Intro: Transforming a Bottle Into a Candle
After following these instructions, you will have recycled an empty bottle (beer, wine, or other) and turned it into a beautiful candle by using mostly household items. A glass cutter, wax, and wicks are the only non-household items needed for this project. I bought my glass cutter for about $23 on amazon.
Online I found a couple different sets of directions on cutting bottles and making candles. These directions have various procedures and some have comments for improvement. After of hours of research and trial and error, I believe this set of instructions is the most most clear and detailed way to render users successful in creating a candle from a glass bottle.
Step 1: Consider Safety
When handling the glass, wear safety gloves, safety glasses anda face mask. Make sure all children and pets are out of the room. If a mature teenager would like to do this, make sure they are under direct adult supervision at all times.
You will be boiling water, breaking glass and heating wax on a stove so please be sure to consider safety. I would not recommend doing this when you are home alone because the glass could cut you. Although this project is fairly safe if done correctly, accidents can happen so proceed at your own risk.
Step 2: Gather Materials
For bottle cutting:
- Safety equipment: safety gloves, safety glasses, face mask, closed toe shoes
- Glass cutter
- Pot of ice water
- Pot of simmering water
- Sand paper or Dremel
For candle making
- Safety equipment: safety gloves or oven mitts, closed toe shoes
- Knife or food processor (unnecessary if your wax is in small pieces)
- Glass measuring cup
- Pen, pencil, or chopstick (something long and thin)
- Essential oils *** (for scent)
- Crayon*** (for color)
*See choosing your bottle
**See choosing your wax
Step 3: Choose the Bottle
Any bottle may be used, however I suggest a round bottle with even, medium thickness. I have had the most success with average wine and beer bottles.
Very thick glass is hard to cut evenly and very thin glass is prone to shattering. Some hard liquor bottles have uneven thickness or a square shape. These are qualities that increase the chance of an unclean cut.
Step 4: Choosing the Wax
Choosing the wax is up to you. Different types of wax burn at different rates and are colored and scented more easily than others. This photo is from an article that goes into depth describing different types of wax and their benefits and drawbacks. If you would like more information about various types of wax, click this link. You can even use wax recycled from old candles!
Step 5: Score the Bottle
**IMPORTANT: REMEMBER TO WEAR SAFETY EQUIPMENT AT ALL TIMES IN THE FOLLOWING STEPS
If this is your absolute favorite bottle, you may want to practice first with a different bottle with a similar size and thickness. This way if you make a mistake, you won't ruin your favorite bottle.
Follow this step carefully in order to get a clean cut of the glass. If you make a mistake scoring, it is likely that the glass cut will not be perfect.
- Adjust the top part of the glass cutter so the bottle rests on both the roller and the cutting wheel.
- Adjust the bottom part of the glass cutter to the desired height of where you want the glass to be cut.
- Keeping the bottle pressed firmly against the backstop of the glass cutter, spin the bottle away from you for one rotation. Only slight pressure is necessary on the cutting wheel for a light etch. You will likely hear a crunch sound when you have turned the bottle one full rotation.
Step 6: Break the Score Line
- Using gloves, insert the bottle completely upright (not slanted) into to pot of extremely hot / barely simmering water. In my experience, boiling water tended to crack the sides of the bottle or cause an uneven break in the glass. Be sure you fully immerse the etched line into the hot water.
- After about 10* seconds, remove the bottle from the hot water completely upright, and place it in the ice water completely upright. Fully immerse the etched line. If you insert or remove the bottle at a slant, it may crack unevenly.
- After another 10* seconds, return the bottle to the hot water. When you move the bottle back and forth, try to do this as quickly as possible while being as careful as possible. It is the temperature change that shocks the glass into breaking. It is also important to be as careful as possible because the bottom half of the bottle may break off as you are moving it to a different pot. As you place the bottle into the pots, it is likely that you will hear cracking. This is okay and you should continue to follow the directions as stated.
- Repeat this process of switching every 10* seconds until the bottle breaks. Thicker bottles take more switches than thinner bottles.
- When the glass is cracked, remove the bottom half from the pot and dry it off. Safely discard of the top half.
*Thinner bottles, such as beer bottles, only require about 7 seconds.
If you didn't get a perfect cut, that is okay! It takes practice to do this right every time. Simply, re-read the directions and try again.
Step 7: Sand the Bottle
**IMPORTANT: KEEP SAFETY EQUIPMENT ON
**GLASS DUST FROM SANDING CAN BE VERY HARMFUL
Once the bottle is broken, you are now ready to sand down any hard edges where the bottle was cut. This is important to avoid injury when using your new candle.
- Simply sand the top of the bottle until it is smooth to the touch.
Using a Dremel:
- Turn the Dremel on and keep it moving along the edge of the bottle. If you hold the Dremel at the same place for a long time, it may start to spark.
- As you sand with the Dremel, try to round the edges as well as smooth them.
When you have finished sanding, rinse off the inside and outside of your bottle for any fine glass particles. Clean up all other traces of broken glass or glass dust from your working space.
Now you are now ready to make the candle! You may put away any materials you used for glass cutting and take out the materials needed for making the candle. You may also take off your safety equipment, but keep your safety gloves or oven mitts close by.
Step 8: Cut the Wax
If your wax isn’t in small pieces, cut the wax into small, uniform pieces with a knife a food processor. This will help your wax melt faster.
Step 9: Add Color (optional)
If you would like to add color, pick out your favorite crayon! About 1/8th of a strong-colored crayon per 16 fl. oz of wax will produce a soft, pastel color. Add more or less for desired color. Chop up your crayon into small pieces and melt them with your wax.
Don't worry if your color looks too bright in the melted wax, it will lighten to a much softer color when it hardens.
Step 10: Melt the Wax
** Caution: Wax that is heated too quickly or not stirred enough may catch on fire or explode. Also, use oven mitts when handling hot pants and cups.
Use a double boiler to melt the wax. Any double boiler will work however, I recommend boiling the water in a saucepan and melting the wax into a glass measuring cup. The measuring cup allows you to pour the wax easier.
- Boil water in a saucepan. The water should be high enough to cover about 50-75% of your measuring cup, but be low enough where the boiling water does not splash into the wax.
- Fill your measuring cup with wax. You will need more wax than it may seem. When the wax melts, it will fill only about half the volume that it originally filled when it was in hardened chips.
- Carefully place the glass cup filled with wax into the saucepan filled with boiling water.
- Stir occasionally until the wax is translucent. Be patient - this takes a few minutes.
- As the wax is melting, complete steps 11 and 12.
- When the wax is translucent, remove the glass measuring cup from the water and allow it to cool until it is semi-opaque.
If you would rather not use a double boiler, you can also melt the wax in a pot or pan. Melting the wax directly in the pot could ruin the pot, so use an old pot that you do not care for. Wax is more likely to catch fire when it is heated directly in a pot or pan so it is very important that you heat the wax on low heat and constantly stir.
Step 11: Secure Wick to Bottom of the Bottle
Cut a piece of wick about two or three inches taller than your bottle. Using the wax that has already melted, secure the string to the bottom, center of the bottle.
You may also use hot glue, tape, or wick stickers.
Step 12: Keep Wick Upright and Secure It in Top Center of the Bottle
Loop the other end of the string a few times around a pencil, pen, or chopstick. Place the pencil horizontally across the top of the bottle. Make sure the wick is taut and centered.
Alternative to the pencil, is a wick centering device.
Step 13: Add Scent (optional)
When the wax is semi-opaque, it is cool enough to add essential oils. A moderately scented candle is achieved with about 10 drops per 16 fl. oz. Of course, you may add more or less depending on the strength of scent that you prefer.
Feel free to mix and experiment with different oils. Who knows, maybe you will design a great new scent!
Step 14: Pour Wax
Place the soon-to-be candle in a location where it can stay for the next few hours. Keeping the pencil in place with the wick upright and centered, slowly and carefully pour the wax into the glass bottle. Allow about a 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch at the top.
After about 30 minutes, your candle may sink down in the center. If it does, simply top it off with a little more wax!
Step 15: Wait... Then Enjoy!
After about 24 hours at room temperature, the wax will be fully hardened and you may cut the wick about a quarter inch above the wax. It is important to cool the wax at room temperature to prevent cracking of the wax.
Congratulations, you made a candle!
Remember to never keep a burning candle unattended.