Introduction: Levitating Candles
For Halloween last year, we decorated in a Harry Potter theme. As part of this, I wanted to have levitating candles. Because I envisioned them lining the walkway up to our house, I realized that flames would easily be blown out, and dreading continually relighting them throughout the night, came up with this solution using hacked LED candle lights.
Step 1: Materials and Equipment
LED tea light "candle"
3/4" PVC pipe (which has a diameter of a bit more than 1 in)
Silicone or latex caulk
White spray paint
Monofilament fishing line (darker color is less visible)
Hacksaw (to cut PVC pipe)
Hot glue gun
Note on LED candle lights: There are many different models of LED candle tea lights, and they can be obtained for very little cost (<$1 ea) from dollar stores, craft stores, even Costco. These lights are meant to replace candle tea lights and have a special LED which contains the flicker circuitry. (Note: Apparently, there is a second type of LED tea light which contains the flicker circuitry on a circuit board and not internal to the LED itself. You can probably figure out how to modify these instructions to utilize this type of tea light, but as I've never seen one of these, I'll tailor this Instructable to using the LED with the imbedded flicker circuit.)
Step 2: Disassemble and Modify the Tea Light
Some tea lights have a small slide switch on the bottom to turn them on and off; other use a rotation of the housing as a switch. In either case, we won't be needing a switch, so it doesn't matter. Remove the battery (we'll need that again later) and open the housing of the tea light. Usually the housing is snapped together, so a little investigation will determine the best place to carefully pry it apart. If there is a switch, unsolder it from the LED. Most of the tea lights that I've seen run off a 3V 2032 coin cell. This battery has the advantage of not needing a current-limiting resistor in series with the candle's LED to prevent burning out the LED.
The housing of the tea light consists of the plastic "flame" which holds the LED, and the body of the candle itself. The diameter of the candle is slightly larger than the diameter of the PVC pipe. Using a sharp utility knife, Dremel-type tool, or saw (I carefully used a band saw.) trim the sides of the candle away and reduce the diameter of the candle top to match that of the PVC pipe.
Step 3: Build Candlesticks
Cut the PVC pipe to 18-in lengths. (Note: this length of candle seemed right for my application; take artistic license to vary length and diameter of PVC pipe to suit your decorating circumstances.) Make sure the cut ends are even and deburred.
Solder extension wires to the LED leads so that they extend several inches longer than the PVC pipe. A small dab of hot glue to attach the LED into the "flame" will prevent pull-out. Next, hot glue the trimmed tea light top to the PVC pipe, making sure that the wires extend through the pipe to the other end. You should now have something that looks like a crude candlestick. Touch the two wires to opposite faces of the 2032 battery to check that the LED still works. If no light is seen, reverse the leads. LEDs are polarized and must be biased properly. If the LED starts flickering, great. If not, check your steps to make sure that your solder joints are sound, and that a wire didn't break.
Step 4: Getting Creative
With the caulking gun, run beads of caulk down the sides of the PVC pipe to simulate dripping wax. No need to be too fussy here--we want it to look random and fluid. Placing the PVC pipe in a clamp, vise, or other means of holding it vertical may help here. Let the caulk dry overnight. Once the caulk has stiffened, the entire assembly can be sprayed with white paint, being careful to mask off the "flame" first.
To power the candle, position the two wires on opposite faces of the battery, and wrap the assembly in a fold of paper. Clamp with a binder clip to keep the wires in place. I've found that a medium size binder clip will just fit into the bottom of the PVC pipe if the ears of the clip are folded closed again. A single battery will last many hours.
Step 5: Making the Candles Levitate
For my Halloween decorating, I had a string of candles on both sides of my front walkway. To hang them, I drilled a tiny hole through the PVC pipe about 6 inches from the top and threaded several candles onto a length of monofilament fishing line that ran from my gateway to the front porch. You could also hang the candles separately from the ceiling if that works for your setup.