Old Tom bottle candles

One very useful bottle I’ve had donated a couple of times is an Old Tom strong ale bottle, which comes in various flavours, including a chocolate beer. It’s has a heavily embossed branding section on the main body section, but the neck and bottom sections have protruding smooth sections that are just big enough to set the cutting wheel onto, which makes them useful for container cuts or for removing the bottom.

The bottles usuallywick setting cut pretty well as the glass is consistent and fairly thick, and the preparation of the edges goes very well indeed as a result. The photo to the right shows the cut at the neck, finished to a good standard.

Once prepared, the first step I take is to place the wick in the centre of the bottle. I prefer to use  small piece of 1mm black high tack double sided tape to stick it to the bottom of the glass, to really help it stick and allow a strong tension upwards for straightness. Once centred, I wrap it round a wick pin, which I find easier than to pierce the wick with it, as it enables you to tension the wick if required. Orange candle

All that remains is to pour in the candle. I like to use a strong colour dye, such as orange or red, to give a bit of contrast to the bottle colour. There’s much better advice on candle-making on the net than my efforts, but I’ve been quite pleased with the results so far. Most look pretty neat, and make a nice gift for family or a friend. I made a couple for the friend who donated the bottles, and they keep them on the fireplace just for show as they like the end look. The bottle diameter has been good for the candle burn and the melt-pool, without tunnelling, and a test burn I did for curiosity showed a full Old Tom burned for over 24 hours.


Table centrepiece

Following on from my earlier wooden bases post, I was very pleased to get a request from a friend for a white coloured base with a tall clear bottle. I had a long think about what to make, and how, as it was a different style to the ones I had been making with stained wooden bases for beer and whiskey cut-down bottles. A full size wine bottle would give the greatest height, though I wondered how good a clear bottle would look as a candle centrepiece, with no colour to the glass. A week or two later, I was then given a perfect bottle for the job, which was clear and tall bodied, but with a very pale tint to the glass. This just gave it a slightly different look, especially as it was being sunk into a white painted base.  I cut the bottom from the bottle as low as possible, taking great care to get it right first score, and edge it very neatly. The end result was ideal for the job.

routered floorboardFor the base, I again used one of the remnants of floorboard from the shed, keeping things ‘reused and recycled’, and measured the diameter of the bottle base at around 75mm to the middle of the glass. fortunately, this wine bottle was pretty round, which they are not always. I set up the circle cutter attachment on the Dremel rotary tool, and found the centre point of the board. Two rotations were done, with a slight adjustment to give a circle of 5-6mm to keep a snug grip on the bottle (approximately 4mm) without being too tight when painted.Dremel circle cutter A quick test fitting showed this to be fine, and the overall depth of around 5mm seems fine to keep the bottle stable.

Once the circle was right, the next job was to create a channel that vents underneath the glass edge for air to draw into the bottle chamber when the candle is burning inside. Ideally, you don’t want this to be too noticeable, but it has to be large enough to draw through sufficient air to allow the flame to thrive, and not self-extinguish. I marked the centre of the back edge to a point about 20mm inside the circle. Switching the Dremel tool to the router edge guide attachment,  I routed a 8mm channel to a depth a further 3mm below the circle channel where the bottle edge sits. testing drawThere’s no science to this bit, so I tested the candle inside the bottle to make sure it drew enough air to burn nicely.

Now all the routing was done, I could cut down the end square from the plank remnant, leaving a uniform 20mm on both sides for symmetry, and begun sanding down the base surfaces and adding a slight radius to the square edges to avoid splinters. To minimise the roughness inside the groves, I found it best to fold over the edge of some sandpaper several times to form a solid block which could be moved around inside the circle to smooth it down a bit. As you are always crossing the grain on a few parts, it was difficult to not have the odd bit of roughness in the grove, but it was sanded as best could be, and the bottle hides this well anyway.

White baseOnce complete, this only left the final coating to get the white look desired. I asked a decorator friend about lime or whitewash products, which are available to buy, but he also suggested watering down a white emulsion. I had some in the shed, and did a test coat on the other end of the remnant at about 60:40 water to paint mix. It worked well, leaving some grain visible, and dried quickly, so I just bashed on and gave it two coats all over, giving the end grains and grooves plenty of mixture to soak in fully. The end result was pleasing, with a slightly washed out feel, and helps to show the pale blue tint off quite nicely. Next job is to successfully ship it off to Norway in one piece, where hopefully it will be useful as a centrepiece for a dining table.

Candles in the cut bottles

Tealights are a simple and inexpensive option – just drop one in the your candle-holder, maybe mounted in some sand or decorative stones , and there you have it. Light it and change to a new one when expired. If you want something with a longer burn time, then putting a bigger candle in your bottle-made candle-holder is straight forward.  Obviously, you could get into candle-making, and make your own candle using your bottle projects as the receptacles, but that’s another hobby to learn and do. I think I will try it sometime soon, but just for now, I thought I’d try out the holders using a regular shop bought candle.

How to mount the candle in a bottle bottom became the next question. These can be flat, or they can also be domed in the case of wine bottles – not ideal to fix a candle to. The candle needs to be relatively secure, so it doesn’t fall or rattle about when it is inevitably leaned over when being moved. Do I make some sort of metal spike base, to spear the candle to the bottom of the jar? That could be messy, unreliable, create fractures and make it tricky to clean out safely when the candle life was expired. Melted wax sticks to glass, so I heated the base of the candle over the bottle body using a butane torch, and let some wax drop into the base, until the bottom was covered in a few millimetres of wax. Then I heated the bottle bottom to re-liquify the wax in the bottle base, and when melted, I place the candle down and held it until the two waxes combined and stuck. The problem with this process is that it was messy, leaving drips down the side of the bottle, and also it was difficult to get the candle to set in a perfectly upright position. The end result, though solid and reliable for moving about, was not the prettiest it could be. Certainly not to the standard where you would buy it in a shop ( a classic Quality Control test I use from years of manfacturing employment). Time for Plan B.

In a new candle-holder, I placed a new scented lavender candle that was a close fit (45mm diameter in a 52mm bottle body), which can be seen in the photograph here:

lavender candle


I guess this is where I should say “Don’t try this at home”, but it was my hands at risk, and I had brought my wrist protectors and gloves home from work for the night, and wore protective eyewear also. I gently heated the glass directly with the butane torch, and rotated it continuously, to hopefully avoid overheating. As the candle was a snug fit, the radiated heat began to melt the candle, and you could see it filling the glass from the bottom upward. The candle was a good quality one, with solid colour throughout, rather than just a coloured outer shell. This maintained the lavender colour, and as it filled the holder, it began to look really good. The process was completed without any feared glass shattering, and near the top, I put the holder on a flat surface so that it would be as near to level on the top as it set. It settled very nicely, and just required a little cleaning around the top edge of the glass where it had slumped down from the liquid level. As it was a remelt from the sides, the centre was largely unaffected too much, so the wick stayed dead centre. Now it looked much more like something that would pass the QC self-test.

 Here’s the end result:  

remelted candle