accessoriesDIYdiy projects

diy project: ashley’s vintage tin candles

by Kate Pruitt

Every time I stroll through a thrift store, flea market or garage sale, vintage tins beckon me to take them home. I always justify my purchase, since tins are great alternatives for small storage and unconventional gift wrapping. Nearly every tin I purchase is under $1.00 and has a perfectly weathered patina. I decided to make use of my assortment of tins and create unique candles for my home and as gifts. Candle making is an art, but even a novice can make a basic, beautifully scented candle without all the detailed know-how. Instead of a traditional glass or ceramic container, I now have a cute vintage food tin filling my kitchen with a pleasant aroma!

There are numerous resources available if you are interested in a more technical approach to candle making. I wanted a simple method and didn’t want to experiment with creating my own scents, so I purchased affordable, scented candles that I liked. This could be considered a cheater’s version of candle making, but if you don’t have the time or desire to dive deeply into the process, this technique provides a quick and satisfying alternative. — Ashley

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • metal tins (make sure they don’t leak by filling them with water first)
  • candle wax (you can use old candles, basic candles or an assortment of waxes available at craft stores)
  • candle wicks
  • tin base for wicks
  • double boiler
  • wooden chopsticks or skewers
  • a candle making handbook for more details and troubleshooting (Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts includes simple, basic instructions)


1. If your wicks are not pre-waxed, you will want to coat them with a thin layer of wax. Melt a small amount of wax in the top section of the double boiler. Place the uncoated wicks in the wax, coat with wax and remove to harden.

2. Prepare your tins by cleaning them. Add the tin base to the wicks and place inside the metal tins. Dabbing a bit of melted wax on the bottom of the wick tin base will help hold it in place. Use a skewer to stretch over the metal tin, then wrap the wicks around the skewer to hold in place.

3. Melt your desired amount of wax. Different types of wax have different melting points. Wax will not boil, but it is extremely flammable. You will want to take every necessary safety precaution before melting the wax. I used basic scented candles and melted them down.

4. Once melted, pour the wax into the vintage tins. If the top of the candle does not dry smoothly (especially around the wick), this could be a sign of air bubbles. Use a wooden skewer to poke down into the candle (when still soft) to release the air. Add melted wax to the top to create a smooth finish.

5. Let the wax harden for about 24 hours. Trim excess wick and enjoy for yourself or as a gift!

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  • this would be a great project to reuse all the ‘butts’ of old candles too!

  • I am so excited about these candles, and even more excited to hear that Ashley will be a new contributor on D*S! I am constantly mesmerized by the things she creates. Her blog is a constant source of creative inspiration and her writing always warms my heart. xoxo

  • i love this. i often see tins at the thrift stores that are really pretty on the outside (if a bit worn) but when the insides have scratches or corrosion, i get stumped as to what to do with them. this is a perfect solution!

  • These are beautiful! I never would’ve considered using vintage tins for candles, were it not for this piece.

    I want to put in a quick plug for using soy wax instead of paraffin, however. I produced a soy candle video (link: http://www.growandmake.com/sustainable-living-blog/making-soy-candles-at-home/) a little while back, and in doing some research, I learned that paraffin candle fumes contain some of the same chemicals that are present in diesel engine exhaust. I was floored– who on earth wants to be breathing in diesel exhaust in their own homes?! So, I am here, spreading the gospel of soy for sake of clean air and health. Cheers!

  • I’ve done this before but have problems with the clean up. Any tips on getting the wax out of the pot you melted it in?

    • Warm it back yup to where it is melted aagin, wipe out with a cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol. Breaks the oils down. :)

  • I agree with the commenters above– these would make perfect Christmas presents! They’re unique, and can be easily personalized.

    I have a few tea tins that I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with. Thank you for the inspiration!! :)

  • ok, i need to go buy a double broiler, stat! the challenge every year is to make all my xmas presents, this would be a great addition.

  • ashley does it again! i love this and am definitely going to be making some of these soon. so glad to hear she’s going to be a contributor now. woo hoo!

  • Just a note: you don’t need to go out and buy a special double boiler just for the sake of melting via indirect heat! A heatproof bowl set over (not in) simmering water will do just the trick, and will probably be a lot cheaper!

    I don’t know about the safety issues exactly (I know there are some food-grade waxes), but I would be hesitant to use my wax-melting bowl (or double boiler) for food… I’d probably keep one dedicated to the purpose of candlemaking.

  • I just want to mention that candles in tins might produce harsh fumes, and that old china teacups or thrift store mugs and glasses might be a healthier option.Instead of going out and buying a double boiler,do you think I can just use a large pot of water witha smaller pot sitting inside it?hhmmm….

  • Love these! My only concern is, can the tins ever be reused, or will it always have wax residue??? ’cause some of my tins are pretty old and I wouldnt want to ruin them.

  • @Ash – melt the left over wax in the pot and pour it into a disposable container (an old jar, for example). If there’s still residue, you can try pouring boiling water into the container, swill it around, and then toss it. Wipe the insides clean w/ a paper towel.

    @Rachel – you can melt the old wax out of candles (including tins) by setting them on a cookie sheet in the oven, setting the oven to 150 degrees and letting the wax melt. Then, pour the remaining wax into a container and wipe the inside outside out. Very easy!

    This is a great project, however I wanted to note that pillar candle wax has a much higher melting point that container wax. Pillar wax has the higher melting point so that it retains its shape while the candle is burning. It may cause the vessel it is in to over heat, so I’d be careful using glass. Tin should probably be ok, though.

    Now – where to find some beautiful tins?

  • I’ve also heard (maybe from Real Simple..but I’m not sure) that you can get rid of the wax residue by sticking the tin, tea cup, etc. in the freezer and then chipping the excess out.

  • One really great thing about this is that now they’re travel candles! Having a nicely scented candle in a tin with a lid is really nice thing to bring along to feel more at home in hotels.

  • So cute. I wanted to echo Lizzy – freezing is GREAT for getting wax off of things. I’ve done that to get those last little bits out of votive cups and it’s very easy and works really well! It just pops right out.

  • just remember that whatever container you’ve used to melt the wax then it isn’t safe for food preperation. I bought a cheap pot at a thrift store to melt my wax and that’s the only thing i use it for. i set the pot directly on my stove over lo heat and it works great! i’ve also melted and re-used the ‘butts’ of jar candles by simmering the jar in water on the stove and then pouring the melted wax into my ‘wax only’ pot for finishing. You can also pop out wax once it’s been frozen. if you are an avid thrift store/yard-saler then you know you can get lots of candles on the cheap. they are great for this type of project too!

  • I agree with sherrod – what a great travel candle. Also, the lids hides the look of the less than lovely, partially burnt candle when not in use.
    What a great project! Thanks!

  • I’m obsessed with vintage cans! Especially floral ones! Sherrod, I love your idea of bringing personal candles to hotels to make you feel “at home!”

  • finally great and straightforward 123 step directions for candle making. I can’t wait to try it out!

  • Paraffin is a by product of petroleum production.

    Also if you don’t have one or don’t want to use your double boiler because it is for food use, you can use an old coffee can to melt wax in. Just put your wax in it and then set it in an old pot with some water about halfway up the can.. Keep it on a low/med heat til wax melts.

  • Everytime I see a tut by Ashley on design sponge I get so excited. You are super talented girl and thank you for sharing it with us!

  • I’m a tin collector too, I just picked up a great sugar tin today! I’m totally going to give this a try, and the smaller tins would be great as stocking stuffers! Great idea!

  • Ugh, I feel like such an idiot for never even having this cross my mind! ;) And I collect old tins from thrift shops and flea markets! I usually just store pretty old buttons in them or use them as eye-catching decorations. I’ll certainly be trying this out soon and giving them away as gifts this holiday season. I can’t wait for the Big Flea this weekend where I’ll end up spending most of my time searching for the perfect vintage tins for this project! Thanks! :)

  • Well I guess I know what I’m giving people for Christmas! Thanks guys! Perfect timing for a post like this.

  • Love the tin idea! I have done this before with urns from Michaels. They came out great!

  • What a great idea! Now where did I put all those cute old tins I can never resist buying but don’t end up using for anything. . . :)

  • I love this tutorial. Can’t wait to try it this weekend but first I’m off to find some vintage tins. Thanks for sharing.

  • I think I’ve just found yet another use for all those Golden Syrup tins I hang onto! I love using them as pen pots or containers for junk on my desk, so candles would be perfect!

  • I wanted to second Kristina’s comment about using soy wax. It doesn’t “throw” scent as well, but it’s from a renewable source and has a lovely, creamy look to it when poured.

  • @Holly – instead of buying a double broiler you can go about it the cheaper route, by filling a pot with water and placing one of those stainless steel mixing bowls on top of the pot – tada, double broiler!

  • Oh my goodness! I think I have found my latest obsession! I have so many vintage tins but I never knew what to do with them. Great idea!!!

  • You do need to be very careful about where you place these candles when they burn. The tins can get very, very hot, and you don’t want them to scorch something around them, or burn yourself if you brush against it. (I proposed something similar once on a candle crafting website and was thoroughly spanked by more “knowledgeable” posters.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making them for yourself (I’m definintely filling up some tins this weekend!) but I would be hesitant to give them as gifts without a fair amount of warning.

  • Is there an easy way to pour the wax without making a mess? maybe a funnel??

  • DON’T BUY A DOUBLE BOILER! Or ruin the one you have! I have made plenty of candles by melting wax in a large empty tin can, which i have placed in a pot of water, just like a double boiler. You can re-use the can over and over again, and you don’t have to worry about ruining an expensive pot! Just be sure your can is clean and completely dry before melting the wax in it. Have fun!

  • I’ve had problems with the wicks not burning in homemade candles; is it because I didn’t wax them?

  • What a great idea for these beautiful old tins. I have several and really didn’t have anything to do with them other than admire them. This is an awsome website. Thank you!

  • This is so great! A friend gave me a bunch of tin containers from the U.K. a few years back and they have just been hanging around uselessly since then. I am definetly going to try this during the weekend!

  • Can u soak the wicks in essential oils before waxing to get a better scent if using soy wax? I have a soy wax candle in a tin that smells yummy as is but when I light it it just smells of burning wax.

    • when making candles you dnt have to use wax at all i use crisco oil for my candle i melt it the add the sent i want to use then i add crayons to the crisco that i am melting then i glue the wick to the bottom then i use a stick to hold the wick in place then i poor it in to the tin or mason jar n let it cool and I’m done other then cutting the wick and i am done

  • Great! It’s a very interisting gift for Christmas! Thanks for this idea.

  • I love this!! It’s been ages since i made candles- I should take it back up again. What a great way to personalize gifts :)

  • My heart swooons when I see tea tins too! I love the florals ones have built up quite a little collection. I use them to hold trinkets but now (thanks to you) I have another neat way to show them off. THANKS!

  • I have a few tins that would make excellent candles, but they leak! Does anyone know how I could seal the tins so they are water-tight?

  • yard sales, Goodwill stores etc. you can buy bulk used candles cheap, usually in a bag for a couple of bucks. Careful on the caulk what is the burning point? Put the tins on a trivet to keep them off of a surface because of the heat. Another way of melting wax is to use an electric hot pot w/ dial for temperature – not sure if I am using the correct term but a few years back they were popular for people to use for heating soup in at the office etc. or an electric fondue pot these can be bought at yard sales. Also to help with clean up use an old jelly roll pan to put the tins in when you are pouring and spills are caught. I also use an old oil cloth table cloth to cover counter and floor. Remember to save the wicks from the melted candles to reuse them. I have been doing projects like this for years – recycling!! Take an old Christmas card front & type on the back directions for burning the candle & safety.

  • Love this ,my little boy and I are going to do this project for christmas gifts!!! We have a place called the exchange where I live ,where you can bring in old things(tins.pot,pans, sofas ect) and take what you want. I’ve collected some free tins and old pots to cook it up in…Thanks for the great idea

  • I just did this with old teacups I bought at a thrift store. It worked really well and looks super cute :) I used an old tin can to melt the wax

  • Well, that was the messiest thing ever!
    Apparently old tins very often leak…
    So I wrapped my kitchen in grease prove paper to prevent it from getting everywhere.
    When I went to pick up the wax (I did 40 tins, so old candles weren’t enough) I was told by a candle making teacher to be careful since the seams from the tins cans can occasionally burst from the heat differences. So always put something underneath when burning!

  • This is a great tutorial, just a few extra bits:
    You can get the candle stuff from ebay -but buy in bulk if your planning to make lots as will save on postage etc.
    When buying wicks, be aware of the width of your tin as the wick width/size relates to the width of the candle…..
    Also, I’ve used soya wax and it cames off pretty easy with hot soapy water……
    Soya wax can be melted in a microwave, that way you don’t need a double boiler, just a micro-safe container :)

    Hope this helps!