I put this tutorial together for my crafty friends over at Everyday Art. They've got some good things going on over there.
For Christmas last year, I put these vintage looking bottles of homemade soda together to give as gifts. They don't necessarily have to have a Christmas theme to them. This is not necessarily an original idea, either. Homebrewers have done this for a while, but I thought my version looked pretty classy so I thought I would share. The labels were just laser printed on normal paper, the ribbon was just basic ribbon from a craft store, and the sealing wax is actually a blend of hot glue and crayons.
Sure, you could just buy some bottle sealing wax at a wine supply shop, but if you have kids, there seems to be an endless supply of random crayon fragments collecting in Ziploc bags somewhere. Do you know what that means? That means you can make sealing wax virtually any color you want! (Well, depending on what crayons you have on hand, anyway.)
So first, collect your crayons and determine what color you want. You'll need the equivalent of about 3 full size crayons per 5 equally sized glue sticks. A ratio of about 12:20 is a good sized batch to cover about 4 dozen bottles (a little less than a 5 gallon batch of beverage using 12 oz bottles.) You can adjust your ratio as you go depending on how brittle or plastic you want your seal to be. To test, your consistency, just drip some into cold water and attempt to break or crumble it. More glue makes a more plastic final product, more crayons makes for a more brittle/crumbly final product. This is also a great time to get rid of those pesky white crayons that rarely get used. My 2-year old son actually brought me a white crayon saying it was "broken" because it didn't "color" on white paper. The white crayons will add the same brittleness, without affecting the color much. They will lighten your final color, but not nearly as much as I expected. You can also use uncolored paraffin to equal effect, but I'd wager there's more unused crayons laying around your house than unused paraffin.
Now you'll need to prep your bottles. The labels were applied earlier using an age-old, secret glue: milk. It holds well and cleans up easily, and there's not enough there to stink or get nasty, it just dries out. Rub a thin layer on with your finger, just enough to get it wet, then apply the label to the bottle and press out any bubbles with an absorbent cloth for a nice clean look. For this reason, using a laser printer instead of an inkjet printer is highly advised so the colors don't run. If you have any loose corners, you can reapply the milk to get it to stick down.
Now, with a heavy layer of wax, it can be tough to get a bottle opener to bite through the wax around the cap. I used some ribbon as a pull tab to peel away the wax to get the bottle open. It was difficult to get the ribbons to stay in place, so I put a little dab of hot glue on there to keep them in place while I dipped them. I also put a little dab above the label to keep the ribbon in place where the seal stamp will go later.
It's time to melt your wax. A soup can on the stove over low heat makes a perfect melting/dipping pot. I've seen others use a double boiler to melt their wax, but I don't want to stick my hand over boiling water if I don't have too. If you're doing this with kids, a paper cup in the microwave can be used instead, but it will probably need reheated between bottles. You could use an unwanted saucepan as a melting pot, but the wider your pot, the more wax you'll need to get the wax deep enough to dip into. Whether in the microwave or on the stove, melt everything together and stir it with a craft stick to a nice even consistency.
Once melted, go right ahead and dip the tops of the bottles right into the wax. You can either let it drip down the sides, or you could make a nice smooth edge by rolling or twisting the bottle as you bring it out. I personally think a few drips look good, but too many look sloppy. If you want to speed things along, have some cold water to dip into to set the wax faster. I found a second dip covered the crimps in the cap so it looked a little cleaner. I also found that tipping the can on it's side helps if you don't have a very deep pool of wax. Dip the bottle in and roll it around for a bit. You can see I was cautious and used an oven mitt, but in reality, if the can is too hot to touch, you're probably overheating your wax. I touched it afterward with my fingers and I could handle it comfortably.
For the stamp, using a craft stick, dip into the wax and drip some onto the face of the bottle. Before it cools, press your stamp into it. You can use anything from a real sealing wax stamp, to a coin or fancy button, to a plain rubber stamp. I used a 1978 Aluminum Maltese Mil coin, basically worth a tenth of a cent, these went out of circulation years before I picked it up for obvious reasons. The scalloped edge and very noble looking cross of St. John (a.k.a. Maltese Cross) gave it a nice classy flair. Because I prefer my stamp to have a handle for ease of use, I took a gluestick, heated the end and pressed it straight onto the other face of the coin. I sort of regret doing this, as I can't seem to get it off now. But I have to keep asking myself what else I would use a Maltese Mil for anyway. To ensure that your stamp doesn't get stuck into the sealing wax, keep the face of it in a shallow bowl of cold water, or the surface of an ice cube. The cold will quickly set the wax, and the water will in a sense "lubricate" it to prevent adhesion.
And there you have it. A sealed bottle. This would be a great project for gifting homemade beverages, for empty decorative pieces, or even a message-in-a-bottle for a party invite or prom-posal. If you're not sealing in a beverage, you don't necessarily have to cap it, basic corks will seal over nicely. If you're looking for a decorative piece, even a screw top bottle will work. Decorative bottles are typically found at craft stores, sometimes restaurants will save wine bottles for you (some will not due to sanitary considerations), or you can buy new ones from homebrew or wine supply stores.