Introduction: Candle Powered Pottery Heater

Picture of Candle Powered Pottery Heater

The instructables site is great at finding solutions to everyday problems. I've found that the best solutions are that those that can be built with items that you already have around the house and don't take all weekend to make. My goal is to make this instructable fit both of those criteria.

With Hurricane Sandy leaving many people without electricity and heat, I figured that I would share this option for generating heat. Hopefully, this can benefit someone impacted by the hurricane, as well as yourself the next time you are stuck without heat.

Keep in mind that this will NOT heat your whole home, not even close. However, you'd be surprised at how it will heat up a closed room and will keep you from getting hypothermia. Essentially it takes the heat from the candle that would normally go straight up and radiates it out once the terra cotta begins to retain the heat.

My garage isn't heated and I used this today to provide heat while I was working on a project.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You will need the following:

- 3 different sized clay planting pots

- 1 large bolt (approx. 5")

- 6 washers

- 1 flat bracket

- 1 Candle in a jar (like a Yankee Candle)

- 1 Alarmed looking black cat (optional)

Step 2: Thread the Bolt

Picture of Thread the Bolt

1. Thread the bolt through the bracket

2. Turn pot upside down

3. Thread the bolt through the hole in the bottom of the pot

4. Turn right side up

Step 3: Put Washer in Bolt

Picture of Put Washer in Bolt

1. Put washer on bolt

2. Thread the bolt through the mediam sized pot

3. Secure with a washer and nut

Repeat this step again with the small pot

Note: be careful not to tighten too hard and break the pot (like I did)

Step 4: Light the Candle

Picture of Light the Candle

1. Light the candle

2. Surround it with 3 large mason jars or other non-flammable items that will act as the stand to hold the pots in place

3. Set the pots upside down above the candle and...

You're Done!

It takes a few minutes before it feels warm to the touch because the inner pots heated before the outer pot will retain heat.

Keep in mind that the last thing you need in a blackout is a fire. Make sure all materials are on a non-flammable surface. One idea is to put all of the pieces inside a large cooking pot.

One candle will heat up pretty well. If you can get a glass jar candle that has two or three wicks even better!

Stay warm.


inhiskeep (author)2012-11-09

When I saw this I couldn't wait to show my husband who is forever survivalist-minded. He loved it! We're going into town today and are going to pick up the few things we don't have to make this. He also suggested to put water in the jars, just in case it worked well to heat the water in the jars. This shouldn't be a problem since these are canning jars and are built to withstand heat anyway. Also, I have a woodworking table outside in our garage and general don't get to work on my stuff during the winter because it's so frigid. Looking forward to trying this in the winter season.

jeremym27 (author)inhiskeep2012-11-09

Thanks for the praise. Now is a great time of the year to pick up extra pots since they are on clearance in many nurseries.

inhiskeep (author)jeremym272012-11-09

So we made the thing and tried it, but it didn't seem to get very hot. My husband said it may keep a cup of coffee warm. We used a large candle with only one wick though. We are going to give it another go when we can pick up a candle with more wicks. :)

LeeW82 (author)inhiskeep2016-09-05

Easy enough to get a large flat dish and melt the remnants of old candles into it Just mount multiple wicks in the base of it... or if you cannot be bothered, place half a dozen tealights in a glass dish... Tealights are really cheap and you can often get a couple of hours out of each

moose60061 (author)inhiskeep2015-11-28

I bought a terra cotta pot last night and brought it home, set it on 3 bricks and lit 4 small candles. Less than an hour later the candles were melted!

Frugal Girl (author)inhiskeep2013-11-16

They get so hot you can't touch them- it would most likely boil your coffee- One wick should be enough but the pots must be room temperature and dry. Ones brought in from a cold wet garden take days to properly dry and get up to a decent heat. Feel free to join my facebook group for more info

popeter (author)inhiskeep2013-12-01

This is a good idea but if you want it to really act as a heater with some good heat output, be sure to put lots of metal in the inside core. For instance, when I made mine, I put a washer, a nut that was too big (so it slipped right onto the bolt without screwing - in other words, it was too big), then another washer before putting on the nut that fits the bolt. I did this same pattern between all three pots. This gives the core lots of metal that heats up to higher temperatures than the one you saw at instructables.

doo da do (author)2012-11-08

Well done

TheWilks1 (author)2014-11-23

Have you tried this with metal cans

LeeW82 (author)TheWilks12016-09-05

Metal cans heat very quickly but once the candles have burnt out the cans cool very quickly. Terracotta retains heat for a good while longer. It is also much easier to construct than using cans... remember how easy it is to cut yourself on a sharp tin edge... especially seeing as this may be something you do during a power cut when light might be an issue.

BarbaraA39 (author)2016-01-14

BTW, I once read about how toxic those Made in China candles can be. I wonder what good old American candle makers use so as not to poison us all. As Jeremy has pointed out, however, this is for short-term emergency use, and you needn't stand over it and suck in the air.

BarbaraA39 (author)2016-01-14

I like the idea of loading up on bits of metal. How about starting the bolt from the bottom with the small pot right side up and filled with what have you. (This would require a longer bolt, but there are always work arounds when you're in the garage or basement. I keep lots of "junk" around, and always pick up washers off the street. They are always needed for something, and this saves a trip to the HD. A washer, BTW, is worth far more than an equivalent coin you might pick up.) I have tons of small flat metal bars from lighting kits, as you can usually reuse the existing one when replacing a fixture. Older ones I KNOW were made of real steel. I would attach a few of these to the top. I would like to use a platform of bricks which might also become warm without becoming incendiary. Perhaps replace the Mason jars with more terra cotta pots, or better yet, those tall, slim terra cotta wine coolers from the 70's (thrift shops!). They might warm up some, too. Sorry to be so ideas tend to expand.

WinyanStaz (author)2015-11-13

This would work excellent with a hobo heater! To make a hobo heater, you need a short can, such as an empty tuna can. (wash & dry it first of course) cut strips of cardboard about 1/4 inch shorter than the can. Tearing it is best to leave rugged edges (will be your "wicks)..

Tightly roll up the strips of cardboard in a big single roll to fit rather tightly in the can. Its fine if its not too it will expand when you let go after tucking the roll of cardboard into the can

Pour in melted wax...any kind works...old candles, canning wax, even old crayons etc...but try to leave a few of the jagged edges poking up.

Your done. They put off enough heat that hobos use them to cook on or to heat up small spaces. each one burns at least a couple of hours or more...

I would stick them inside another clay pot to burn and stick that under your creation of clay pots.

thank you for sharing this candle powered pottery heater idea. I'm sure it will help a lot of people...

Frugal Girl (author)2013-11-16

I've been making these for a few days- a friend recommended taking a tuna tin and placing three shelled tea lights in- then add the melted wax of three more tea lights. Three wicks will be visible but you only have to light one or two. This way it burns for a LONG time. In my experience the original tea light wicks get burnt up before the actual wax does so I make my own wick holders and today made my own wick.

KimberleeS (author)Frugal Girl2015-11-10

Use fiberglass wicks! They last a LONG time. You can just buy the little metal wick holders too, instead of buying pre-made tealights. Buying the wax/paraffin would also save some cash.

jeremym27 (author)Frugal Girl2013-11-16

Thanks for the invite, I just joined the Facebook group

Frugal Girl (author)jeremym272013-11-16

Yeah I added you :) The more the merrier so we can share ideas so if you know others that might be interested feel free to add them.

webgiant (author)2014-02-25

Bear in mind that all this does is slowly store up then release the heat of one candle, which is most likely insufficient heat for a large space.

The heat output of candles is well studied. In this case a rough calculation of the heat output of the candle would be about 262BTU/h. To raise the temperature of a room approximately 12 feet by 10 feet by 8 feet by 1°C (assuming good insulation), you would need 341BTU. You would need to add an additional candle, say a jar candle with multiple wicks, to the heating apparatus to raise the room temperature by a little more than 1°C over the period of 1 hour. So this is not a particularly good room heater for a bedroom or other decent sized room, but could work for a smaller room like a half bathroom.

HerbertM9 (author)webgiant2015-11-09

This is good information. Thanks. Wouldn't the candle put out the same heat without the pots and steel pieces? The heat is dissipated to the room through convection and radiation in any case.

SilvanaP3 (author)2015-10-27

Stop with blankets and stop with sweaters in house.

This winter
the heating problem I solved with simple candles and my Egloo!

greenh (author)2015-10-27

Hi I'm a college girl of architecture and I wear lots of woolen
layers during the winter!

I solved the
cold when I'm studying thanks to my
Egloo. Take a look!

matthew.meyer.1297 (author)2015-01-30

love your posting I actsally made one before reading your post how ever I was looking for new ideas for making it better. do you think liening the pots with aluminum foil would decrees "Baking time" and increase heat heat out put?

I'm not a scientist, but my guess is that it would cause the inner pots to get hotter and the outer pots to not get quite as hot since the aluminum would reflect the heat.

inga.v.morgenstern (author)2015-01-07

Make sure those clay pots are NOT treated with anything...I tried something similar to this BUT the clay pots I purschased had been treated with something that caused the whole thing to catch on fire glad I had sat there and watched it for a while!

ovisoftblue (author)2014-12-19

this guys just crowdfunded a candle heater:

gwen.mangelson (author)2014-12-02

this kind of heat source only works in SMALL rooms/areas, it will NOT heat a home. you would have to have about 40 of them in your house to heat it in an emergency. Blanket off doorways and windows if you want to take the chill of with this type of heater. That is my personal experience. And remember that this is not a type of heat source for small kids to be around (like in their room) the candles are to tempting and to heat the small area these heaters should be at floor level as heat rises to the ceiling (where we are not ! lol) it gets hotter on the bottom of the project than I found on the top. Like I said, this is MY personal experience in 2013.

Wyvyrn (author)2014-11-15

Awesome instructable. I just submitted a request to join your fb group. I do a lot of fermenting & I need a small source of heat to keep the fermentation active & this will be perfect! Other fermenters are using heat mats & such but I hate waste! Thank you for the instructable!

martin.miljkovic.37 (author)2014-08-03

Most wax is polluted. Beekeepers know this. Wax for "beauty" products is imported from Africa since they are too poor there to treat their bee-hives with anything. Trust me you do not wish to inhale the residue from wax. I read recently that paraffin causes cancer. So to sum up either get clean wax or forget this.

Well, I don't recommend standing above the candle used in this emergency heater and breathing. That said, it is no different than lighting a candle for ambience in your house; so using that same logic, no one should ever use a candle for anything, period.

Also, this is for emergency heating; not for every day heating that you stand above and inhale.

aadaam2001 (author)2013-12-04

Assalam o alikum i have made one for me using 10",6",4" dia pots but not getting enough heat

bluemoon6 (author)2012-11-08

What a great idea...once my daughter had no heat for days and I told her to take a soup can ..put holes in it and put a candle inside and then she could heat up soup or water for coffee or tea..she was amazed it worked..

Frugal Girl (author)bluemoon62013-11-16

Do you know how she put the holes in? Drilled- or punched in? I would be interested to know for another idea I'm working on! Thank you

Mhbaben (author)2013-11-15

This is a good thing to know. I have seen this done with only 2 pots, but thicker ones. Three would hold the heat longer though as there's more mass to retain the heat. The top flat bracket can also be replaced with a larger flat metal washer so that it sits flatter. Thanks for posting, it might even save someone's life. There are prepper site's that have 30 hour vegetable shortening surrounding emergency candles in "mason" jars that would work well with this.

monet108 (author)2013-03-26

Thank you. I will try this out.

Johenix (author)2013-02-07

Actually, you could nest as manny pots as you wished, they would take longer to heat up, but would hold heat longer.
A good safe place for this would be sitting in the empty bath tub- nothing there to burn.
In the 1930's a poor man's hot plate was a 100W bulb under a large tin can, bottom up.

kristell1119 (author)2013-01-06

this was a really neat idea! and simple enough that it kinda makes you go "hhmmm.. Why didnt i think of that!" the meterials list made me chuckle a lil bit there at the end too. Heat is just one of those things that a lil bit is comfortable to some and not others. im a hot blooded person so lets hope this produces atleast just enough heat to keep my toes intact. :) thanks

jfoster22 (author)2012-12-30

You may be able to use the base plate of a small clay pot so the lip would be a small enough diameter to rest on the bottom of the large outer pot. This should cover the end of the bolt and give a flat surface to put a small pot of water to help hydrate the air also.

Rich_Limburger (author)2012-12-06

NIce and clear instructable, i made one and have materials for 2 more. Candle light and heat, gotta love that combo in this time of year.

doo da do (author)2012-11-27

This will work well, my garage (shop) has no heat. I try to get there when the temps are good but sometimes not so much.

poofrabbit (author)2012-11-23

Congratulations on being a finalist in the be prepare contest!

jeremym27 (author)poofrabbit2012-11-23

Thank you very much. I'm excited!

Tracy_Marie (author)2012-11-19

I like the idea, but does it really need 3 pots? I'd like to warm soup or tea on top. The bolt gets in the way. Does it need the metal to conduct the heat?

jeremym27 (author)Tracy_Marie2012-11-19

It doesn't necessarily Have to be made out of metal but I can't think of another substance that would keep it all together and not melt or burn.

The point behind multiple pots is that you have more to radiate heat from, sort of like a radiator. By having multiples surfaces it will stay warmer longer.

Natalina (author)2012-11-12

This is a great, simple yet effective idea. Thank you for posting!

cerberustugowar (author)2012-11-12

As Stormy0314 said below, this is just like the pot heater at and credit should be given where due (just as I have learned) . There is also a stand design there and also has the science behind it. Of course, if you dreamt up this idea on your own, then I wish I had the same sort of mental ability

I learned about this on a survialist board without any reference, but I certainly agree that this is the same approach and don't claim to be the originator.

audreyobscura (author)2012-11-07

This is pretty clever. Any guess of how hot the surface gets?

Taken from

Steel has the ability to approach the temperature of its heat source, so the Steel Inner Core is driven to Very High Temperatures (500-550 deg. Fahrenheit) by the burning candle flame (550-600 deg. F.) and becomes a very hot Internal Thermal Mass.

The intense heat of the Steel Inner Core is transferred into the Three Ceramic Modulators, one into the other. The High Inner Temperatures are gradually reduced by the Increasingly Thicker Walls and Larger Surface Area of the modulators. The outer surface of the radiator becomes a Dry Heat Radiating Body with surface temperatures of 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit and a surface area of Over 88 Square Inches.

I'd bet that the metal bolt, at least, would get blistering hot. I love this design, and plan on making one this weekend, but I might cover the bolt end with something, maybe a (yet smaller) pot, possibly cemented with silicon?

Also wondering if cork washers would help ease the stress when tightening the nut, or if that would interfere with heat transfer.

A great design that I'm going to be playing with.  If I was in the wake of Sandy (or anywhere cold) I'd appreciate having this!

Thank you, Jeremym27!

jeremym27 (author)audreyobscura2012-11-07

I wanted to post that originally but I only have a thermometer used for taking kids temperatures and that didn't work.

I need to borrow a cooking thermometer to measure it. I will and will post it once I do.

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