Make a Cardboard Tube Candle

A cardboard tube candle is a fun and easy disguise
for the well-dressed gift. It's reusable too,
and popular for birthdays or the holidays.

A cardboard tube candle under the Christmas tree.

For about fifteen years, our family has enjoyed recycling a big red Christmas “candle.” We made it out of an extra-wide tube from a roll of gift wrapping paper. A cardboard tube candle is a fairly simple disguise for any gift that will fit inside your tube - and it certainly stands out in a crowd.

Here’s how we made ours:

Materials you will need:

  • a large cardboard tube, preferably wide enough to stand upright
  • sheets of tissue paper for stuffing
  • gift tissue (preferred) or solid-colored paper gift wrap
  • yellow tissue for the flame
  • 2-3 round wooden toothpicks for the wick (blacken with a marker)
  • turkey lacing skewer or similar (thin, sharp & strong) for Step 5
  • household glue, plus clear/doublestick tape (or glue stick)
  • a gift tag or card
  • 12" of ribbon or decorative cord, or 18” of curling ribbon

A few Notes:

About the candle wick - We use toothpicks, but a lollipop stick cut to about 3" might make a good wick too, for large candles. I'd take an emery board and rough up those smooth sides at each end, to help the wick take the glue effectively.

About a glue stick - When you wrap a cardboard tube candle, a glue stick may produce the least visible seam. However, even solid glue may cause tissue or other thin papers to pucker, either immediately or upon drying. So, try the glue stick on a couple of scraps to see how it behaves with the paper you are using. Go with tape if glue makes a messy seam.

About tapes - Double-stick tape hides well - use pieces that are short enough to avoid the paper jumping onto the tape while you are trying to position it. And use enough pieces to hold the entire seam flat, without large gaps that can catch and tear the paper. If you prefer regular clear, "magic" or gift wrapping tape, they are fine, too!

Preparing the gift for a cardboard tube candle - Wrap your present in gift wrap or tissue and position it inside the tube. Firmly pack in enough crumpled tissue to hold the gift in place near the bottom of the tube, where its weight will help the candle to stand upright. But leave a couple of inches empty inside the very bottom of the tube.

At the top end of the tube, add enough loosely crumpled tissue paper to keep the gift from shifting. Leave a few inches empty inside the top of the tube. Now, for the disguise!

How to Make a Cardboard Tube Candle

Cardboard tube candle: the gift wrap generously overlaps each end of the tube.Cardboard tube candle: push the paper overlaps into the ends of the tube.
1) Wrap the cardboard tube in solid-colored tissue or gift wrapping paper, leaving a generous overlap at each end. Join two pieces of gift paper together, if needed to provide the generous overlap. That extra paper will be stuffed into the ends of the roll, and the top end must be packed in firmly enough to support the wick and flame.

2) Gently stuff the overlapping paper into the bottom of the tube. Do not tape the bottom closed if you want your candle to be reusable as a gift container. At the top of the roll, push in the paper slightly beyond the rim, to resemble the concave lip of a burning candle. Fold under the raw edges, and tape closed inside the rim. Then stand up your candle, or brace it upright.

Cardboard tube candle: center a ball of crumpled paper on a square of gift tissue.Cardboard tube candle: twist and trim the candle flame to shape.
3) To fashion the flame: Crumple a piece of yellow tissue paper into a fairly tight ball, with a diameter about 3/4 that of the cardboard tube. Center the ball on a 6” - 12” (15-25 cm.) square of yellow tissue. The larger the cardboard tube candle, the taller a flame is needed. The corners of the square will form the tip of the flame.

4) Bring the corners of the square up around the crumpled ball, loosely tucking in the shorter sides. Keeping the base of the flame loose, tightly twist together the tissue at the top, to bring the flame to a point. Determine the height of the flame by how far down you twist the corners, and trim as needed to obtain the proper shape.

Cardboard tube candle: affix the blackened wick to the candle flame.Cardboard tube candle: make a hole for the wick in the top of the candle.
5) Now, the wick - a blackened toothpick (for a large flame, two or three set slightly apart). For each toothpick, poke a hole about one inch deep in the bottom of the flame. I use a turkey-lacing skewer - it's sharp and strong. Generously cover the top 1/3 of the toothpick with glue and insert it into the bottom of the flame. Squeeze the flame lightly to be sure the glue makes close contact with the tissue paper ball inside, and allow the glue to dry completely before proceeding.

6) To affix the flame to the candle, repeat Step 5 - poke a hole about 1" into the paper inside the top of the candle. Cover the bottom 1/3 of the wick with glue, drip a little glue into the hole too, and insert the wick. Adjust the flame to stand up straight, with about 1/3 of wick showing. Brace the flame upright, if necessary, while you let the glue dry thoroughly for several hours or overnight.

Cardboard tube candle: affix the flame to the candle and allow glue to dry.Cardboard tube candle: attach the gift tag to a ribbon hanging down from beneath the flame.
7) After the glue is dry, the wick may still need reinforcment to stand upright. One or two more toothpicks can add stability, and I've had good luck with clear tape. Apply two pieces of tape, side by side, to the center of the tube end, with the wick between them. Place them close together, so their inside edges rise up the wick a bit and stick to each other. If needed at the flame end, use short pieces that won't extend up the sides of the flame.

8) Gift Tag: Tape one end of the ribbon or cord at the wick, opposite the seam side of the tube. Attach the tag to the other end and let it dangle down the front of the candle. If you use curling ribbon, push it through a hole in the tag, leaving a few inches at the end for curling. The curls will hold the tag on.

Woo hoo! - your recipient is gonna love your cardboard tube candle!

A few more thoughts:

Your cardboard tube candle can be re-used if the recipient opens the gift by carefully pulling the paper open from the bottom. You may want to supervise the unwrapping when this gift wrapping idea is used for a child. If the wrapping paper at the bottom of the candle becomes frayed from repeated use, you can re-cover the candle and probably re-use the wick and flame.

Our family recycles the gift tag, too. It says: “...and the coveted Red Candle Award goes to...” followed by the date and recipient’s name. The long ribbon allows the tag to be updated easily without having to be removed and re-affixed. Everyone hopes to be this year's recipient!

Variation on a Theme: You can make a cardboard tube candle specifically for birthdays by using birthday wrapping paper. Or, cover it with plain-colored paper and stick on a row of numbers to represent the years – an idea that works for anniversary candles too!

One more gift wrapping idea - Empty toilet tissue rolls make good candles, too. We like them for table favors, or just for decoration.

Why not make a different colored candle
for everyone? It’s a nice way to use those
cardboard tubes you’ve been saving!

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