Light Up a Table with Floating Candles
There's something magical about fire dancing on water. Reflected in the liquid's shimmering surface, the flickers of a candle's flame appear doubly radiant and twice as beautiful. Floating candles add instant atmosphere to a casual summer table, and with our technique, you can create lots of them in only a couple of hours.
Like little boats, these candles float because of the way they are made. They're flat on the bottom and not too thick, so they won't tip or flip over. The molds for making them are probably residing in your kitchen cabinets right now: Muffin tins, cookie cutters, and tart molds have just the right shapes for the task. Not only that, but they make it easy to turn out dozens of candles at a time. All you have to do is melt the wax, pour it into the baking pans, add the wicks, and set the timer. Before long, you'll have 12, 24, 36, or more little lights to brighten your table (or give as gifts).
Make the candles from used tapers, pillars, or votives you have at home, or if you prefer, start from scratch with wax and dyes from a crafts store. Either way, your colorful creations will soon be bobbing in their bowls, keeping company with the moon -- and, if you're lucky, with some fireflies, too.
Pick a size. Mini-muffin candles burn for an hour or so; large ones, for three. A variety of candles in tonal hues -- such as warm reds, oranges, and yellows, like the ones we used -- look wonderful together. Vary the sizes by pouring wax into large, medium, and mini-muffin tins, and create a playful polka-dot presentation. For uniform results, pour the wax to a depth of no more than 1 inch.
Use simple, broad shapes to make sure they float. To turn a cutter into a mold, run masking tape along the edge, snip at the corners, and bend the tape so the cutter sits flat on the foil.
With a set of graduated cookie cutters, you can make stars in many sizes at once. Float some in little bowls, and set others in shallow dishes of water. Arranged on a long runner, they will supply your dinner table with a galaxy of gentle light. We like beeswax for these candles. It has a more viscous consistency when melted, which prevents it from leaking out of the molds.
- Muffin tins or other molds
- Petroleum jelly or nonstick cooking spray
- Paraffin or beeswax candles, or wax bricks and color chips
- Double boiler
- Candy thermometer
- Craft sticks, for stirring1 1/4-inch metal-tabbed tea-light wicks
Coat molds with petroleum jelly or cooking spray; set aside. Place used candles in a double boiler over just-simmering water (never over direct heat; wax can catch fire if too hot). As wax melts, stir it and remove old wicks. If using wax bricks, melt and add color according to package directions.
When wax reaches pouring temperature (150 degrees for paraffin, 160 for beeswax; if you don't have a candy thermometer, wait until a thin film forms at edges), pour into molds. Then carefully lower in the new wicks.
After candles harden (1/2 hour to 2 hours), lift them out by the wicks. If they resist, put molds in freezer until they pop out easily. Wipe off any haze with paper towels.