Introduction: Glass Bottle Tiki Torch

Picture of Glass Bottle Tiki Torch

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:

Picture of 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:

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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:

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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:

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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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xox (author)2011-10-22

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!

BluMtnMama (author)xox2017-08-02

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?

lime3D (author)xox2012-06-09

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

tjesse (author)xox2011-10-22

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.

xox (author)tjesse2011-10-22

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!

tjesse (author)xox2011-10-22

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.

jessimata made it! (author)2017-05-18

Super easy. No need for the fancy bottle cap mechanism. Used good ole' regular cap remover and drilled holes. Re-used a six pack holder for transport and storage. Thanks for the instructable!

Wulframm (author)2017-02-10

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!

MDZPNMD (author)2016-07-25

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.

froggygirl215 (author)2014-12-12

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

BillC121 (author)froggygirl2152016-05-15

I guess kerosene would work.

Red October (author)2016-01-28

Like it a lot. Thank you

MisterBlik made it! (author)2015-03-23

As a brewer, I had everything but the wick and oil! Tested out my first few with cool soda bottles. Thanks for the great Instructable!

ilpug (author)2013-11-18

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

stevedeane (author)2013-09-22

Nice idea for Tiki Torch :)

awallen (author)2013-06-18


camaroz28 (author)2012-08-05

These look like they would make great molotov cocktails!

aristide202 (author)camaroz282012-08-23

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

tjesse (author)aristide2022012-08-23

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.

rolltidehank (author)tjesse2013-04-19

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

FireBugGirl (author)2012-10-29

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!

tjesse (author)FireBugGirl2012-10-29

Your site actually provides some valuable information (in between the BUY NOW links). I do not object to the obvious and shameless plug.

asghdf (author)2012-09-27

shoot this if you want a awesome gun target -- fill about 3/4 full
i recomend you do it from about 25ft away so you dont get burned

ledshed (author)2012-09-15

Fantastic, thanks for the inspiration! I will be making one from a Jack Daniels bottle if I can find a metal lid to fit.

tjesse (author)ledshed2012-09-20

That is an awesome idea, I would love to see a picture. Just for some motivation I will give you a pro membership if you post it in a week (or so). As for the lid, if you can find a way to use high temp epoxy then you can make an instructable on it and submit it in the "make it stick" contest. I think the Jack bottle will look kick ass and it will look like it was using the booze to keep it lit. Remember to use lamp oil and not something that will blow up. If you do it I bet you will get put on the front page or the newsletter. Good luck!

ledshed (author)tjesse2012-09-26

Well, I've done it :-) The parts all came together today, it only took about 20 mins to make and test. It took photos and will try and get an instructable together tonight.

Thanks again for the inspiration!

brookss (author)2012-08-04

Great excuse to buy expensive beer , for the pretty bottles .

tjesse (author)brookss2012-08-23

It sure is!

Lavon93 (author)2012-07-19

Very cool idea! I WILL have to make some of these for our next outing.

I have three children (13, 9 and 7) that trip and bump into stuff without realizing...that's just being a kid. Proper placement and making them aware would help, but accidents DO happen! lol

The idea about doing this with the pint size Coors Light aluminum bottle is the way to go if you're concerned about glass breakage.

chokapi (author)2012-04-23

Thanks for the share. However, I beseech each and every one of you - don't take this camping! Unless you are 'car camping,' taking glass with you can be dangerous for you, the next camper, or the little beasties out there.

Perhaps one option is to use one of those aluminum beer bottles. Coor's even has one with a large, screw-off top. And the aluminum in these bottles is thicker.

lime3D (author)chokapi2012-06-09

I only buy beer in glass bottles. I am smart enough not to break my bottles and leave them in to woods, so I will definately be making these!

The mop head idea is fantastic.

tjesse (author)lime3D2012-07-16

Thank you lime3D, most people are smart enough to handle glass with care. And some people want to treat others like infants by warning us about the obvious issues of broken glass. As if this site needs people to baby sit its users. I find it tiring to read all the silly posts by know-it-alls. Not just on my instructables, on this whole site. I'm an adult, if glass is too hard for me to handle then I will make that call.
I am a big fan of yours BTW, I love the cup holder idea. If only there was a way to stack the chairs... Just kidding.

lime3D (author)tjesse2012-07-16

I agree. I think some people just like to argue, or they feel the need to show you how smart they are, by trying to tell you how dumb you are. Just do a search on anything involving making jewelry out of a coin, and you find hundreds of comments from ignorant people spouting off about what they think the law is.

I think the people trying to knock this instructable are completely missing the point, that this is a torch made from a BEER BOTTLE. It is what it is, and it is just fine the way it is.

Recently I've adopted the philosophy that as long as my instructable is technically correct, I ignore all the comments to 'make it better', or 'you should have done it this way...'

tjesse (author)lime3D2012-07-16

Thank you lime3D, most people are smart enough to handle glass with care. And some people want to treat others like infants by warning us about the obvious issues of broken glass. As if this site needs people to baby sit its users. I find it tiring to read all the silly posts by know-it-alls. Not just on my instructables, on this whole site. I'm an adult, if glass is too hard for me to handle then I will make that call.
I am a big fan of yours BTW, I love the cup holder idea. If only there was a way to stack the chairs... Just kidding.

chokapi (author)lime3D2012-06-09

Well, I can't stop you from bringing glass with you into the sticks, but you can't stop accidents from happening.

decc1954 (author)chokapi2012-07-15

"chokapi" is absolutely correct, accidents happen.
If one insists on using glass of any kind while camping, tape the container completely, so that if/when it breaks, at least it is still together. I use clear packing tape, so that the view of the container (ie, label, level of contents...) is not obscured.
But to PLAN on bringing an OPTIONAL item that is GLASS while camping, demonstrates poor judgement, my opinion.

frankvanw1 (author)2012-04-14

tjesse: Great tutorial. One thing though; you forgot to mention you should drink all the beer out ot the beer bottle. Here in my neck of the woods we have to drink Canadian beer, pity.

Kaniduh (author)2012-04-07

I made mine out of the stainkell steel Coca-Cola bottles you can get. The problem I have been having is I used an piece of old mop head string for the wick and the citronella when it isnt little just wicks out of the bottle and leaks all over the place.

moneyfuskie935 (author)2012-01-23

Wowza! Even I can make this!

milk and cereal 0977 (author)2012-01-16

peanut oil does not work for us

ktphoto (author)2011-12-12

I'm so glad I stumbled on this tutorial! I am making all hand made and recycled gifts this year, and I could not for the life of me figure out what to make my father for Christmas! But when I saw these torches, I knew he would love them. He's got a thing for tiki torches, even in the winter. I'm using large Perrier water bottles, which have screw on caps and are a really fun shape! I just have to buy some wick replacements and oil, both of which Walmart carries in the craft area of the store. I was actually wondering how you snuff out the flame. Is it easily blown out or should I buy some sort of cap to attach to the neck? Thanks so much!

moha1th ART (author)2011-09-23

great idea for camp said!!really good

madonfishin151 (author)2011-09-21

wow thats such a good idea

ccooley1 (author)2011-09-03

here is a torch for ya, crown cap style, original bottle cap :)

tjesse (author)ccooley12011-09-04

Nice! What did you use to cut the hole, and what did you use for a wick and oil.

ccooley1 (author)tjesse2011-09-04

The hole i used my dremel to drill (didn't wanna tear the cap up real bad), wick was kinda a bust.... it ended up being nylon blend (damnit) and for fuel i just used gas+oil mixed at 100:1.

tjesse (author)ccooley12011-09-04

That's not an oil lamp. That's a bomb. I hope this is a joke. You don't light two stroke gas in a glass bomb casing.

ccooley1 (author)tjesse2011-09-05

yeah dude, i aint that dumb lol, i acutally used rubbing alcohol, reasoning the same as the tp/coffeecan/alcohol warmer. light with no scent for hunting. cant wire an old trailer (moved at too old of an age) once you make it a hunting cabin in MI. i apologize for not clueing you in on my wiseassness for everyone that thinks these are molotovs..... the wick wouldn't stay lit through the toss.... jus sayin....

tjesse (author)ccooley12011-09-05

I just don't want some kid to show up to his scout trip with gas in a beer bottle. I know that oil is safe because of the many other applications on the market. I have a firepot that uses alcohol, but I still wouldn't use it in this application. I'm glad that you are going to use my idea and I will gladly send you a 3 month pro membership. By the way how does the nylon blend hold up, it surly is not scent free.

tjesse (author)tjesse2011-09-04

About This Instructable




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