Floating Taper Candles

I think it’s fair to say that I have a “thing” for candles.  I like em.  I like lighting them, looking at them, smelling them.  I like em.  You know those people who hoard candles and stick them in every possible cupboard and drawer?  I’m not one of those people.  I burn my candles.  Even the ones you apparently aren’t supposed to burn because they’re in the shape of something and once you burn them, they turn into a blobby  mess that doesn’t look like whatever it was it was supposed to look like anymore.  Understand?  Doesn’t matter.  The point is, I like candles.

A few months ago, many months ago now that I think about it, I showed you how to make your own  floating candles.  Floating candles are incredibly expensive.  Apparently the only thing rarer than a floating candle are superpowers.

At the time I was doing the tutorial on floating tea lights, I started working on another kind of floating light.  I thought, how brilliant and beautiful and unexpected would it be to have floating taper candles?  Very.  Very brilliant and beautiful indeed.
Tapers 2


When you drop a taper candle into a vase of water it (being made of wax) tries to float and because it’s bum end has more wax (which wants to float), the bum end tries to float up to the top.  So that’s no good.  To remedy this you have to weigh the bottom of the taper candle down.   And this … is how you do it.

You need candles, washers, and thumbtacks.
Tapers 4

Tapers 3

Tapers 5

Tapers 6

tapers7 copy

Just scrape the bottom of your candle so it’s perfectly flat on the bottom of it isn’t already. Then place your washer on it and secure it with the thumbtack. You only get one shot at getting it centred so be precise. Fill your vase with water and drop the candle in. Inevitably it will still be wonky. Lift it out of the water and slide the washer a bit to change the balance. Stick the candle in the water again. This may take as many as 10 tries to get the candle perfectly balanced. But … it’s worth it because look how beautiful!

Tapers 1

Cough. Ahem. Cough. So … this is the point where I tell you the candles got too close to the edge of my glass vase and cracked it. It was that unmistakable sound of C-r-A-C-kkk! I knew what had happened even though I was in the other room. So … this experiment is kind of a bust. Don’t ever try to do this in fact.

Why post it then? So you know not everything I do works out perfectly. And not everything you do will work out perfectly.

However, I should add that to remedy this, all you would have to do is buy washers that are bigger than the base of the candle. That way they’d act like a bumper, stopping the candle from floating right up to the edge of the vase. I will, in the future, buy larger washers and confirm that my theory of bumper candles is true. I believe it is.

But I also believe in superpowers.



  1. Kim Brownie says:

    Hi there! Was loving this idea…till the breaking glass part! Ahh! Well, just thought I’d share the results of my own little experiment. ;-) Jars made for canning (mason/jelly) can withstand high temperatures i.e. FLAME! One day, while I was burning a candle in one of these glasses, out of curiousity I tipped it over. I watched the flame burn for about 40 minutes with wax pouring out on the table. I’m sure you could picture that the tip of the flame was directly on the side of the jar. NO CRACKING!! Eventually gravity pulled the wick into the melted wax and it snuffed itself. Cool huh?

  2. alice says:

    Just found your site…and love it.
    About the candles…couldn’t you just lite them from the “wrong” end?

    • Karen says:

      Lol. Thanks Alice. That might just work! I’ll give it a shot. Full credit to u of course. Glad u found my site! – karen

  3. Bonnie says:

    I love this idea! except for the breaking glass part. I think that you could also fill the glass with those little beads that soak up water and become big jelled balls. IF you get the clear ones, you would still have the effect, and you could center the candles so they don’t touch the glass. Just and idea.

  4. Sonya says:

    Funny though that they’re called the un-candle holders!

  5. JBT says:

    Has anyone tried it in a tapered vase? Once the bottom of the candles hit the sides, there should still be water between the tops of them and the glass which would keep it from cracking. In theory anyway, not sure if it would actually work.

  6. Michelle says:

    Couldn’t you just increase the water level so that the flame is above the lip of the vase to prevent the cracking?
    I almost went to get my candles to try this, then I remembered botching tealight after tealight trying to make them float. Also, it was a pain scraping all that wax off my stove (don’t ask.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Michelle – The water would literally have to be filled right up to the rim, and then you’d lose the effect of the flickering flame in the glass. I’ll figure it out. One day. When I’m not figuring something else out. :) ~ karen

  7. isi says:

    <3 you are amazing and so funny !!

    greetz from germany

  8. MaShani says:

    Hey Karen,

    Great post…. I love candle decos.. I will try this tonight.. thanks..

  9. Amy in StL says:

    I once had this fantastic tea light holder that looked like a chunk of ice – I got it at a garage sale so it was also very cheap. I decided at some point that having a votive in it would be way cooler; but I didn’t put a votive holder in it. Yeah, I’ve heard that craaaack noise, and now I have a cracked tea light holder that I’m trying to figure out how to fix. Wonder if the windshield place would fix it….

  10. Janelle says:

    How about: get a piece of plexiglass cut to slightly smaller than the inside of your vase. Drill a hole in the middle, to about an inch from the edges of the plexiglass. Do the tack/washer thingy, stick the plastic in the vase, then stick the candles through the hole in the plastic. The outer edge of the plexiglass will contact the sides of the vase but the candles will not and at least in theory you won’t be able to see the plastic.

  11. Judy says:

    PS You cover the magnet with the glass beads or river rocks.

  12. Judy says:

    What if you put a magnet on the bottom of the vase?
    The candles wouldn’t float but you might get a neat effect of the candles surrounded by water!

  13. KiwiKat says:

    If it’s about the temperature change, what if you warmed the glass and filled it with warm water, rather than cold? Maybe that would lessen the shock to the glass?

  14. Jan says:

    What if you tethered the floating candles to a weight in the bottom of the vase(like a pretty pebble or glass bead), so they don’t move around so much? If you tethered them with fishing line you might not see it in the water, and they would still look like they were floating free?

    • Karen says:

      Yup! Not a bad idea Jan. My whole goal was to make them float without seeing anything other than the candle. I’m gonna keep working on it. I may try to work in some fishing line. :) ~ karen

    • Nathalie says:

      I’m liking the tethering part. The fishing line would be invisible in the pebbles. They would have to be tethered separately to have the floating free look I imagine.

      I would probably place the candles in the centre with wine corks all around them to act as bumpers and decoration.

      I am curious how the candles will melt though. With tethering the candles would not be able to remain on the surface while the wax melts away the top of the candle.

  15. magali says:

    A similar thing happened to me. I use to have a gold fish and when it died and I realized I hated cleaning aquariums and having a gold fish in general I kept the bowl on my desk with floating candles in it. One night I heard the CRACK and my nice round bowl was broken. I always felt so stupid about that. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t realized this would happen. But now I feel much better thanks to you!

  16. Becca says:

    I just had a brilliant idea! Yes, brilliant. I have the solution that will protect your lovely vase the next time you float your candles… are you ready for it? Bobeches. I have no idea if that is spelled correctly. Martha, I am not. If you haven’t a clue what a bobeche is, it’s one of those itty bitty little wreath thingies that are put at the base of candles to protect the candle holder from wax drips. Make them out of tiny snips of fresh cedar and they’ll float beautifully around the top of the candle and prevent that flame from coming anywhere the glass. And it’ll be pretty, too. If you wanted, you could lightly weight them with a few glass beads and they’d sink a bit below the surface. See? Brilliant.

  17. Kay says:

    Looooooooooooove your attitude……….
    & I’ll just let you do the experiment w/ the bigger washer………please let us know how it turns out.
    I, too, burn everything that’s burnable….love to see those flames!

  18. Andrea says:

    The most brilliant and beautiful thing I have ever seen done with a candle! You. Are. A. Genius.

  19. Annie says:

    The first thing I thougtht when I saw the beaitufil photo was…how does she keep the glass from cracking. Really glad you talked about that aspect of your experiment…and I hope everyone that says “Oh, I can’t wait to try this” makes sure they read your entire post. Otherwise…ouch! Love your creative ideas…even when they don’t quite pan out.

  20. Erin says:


    Karen -check out the link above for a chicken coop calendar -it seemed like stuff you might do ;)

    found this via http://howaboutorange.blogspot.com/2012/02/february-calendar-in-form-of-chicken.html

  21. Carole McGinnis says:

    This looks so cool – I can’t wait to try it. It amazes me how you continue to come up with new ideas. Love it.

  22. Lonelle says:

    Well dang it, I want to follow you on Pinterest!! How do I find you!! lol

  23. Nancy says:

    I hope you can work this out Karen..They look so pretty on your table..I know you will keep trying..

  24. What a great idea! I did this with my I-Phone last night in my teacup…..not so pretty.

  25. AmieM says:

    Washers, eh?


    For solving the Crack problem, if you fit a piece of plastic loosely around the top of the candle, so that is moves as the candle gets shorter, it would act as a bumper too.

  26. How cool is that….thanks for the washer tip…

  27. Terri-Lynn says:

    I love these candles!!!!!
    Do you really love candles that much? Even the ones shaped as decorative objects? I recall a few years back giving you a beautiful angle candle for your Birthday and you regifted it back to me about 6times!!!! Ha well I still have it. I’ll get it to you asap ;)

  28. joanne says:

    As the candles burn (no, you cannot dissuade me from trying this), will we need to change out the washers? Won’t the weight be too much and make the candles sink?

  29. Tandy says:

    While they wouldn’t float freely, why not put a bed of pebbles in the bottom of the vase to stick the tapers in? You’d still get the pretty effect of the flickering light playing on the surface of the water. Just an idea.

  30. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Sheesh, please ignore my spelling mistake!

  31. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Bummer!!!!!!! I love how it looks, too bad it didn’t work out. I have a feeling you will use your never ending wisdom to make this idea work. ;)

  32. Karena says:

    Karen you brilliant girl!! I just know the larger washers will do the trick! It is the coolest idea ever. I too burn my candles and also love to give as gifts!

    I hope you will join my Valentine’s Giveaway!
    Art by Karena

  33. Brigid says:

    ok, so do i have to use pretty thumbtacks or will plain old ugly ones work? maybe you could craft a non-combustible, floating corral of sorts to keep the floaters away from the sides of the vessel. maybe with attractive twigs and stuff?
    you know what i mean, right?

  34. Debbie says:

    this looks so cool, I hope the larger washers work :)

  35. Karen,
    What happens when the candle burns down? Do the weights make the smaller candle it go under and drown?
    ‘Tis a very cool idea!

    • Beth says:

      I was wondering the same thing!! I want to do this for my wedding but need to make sure the candles will continue to burn! :)

  36. Claire says:

    Would a jar/vase made of pyrex work?

    • Karen says:

      Claire – Thanks! But Pyrex would be even worse, LOL. Pyrex has a tendency to actually explode when quickly going from one temperature to another. If you put hot ingredients into a cold pyrex bowl … BANG … it’ll explode. Everyone keep thinking … we’ll get it figured out. ~ karen

      • Sarah says:


      • Erica Filpi says:

        Pyrex is horrible *L*. I still remember the day my mom thought it was a good idea to add cold water to the pyrex dish IN the oven with ONLY kolbaska in it. Years later I did the same thing, except my dish burst as I opened the oven and melted into the floor. Oh my.

        PS you could make these candles for an outdoor party to float in a pool…

  37. Gayla T says:

    That W was there a minute ago. Now, where did I lay that darn thing. When you get to be my age it’s so easy to lay something down and then completely forget where it is. So sorry! W oh, never mind. There it is.

  38. Gayla T says:

    You little Smarty Farty! I love this. I’ll bet if you get one of those thick glass vases it would work. I can’t wait to see how you solve this cause it really is very pretty. I burn my candles too but also have lots of them in the hutch. Just one of those things you never want to run out of. I mean if you need a good candle at midnight where in the orld would you find one. Just saying………….

  39. Emily P says:


    • Karen says:

      Hi Emily P – I’ve actually tested that theory and it has never worked for me. I did a side by side test of a frozen candle and an unfrozen. Both melted the same. I’ll do it again and see if it was just a fluke! ~ karen

  40. Emily P says:


  41. Melissa Haight says:

    (I mean, in my first post. GOOD NIGHT!)

  42. Melissa Haight says:

    (Oh… sorry about the missing periods and such in my second last post. Ugh.)

  43. Melissa Haight says:

    (Oh… I should mention: I like that your tacks were pretty.)

  44. Melissa Haight says:

    Dan (fellow chip eating scientist) and I agree – We hypothecate that you are going to need bumper washers at the top of the candle as well as the bottom, which won’t work ’cause the candles melt. So, bumpers along the edge of the vase. Will look dumb. A glass ring along the inside of the vase That’s some nifty welding. Well, we’ll keep thinking. I might dream about it tonight.

  45. Barbie says:

    I love that you posted it anyway!

  46. Heather T says:

    Aw, man! I was going to call FIRST PIN but I see Laura beat me to it. :D

  47. Laura says:

    Oh great! I pinned this before I got to the end! Hopefully everyone will come over from Pintrest and read the whole post. I just loved the photo so much I had to pin it.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! Great. Post my failures! That’s just fantastic. :) Meh. I don’t care. I really *do* think it can work, I just need to iron the kinks out. I’ll work on it this week. Thanks for pinning. I love it when you all pin! ~ karen!

      • Sarah Neely says:

        Karen – How about this idea… Use a slightly narrower (but much shorter) glass vase to corral the underwater ends of the tapers? Completely submerge the second glass or bowl, its only purpose would be to keep the tapers from bumping the main vase. And you could choose a vase #2 with a wide enough mouth to still allow the tapers to meander around a bit. Love, love, love your blog + your fantastic successes + your clever ideas + your failures + your sassy haircut. But not in a stalking kind of way.

  48. Marti says:

    I’m just glad you didn’t A) cut off your finger (photo #5) or B) start that gorgeous big paper lantern light on fire (#7). All’s well that ends well.

    Or next time, try this in a well?

  49. Pati says:

    This is great, Karen ! I’m gonna make these……TOMORROW,maybe ????? Yeah…I’ll make em tomorrow !!! ;o)

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