How to make candles without using hot wax

The simplest and safest way to make candles is by using pressed sheets of beeswax. You can buy these at most decent arts and crafts stores; buy a few different colors, and pick up a roll of waxed wick string while you’re there. All you need then are some metal cookie-cutters, and you’re ready for action.

To make regular tubular candles

Choose the main color of your candle, and lay the appropriate sheet of beeswax out on a flat surface. Now cut it to size. You want a sheet about 6-8 inches by 18 inches, so estimate the size and then simply fold the sheet a couple of times until it cracks along the fold, then gently pry or tear it.

Cut a length of wick which is about 1 inch longer than the required height of the finished candle (in this case about 7-9 inches), and lay it along one of the short edges on top of the wax so that it starts flush to the bottom and protrudes at the top. Now gently begin to roll up that edge so that the wick is caught in the first turn of the roll. There is no need to artificially heat the wax in order to roll it. The heat of your hands will be enough on its own. Continue rolling up the sheet keeping it as tightly rolled as you can, until you reach the end. Now smooth the cut end down with your thumb. It will very quickly soften and 'blur' into the main body of the candle.

And that’s it, unless you feel like decorating it, in which case you can cut a few shapes from a different-colored sheet with a cookie-cutter and blur them onto the body of the candle in exactly the same way that you sealed the loose end. For more detailed instructions on how to best use cookie-cutters with beeswax, see below.

To make cookie-cutter candles

Lay out a sheet of wax, and rest your palms on it for a few minutes to soften it. Choose your cookie-cutter, and press it down slowly but firmly into the softened wax. If the cutter doesn’t cut all the way through, turn the wax sheet over and press gently along the edges of the cutter from behind. Once it’s cut out, carefully press your wax shape out of the cookie-cutter and repeat the process. You need about 14 identical shapes in all.

When you’ve finished making your shapes, make a pile of half of them, being sure to line them up carefully, and then cut a length of wick which is long enough to go from the bottom of your shape to about 1 inch past the top of it. Lay this wick on the shape, and then pile up the remaining wax shapes on top. Now pick up the pile and begin to compress the layers together. They'll compress quite a lot. When they’re firmly stuck together, blur the edges of the shape with your thumb until they’re smooth, and you’re pretty much done. If it’s an odd shaped candle, you may need to stand it up and press down gently to form a flat bottom surface and persuade it to stand up properly. Not all shapes are equally suited to actually burning, so if you intend the candles to be truly practical, choose your cookie-cutters carefully.

This is a great activity to do with children. We did it at my daughter's birthday party, and the children were completely absorbed by it. That night we lit the candles and turned out all the lights, and watched our candles burn.