Introduction: Pallet Wood Segmented Candles
Approximately 40 candles, made up of 600 rings, made from 7,000 pieces of pallet wood. Sounds like a blast of a project that I'll never do again!
Candle Making Materials
- Scale https://amzn.to/3w6BGjP
- Thermometer https://amzn.to/3zaiaEV
- Double boiler https://amzn.to/3fZeZsm
- Hot Plate https://amzn.to/3gf6rws
- Soy Wax https://amzn.to/3iDTcZ5
- Wood Wicks https://amzn.to/2RzbdfL
- Wick Holders https://amzn.to/3xjCEJZ
- Wick Stickers https://amzn.to/3pJh5zX
- Port Orford Cedar Oil (my source for this has disappeared, I'll link it if I ever find it again)
- Candle Dye https://amzn.to/3x7sBHK
Other Notable Tools/Materials
- TotalBoat Wood Sealer (code "Jackman15" gets you 15% off) - https://bit.ly/3pJC8SZ
- ISOtunes bluetooth hearing protection (code "Jackman10" gets you $10 off) - https://bit.ly/3ze5OeY
- Respirator (code "Jackman" gets you 5% off) - https://bit.ly/2zOvwwn
- MiterSet - https://bit.ly/3g8dg49
- MagSwitch switchable magnets (code "Jackman" gets you 10% off) - https://bit.ly/3x5OtTH
- AirLocker Denailer - https://amzn.to/3irqk6e
- Metal Detector - https://amzn.to/351jjAR
Step 1: Pallet Processing
It all starts with a building material that is simultaneously my most and least favorite material to work with, pallet wood. It's my least favorite because of this process right here, but my most favorite because of the transformation between this stack of junk and the final piece. The pallet disassembly process isn't the most fun, but it has to be done, I start by cutting the end pieces off of each pallet and then pry the slats off of the center support piece. I didn't use all of the pallets to make the candles, I've just learned to do the painful process once instead of spreading it out across multiple projects.
With the pallets divided up into their individual pieces, all of the bits of metal are removed. I use my denailer/anti-nail-gun/whatever-you-want-to-call-it to remove the nails that remain in the center of the slat, it works like a nail gun except for the fact that it fits over the pointy end of the nails and shoots it out of the board. I also use a metal detector to check for any small bits of metal left over like staples or partial nails and then dig those out of the wood too.
Step 2: Milling Pallet Slats
First step to make usable lumber out of the pallet slats is to send them through the planer, this takes off a layer of the top surface of the material. I do this, flipping the slat over every time, until both faces of every piece is smooth.
Next, to clean up the edges, I first have to joint one edge of the board to make it straight and square. I don't have a jointer, so I use this jig from Rockler in my table saw to do the same thing.
To clean up the other edge, and last remaining side, I rip the slats down to width on the table saw. For this I whip out my power feeder, one of the few tools around the shop that lets me embrace the lazy millennial that I am. The power feeder has rollers that push the boards through while I feed them into the saw.
Step 3: Cutting the Segments
With that, the raw material is finally ready. I stack all of the pieces, keeping them organized by thickness, that way I will get the maximum yield of material later. More than anything, this pallet process is just a matter of organizing and re-organizing ever smaller pieces of wood...
Now to make the segments that will make up the candles, I need to cut all of these pallet sticks into pieces that have an angle that will make a perfect ring. To do that, I use this jig that sets my miter gauge at 15 degrees, which will give me 12 pieces that make up the ring.
The size of the ring is determined simply by the length of each segment. After some math, I cut the first angle at the end of the stick and then mark the length of the segment on the stick. I use the kerf cut in the fence of my miter gauge to line up the mark on the piece with the blade, with a little help from my flashlight (take that, my middle school teachers, I will always have a calculator in my pocket AND a flashlight).
From there, it's just a matter of cutting ohhhhh about 7,000 of these little wedges. You see, the problem is that it's next to impossible to figure out how many finished pieces you'll get from a given amount of pallet slats. I knew I needed to make at least 15 candles, so I just grabbed a full shelf of pallets slats and said to myself "this should at least be enough" and then ended up with about 40 candles. Mission accomplished I guess, but 7,000 cuts is a lot more than it sounds when you have to stand at the saw for a full couple of days and do it. Anyway, I set up the yellow magnetic stop block on the table so I at least didn't have to measure out each piece, I just slide it into the stop block and then cut, flip, and repeat.
Step 4: Gluing the Rings
In case you were curious what 7,000 of these wedges looks like, it equates to 5 of these boxes that are almost full. Still just keeping organized though, each of these boxes held the wedges of of the same thickness, that way the rings will be made of wedges all of the same thickness.
From there, I glue the wedges together into rings using wood glue and hose clamps. The hose clamps are big enough to just barely fit around the ring and that's what I use to pull all of the joints tight while the glue dries.
Then once dry, I simply remove the hose clamps and reuse them for the next batch. The nice thing about having such a mind numbingly repetitive process is that it gives you time to think about how you want to set up fun camera shots.
Step 5: Gluing More Rings
For those keeping score and doing the math, this worked out to a bit short of 600 rings total. The good thing about it though, is that by the time I had exhausted all of my hose clamps, the first rings that I glued together were dry enough to removed the clamps, so it ended up just being an endless cycle of removing and applying clamps. I'm still trying to figure out what wires are crossed in my brain that make me enjoy doing this...
Anyway, I just kept feeding myself boxes of pieces until all the of the rings were done.
Step 6: Sanding the Rings
Before the rings can be glued together, the glue squeeze out and any unevenness needs to be removed. The first side is sanded flush using the disk sander on my lathe.
The other side is then sanded flat using the little drum sander. This sander is able to sanded the face flat for any of the wedges that aren't perfectly aligned, but it also makes sure that the faces are parallel with the opposite face. Again, these rings are all still organized by thickness, that way I sand each box of rings to the same thickness without having to change the set up at all.
Are we having fun yet?
Step 7: Gluing the Candles
Finally we're at the step where the rings can be glued together to form the final pieces that will be the candles. Now I can also mix the rings up to randomize the thickness of each layer in the candles. I stack the rings together and swap out different thickness of rings until each candle is really close to 6" tall. I then spread glue on one face of each layer and make a big and gooey pallet wood sandwich (why is gooey such a hard word to spell?!)
A little pro tip for you here, if you were to clamp these together right away, the layers would slip and slide all over the place. By instead letting the stacks sit for 5 minutes before clamping, the glue just starts to begin the drying process, so that way you can apply the clamps and all the rings will stay in place. Don't say I never did anything nice for you.
Step 8: Unclamping
Now once the candles are all dry (I let them sit overnight since it's so much glue), I very carefully and delicately remove the clamps...
Step 9: Turning 1
And at long last, we get to get this chunks of mostly glue, and a little bit of pallet wood, onto the lathe for the most sexy part of the process. The first set up to mount this to the lathe is with a lathe chuck with some large jaws that clamp around the outside of the piece. This is whole process is really just a matter of figuring out the order of operations, so pay attention here closely class.
The first step of the turning process is to make each candle round and smooth on the outside. I then move the tool rest so that I can remove material from the inside of the candle. I take the bulk off with the turning tool, and then remove the rest with a big beefy 3-1/8" forstner drill bit, leaving about 1/2" of thickness at the bottom of the candle.
Step 10: Turning 2
This process is repeated on all of the candles until I move on to the next step, thanks Henry Ford, big assembly line energy going on here. The candle is flipped around next so that I can clean up the outside of the candle that was in the jaws during the last step.
Now with a clean cylinder, the bottom is cut flat and then the bottom hole (ha!) is drilled out at 2-1/2" so that it's smaller than the main center hole, you'll see why later. I like to call this the sphincter of the candle, there you go, I just came right out and said it, not even being subtle about it.
Step 11: Turning 3
Next I mark the centerpoint of the candle and use a caliper and parting tool in order to turn the center down to a precise diameter. I do the same on the same on the sphincter end of the candle too.
With those 2 lines cut, it's just a matter of connecting the them with a smooth arc. I just do this by eye, but by marking the diameter on the ends on in the middle, I'm able to get all the candles to look remarkably similar. Pat myself on the back I guess...
Step 12: Turning 4
Now with that shaping done, you can see the flat spot left on the top side of the candle where the jaws were gripping it. The candle is flipped around again for the next step so I can clean this up (remember when I said order of operations? this is it).
The outside diameter is marked just like before and then I continue the arc so it flows smoothly from one end of the candle to the other (the top diameter is actually slightly larger than the bottom diameter). At this point I also finish out the inside of the candle by cutting a curve on the inside to match the curve on the outside, just leaving the wall of the candle about 1/4" thick.
Step 13: Sanding
Sanding is the last step to shaping the candles. The outside is pretty smooth so I'm able to do that rough sanding with a random orbital sander, but the inside is pretty tricky because I have to reach inside so I use my Arbortech angle grinder sanding attachment for that.
The final finish sanding is done by hand, bringing these candles up to 400 grit where you can start to see a bit of a shine on the surface because it's so smooth. Then I can remove the candle from the lathe and sand the bottom hole smooth with my spindle sander to remove any indentations left from the chuck jaws. Never neglect the bottom hole.
Step 14: Branding
Rinse & repeat x40ish
Next as a finishing touch, I add a stamp to the bottom of the candle. This includes my logo, the Carolina Shoe logo (who I made these candles for), along with a warning label that is to be expected for a candle made out of wood. This is done just by using toner transfer where I print out a mirror image of what I want on a laser printer and then using a wood burner with a flat bit in it to transfer the toner to the wood.
Step 15: Finishing
Lastly, a coat of TotalBoat wood sealer varnish is applied, and then another coat, and another, I think it ended up being 6 coats total. I like this process for turned piece, not just because the slight amber color pulls amazing colors out of this wood, but because the thin layers let you build up a protective coat on the wood without it looking like plastic. It's more work, but what a little bit more work at this point anyway.
Step 16: Hang Tags
Now for the final finishing touch, I add some small hangtags onto each candle. I actually was able to get some scrap leather from the Carolina factory, which I then branded with their logo and used pieces of their shoe laces to attach the tag to the candles. See, Carolina Shoe candles doesn't make a ton of sense, but now it at least kind of does, and that's the man of completeness that I am.
Step 17: Mixing Candles
Oh wait, I guess these candles need some candles, don't they? So here's the story with that, my original intension was to make a solid bottom for the pallet wood candles and pour the wax directly into the wood. Then I took a quick scroll through the internet and realized that I can't trust people that much and instead went out and found a bunch of whisky glasses that fit perfectly into the pieces that I turned. I pour a couple of candles using my original plan, just for my personal collection, but the rest of the candles ended up being candle holders. The benefit to this though, is that once the first candle is used up, you can pop out the candle insert and replace it, thus the reason for the bottom hole. Long story short, I got some wood wicks and wick holders and stuck them inside the glasses.
I then mix up inside of a double boiler a combination of soy wax, yellow candle dye, and fragrance which was Port Orford cedar oil (a very pleasant and lesser known species of cedar). Through trial and error, I figured out the best ratio for each candle to be 9oz wax, .4oz oil, and .05oz color.
After measuring out all of the ingredients, the wax is first melted using the double boiler and then color is added. I then take the wax off the heat and measure the temperature of it and let it drop until it hits 185 degrees which is when I add the fragrance. Once it drops down to 130 degrees, it is then time to pour some candles!
Step 18: Pouring Candles
I wax able to do batches of 6 candles this way, mixing and pouring 6 at a time. This is the only time I've ever done it and it's a surprisingly fun process. Also worth noting that I prewaxed the wicks by dipping them in the melted wax and then reinstalling them in the candles, this is supposed to help them burn better.
Then it takes about 20min or so for the candles to harden, although they're not fully cured for a couple days or so.
Step 19: Installing the Candles
Each of the candles is set off to the side to cure fully and then the wick holder (that holds it in the center) is removed, and I can then clip the wicks down to length, about 1/2" above the surface of the wax.
Now the candles can be inserted into the pallet wood candles holders and this marks this saga as complete!
Step 20: Glamour Shots
Some glamour shots of the candles for your enjoyment...
And in case you were curious what the warning label said, here you go. Thanks for scrolling all the way to the end of the Instructable. Definitely be sure to check out the full build video below for the full experience, no extra charge.
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