles more in the book Gel Candles:40 Creative Projects.

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