Chapstick Candles

Today I received the 1.8mm Flickering Warm Light LED kit I ordered from — an amazing little company. So I’m finally ready to make a dozen Chapstick candles for Act 7 of my movie POSERS. And here’s how I did it:

The first thing to know is that before running the LED wires up the center of the tube, we have to remove the plastic screw that acts as the core. This is a very delicate operation, as we need to preserve the wax intact without crushing or melting it. So step 1 is to uncap the tube, and turn the base dial all the way until it stops.

Now, with a 1/8” drill bit, we hold the tube firmly and drill out the base. If done dead center, this will sever the base dial from its plastic screw. Note the paper towels in the background. You don’t want your fingers to get waxy. Also you don’t want the label to slip. So hold the tube above the label.

Here you can see the base dial comes off. We’ll glue that back on later. Inside the tube, you can see the broken screw core. This will likely remain loosely attached to the plastic cup that holds the wax. Sometimes everything will fly out but usually you have to push it out. I used a pointed wooden skewer, about 1/8” in diameter. But you could probably use a small Phillips screwdriver.

Remember to never pull the wax. You can only push it or it will deform and break into a mess. Here are the parts of a Chapstick tube, lined up. You can throw the broken screw (just the shaft) away.

Okay, now set the tube upright (without the base dial), and carefully reinsert the wax, cup first. Use the cap to apply even pressure. The cup will resist at first, but then it will snap. We want about 1/8” of the wax to remain exposed at the top, like a real candle. If you push too far, use your stick to push it back up from the bottom hole.

Now we need to make a hole in the top of the wax, that will connect to the hole vacated by the plastic screw we removed. This is easy if the wax got a little soft from all the friction. You can just poke it with a stick. Do this gently — but if the wax starts to break, stop and use your 1/8” drill bit on slow speed instead.

Now hold the tube up to a light and make sure the hole is clear. If not, gently use your skewer again, twirling as you go so as not to move the wax up or down.

Now we’re ready to install the light. Straighten the red and black wires together and twist them if necessary. Easier said than done since you only have two hands and the assembly so far is fragile. We want the bulb to sit about 1/8” above the wax. This is mostly for effect, to simulate a candle flame. But also, we don’t want even the slightest amount of heat to cause our wax to slide down the tube and out of view.

Now we’re ready to glue the base dial back on. Carefully turn the tube upside down and thread the wires through the hole in the base dial. Secure it in place with a couple drops of Loctite 495 or other Superglue. We don’t need the dial to turn anymore. Once the dial is set (about a minute), add one more drop of glue to the hole to set the wires at our desired bulb height. On a few of my candles, this didn’t work so I used a hot glue gun. I was reluctant to do that at first because everything is heat sensitive.

Okay, that’s it for the candles themselves. Here you can see I made twelve. 3 cherry (red), 3 spearmint (green), 3 moisturizer (blue), and 3 strawberry (pink). Be sure to let the glue set a while and then check each bulb again for slippage.

The LED light wires are bare, so my next step was to thread them through some wooden stands I drilled and stained. These are 3” tall stands I found on Amazon. They had 1/2” holes so I had to enlarge them with a 5/8” bit — the diameter of a Chapstick tube. Then I drilled a 1/4” hole down the center to accommodate my wires. I broke a couple stands so be sure to order extra. Since I don’t have a drill press, the trick is to hold them in a small bench vise, drill halfway from the top, then halfway from the bottom. Turns out a 1/8” bit would have sufficed. I set each tube in a stand using hot glue, being careful to keep them straight. Note that the wires are thin enough to just cut a groove in the bottom of the stand. But on my movie’s bedroom set, I drilled holes in my plywood floor where I’ll connect all the wires underneath and out of the camera’s view.

The flickering effect on each candle is amazing! Will post video of that later.