Sorting it all out - Part 1 ...

From my personal experience, I know very
well the confusing information that is available
for beginners and I fell into some traps myself
when I was first starting off. So, I'd like to
take a little side road here and explore some of
the information that I have recently found that
certainly could be considered confusing to
a new gel candlemaker.

First ... a little history ...

Years ago, I realized that there was a lot
of misinformation at the time roaming around
about making gel candles ... such as (for
instance), in order to achieve bubbles,
use a straw and blow into the gel and other
such stories ... this is not really a favored
method, by the way! In order to try to
"get the message through" to others that
some of the "advice" I read was actually
misinformation, I hosted a forum about
gel candles for awhile at Delphi forums.
With moving to another state, I had to give
up my forum, but it was fun while it lasted
and I met some friends there.

So, now, years later, I venture out into the
Internet to see what type of information I can
find in the form of website resouces, with my
hope, of course, that by now I will only find
good information. In doing some reading,
I have found much more good information than
what used to be available, but, unfortunately,
I have again discovered some missing information
from articles or "how to's" that appear to represent
themselves as "complete," or I have discovered
some bad advice or confusing information.

How is a beginner supposed to sort all of this out?
This is being written, not so much to be crictical
of the work of others, so I'm not going to post
references to this material ... but I am going to
offer some other ideas or thoughts, which may differ
from the material I have read.

Gel candles aren't that difficult to make ...
but there are some things to look out for.
The "basics" include knowing about
glassware so you purchase a safe container,
learning about the gel itself and how to
work with it, understanding the basics of
how a container candle is made, realizing
that all wicks do not perform the same way,
and having a basic understanding about
colorants and fragrance oils. Once you
understand about these components, then
when you read a "step-by-step" how-to,
you know how to fill in the gaps.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of material
available that offers the beginning "geller"
a step-by-step guide, but leaves out much
of the "real stuff" you need to know.

So, what I am going to explore here for a bit
is a combination of some of the "real stuff"
I feel that you should know before getting
started, and I'm going to take a look at some
of the step-by-step guides I have read and
share some of my thoughts regarding those
guides here.

Then, I'll offer you some steps of my own ...
but, for starters, I would like to educate you
about some of the issues you will most likely
come across and I would also like to address
some of the material I've read since you may
have read it too!

Since the first part of your candle design is
usually choice of container, I'm going to start
with the topic of glassware. This is something
that you should not skimp on ... you need your
candle to be in a proper container ... one that
will not crack or catch fire and one in which
your candle can burn nicely (for instance,
some glassware with narrow openings may
suffocate your candle, make it difficult to trim
the wick, etc.)

One article I read said you can select "ceramic
containers like mugs or any fancy-shaped
figurine that could hold the candle wax when
melted and cooled ... glasses are also great."

Truly, some "fancy-shaped" figurines may not
work for a candle, depending on the shape,
and secondly, although some ceramics can be
used for candles, you need to make sure that
they are "tempered" ... in other words, that the
ceramic has been "fired," making them heat
resistant. I don't know why it stated that
"glasses are also great" since you can see through
gel candles and part of the delight is the clarity
and transparency of the glass. "Any shape
that could hold the candle wax when melted"
is not a good method for selecting your
glassware, however.

Again, containers with narrow openings or
passages are not candle containers ... not
only can you not reach the wick to trim it,
if the candle will burn (narrow passage will
not permit sufficient oxygen for the candle
to burn), and it if does, as the candle burns
through the narrow passage, it could make
the wick too close to the glass, which is

Also, the size of the glassware and diameter
of the opening in relation to the size of the
wick (and type of wick) was not mentioned.

This particular article goes on to mention
supplies required, and it lists ... gel wax,
candle wicks, pencils, pot (for melting wax),
candle scent and color, sharp scissors.

It describes some type of method for securing
the wick, (one that is sometimes used for wax
candles), leaving out a vast amount of information
about wicking and gel candle information.
In this article, we are told to "twine the wick"
around a pencil, leaving some of the wicking
free so it can reach the bottom of the container."
It describes that the wick "must be straight down
the center of the container" ... but, with these
instructions, that is about all I could find that
was useful. It continues to instruct us to insert
the pencil with the twined wick on it into the
container, allowing the wick to "hang down
the center of the container" (i.e., before pouring) ...
this simply is not the proper procedure for
gel candles. Candle gel, when burning in a
candle, becomes very fluid and when not
burning, it is not as stable as paraffin wax,
so if the wick is not a) wire cored, and
b) secured at the bottom of the container,
it will most likely "float" or drift off from
the center or even worse, simply float around!
Wicks need to be centered properly for safety
reasons ... a one-sided wick can heat the glass
up too much on one side and become dangerous
in that the glass can crack, etc. ... not to mention
that the candle will not burn evenly.

Alright, back to the article ... the next step
went on to say that you should melt the
gel by cutting it into cubes (pieces are fine)
first so it melts faster, and then went on to
say to "add color and scent, but make sure
that they will not make the wax cloudy."

I don't know how a beginner is supposed to
know how not to do that (make the gel cloudy) ...
there are many things that can make your gel
cloudy and I'll go over this later ... for now, just
make a note that there are things that can make
your gel cloudy, and two of those things can
be colorants and scented oils.

The article sums up the process rather quickly
toward the end with some confusing notes about
pouring your candle, such as, "Fill the container,
but set a limit ... before getting to the next step,
make sure that the wax turned gel fully cools
down ... check out the wick if it really takes the
focal point of the container ... trim the wick to
¼ of its total length."

The wick should be trimmed to approx.
one-quarter of an inch ... not a quarter of its
total length. Also, after your candle has cooled
is surely not the time to try to make any
adjustments to your wick.

If you wait until your candle has set to try to
play with the wick, you have certainly waited
too long! Also, I think most gellers will tell you
that you should not attempt to clip your wick
until your candle has completely set ... not only
cools down ... but has fully set so it remains
straight in your container ... trimming too soon
can possibly make a bend in your wick that will
be hard to un-do.


Well, that was the first article I read!


Shall I continue with some others? I think so!
I want to share these so that others know
what is right and what is not right.
Of course, I do not have all the answers,
and I can also be wrong about some things,
but, I am writing from experience ... this
may be something that some of the writers
are not doing. To me, this is really a shame
and a sham in a sense ... why guide people
when you don't know what you are doing?
It's not right, in my opinion.

Moving right along ... here are some
exerpts from the next article I read:

Here were some wicking notes ... this article
recommended a "pre-tabbed wick" made
specifically for gel candles ... but, it did
not mention why these are best to use,
or that there are other types of wicks you
can also use. It also stated to "secure your
wick to the bottom of your glass container
using a hot glue gun" ... it mentioned not to
use too much, but it did not mention that
there are other ways to secure a wick in a
gel candle. So, in other words, there was
selected information in this article ... good
information, but just not the entire story.

Here is another good example of this ...
"There are two methods of melting the gel ...
you can use either a presto pot or a glass
measuring cup in the oven."

I don't know where or when this all got started,
but it is not the first time I've read this ...
that there are only two ways to melt candle gel,
which is not a true statement. There are certainly
more than two ways to melt candle gel ... two of
them are mentioned in this article.

Other methods will be described more later, but
for now, please know that there are more than these
two methods exist (certainly!) for melting gel.
Also, I would like to mention at this point that
the oven method may be preferred by some during
the winter, but I have never chosen oven over
stovetop for working with candle gel.

Another article said to "spoon your desired amount
of gel into the measuring cup ... heat the gel in
the oven to 225 degrees ... use a candy thermometer
to get the most accurate temperature ... this process
could take up to one hour ..."

I really prefer to be more actively involved when I'm
making candles, I guess, plus I always try to only use
the amount of resources and energy that is necessary ...
if my house doesn't require my oven to be on for me
to make a candle, then certainly, this would not be my
choice. Another thing about this is the fact that your
oven is usually used for cooking food, which can
splatter, so if you ever use your oven for melting gel
or putting poured candles in the oven, which is one
method for minimizing too many tiny bubbles, then
you need to be certain that your oven is clean.

Okay, back to article ... it says that you can use
either liquid dye or a color dye block, but it does
not tell you that sometimes, certain dye blocks can
cloud your gel. It is safest to use liquid dye
for clarity. Adding colorant can sometimes take
practice, but there are methods that can be used
to help you to reduce over-coloring, which will be
shared here on anothe post.

In regard to embedded decorations, I have read that
"as a general guideline, you should push your embeds
into the candle with a skewer after you have poured
the gel" and to "simply push your embedded objects
into the gel with a metal skewer after you have
poured the gel" ...

If embedding marbles, shells and such, you can
try to move them, if desired, right after inserting
them, but it needs to be done very quickly, if it
is possible to move them about at all without either
disturbing your design too much, or causing bubbles
to form. It's best if certain embeds simply "fall"
into place if at all possible.

Since all embeds are not equal, they need to be
considered on an individual basis. For instance,
marbles are heavy and should not be dropped in
until the gel becomes very thick and heavy
(when it starts to form a skin on the surface,
such as with pudding). There are several
different techniques that can be used with
wax embeds, which I will not go into right
now, as I will describe various methods of
adding embeds a bit later, but you should
not use the pressure and pointers of skewers
with wax embeds, or you can break them or go
right through them. So wax embeds can usually
only be slightly "budged" very carefully and
right after they have entered the warm gel ...
the wax gets a bit soft and can be fragile.
Personally, I have never used a skewer to move
things about ... I prefer a metal poultry lacer.

On to another article ... this one states that ...
"Versagel is the recommended brand, as it
contains fragrances and colors, so you don't
need to mix any additives to your gel to
create scented gel candles."

Although there may be some pre-colored or
pre-scented products available (although I'm
not exactly sure how well a pre-scented product
would hold up scent wise, since it's always been
recommended to add your scent last, after your
wax or gel has melted so you don't lose potency ...
in other words, so the scent doesn't burn off before
pouring the candle) ... I have been a Versagel
customer for years, at one time, purchasing drums
of it directly from the company that makes it
(Penreco) and it is purely candle gel that you
color and scent to your liking.

In another "how-to" article or so, I saw the following ...
"You need to add a ½ ounce of the oil to your
heated gel. Test the smell of the fragrance to see
if you need to add more. Be sure to complete
this step before adding coloring to your gel.
Add color to your gel quickly, before it cools down.
You can use liquid dye or a color block.
Stir the color in slowly with a metal skewer."

Okay, now some of these statements almost made
me laugh out loud ... for more than one reason!

Where do I begin?

Poor beginners ... how are you to know what to
do when there is this type of stuff out there??

It really makes me feel bad ... I guess, this type
of stuff is what made me want to start this blog
in the first place.

Okay, I'll break it down into workable parts ...
and, experienced candle makers, you may agree
with me here ... what are these folks thinking?

First, any measure of scent cannot be suggested
if you do not know how much wax or gel you are
adding to. To have a measure, such as a half-ounce
without stating how much gel it is intended for is
totally irresponsible. "Test the smell of the
fragrance to see if you need to add more" is even
beyond that! There are percentages of scent to
use, based on the density of gel you are using ...
light, medium, or high, and how much. Further,
I would not advise to breathe in scented oil from
directly over your melting pot ... this is not
a good practice at all for a variety of safety
or health reasons. (I will post later with the

amount of scent to use with candle gel.)

"Be sure to complete this step before adding
coloring to your gel." ... Just a note to say
that I have never seen candle instructions that
say to add colorant last ... it has always been
to add scent as the final step.

"Stir the color in slowly with a metal skewer" ...
if you want to dispurse your color, you need to
use a spoon, not a stick.

Here are some other notes I read ... "If using liquid
dye, it is a good idea to dip a toothpick into the dye
and then swirl the toothpick with color into your gel."

Just as you should stay away from wooden spoons
when stirring gel (the wood is porous and foamy
bubbles can spring forth from it ... the same with
wooden toothpicks, just not as badly) ... I have
always used a metal pick, but when stirring in color,
again, if I want it to distribute evenly, I use a
spoon (not a stick or a pick).

It went on to say ... "If your gel is cooling down
during this step, you can heat it back up."

Although this is true, it's best to arrive at or
near your pouring temperature, add your additives
and pour. Your colorant can be added while your
gel is still heating up, but your scent should be
added last and gently mixed well, just before pouring.
Use a spoon to mix it ... inserting the spoon into
your pot and keeping it there while making a
"figure eight" motion until the scent is mixed
well, then gently remove the spoon. Do your best
to not create any needless bubbles by submerging
the spoon over and over again ... just try to
keep it in the pot and stir until you are
done stirring.

Here was another thing that didn't seem to make
much sense ... "If bubbles do start to form on the
surface of the gel, use a heat gun to eliminate them."

I am assuming that this is not referring to the melting
pot, but bubbles on the surface of the candle as it is
cooling. A heat gun can be used to help eliminate
this, but you have to be careful when using it ...
hold the heat gun at a distance from the candle
until you get a feel for it ... if it blows too hard,
you can really make a mess of your candle, as it will
flow up onto the glass, beyond the level of the candle
and leave a ring of gel on the glass above the level
of the candle, which does not look good.

Finally, this comment is the last one I will cover
for now ... "Once the gel candle is completely cooled,
trim the wick to about one inch in length" ... I wonder
where these people get this information from and why
they choose to share it?

I came across some other material I'd like to cover
also ... here is something that I found interesting ...

A couple of notes about this ... on the video, it shows
an amber bottle as one of the selections of glassware,
which is not an option for a candle. It says that high
density gel is the only one for embeds, which is not
truly the case ... it shows an oven for melting ... it says
"how can you tell" in regard to polarity of scent, but
does not advise adequately of how to test for it, and
on the topic of embeds, it seems to show some items
that could look as though they are flammable, but
I'm not sure.

Truly, there is some information out there that is

not really helpful ... I found a couple of other things
I would like to mention, but I will have to save them
for another post ... at least, in the meantime, this
covers some of the material I found that is often
incomplete or actually leads you in the wrong direction.
I will try to sort through more of this to share here
so we can sift through the misleading advice and
save ourselves some frustration!

I believe in experimenting and being

creative, but it's so much more fun if you
can find good advice first so you know you're
headed in the right direction!

Gel Candle Designs

Gel Candle Designs

There are several different types of design
ideas available when making gel candles ...
part of what makes these candles so much fun.
The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Here are some of the design scenarios
for gel container candles that can be explored ...










Drink or cocktail

Water habitats

Sand Art


For me, this is the first step to creating
a candle ... What is it going to be?

Then, the glassware sets the stage ...
much of the more interesting glassware
is usually a cocktail glass of some sort.
Wine glasses are also good choices.
Small "rocks" glasses or wide "tumblers"
or short juice glasses work well for many
designs also.

Beyond a simple pour, you can embellish
the design with embedded decorations,
such as marbles, polished stones or glass,
glass beads or beaded wire, colored gravel,
wax shapes, and more. You just have to
remember that anything that is embedded
into the candle either must be wax that can
safely burn along with the candle, or a substance
that cannot burn at all ... coins, blown glass
decors, marbles, stones, etc. For drink candles
you can add pieces of wax fruit or wax ice cubes.
A note about stones ... if using these, you need
to be careful with your selection and design,
as some rocks can become too hot and are not
safe choices for candles. When in doubt ...
do not use.

For dessert candles, you can use gel as an icing,
such as a strawberry or butterscotch sundae
sauce over ice cream, or a "sticky-sweet" drizzle
of flavor to a piece of pie or cake, and gel lends
itself wonderfully as a "pie filling" with wax fruit
shapes, as you have probably seen in preserve
or fruit pie or tart candles.

Seascape or freshwater designs make very
pretty candles with the use of shells or
pebbles with gravel. Note that sand dollars
and coral fragments are not safe to use.

Here are a few tips for when you're first
learning ... start simple. Once you get accustomed
to working with candle gel, you'll be more
confident to try new designs. After you decide
to try something more complicated, it's best not
to overdo it ... again, keep it on the "simple"
side for elegant candles ... if the candle is too
"busy" it will loose some of its effect.
Also, too much of some ingredients can
actually ruin not only the look of your candle,
but the candle itself ... for instance, if you add
too much glitter, your wick can become clogged
or make your candle unsafe for burning.
Or, if you add too much color, you'll end up
with a dark candle that you can't see into ...
too much scent will destroy your candle,
making it oily and dangerous. Be sure to
follow all safety guidelines.

So, if you're a beginner, first start to think about
the glassware you would like to use ... your
first color selections and scents you'd like to try.
These are the basic design concepts ... shape,
color and aroma. You may wish to start with
a dash of specialty glitter just around the rim
of the glass, or some simple embedded objects,
although there are some tricks to using any type
of embedded object or embellishment, so, again,
my advice for beginners is to start very simple ...
you won't regret it!

Glitter can be a pretty accent for candles, reflecting
light and color, but there are some considerations to
be taken before using glitter.

First, know that too much glitter, or too fine a
glitter can clog your wick and your candle will
not burn after the wick has clogged. Also, too
much glitter can cluster around the wick and
become a fire hazard. So, glitter should be
used at a minimum ... just enough to create
a little accent.

I only use glitter around the edge of gel
container candles on the surface (right
up against the rim of the glass), or against
the glass inside the candle ... far away from
the wick. Although some glitter particles may
become suspended in the gel, I feel it's too risky
to simply sprinkle glitter all over the top of a
gel candle, allowing it to fall into the candle
without restriction, or to actually mix glitter
in with the gel. Too much glitter in a candle
is not safe ... I will post a link at the bottom of
this article for reference showing an example
of a pillar candle design with glitter that did
not work out well and was recalled.

If you are burning a candle and glitter
accumulates around the wick, one thing you
can do is to use a metal pick to move the
glitter away from the wick, or run a metal
pick (poultry lacer) up and down the wick
a few times to loosen any glitter particles
that may be clogging it.

Specialty glitters work well ... although I have
found that the ultra-fine may clog wicks most
readily. A fine grade or metallic glitter has
always worked the best for me.

Here's a tip for having sprinkles of glitter up
against the glass on the inside of your candle ...

I have found it easiest to first mount my
wick in the bottom of the container, then
pour about an inch of candle gel into the
bottom of the glass and immediately tilt
the glass all the way around so the gel goes
up the glass on the sides to within about an
inch from the top ... when it has covered all
sides I quickly turn the glass completely
upside down over a melting pot to dump
out any excess gel. This final step isn't completely
necessary if you don't mind the excess gel at
the bottom of your candle ... but, if you don't
want any sign of it (it will cause a clear layer
at the bottom of your candle), then you need
to "spill out" the excess gel.

Now, you can sprinkle glitter on the inside
walls of your glass or jar and it will stick to
the gel. This can take a little practice to
make sure that you have a smooth layer
of gel up on the sides of your container ...
if at first you end up with a lumpy mess,
simply wait for it to cool a bit and peel it
off and do it again.

Tip: If you are are not a beginning gel candle
maker, you may already use this method for
glitter ... or you may also already use this
method for "sticking" wax shapes up against
your container.

Glitter, when used correctly and with care,
can add just a hint of color and sparkle that
shimmers while your candle is burning for
a very pretty effect.

As time goes on, I hope to share some techniques
for creating some of the design ideas I've mentioned
here and I hope you will try some of them!

Happy crafting!

Here is the link in reference to safety issue ...

Recalled Glitter Pillar Candles