Introduction: Unique Candle Lighting Effect.

Picture of Unique Candle Lighting Effect.


I got bored the other day and decided to make my own candle, but a surprising lighting effect came out of it when I moved it to a darkened room, purely by chance.

The raw materials are very cheap. However availablility of one of the key items may be more difficult for people in other countries (the glass with the cool pattern effect). You might not be able to source exactly the same type but something close will give you your own unique lighting effect.

You will need -

1 - Ikea 100 x Glimma tea lights. I couldn't quite believe the price for these at our local Ikea -www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/50097995 But sure enough, they let me walk out the shop with them after paying the whole £1.69!!! Thats 2.75 USD!
2 - One pint glass (or any beer glass) with an interesting glass pattern, you can use a normal glass but the effect wont be great. I picked mine up from Tescos in the UK. 

Looking on their site, they've got a big range of interesting glasses, I'm sure you could choose even a decorative wine glass, or even a decorative vase. You're looking for non-plain flat glass of course, no plastics.


Tools you will need -

1 - Handheld blue flame torch. Any type of torch will do which is waaay below the size of those plumbing blowtorches, I'm talking those hobby handheld small burners which you just squirt some butane gas into the bottom. Mine is the 'Iroda PT-200' but I'm not sure its still available -

www.pro-iroda.com/manuals/PT-200.pdf

2 - Pliers. Normal pliers.
3 - Microwave oven. *Optional* *YMMV*.

Step 1: Inspect the Glimma Tea Lights.

Picture of Inspect the Glimma Tea Lights.

Pop down to your nearest Ikea (or mail order some in) and pick up some of their Tea Lights mentioned in the intro. You wont need anywhere near all 100 lights, but I'm sure you wont complain about having loads left over.

Open up the pack of Tea lights, pick one out. You will see that the wax and the aluminium cups easily separate, and that the wick can even be pulled out without damage, just straighten the wick out (it comes flattened against the wax) then pull on the round aluminium wick base.

This is the key to our customised candle, we're going to put four wax blocks from four tea lights in the bottom of the glass. If you want to speed things up, break them up into smaller chunks. This increases the surface area, and hence will melt quicker. I didn't do this myself until later. 

If you're using a different sized glass, bigger or smaller, adjust the amount of tealight chunks accordingly.
 
I'm sure you don' t need telling - remove them all from the aluminium cups, and remove all the wicks, then pop them into your beer glass. In the UK we call them pint glasses - damned imperialists that we are!




Step 2: Melt the Wax in the Glass.

This is an interesting step in experimentation - I started off trying to melt them in the microwave (hence a very good reason to get rid of all the metal bits). However the wax didn't melt too well for me as it goes. Knowing that Microwaves sole function is to heat up water in food, I decided to add a small amount of water into the glass to assist the melt. Well I left it in my 800w oven for a good minute, but the water just boiled up and fizzed. The wax had only melted a little, and I couldn't tell how much of the liquid was the paraffin wax and how much was the water!

You may have more luck with the microwave method, I don't know.

So I then moved on to the blowtorch. Fire up your blowtorch at LOW heat and blast away. Point your flame directly down against the wax blocks, do not point it towards the sides of the glass. *WARNING* Be very careful, you're heating up the glass no matter what you're doing. Do it too quickly and it'll fracture. Worse still it'll crack and splinter everywhere. A bad move. Remember at all times that all you want is to melt the wax - so take you're time, its not a race. If you suspect things are getting too hot, just stop and leave it standing for a good few minutes, do NOT speed up the cooling, this too will result in fracturing of the glass.

Melt the solid opaque blocks only so far as to submerge them in the clear liquid - the liquid paraffin. I found that you could break up the remaining white blocks into smaller chunks to help it all 'submerge' quicker. You should end up with a crystal clear liquid and some solid white 'icebergs' of wax below the surface. It really is quite pretty in this state!



Step 3: Pop in the Wick

Picture of Pop in the Wick


Wait five minutes for the wax to begin to solidify - when the wax is only just beginning to go opaque (it'll go opaque probably from the bottom up around your 'icebergs' because the melting heat came from above) put in one of the extracted tea light wicks. They have aluminium bases, mine went in and landed at an angle, but I don't suppose this matters. As the wax melts in normal use, and reduces, it'll probably level out of its own accord. 

I used a pair of pliers to hold the tip of the wick as I dipped it in, save from any hot wax burns - remember the wax is hotter now than it will ever be when the candle is lit - we've been blowtorching it!
The wick will probably settle on one of the 'iceberg' lumps. Make sure that about 5mm of the wick pokes out the top like your typical candle. If you fancy a bigger flame, leave more of the wick exposed above the surface (see later about considering thicker and longer cotton).

-

Wait a good half an hour for the wax to set. Need I tell you when its set? Okay, it'll go opaque white. I'd say this is a worthwhile step because the molten wax needs to return to non-skinburn type temperatures!

If you followed my microwave method earlier, you will be left with a layer of water, I found mine at the bottom of the wax (does this sound like the right physics result?). Its probably not desirable, I can imagine if mixed into the burning candle it'll cause the production of a lot of smoke. So far its been fine though.

Moving on. 

Umm, you're done! Check out the amazing light show it produces! The patterns move around all the time as the breeze catches the flame. Put it near to a wall for maximum effect. Not too near now.

So far the candle has been lit now for a good hour, and the top of the glass is still touchable - not too hot to handle. Need I tell you - don't grasp the cup as you would if it were your drink!
 

Step 4: Customise + Design Decisions

Picture of Customise + Design Decisions


I've always been one for practicality alongside aesthetics. If something looks great, its just no good if such looks are costly to the practical use of it. Thats why I like what came out of this -

1 - The lighting effect is produced strongly because the wax is low down in the glass, it has scope to cast shadow and reflection in a lot of directions. When you design your own versions of this, choose to put only a little wax in the bottom so the effect is revealed all over.

2 - Its great too that you have a nice flat lip along the top, as pretty much all glasses do. This means you need only pop on a piece of flat material (card, plastic, a magazine, a plate, anything except your hand!) on top to put the candle out, and leave it there. Doing so means the smoke which is generated as the wick goes out, and still has lit embers, is prevented from smoking up your whole house. Be sensible and use something significant enough not to burn as the flame extinguishes.

3 - safety aspects - using a glass which widens towards the top (i.e. bottles probably aren't great to use) ensures the heat from the flame has somewhere to go other than into the glass, possibly fracturing it.

4 - Try a bigger wick. The tea light wicks are really small, perhaps too small. I cant see them extinguishing before the majority of wax has been burned because the wick will simply sink deeper and keep from burning the length of the wick down. There is something to be said for a big flame on a candle though!

Follow these simple rules when choosing your own cool candle light patterns, be creative (like you need telling)!

L8rz. Comments very welcome.

Comments

l8nite (author)2010-01-19

The glass really does give a neat lighting effect. another way to melt the wax in the glass is to make a type of double boiler, lay a couple of butter knives in the bottom of a pan, rest the glass on the knives and fill the pot with water to just below the level of wax, being careful the glass doesnt begin to float or it will turn over and make a mess, heat the water to simmer and the wax will slowly melt

Entropy512 (author)l8nite2010-06-24

Double boiler is probably the safest way to do this, since it keeps the wax from getting above 250F or so. (It can spontaneously ignite somewhere in the 250-300F range, and it will burn VERY fast if already hot and molten.) Double boiler is how I make my firestarters. In my case I use a spare burner grate from one of the unused burners of my gas stove as the support for the wax pot. Some people apparently use Presto cooking pots, and in fact in some cases they add a spigot to the pot so they can directly pour wax from the pot.

Heliosphan (author)l8nite2010-02-04

Good tip, thanks!
Actually reminds me of the best way of melting chocolate, will work just as well with wax.
 

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