DIYdiy projectsentertainingFood & Drink

Entertaining DIY: Seashell Candles

by Grace Bonney

Tomorrow we’re doing a French-themed entertaining post that had us focusing on mussels for a while. After toying with a few DIY projects to go with the table settings (the rest will be on the site tomorrow), we decided to go back to basics and make some quick and easy shell candles. This is my favorite sort of project, one that takes next to no time and very little money. All you need are some shells (I used the leftovers from summer collecting), a few tea lights and something to melt the wax. If you’re lazy and using small shells like I did, you can just melt a few tapers over the shells, but the proper method usually involves making a simple double boiler. After the jump, I’ll walk you through the full steps, and you’ll be on your way to creating a rustic French table setting. Stay tuned for the full recipes and DIYs tomorrow! xo, grace

Photos by Maxwell Tielman

Image above: tea towel designed by Shanna Murray for West Elm (sadly, no longer available)

Full how-to continues after the jump . . .


  • shells
  • tea lights
  • double boiler or a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water



1. Remove the wicks from the tea lights by peeling off the silver covers.

2. Place the wicks in the bottoms of the shells. (If the shells won’t lay flat, you can lay them on a crumpled paper bag or cloth to keep them level)

3. Place the leftover (without wicks) candles in the double boiler and melt. (You can also melt them in a non-stick pan. You’ll just need to clean the pan while it’s still pretty hot to get all the wax off.)

4. Carefully pour the candle wax into each shell, leaving at least a half-inch of wick exposed. This step can get a little bit messy, so to avoid wax spills on your table, it’s best to place your shells on a piece of aluminum foil or paper before pouring.

5. Wait for them to dry completely and then set on the table!

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  • This is fabulous! I am cleaning out the closet in our soon-to-be child’s room and have stacks of things that I’m not quite sure what to do with. Among those stacks? Lots of sea shells and a few baggies full of saved candle wax. I think this project just saved the day!

  • Love the shells as candle holders, and had an idea for melting the votives after wicks are removed – if the tricky part is pouring melted wax from a pan this might be easier: Place candles in 2- or 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup and melt in a microwave on a low setting, in batches as needed. Since these glass measuring cups are also little pitchers, I assume the wax could be poured quickly using the pitcher spout. I did NOT try this so you would need to figure out how many candles to melt at a time depending on your Pyrex cup size, what microwave setting works best for your microwave, and how long – several short bursts stirring in between might be best. To remove wax residue from the Pyrex cup afterwards, placing the cooled Pyrex cup in the freezer would freeze the wax and then running warm water on the bottom and sides very briefly should make the wax residue fall out in one piece. Again I did not try this method so it has not been tested by me – yet!

  • I like this idea! If the shells are small, do you think you could just peel of the tealight’s silver cover, place it in the shell and then put it in the oven to melt the wax directly in the shell? It would let you skip a step but maybe the wick wouldn’t stay in place as nicely.

  • I have always loved this idea – especially if you live near the beach where these shells are everywhere. We’ve typically used old taper candles or bees wax sheets to melt but I like that this re uses the wicks from those tiny metal votives. We did these for a Christmas table setting in a beautiful old rustic family beach house and they were perfect because you could just imagine all the kids collecting the shells while the moms melted candle stubs in an old pan – a wonderful family holiday project .

  • hi guys! i think that’s max’s tea towel from west elm :)

    i’m not sure about melting in the oven- i’ll try it out and see what happens. but i think it’s easier to just pour them in so you can make sure the wick stays in place …


  • These are so beautiful and fun, but tea lights are usually paraffin wax. You really need to melt it in something you’ll never cook food in again. I work with wax a lot and even with pure beeswax you would not use your pan for food afterwards. Don’t mean to be a downer, but always look after your health first.