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Shell Candles

The shells that the ocean cast at your feet this summer -- the ones you so fastidiously collected -- make lovely remembrances of the season with candles formed inside them. Deep shells like scallops, clams, and quahogs work best and burn longest.
Martha Stewart Living, September 1998

The shells that the ocean cast at your feet this summer -- the ones you so fastidiously collected -- make lovely remembrances of the season with candles formed inside them. Deep shells like scallops, clams, and quahogs work best and burn longest. 

First, clean the shells in a weak solution of bleach and water, and let dry. Melt paraffin wax or existing candles in the top of a double boiler (use one with a lip, if possible; it will be easier to pour from). We mixed the melted wax of pink, mauve, and yellow candles to create coral tones that complement our shells. 

If a shell has a tendency to wobble, stabilize it by resting it on top of a cup. Cut the wicking to 2 to 3 inches, and attach it to a metal wick holder; set aside. 

Pour the melted wax into the shell, then place the wick and holder in the bottom of the shell, being careful not to burn your fingers. If wick droops, trim slightly. Let cool until hardened, about 30 minutes. 

And be careful: The top layer of the wax hardens first, but the melted wax underneath will spill out if the candle is moved before it has had a chance to cool completely.

Comments (19)

  • WicklessCandles 6 Oct, 2010

    These are awesome. I have the perfect place for them.

  • chrissyayre 16 Feb, 2009

    You could also use tealights inside of the shell. Then just replace as needed.

  • corar 12 Nov, 2008

    Soy wax is excellent for these candles, use a dab of sticky wax to hold your premade wick

  • NancyMcManus 26 Jul, 2008

    You're right, finlander, about them getting very hot. My mother had one on a glass shelf in the bathroom and the sound of it exploding was frightening! Now I set them in a galvanized bucket filled with sand. Looking for an old metal sand (beach) bucket , but until then...

  • finlander 24 Jul, 2008

    This looks like an 'easy' craft but please keep in mind, finding the right wax or wax blend as well as the right wick size and burn rate tends to complicate matters. There are dozens of waxes and wax blends, a paraffin/soy blend would work well. Tealight wicks might work great for the smaller shells. Also keep in mind that if a shell gets too hot it could crack/break cause a fire or big mess, keep an eye on them. My email addy is in the comments here, email questions, glad to help!

  • webe 22 Jul, 2008

    PatchMom... you are as bad as I, the stuffed clam shells must have more uses!?
    I have saved and gotten rid of many after dinners/snacks.

  • miria 20 Jul, 2008

    Well, guess it's working for me now. This sounds like a great idea, especially since I have been saving all my old candles. Just have to pick up some wicks.

  • LouLou2007 20 Jul, 2008

    I will try again;The wicks w/the holders can Be found all 2gether N craft

  • LouLou2007 20 Jul, 2008

    The wicks w/the holders can Be found all 2gether

  • georgethechandler 20 Jul, 2008

    I have a samll problem with these direction . What tpye of wax Container or pillar wax and as far as a wick holder

    I use to craft sticks and two binder clips. Placing a clip at one end leaving a gap between the stick to place the wick in. Squeeze the wick betwen and clip the other end . It holds the wick up and allows you to reset as wax sets

  • ditdit 20 Jul, 2008

    doesn't it help to place a small dot of super glue in the center then plunk in the wick then pour in wax?

  • karenmraz 20 Jul, 2008

    The wick holders, wax, and wicks can be found at any craft store in the candlemaking isle.

  • aemille 20 Jul, 2008

    Can anyone please tell me where to get the wick holders, wax, and wicks? Thanks so much!

  • winterbeach 20 Jul, 2008

    Hey, I bet sequins glued to toilet paper rolls would make nice candle holders too. SIGH. Cheap. tacky landfill, AGAIN!!!

  • Janne 17 Jul, 2008

    Super idea! I think I'll add a few drops of essential oils to mine...maybe lavender or rose oil. Lovely idea, Martha!
    PS I bet cheap wine stem glasses would make good candles, too

  • marynatal 12 Jul, 2008

    Great idea!!! I'm gonig to the beach today and guess what I'm bringing home?
    Love this alot....

  • PatchMom 17 Jun, 2008

    Great idea!! I have a bunch of sea shells I have collected from purchasing stuffed clams at the local supermarket. It is a habit I saved them. LOL Now I can recycle them and put them to good use.

  • Monaliza-gypt 16 Jun, 2008

    A creative idea that speaks about itself, time to collect shells for further use.

  • praline 20 Apr, 2008

    This is another great idea as using the teacups. If you are not into making candles then you can place a tealight int he middle and still get the same effect. Especially on large shells that are scrolled. I put sand in the bottem and place my tealights in the middle The large shell will glow so pretty.