How to Make Tea Lights
Whether you're a beginner or an experienced candle maker, DIY tea lights are a fun project that's fairly quick and not too complicated. Once you learn how to make tea lights, you may find yourself burning them often, and never buying the pre-made ones again.
The first thing you'll need for this project, though, is a bunch of the little metal cups that tea lights generally come in. You can pop the candles that came in them out, and reuse the containers as many times as you like.
Of course, you'll also need wax. I like to use beeswax, which is nontoxic and smells great (while you're making the candles, and then again when you burn them). You can buy pre-made wick at candle-supply stores, but it's not really necessary, and they sometimes contain lead. I make my wicks out of regular cotton twine and thin cardboard, like a used cereal box. The candles burn fine, just like any other candles.
The last thing you'll need is a large jar or can, to melt the wax in inside a pan. It's very hard to clean the wax off, so use a container you don't mind parting with.
If your beeswax came in a block, cut or break it into small pieces. Put the pieces in a can or jar. Put a few inches of water in a pan, and heat it over low heat. Put the can or jar in the water. This helps to control the temperature, to reduce the risk of accidental fire. Also, it keeps your pan clean.
When the wax has melted, take several long pieces of string and dip most of their length in the wax (you can leave a bit to hold on to at the end, if you want). Hang each string up to dry, or lay is out flat on a cookie sheet or similar surface. These are your wicks. When they're dry, cut the waxed parts into pieces about 1.5 inches long.
Cut some squares of cardboard small enough to fit inside the tea light cups, one for each candle. Poke a small hole in the middle of each square, with a push pin or similar tool. Push a wick piece through each cardboard square, leaving most of the length on one side of the cardboard and just a bit on the other. Fold each short end of the wick flat against the cardboard. This will be the bottom of your wick.
Pour the wax into the tea light cups, almost but not quite up to the edge. Watch them carefully. When the wax starts to look cloudy around the edges as it cools, it should be solid enough to support the wick without instantly melting it. When you see this happening, hold a wick by the long end and insert it into a tea light so that the cardboard square sits on the bottom of the cup. Repeat quickly with all the candles.
That's it! When the wax dries, the candle will be opaque and you won't see the cardboard square. You can trim the wicks to the length you want (shorter wicks have a smaller flame and burn for longer), and pop them out of the metal cups if you want.
If you have more wax than you have cups, dipping candles are also easier to make than you might think.