When you take your first steps in the noble art of making candles, you often start by making pillar candles. Why? Because a basic pillar candle is a relatively simple beginner project that you can bring to fruition with limited tools and supplies and because it's a good introduction to a range of issues you may encounter with all the other types of candles.
Once you have successfully created a basic pillar candle (uncolored, unscented), you can gradually attempt, at your own pace, more advanced projects (try another shape of mold, add colors and scent to the wax), thereby building up confidence and experience.
For your first attempt at making a pillar candle, you don't need much and you'll probably find (almost) everything you need around the house.
You will need the following: a mold (homemade or purchased), a length of wick, wax, obviously (a pillar or votive blend), some mold sealer, a small tool to keep the wick tight (called a wick holder). And that's about it !
Except in very specific cases, remember that, as showed on the left part of the illustration above, the end of the candle AT THE BOTTOM of the mold will become THE TOP of the finished candle.
You can purchase a mold from a candlemaking supplies store (start with a basic shape, like a cylinder) or use any household item and make it a temporary or permanent candle mold. Possibilities are endless! To get you started, take a look at the article titled homemade molds.
To make a pillar candle, you can use almost any type of mold you wish (polycarbonate, metal, rubber...)
Just remember that, if you use a one-piece mold, it needs to either have straight sides, or be slightly tapered, otherwise, quite obviously, you won't be able to unmold the finished candle.
Flat braid and square braid wicks (see the related articles for more information) are the two types of wick generally used to make pillar candles.
The size of the wick will depend closely on the diameter of your candle and choosing the right wick size can prove a little tricky and may require extensive testing and trial and error. To get you started, you will find guidelines in the articles I just mentioned.
To ensure that the wick behaves correctly when lit, you will need to prime it before you install it in the mold and pour the candle. This is a simple but very important operation, don't skip it !
With molded candles, it is usually necessary to thread the wick through the bottom of the mold. Because the wick alone isn't enough to prevent liquid wax from escaping through the wick hole, you will have to make the latter entirely watertight.
The best and easiest solution is to use a small amount of mold sealer (also called plumber putty), a tacky substance that looks like play dough.
A small ball of mold sealer applied to the place where the wicks comes out of the mold will do the trick and, as long as the mold sealer isn't too dirty, it can be reused again and again.
Even if a small amount will last a very long time, the kind of mold sealer available in craft stores can be quite expensive so, instead, visit your local DIY store and purchase a pot of plumber putty (take the basic sort, avoid the "special copper" or "special lead"). You will have mold sealer at hand for the next twenty years.
When wax cools off, it has a tendency to shrink (just like almost everything else on earth). This is a normal phenomenon but you need to keep the wick tight or the shrinking of the wax will throw the wick off center and loosen it.
To avoid this, keep the wick tight until you're ready to unmold the candle by using a wick holder (also called cotter pin). The first picture in this article illustrates how a wick holder is used when making a molded candle.
If you can't find a "real" wick holder, you can make one yourself quite easily with, for exemple, a pair of chop sticks: keep both sticks tight using two rubber bands, then just catch the wick between the two sticks to keep it tight.