Making Pillar Candles In 6 Easy Steps
- Prepare the pillar mold with the wick, holder, and mold release, plug the hole.
- Melt enough wax for the candle, add fragrance, or a dye, and an additional pour.
- After about 2 hours poke relief holes near the center around the wick.
- Pour the second layer up to the first rim.
- After about 2 hours remove the candle from the mold.
- Trim the wick and polish or decorate.
Making a Paraffin Pillar Candle
Making a pillar candle requires a candle wax that is hard enough to hold its shape when it is out of a container. Most pillar candles are primarily made from paraffin wax and can be mixed with other softer waxes such as soy, palm, or coconut.
Wax blends are created to give the pillar candles features that otherwise cannot be found with just paraffin alone. Additives like Vybar can also be used to help strengthen the wax or to make the wax more flexible for carving and forming so that it does not crack.
Palm wax is known for its feathering appearance and artist flow.
Making a Soy Pillar Candle
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It is important to know the physical characteristics of soy candle wax do not lend themselves strong enough on their own to make a good pillar candle. Pure soy candle wax has a low melting point and is very soft.
Additives like Vybar or stearic acid and polymers can be introduced to create soy candle wax that is good for clamshells or tarts. This wax can sometimes be used to make small votives, a form of soy pillar candles.
A soy pillar votive is meant to be burned by placing it inside a decorative vessel. This type of candle is a cross-over between a container candle and a pillar candle. Making a soy pillar candle any larger (taller) than a votive of about 2.5 or 3 inches would not hold up.
A soy paraffin wax blend does make a nice pillar candle. You can make your own or buy these waxes mixed for you. I buy the blend pre-mixed. Because this is a harder wax and is poured at a hotter temperature there is going to be a sinkhole at the top and it will require a second pour.
Harder waxes often get air trapped especially around the wicks near the center of the candle. The soy blend still has paraffin wax in it and will need to be treated the same.
The nice feature of adding soy wax is it will hold a little more fragrance oil and boost the hot throw. I add up to 8% in mine which is high compared to the 5% or 6% that you would normally get from paraffin alone.
Depending on which you are in favor of, the soy vs. paraffin hot throw, you win either way.
Some think soy wax is better and some think paraffin is better.
Pillar Candle Making refers to a type of candle-making process. We are creating a verticle structure that stands on its own in the form of a candle. It can be a cylinder, a square, an animal, or anything you can imagine. A pillar candle can be made with or without a mold.
Hundreds of years ago, people dipped braided thread in wax to make pillar candles. Now that we can make molds in the shapes of pretty much anything, you can be as creative as your imagination!
What are Pillar Molds?
The most common pillar molds are tin-coated steel cylinders welded to a small plate with a hole drilled through for a wick placement. These come in various shapes and sizes and can be purchased through most candle supply stores.
Pillar molds can be used numerous times and last for a long time if cared for. Candle molds can be collected to offer your customers a wide variety of candle decor. Pillar candles can also be used as the core of a more decorative candle.
The inside of the candle mold should be clean and smooth. The candle wax will pull away from the side of the mold as it cools but a mold release can be used to help.
I would use a mold release spray with silicone in a mold that has a lot of detail or edges internally.
Some (most) candle molds made with acrylic will not always release as well as the metal molds and will always need to be coated with oil or spray before use.
Choosing a wick size for pillar candle making is similar to container candle making. The wick size is based on the diameter of the pillar candle.
Candle testing for pillar candles is also needed just like container candle testing. This style of candle is made with a wick that is just 1 size smaller than what you may use for a container.
The pillar candle should create a tunnel as it burns to leave a wall about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick around the candle. Doing this creates a candle that is self-contained and does not need a plate to catch candle wax.
An aggressive or oversized wick size will accelerate the wax melt and cause dripping.
In the tin-coated molds (or metal candle molds), the wicks are threaded through the hole, and putty is used to hold the wick in place and plug the hole. These candle molds tend to leak so put them on a plate just in case.
These pillar candles are made upside-down. The top of the mold will be the bottom of your candle.
Use your wick holder to center the wick across the mold and secure it in place. Do not pull the wick too tight. Doing so may cause cracking. Give it room to pull as the wax shrinks, but stay centered. Be sure to leave enough wick length to work with as your candle shrinks.
Some molds, especially votive molds have wick pins. These look like nails. The wicks will go in the candle after it is made. The wick pin is a placeholder for the wick during the candle making process.
Save some of your wax mix for fitting your wicks if needed. If your votive molds have wick pins that go through a small hole it is just as easy to put the wick in when you are making the candles.
Melting Your Candle Wax
You will need to know ahead of time how much wax and fragrance your mold will hold. A pillar candle requires a second pour so you need enough wax from the same batch to do both. This will take some planning. Read my article on how much wax and fragrance you need for candles.
Make sure you read and follow the manufactures instructions for the pillar wax you are using. A harder wax should be heated to temperatures around 185-200 degrees F.
- Place the wax in a pouring pitcher in a saucepan with a water bath.
- Heat on medium heat until melted and the temperature reaches 185-200F.
- Remove the pouring pitcher from the water bath and add the appropriate amount of fragrance and dye.
- Stir gently for about 2 minutes.
- For a glossy candle finish, pour slowly into the mold when the wax is at 180 degrees F.
- For a rustic candle finish, pour slowly into the mold when the wax is at 160 degrees F
Candle Relief Holes and Second Wax Pour
Let the pillar candle sit for about 1-2 hours. The candle will shrink slightly in the center. Take a skewer and poke a couple of holes in the center to allow any trapped air bubbles to escape and be filled with more wax. Be careful not to move the wick out of place.
Reheat the balance of the wax until liquid and pour over the candle just to the top of the first pour. Make sure to not go over the rim of the first pour. As the candle cools it will start to pull away from the sides.
If you over-pour, you will have candle wax that will leak over the side of your candle down into that gap and will not look so nice. This is the bottom of your candle so we want it to sit flat.
Finishing Your Pillar Candle
After the candle has cooled for another 2-3 hours it can be removed from the mold. The wax should be pulled away from the side of the mold. Remove the wick holder, the putty (and tape if you sealed it) turn the candle upside down and slide the candle out.
It should slide freely. Do not pull on the wick.
Trim the bottom of the candle wick flush with the candle so that it sits flat on a surface.
Most pillar candles should be glossy and ready to decorate however you choose. The surface of the mold will transfer to your candle. You can polish your candle with nylon (pantyhose) or a heat tool from a distance.
Trim the wick to 1/4″ and be sure to put a warning label on the bottom.
Pillar candles can be packaged in poly bags to protect them and also give them a gift wrap look.
Silicone Pillar Candle Molds
These are fun candle molds and require the same type of wax as they are pillar candles. Not all silicone molds are made with the same release quality so I spray these with a release spray as well.
Most of my silicone molds have intricate detail that may not release well if I did not spray them so I do not take chances. The pillar candles may be a little challenging to get out but these are worth the effort.
A silicone pillar mold may be one piece if it is small or simple. It may come in 2 pieces if it is larger. These are held together with rubber banding and can be used many times. The mold is removed from the candle as opposed to removing the candle from the mold but they work the same way.
Unconventional Pillar Molds
You can make candles without a candle mold. A popular pillar candle is a bundt cake candle. This is made from a non-stick cake pan. The candle wax will slide out and a wick can be placed in the center with a second pour to fill the middle. I have used many novelty cake pans to make candles.
Because these do not have wick holes, I use a long drill bit and drill a hole through the candle to thread the wick through.
Additionally, you can make your candle molds with cardboard, tin, or acrylic. You can even buy silicone to pour your own molds. Once you have practiced this process, the sky is the limit! Let your artist inside you shine as bright as your candles!