Apr 21, 2008

Skillups: Super Potion Candles... maybe?

One of my favorite things about the wide world of crafting is that it's perfectly okay - encouraged, even! - to build on someone else's idea. If you see a pattern you like, see a design you admire, see a wooden carving with a shape you adore, you're nothing more or less than an inspired artist if you take the three and meld them together to create something that is wholly and truly your own. Those three crafters that inspired you are most likely to be flattered that you found something in their work worth pondering, nurturing, and evolving as your own.

It's beautiful and rare, this sense of community with strangers. Not all types of artisans share it.

Shelbi of The Bronze Kettle, who I think is precisely this type of artisan and crafter, is today's source, the origin of an idea that was simple, elegant and ripe for expansion. As I mentioned last week, she took over the World of Warcrafts column on WoWInsider and had me drooling over her very first post, called Super Potions. In case anyone missed the memo, I am a rabid alchemist at heart. If you put adorable, shiny, bubbly little bottles of 'alchemy potions' within my real-life grasp, I will (and did) have to have them. Being a complicated dreamer, however, I wanted to go a step farther. I wanted my potions to have a purpose beyond just looking incredibly cool on my mantle; I wanted them to light up my desk and fill the air with enchanting fragrances. Thus, I took Shelbi's concept, already conveniently made of candle materials, and took it to the next step. Super Potions became Super Potion Candles.

Here's how:

Step 1: Gathering the Mats

Following Shelbi's simple advice, I took my trusty credit card to my local craft store for everything I needed to make sweet little gel candles in potion-shaped bottles. There, tucked in between the soap molds and the decorative cake-baking supplies, I found my treasure trove of real-life alchemical goodness:
Gathered Mats
  1. One vat of Gel Wax - $20
  2. Liquid dye vials in three colors; red, yellow and blue - $6
  3. Liquid candle scents in three varieties; cinnamon, vanilla, and lavendar - $10 *
  4. Medium-weight, bleached wick; 3' roll - $2
  5. Wick clips; packet of 25 - $2
  6. Assorted small bottles, complete with cute little corks - $1 each
  7. Pretty, sheer ribbon that was on sale by the counter; 2 rolls - $1 each
I decided not to get the $20 special melting pot (which is only special insomuch as it saves you from the temptation of using your nice cookware to melt insidious wax), but I also didn't want to use my nice cookware to melt insidious wax. Thus, I stopped by the great little grocery at the end of the street for a few supplemental supplies:
  1. Coffee stirring sticks; pack of 100 - $1
  2. Aluminum foil mini-loaf pans; pack of 3 - $2
  3. Plastic funnels; set of 3 - $1
And that's all. In total, it cost me about $45 to get started, but I will have dyes, fragrances, and wicks for at least another dozen potion candles. It won't be this expensive every time I get the urge to whip me up a bit of pretty elixir.

One more item, by the way, which I forgot but really missed. Make sure you have some super glue on hand. Something that takes about 30-60 seconds to set up but makes a firm bond will really help you to get the wick clips well secured to the bottom of the bottle. Believe you-me, it's a pain when your oh-so-brilliant, cobbled-up attempts to stick those suckers down give way the moment you pour in the wax. Sigh.

Anyway, you need to farm up three more (hopefully easy) items before you can start your crafting:
  1. Super Glue
  2. Pliers
  3. Protective surface (aluminum foil, in my case)
Set it all up in a nice, open space near the stove.

Mmm... space!

Step 2: Wick-ed Ways

There's really only one significant difference between what I did and what Shelbi described in her column, and that is the process of adding a wick to your potion-candles. It's not really that complicated, but to do a really straight, well-centered wick in a poured candle can be just a little bit challenging. .... especially if you don't have the aforementioned super glue to help hold your clip to the glass. Double-sigh.

Gently melting.

Start this process either before you put the wax on to melt or while it's melting. A lot of the literature I read said that the wax would melt in around 5 minutes or so, but I found that it took more like 10 minutes at my nice, low temperature. I probably could have sped that up, but I didn't want to a) risk burning the wax through my thin tinfoil pans and b) risk not having the wicks ready when the wax was ready. Thus, I cut my wax, put it on the stove, and then got started to the measuring, cutting and clamping of my wicks.

Measuring: It's always better to have too much wick than too little.

Cutting: Measure twice. Cut once. Buy plenty more wick material than you need.

Clamping: No wussies allowed. You really want to take your pliers, get a good grip on your wick material, and cinch that little guy hard and tight. Imagine it's the head of that rogue that showed up for the first time, last Gruul run, and won the roll for your Dragonspine Trophy.

There you go. A nice length of wick clamped into a little metal tab is all that separates the Super Potion from the Super Potion Candle. However, our work isn't quite done. That wick isn't going to do its job well, chillin' on the countertop. It's time to take that ever-so-important superglue and a handy coffee stirrer and attach the clip to the bottom center of the bottle.

Note: It's tough in smaller bottles, but really work hard to make sure you center that wick. Candles made all wonky and crosswise in the wick department do wonky and crosswise things when they're burning. It's worth extra effort now to save you disappointment when it self-destructs, later.

Step 3: Pour Your Heart Out

By the time your wick is assembled and installed in the bottle, your wax should be pretty well liquefied. You may have already added your dyes and fragrances, or you may be ready to do that, now. It doesn't really make a difference so long as you mix them in before you start pouring your wax into the bottle. Just remember, as Shelbi said... Go slowly. You can't undrop any color or fragrance if you make it too strong, but you can always add more if it's too weak. Now, I didn't have one, but I do recommend that you use an eyedropper if you want to be precise with the liquid additives. I found that they poured very poorly and ended up dripping down the bottle as much as anything else.

Anyway, melt your wax, mix it up to be the color and fragrance you want, and grab your funnel and a hot pad. (Those aluminum baking pans, not surprisingly, get nice and hot through and through. Great for wax melting. Not-great for finger not-melting.) You'll need to be a little mindful of your wick, but basically that just means shove it off to the side when you put your funnel in there. No, nubby nubcrafter. Don't let the wick fall into the bottle. :P

Dribble, dribble.

Okay. Your candle is coming along, but remember what I said about wicks? Straight and centered. Take another of those handy coffee stirring sticks and wrap the extra wick around it like spaghetti until you have it braced against the top of the bottle. If you do this right, it will give you a gentle tension on the wick that will make it stay upright and straight while the wax cools. It will also let you adjust it to keep that line of highly-flammable string in the center of your volume of wax. If it's not staying on its own, you can always grab some tape and tape the ends of the stirrer to the sides of the bottle to give it a helping hand. There are lots of different ways to ensure your wick fidelity. Me, I used a few different ones to experiment, including the diabolical cork-bracing method (which was not necessarily the best). :P

Step 4: WTS 3x [Super Almost-awesome Candle Potion]

About 30 minutes of cooling time and a wick-trim later, I had three adorable little bottles of colorful, bubble-thick gel. I was enthralled. Thrilled. Ever-so proud. I grabbed my sale ribbon and a hot-glue gun that I found in the closet and set about simulating some of the potion icons I looked up on WoWHead. Ta-da! Three Super Potion Candles!

Super Potion Candles

Wiktory, right? Supreme glory and the glow of accomplishment?

I thought so. For about ten minutes. Then, I went to take my coup-de-grace photo, the one where my three pretty candles were all lit and glowing with their own majestic power.


Let's discuss, for one moment, the needs of a combustion reaction.
  1. Ignition - Check. Provided by my Flickr lighter. Or a piece of burning wick. Or ... heck, lots of options here.
  2. Fuel - Check. Provided by a taught little white wick and that wonderful gel wax.
  3. Oxidant - .... um. Maybe not so much. Now, this is a very subtle problem that I didn't see coming at all. Let's take a glance at the scale of our potion bottles.

  4. Oh, snap.

    That, boys and girls, is an index finger. You can see that the mouth of the bottle, wonderful and potion-shaped as it is, is only about 3/4" interior diameter. It opens out from there to an ~3" diameter 'ball' bottle. It's small and cute and sparkly, and it doesn't sound too bad until you start thinking about air-flow-in versus air-flow-out. Go ahead. Give it some thought.

    Yep, you guessed it. These candles will never light. Believe me, I tried everything. The fact is that the mouth is too small to allow oxygen to flow in while smoke and carbon dioxide flow out. Instead, any flame that enters that mouth instantly suffocates on its own excrement (nice mental image, eh?). It diminishes, then sputters and dies within a second.
Bummer. :(

But hey, that's okay. It's a very important candle-making lesson learned, and it certainly doesn't put my dream of potion candles out of reach! Now, I need to do more shopping and find slightly larger bottles that will let me have my candles and burn them, too. A larger mouth or a slightly different shape with less neck will make these work just fine. I'll report back when I find them and can really give you that coup-de-grace photo I wanted. Until then, I have "Super Potions" that are every bit as fun as Shelbi promised and looking hawt beside my friend the Orcish Rider.

Maybe not a full wiktory, but hey... I'm happy. Who can be sad when looking at real-life alchemy pots?!

Super Potion Not-Candles

* Note: Liquid additives ONLY. You can't use the solid candle scents that you'll see. They cloud the gel wax and make your sparkling potions look like vials of rancid Troll Temper.


dblzero1 said...

if you use a heat resistant ribbon at the collar of the bottle or just above the line of mats in the bottle you could probably drill a few holes around the perimeter to get an air flow going and you wouldn't be able to see the holes with the right kind of decoration on the bottle.

or as an alternative you could fill the bottles with an aromatic oil pull the wicks through the center of the cork and it will draw the oil up to scent the air. i know it's not as cool as fire but... :)

Shadow said...

Nice write up! Very cool way to take the previous designs you saw to a new level. I have one question.

Imagine it's the head of that rogue that showed up for the first time, last Gruul run, and won the roll for your Dragonspine Trophy.

Give me that rogue's name now! They must die!!!

JoLynn from The Fit Shack said...

Well, at least you tried, and even though they won't light, they do look pretty cool. :)

Anonymous said...

Those look awesome. I was thinking about trying this myself but I haven't been able to motivate myself to go to the craft store yet.

Rhoelyn said...


That's a very good suggestion. Drilling holes in glass can be very tricky, but it should solve the problem. I'm going to have to try that and see if I can do it without breaking the bottles. :)


Names omitted to protect the guilty. ;)


Thanks. That's how I feel, too. Sure, it'll be nice when I have ones that I can burn, but these three first tries are just as fun as ornaments.


Motivate! Motivate! Creating these made for a fun Sunday afternoon. :)

batgrl said...

Hey, couldn't you get some little LED or some kind of mini lights and put them inside? I can't remember where I've seen them, but there might be something you could add to them. Or perhaps a light set behind them on a shelf, so that they'd glow. They look lovely anyway - and just think of how many candles folks already have sitting around just for show that never get lit - I know I'm guilty of that!

Lady Jess said...

Oh I LOVE those!! Very cool!!

Anonova said...

What gorgeous colours! I'd love to see these lined up in a sunny window.

Leiandra said...

Okay... somebody hurry up and sell some of these. I lack the patience to do it myself, but I think they're very cool. :)

Anonymous said...

They look good enough to drink! I know they're candles but it almost seems a shame to burn them...if you ever get them lit ;)