How To Make DIY Outdoor Ice Candles


If you live in a climate that is cold during the winter, you may have seen ice candles lining people's driveways or in their yard. These are fun and festive decorations many people put up during the cold winter months to give a little bit of light during a normally dark time. They not only provide additional light but they also look great and add a nice touch to wherever you put them. Lawns, yards, driveways, porches, it doesn't matter, they will fit perfectly. If you are unfamiliar with what they look like, the picture above shows you a typical row of them.

What I like about them most is that the provide a kind of contrast to them, a yin and yang if you will, between two main elements; fire and ice. That is a combination that you don't usually see together, and it looks unique and uplifting, especially during the night. Based out of a colder climate of Chicago and enthusiastic of anything related to candles, you know this is a perfect topic for us to cover.

If you live in a cold climate you should definitely consider having some for your house. But, it's not like you can just go to a store and buy them. Why more people don't have them is because you have to make them yourself, which many may consider being too much time or work. It's actually a really simple process that most people could finish within a couple of minutes. It's a neat art project that you may enjoy doing and add a nice touch to your house. So, if you want to learn more about these Winterland creations, stay tuned here.

A Brief History

Ok, yeah I know this article is supposed to be an article on how to make these ice candles, but wouldn't you love to learn a little about these sculptures? If so, then this section is for you! If not you can obviously just skip down to the next section, but you're really missing out on this interesting history and origins. 

You may think that these are somewhat of a new and novel concept, but they actually are an old Northern European tradition. That figures, as all of those Scandanavian countries have bitter winters and they need something to lighten the time. Not to kill the mood, but they actually were first used back in the 1940s for gravesites, primarily of fallen soldiers during World War II in Europe.

This was so people could easily visit the graves during the night during the cold winter months and be able to see. They lit up the paths throughout the cemeteries as well as by individual graves. They also had symbolic meaning to them, as bringing them to a gravesite meant bringing life (the flame) to the site. It was to honor to soldiers as well as help families find their buried loved ones. A sad but beautiful origin I think.

Anyway, although they may not have the happiest of origins (I hope I didn't ruin them for you), these ice candles now symbolize good spirits and festivity. They may not have had a start you were thinking of. When I first started doing research on it, I imagined them starting out as a tradition at like a winter festival or something. I guess I'm a bit too optimistic sometimes. I was partially right, though, as they did start to become used in winter traditions for good times. Finland, in particular, was a country that adopted them into their culture. There are a couple months during the winter when they get only 4-5 hours of sunlight a day so it is obviously a very dark time. That is why they started to rise in popularity and gradually they have spread across the world. They have really started to be more well-known recently thanks in large part to the internet and on websites like Pinterest in particular. 

Nonetheless, I think it was at least interesting to know that these handcrafted pieces of art got their start for a practical and symbolic use and not just as a decoration. Now, they line the driveways of many across the world, and they can line yours too if you follow the steps below.

How To Make Them

Now that you have all the background info you would ever want to know about ice candles (if you read the section above), let's get into the fun part; how to make these with ease. It should go without saying that the absolute most important ingredient is a cold climate. This doesn't just mean freezing temperatures. If the weather outside where you live is close to freezing, the heat with the candle will easily melt the ice candle within hours. As there is heat on the interior, you'll want it to be consistently several degrees below freezing where you are.This will ensure that it will stay intact. Worst comes to worst, if it warms up and your creation melts, don't fret, you can allow easily make another one. You'll see just how quick and simple this process is below. 

Materials Needed

  • Large bucket. Preferably around 5 gallons which are a standard size.
  • Hammer and Screwdriver
  • One small votive candle

Procedure

  1. The first thing you will want to do it fill up your bucket with cold water. Not all the way to the brim, leaving 4-6 inches from the top.
  2. Place it outside and let it freeze. This will take around 18-24 hours in conditions of around 20 degrees F and will obviously take longer or shorter depending on the temperature. You will want it about and inch thick of ice, so it doesn't need to be frozen solid. In fact, if it is, it will make the process much more difficult
  3. Once the ice is about an inch thick on the top, bring it inside to let it warm up for a couple of minutes. Not for too long, but just enough to let the inside melt a bit.
  4. Bring it back outside, and then carefully dump out the solid piece of ice onto the ground. 
  5. When you do this, ideally the inside will likely fall out and you'll be left with a structure and bottom but with nothing on the interior. This is exactly what you want.
  6. The edges probably won't break perfectly when falling out, so use a hammer and a screwdriver to chip off any excess ice of the rim. Remember, it is much better to have too much ice that you need to chip off than it is to not have enough. If the top rim isn't thick enough once you remove it from the bucket, I'd say about an inch thick, then you'll need to start over. It's no big deal as it didn't require much work, but you'll have to wait another day.
  7. Once you have all the edges cleaned up nicely and it looks good, place the small candle inside and light it. You have now finished this project.

Note that it isn't uncommon for your first attempt to fail, with the ice breaking when you pour it out or it not being hard enough. That's ok. Just wait another day and do it again. The second time around you will have a much better feel for how long you should let it outside in your conditions. It's difficult for me to tell you exactly how long to keep it outside because conditions are different everywhere. This part is one where you just have to get a feel for it.

Now, when most people make these ice candles, they don't just make one and call it good. There's obviously nothing stopping you from doing so, but they look best in groups and in rows, so I would highly recommend you doing it that way. The process is quick and easy and will only get easier with the more times you do it. So get as many buckets as you can and freeze them all at the same time. Then go one by one and carve them out. 

Summary

Outdoor ice candles are a great decoration for the winter time that everyone will love. As you can see from the process above, they are also simple and can be done by anyone.

Now I know this article won't be useful to the majority of people who live in a warm climate. However, you can still do plenty of DIY projects involving candles if you are interested. If you want a great indoor candle decoration, check out How To Make Himalayan Salt Candles. Another fun and easy project for indoors are Wax Melts. Neither of those interest you? Don't worry, we are constantly updating our blog, especially with DIY projects, as people love those. So check back on our blog every couple of days to check out the new content.

But if you ever find yourself in a colder region of the world, think about creating one and telling others how to if they are interested. 

Have you ever made an ice candle? Share your experience below in the comment sections so people can see firsthand how cool these creations can be.




Dustin Holta
Dustin Holta

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