Decorate your fall table with DIY Concrete Pillar Candle Holders
Making your own concrete pillar candle holders with a fall theme is such a great way to decorate on a budget. And, if after this tutorial, you want to see another way you can decorate for fall–take a look at this tutorial for making concrete coasters with shimmery gold leaves.
After making multitudes of concrete tutorials, it baffles me how a project that has such basic elements and contains steps I’ve done a hundred times- could just inexplicably fail.
And this was one of them. Every time I cast the concrete, about an hour into curing —it would crack!
I knew it wasn’t that my mixing and curing conditions were too warm–which could cause the concrete to set too quickly and therefore crack.
And my mix was fresh and I wasn’t using too much water.
So what was it?
I thought maybe the mix I was using was maybe a poor choice because these DIY concrete pillar candle holders are 5” thick (in height). Here are some vibrant rainbow colored ones I made that were only 3 ½” tall. And these Christmas candle holders are also shorter.
That’s a lot thicker than any project I have made using this mix.
Well 5 days later after changing up variables one at a time and still no answers, I sat staring at these and it hit me like a mack truck!
Of course! It was the aluminum candle holders that I used as the inner mold!
I had run into this before using large pieces of aluminum which caused a reaction with the wet concrete, but these aluminum candle holders were so small, it just didn’t occur to me.
Now in the past, it didn’t result in cracking, but it did give the concrete a ruddy appearance due to excess sweating/condensation during the curing process.
The solution was to use only the candle- without the holder to act as the insert placeholder. Well, I think it was worth it all. Didn’t they turn out beautiful!
Pocket Guide to Concrete & Cement Mixes For Crafts
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DIY Difficulty Level | Moderate
Materials For DIY Concrete Pillar Candle Holders
- White cement
- Disposable mixing bowls (2)
- Disposable cup
- Durable nitrile gloves– I like these because they are so durable, you can rinse and reuse and end up costing less in the long run
- Safety glasses
- Safety mask- silica rated
- Smartwater bottles 20oz size (2)
- Disposable cup or dish for mixing paint
- Craft stick
- Spray adhesive
- Piece of aluminum flashing
- Blue tape
- Packing tape
- Acrylic paint- black, green, yellow and blue mixed together- will give you sage if you can’t find a sage green paint. Please don’t use just any acrylic paint. Some paints cause cracking.
- Hot glue
- 100% Silicone caulk and caulk gun
- Tealight candles
- Utility knife
- Acetate sheet
- Concrete sealer
- Foam brush
- Smooth tiles or smooth, hard boards (2)
What not do do:
Don’t use hot glue in place of the caulk because the concrete will leak through and you’ll risk getting cracks.
Don’t leave the holder inside the mold when you cast the concrete.
The aluminum will react with the concrete and crack these DIY pillar candle holders and cause sweating, which will make it have a ruddy texture.
Tutorial Steps For DIY DIY Concrete Pillar Candle Holders
STEP 1 | Prep The Bottle To Make Your DIY Pillar Candle Holder Mold
You’ll need to cut open the bottles at the top and bottom.
I made my pillar candle holders 5 ¾” tall and made my bottom cut just above the rounded area where it bevels at the bottom and then measured 5 ¾” up the bottle.
Just make sure you stop before the top of the bottle tapers.
It’s important to make a straight cut because you will be caulking the bottle to an acetate sheet base and if it’s uneven, then the concrete will leak out of it.
I found the easiest way to make a straight cut is to take a piece of aluminum flashing and essentially use it as a straightedge.
To do this, cut a strip of aluminum flashing that is about 1” x 12” and make sure the long edge is a factory cut edge so you can be certain that it is straight.
Then take a piece of blue tape that is several inches longer than the flashing and tape it along the strip.
Let it overlap the non-factory cut edge by at least a few inches.
This will help keep it from slipping while you are cutting.
Start at the bottom of the bottle and use a utility knife to carefully score around the bottle and then cut through and around.
Be sure to hold the utility knife right up against the metal as you cut.
Now do the same for the top of the bottle.
STEP 2 | Prep The Inner Concrete Mold
Our goal here is to use the candle as the insert mold for the candle holder.
The reason is that we can’t use the holder itself because it is aluminum. The aluminum will react with concrete while it’s curing.
Since the candle is smaller than the holder, we need to build it up to be the same diameter.
So first measure the height of the aluminum candle holder. Mine was ½” (some tealights holders can be taller or shorter).
Cut a strip of acetate that is the height you measured and make it about 18” long.
The candle itself is going to be a little shorter than the holder and so then also shorter than the strip you are cutting. This is okay, we will fill this in during the next step.
Next, take the candle and remove it from the aluminum holder and wrap the acetate strip around the candle (not holder) three times.
Trim the excess length and tape it with a thin strip of packing tape. Now your candle should be the same diameter as the holder.
Next, trace the candle on a scrap piece of acetate and cut it out. This will help keep a cleaner line and be easier to remove after curing.
STEP 3 | Make The Concrete Candle Bases
Cut two pieces of acetate about 4×4”. Take the two pieces of smooth tile or something else you have that is smooth, and spray the tile with adhesive spray.
Now lay an acetate sheet on each tile or smooth board.
There will likely be empty space from the top of the candle to the top of the strip.
To remedy this, heat up a glue gun to a low temp and fill this in so the glue is flush with the top of the strip.
Now take this and flip it over and stick it to the middle of the acetate sheet base. Next, take the circle you cut it out and insert it over the top of the candle.
It should fit right in between the taped acetate, but if it doesn’t, it’s okay. It doesn’t need to be a perfect fit.
STEP 4 | Seal The Bases With Caulk
We want to prevent the concrete from leaking from the base.
This pillar mold is tall and the wet concrete will be heavy so leaking can be more of a problem than in shorter molds.
If the concrete leaks, it will create voids that will cause pitting or even cracks.
So instead of using hot glue to seal the mold to the base, like I have in some other tutorials, this time we will use silicone caulk.
Another advantage of silicone caulk is that it will provide cleaner lines when you demold.
The only drawback to the caulk is that you have to wait until the caulk is dry before you cast your concrete mold.
This can take up to 3 hours depending on the thickness of your bead and climate conditions.
First, take the water bottle and place it over the glued candle and eyeball it so that it’s centered.
Now use the caulk gun and carefully caulk the bottle into place. The bottle will want to slide around on the acetate, so just go slowly.
Try to avoid getting silicone on the area between the candle insert and the bottle. This will allow you to have a cleaner look.
Even though my bottles moved out of position a few times, I was easily able to reposition it without getting silicone inside this area.
After you have caulked around the bottle, hold the bottle in place with one hand and with a gloved finger. Then smooth the caulk to ensure it fully packs around the bottle.
Let the caulk set, 1 ½ -3 hours. When you check to see if it has fully set, just push on the caulk.
If it’s spongy in your thickest part, then you need to wait a little more. Mine was fully set after 2- 2 ½ hours.
Repeat this for the second bottle.
STEP 5 | Prep The Concrete Setting Location
In order to get the angled effect with the marbling, you will need to lay the candles at an angle just briefly.
I found rags to be a great way to prop these while working on them.
So take some rags and place two mounds of them on your work surface and move on to the mixing step.
STEP 6 | Mix The Paint Colors
Get the paint ready before adding it to the concrete crafts mix.
If you are combining multiple colors, go ahead and mix the colors now and set it aside. I used about 2 tablespoons of paint total for both candles.
To achieve a sage green color, I mixed green, blue, green, yellow and black.
STEP 7 | Mix The Concrete
I made my candle holders so that the green would be at the top when finished.
I did this because I wanted the candle to contrast with the concrete, rather than having a white candle on white concrete.
To do this, you’ll need to cast the green concrete first since the first color you cast is ultimately going to be the top of the DIY concrete pillar candle holder.
This concrete candle will be easier to cast if you mix all the cement now – both colors and for both candles.
I recommend mixing a little more than what you think you need.
Note: Make sure you are using cold water to mix the concrete.
This will give you a little extra working time which is helpful since you are mixing half of it with paint and it takes a little more time.
Mix the concrete to a thick, but scoopable- nearly pourable consistency. I took this photo just before I added a little more water.
You will be dividing the mix into the two bowls with one for the colored concrete and one for the white concrete.
You will want twice the amount you see in the photo since you will be dividing it.
I recommend proportioning it so that a little more than half is reserved for the colored mix.
The reason is that if you are short, you will have a tough time remixing and achieving the same color.
You can always make more of the non-colored mix if need be.
After dividing, add the sage colored paint to the bowl that has more mix and mix it well.
Keep in mind that the color in your bowl will dry lighter, so adjust by adding more black if necessary.
Sometimes the paint can make the mix a little chalky and might thicken it. If so, then go ahead and add a little more water.
STEP 8 | Cast The Marbled Concrete Pillar Candle Holders
At this thicker consistency and with a small opening, I just scooped it up with my hand and glop it into the mold.
Fill it about half way with the green mix and then vibrate the mold.
Take care to not separate the caulk from the bottle or the acetate while vibrating and keep tapping until the air bubbles release.
I found it helpful to hold the bottle with one handle while tapping with the other.
Just do this for less than a minute, you’ll vibrate it again after you cast the white concrete.
If you end up with some smearing of concrete on the inside edges of the bottle, consider wiping some of it off because it will show up when you pour your second color.
I wiped off mine but only near the open top.
I let some smears remain that were closer to where the green sat because it would help create the natural marbling effect one the white is added.
Now tilt the bottles at an angle and prop them up onto something, they will only be there a few minutes.
If the concrete stays in place and doesn’t flow to an angle, just take a craft stick and drag it forward so that it creates an angle.
Test to see if the white can now be added. Do this by standing the molds back up straight.
If the concrete retains that angle you created then go ahead and add the white.
If the green concrete slides down and levels flat when you tilt it, then angle it again and wait a few more minutes.
Don’t let it set too long before adding the white.
For another great piece of DIY fall decor, check out the gold accented Concrete Candlestick Holders.
You may also be interested in the DIY Concrete Pumpkins.
After adding the white, make it level at the top and continue vibrating and tapping. With this concrete mold being so tall, you will need to vibrate it a little longer than most pieces.
I tapped my tile up and down on my table and tapped the sides of the bottle for probably 3 minutes.
Let these cure. If you are using the same white cement I linked to in the materials, then you will be able to demold in about 16 hours.
STEP 9 | Demold The DIY Concrete Candle Holder
Once cured, carefully make a slit at the open part of the mold, using the utility knife. Peel it off the bottle.
Sometimes the plastic sticks to the cement when demolding. If this happens with yours, just make another slit, then peel and repeat.
When you get to the bottom, lift up on the acetate and pull the DIY concrete candle holder off the tile.
At this point, you should be able to pull the acetate off altogether. Then just make a slit through the caulk and pull the rest of the plastic off.
To get the candle out, use the utility knife to cut through the wax.
You may have to dig it out a little, just take care to keep the blade pointing away from your fingers and body.
If necessary, use the pliers to grab hold of the packing tape that surrounds it. When everything is out, you should have a nice clean hole for the candle holder.
Test to make sure the candle holders fit. If it’s a little tight, you can sand the sides of the hole.
FINAL STEP | Seal The Concrete Candle Holder
I typically don’t seal my concrete crafts- especially planters since I prefer that they are somewhat porous to help with drainage.
However, I strongly recommend sealing these candles to prevent the oily wax from staining the concrete.
So use a foam brush and apply a coat of concrete sealer. You should let the sealer fully dry for about 24 hours before lighting the candle.
Now set these out on your fall table scape and watch your guests marvel over your beautiful DIY concrete pillar candle holders!