Glass Bottle Tiki Torch





Introduction: Glass Bottle Tiki Torch

About: I'm a husband, a parent and an 8th grade science teacher.

Tiki brand torches are nice for backyard BBQs, but if you are roughing it in the woods, at a campground or a hiking trail then you most likely won't need an expensive name brand oil torch. I like LEDs for inside of my tent, but for the outside I like to use citronella oil instead of fluorescent lanterns. Fluorescent lamps remind me of the office life I’m vacationing from. Also, citronella smells like the outdoors and adds to the overall feel of camping. The lamp I use combines recycling and camping. I use glass beer bottles and cotton wicks from an old mop head to make a reusable oil lamp.


Step 1: You Will Need:

Beer bottles (not the twist-off type)

The caps (removed carefully without damage)

Cotton string (thicker the better)

Philips screwdriver


Oil (citronella or used cooking oil will work)

Bottle capper (optional)

Step 2:

The twist off beer caps don’t seem to reattach well, but the pop-off type fit on nicely if you remove the cap with care. I use a bottle capper to reseal the bottle because I have one, but it is not necessary. The cap will snap back on without the capper if the cap is not bent. After collecting the beer bottles and caps, we will punch a hole into the cap with the screwdriver. I know this seems crude, but it works better then the drill press because punching it leaves a collar that holds the wick better then a clean hole. Take the cap, paint side down onto a piece of scrap wood, and punch the screwdriver into the middle of the cap by tapping it with a hammer.

Step 3:

The cotton I use is from an old mop head. It works just fine as a wick and saves it from a land fill. It will need to be soaked in clean water to remove any cleaning chemicals left on the mop. It can be dried outside or in a clothes dryer. One mop head will give you hundreds of wicks. 100% cotton is required for wicks, a cotton blend cannot be used. If you don’t have a mop head ready for the trash, you can use cotton rope found at a craft store. 

Step 4:

Feed the cotton string through the hole to test the fit. It should have some resistance when adjusting the wick, but not so much that it shreds apart while pulling on it. Having a mile of wick is not necessary; as long as there is plenty of oil and the wick is thick, the cotton will not burn quickly. If your wick is thin, try braiding three pieces together to add to its burn time. Fanning out the wick and having a long wick will give you a brighter light but it will run down your oil and wick quickly. I use two bottle lengths of wick because I like to have enough to cut if the fanning of the wick gets out of control. When filling it up with oil, try not to fill it to the top, because the neck can get hot. Never refill when it’s hot, that’s why we make a lot of these before the trip so they can be set aside and a new one can be brought out. A twelve packs worth can be made in less than 20 minutes so there is no need to worry about refilling them and if you wanted to you could just toss them in trash when they are empty. These can be made on the spot, with the supplies on hand. An old t-shirt can be cut into strips and braided to make a wick. This is a useful thing to know for emergencies.

Step 5:


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77 Discussions

I've just tried mine with the same cotton string style as you, and regular cooking oil for fuel. filled the bottle half way but my wick just burns for 1min and dies. any idea what could be wrong ? Great Instructable, thank you. I'd love to make it work. have a good one!

5 replies

I've done a torch with Mason tall freezer jars (because they fit into my wrought iron Tiki frames) and Ive tried two wicks, neither of which will hold a burn. I cured the wick with saltwater and boric acid overnight and then let dry for a good 2 days (pretty humid here in the blue ridge mtns. in summer, too) and then soaked in citronella before lighting, but still found that it burned down and snuffed out pretty quickly. 1st wick was very tightly braided cotton twine, 2nd was heavy duty cotton clothesline cord.

Any suggestions?

Don't light a dry wick. Make sure it is soaked with oil first.

If your wick doesn't melt then it is cotton or something natural at least. You can try making the wick longer. If that does not work then I would use tiki oil. I have tried used cooking oil and like the tiki oil better. I hope you can get it to work because I still use mine and get compliments all the time.

Oookay, i guess i'll do some fuel arrangements. I also saw some websites talking about dipping the wicks into salted water for hours. I'll try that too.

Thanks a lot tjesse (I'm a Jesse too!)
good evening!

I tried salting my wicks. It worked well but I live in Florida and the wick soaked up water from the high humidity down here. They went from bone dry to soaked overnight, so I didn't put that in the instructable.

Nice idea with the citronella (the Wife HATES mosquitoes)! I've been thinking about those cheap wine bottles with the screw caps.....should have enough "bite" to seal correctly. I like MDZPNMD's idea about filling with sand and water, especially for a larger bottle. Thanks for the 'structable!

Nice Idea but I make them for years and it's easier if not neater to just open the beer with a normal opener, punch a hole in the cap like you did and do the stuff. The caps will usually snap on it again.

Also if you fill the bottle with sand and water, you'll need less oil and the lamps will be more stable.

FYI guys: Works with Lamp oil, nearly any oil i have in the kitchen and you get sparkling effects if you use tablewater. Also, I never had a bottle explode or crack even though I would still be carefull with inflamable/flamable liquids in methylated spirits.

Is it safe to use lamp oil or kerosene in this lamp if burning outside?

1 reply

Like it a lot. Thank you

Love it! Also, Sierra Nevada is the best, I live in Chico where it's made, so I have to make this thing.

I advice against using anything different from vegetable oil in such kind of lamp . Mineral oil derived fuel may be an hazard. Gasoline is uncontrollable in such condition and almost eplodes. I would sure add some kind of wind screen and reflector cut out from some pop drink can , it would work as a heat sink preventing overheating of the beer cup and the glass bottle

Who are you advising?
Lamp oil works just fine, cooking oil works but not as well. Gasoline would make this a bomb. There are many things you should not put in glass bottle then light on fire: anything that is not lamp oil or cooking oil (well, that covers it). I have made quite a bit of these now and I must say that it needs no modifications to my original instructions. It has never heated the bottles and a soda can heat sink seems a bit over kill for an "easy tiki light alternative". Step one would be to make one, then re-engineer it.

I'm sure that this falls under lamp oil but would citronella oil work to make beer bottle bug torches?

You guys are amazing! I love YOUR DIY idea for more rustic or primitive tiki torches. You make the torches and I will bring the tiki torch fuel! My favorite is from Love their stand on high quality, safer tiki torch fuel, plus, the clean burning, smokeless paraffin lamp oil is the best too and because I have small kids around, I like that they package it more safely to help keep down accidents. Check out their cause here: Carry on with your creative selves!!! and enJOY!

1 reply

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