I, like a lot of people in the wide world, love candles. Unfortunately, in the normal course of events, candles burn down to stumps, or their wicks break, or the sides melt and they are no longer useable. These candle fragments are still perfectly usable wax though, and with a little effort can be return to their former glory. The first step is to gather supplies and assess your candles.
Not all candles are created equal. For instance all the red candles, and the blue in my picture are from Wal-Mart. They have nice wax on the outside, but on the inside is cheap granulated white wax like tea lights are made of. Cheap candles will still melt down, harden, and burn just fine, it just might not be as pretty. If you want to make “perfect” candles I would suggest buying new wax, scent, etc from a hobby store.
I bought a collection of pretty blue and white china dishes from various thrift stores to hold my new candles. Alternatively, you can use a mold, either store-bought or homemade. Rub a small amount of vegetable oil on the inside of the mold so it’s easier to remove the candle when it’s hardened.
The new candles will also require new wicking, and wick holders. Wicking can be bought at hobby/craft stores and comes in different sizes, depending on the finished width of the candles you are making. Be sure to use the right size or the candle will burn in an undesirable fashion. As for wick holders, you can buy them from wherever you are buying wick. I take the wick holders from inexpensive tea-lights:
To reuse the wick holder, just pull out the old wick, slide the new wick in and clamp down with pliers.
Other supplies include a double broiler (I use a stockpot in a deep skillet) a wooden spoon, a knife, and something to hold the wick on top of the candle like a skewer, pencil or chopstick. I would also recommend a big piece of cardboard to protect your workspace, it’s much easier to throw out wax, then it is to scrape it off the counter.
Once you have all your supplies ready group your candle fragments. You can mix colors, and scents, but try not to mix types of wax.
Cut the candles ready to be melted into smaller pieces so they melt quicker, try to remove the old wick and holder. If you don’t get all the wick or other debris out before melting, you will have to fish it out of the molten wax.
The best smelling, nicest burning candle I’ve ever had is the one all cut up above, my parents gave it to me for Christmas about 6 years ago. I was worried the scent would cook out of the wax, which can happen. If you don’t want to remove the smell don’t heat the wax up too much, and of course never let the wax boil. I usually heat them at a low-medium temperature. True candle-makers use thermometers to decide when to pour, I just wait until everything is completely melted and then pour.
My makeshift double broiler is on the right, this works fine since I only melt two or three candle stumps at a time. If you were melting more you would want the water to be covering more of the stockpot.
As your wax fragments melt, you need to prep the mold or container. Take your wick holder and wicking and wrap the top around a skewer/pencil/chopstick. To help the wick stay in place while you pour, dip the very bottom of the wick holder in melted wax and press to the bottom of your container. Here is my teacup prepped for wax:
The first wax pour should only be half to a quarter of the container, left is immediately after pouring and right is once the layer is mostly hardened.
Wait until the first pour is mostly hard, but still slightly warm before re-pouring. To insure the second pour adheres to the first well, poke several holes near the sinking.
Pour the rest of the wax:
As you can see, from my very small blue candle stump, I barely got enough to fill this teacup… but the blue candle smells so good, I don’t mind. As you can also see this candle hardened with a bit of a pockmarked surface. This happens for a couple of reasons, check out this table from Nu-Scents, of candle problems to troubleshoot odd effects like pockmarking if you want to fix them in your next candle, here. I don’t really mind it, once its burn a bit it won’t matter anyway. Once the candle hardens, trim the wick and it’s ready to burn.
As you can see my favorite candle melted and poured much nicer, I think solely because it was made of nicer wax to begin with.
Good luck recycling your own candle fragments, it takes awhile to do, but the supplies are minimal and the gain is huge.