Making Pottery Barn Candles: Shaping the Wax

Last week I had my eye on some candles from Pottery Barn. They looked so nice stacked up on the display with their birch bark sides. And they were finally on sale: not cheap enough for me to buy them that moment, but cheap enough to keep thinking about them and talk it over with Hubbs. But I waited too long, and by the time I got back down to the store, there was only one shallow 3-wick candle left.

So I bought the one they had left to use as a sample, and then thought I’d make myself two more to match it. I had no idea that you could do this stuff with pillar candles, and really enjoyed thinking about all the things I could do to candles in the future! (and in the picture above, I think I like mine better than the one in front that I bought)

There are two parts to this project: the texturing and the painting. Today I’ll post about how to sculpt the wax, tomorrow I’ll tell how to add the color.

Supplies needed for part one:

  • unscented pillar candles, off-white color. Unscented is important so the paint sticks to the wax.
  • butter knife/pallet knife/oyster shucker (any kind of smooth metal tool to scrape the wax)
  • wood-burning tool
  • heat gun I didn’t have this tool, but think it would be really useful for softening the wax.

This is a great project to do in a warm spot, near a heater or fireplace. First, get the surface of the wax warmed up a little by pointing a hair dryer or heat gun at it.

When the wax is a little bit soft, use your knife (thats the oyster shucker on the far left that I used) to draw a vertical line from the top to the bottom of the candle. This makes a lip which looks like the candle is wrapped in a piece of bark. Scrape and push the wax down on one side of the line so that the high side is about an 1/8 inch higher than the low side. Then do the same thing halfway round the other side of the candle.

Then take the knife and scrape down the sides of the candle to make it nice and irregular shaped. You don’t want big divots, but you want the silhouette of the candle to have crooked sides, not straight up pillar-candle sides.

Next, make the characteristic birch bark texture. Take the wood burning tool or the knife, and melt or carve short horizontal lines all over the sides. You’re going to be putting paint in these little grooves, so its okay to make them a little deep. Here’s a picture of real birch bark to remind you what you’re going for. And remember that real bark is very uneven and textured, so don’t try to make it perfect!

To make the knots, pick a spot and carve or melt a scribbled spiral. Keep going around and around till you have a nice little bumpy mess in that spot. Melt little speckled dots around the edges of the knot.

I was really excited to see how great they looked with just the texture, and can definitely see just taking things to this stage in the future. But these needed color in order to match my sample. Tomorrow I’ll show how to paint.


One response to “Making Pottery Barn Candles: Shaping the Wax

  1. you are CRAZY! These are awesome candles and I am very impressed. You are an artistic inspiration.

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