Introduction: Tea Light Cup Warmer

Picture of Tea Light Cup Warmer

It does happen quite often that we forget time while working, while reading or while playing a game. You have a nice cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate to drink and suddenly you got a cold drink in your hands! The Cup Warmer provides a warm drink even when you are busy for hours. You simply put the cup or mug on the plate heated by a tea-light and your coffee, tea or hot chocolate stays nice and warm.

The Cup Warmer is easy to make and costs less than 10 $.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools


Materials needed:

  • Wooden board (27 mm thick)
  • Aluminum rod (12 mm thick)
  • Aluminum plate (10 mm thick)
  • Four machine screws 4 mm

Tools needed:

  • Screw driver
  • Drill
  • Drill bit (3,5 mm, 12 mm, 39 mm)
  • Sanding paper
  • Bee wax
  • Jig saw

Step 2: Wood Work

Picture of Wood Work

Draw a 10 cm by 10 cm square on the wooden board.

Draw the diagonals within the square.

Measure 2 cm from each corner and drill a 1 cm hole with a 12 mm drill bit.

Drill a 1 cm hole in the center of the square with a 39 mm drill bit (slightly wider is even better).

Saw the square out whit a jig saw.

Step 3: Metal Work

Picture of Metal Work

Saw four pieces of 5 cm off the aluminum rod. Drill a 3,5 mm hole in the top of each piece.

Draw the diagonals on the 10 cm by 10 cm aluminum plate. Measure 2 cm from each corner and drill a hole using the 3,5 mm drill bit.

I had my aluminum plate precut by my local hardware store.

Step 4: Sand and Wax

Picture of Sand and Wax

Sand the wood and aluminum pieces.

Wax the wooden piece with bee wax.

Step 5: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

Place the aluminum rods in the drilled holes of the wooden board.

Screw the aluminum plate on top of the rods.

The screws are 4 mm wide, therefore they are slightly bigger than the predrilled holes. You will need some force to get them in, but once in place it’s a strong fit.

Step 6: Enjoy!

Picture of Enjoy!

Enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee, which stays warm all evening.

A tea-light burns for approximately two and a half hour. The aluminum plate will remain hot for 15 minutes after the candle is out.


jcreitz1 (author)2011-10-30

You can buy aluminum bushings at the hardware store, and they aren't expensive. That would seem to be a lot easier than drilling holes through aluminum rod...

HHarry (author)jcreitz12011-10-31

Thanks for the tip, but drilling through the aluminum rod was actually easy, drilling through steel is a different story.

jcreitz1 (author)HHarry2011-10-31

It's not the aluminum part that makes it hard - aluminum is soft. I love working with it. But I don't have a drill press, and drilling a straight centered hole through a rod of anything (even balsa wood) is almost impossible. Just my 2 cents. If you have a good drill press, no reason not to do it your way, I suppose.

doo da do (author)jcreitz12017-02-25

look up drill press on the instructables web site, I have seen several

SIRJAMES09 (author)jcreitz12011-11-01

here's an Instructable on making your own drill press:

there are TONS more I have found through GOOGLE.COM....

Hope this helps. :)

SIRJAMES09 (author)jcreitz12011-11-01

Q for JC.

can you build a drill press & then add whatever drill you have? I'm sure that there is an instructable on here somewhere that shows you how to build it...if not, try the net....I would REALLY be surprised if there was not something on the net about building one...

Not trying to tell you what to do with your life, just trying to help you out....

jcreitz1 (author)SIRJAMES092011-11-01

Could do, sure, but in this particular instance, it's so much easier to buy aluminum bushings than to build my own drill press just so I can drill through aluminum rod. Rod or bushings, either way, it's a trip to the hardware store . . . just sayin.

SIRJAMES09 (author)HHarry2011-11-01


Drilling through steel can be a pain to say the least....and can also be dangerous.

BobbyW29 (author)2016-07-14

Thanks for sharing this. This is going to be the base for a peltier generator I am building.

plasmadischarge made it! (author)2016-02-10

Works great thanks for the build idea it keeps drinks warm for hours!

I changed it slightly to enable larger mugs, (no screws on top). Also I had to add the wooden carrier base as the heat being transferred into the legs once alight for a while becomes way too hot to move or touch.

Thanks again!

ReeVolt (author)2016-01-05

FINALLY somebody using proper measurements. But wouldnt it be better to only use a 1mm thick aluminium plate?

jarrod.farley.92 (author)2015-04-16

would it be better to just use metal for the whole thing? (Thinking about making a really nice one in my machine shop at school.)

mwatson16 (author)2014-02-08

alu heatsink, or harvested hddrive would work, once paint is removed.

lime3D (author)2012-06-09

Nice. I read the comments, and wouldn't change a thing. Good job.

idkwtf (author)2011-11-04

I went to lowes and home depot and could not find any aluminum plates or anything to cut it from. where did you get yours and where can i get one?

HHarry (author)idkwtf2011-11-05

Try to find a shop where they sell steel for welding, the shop where i go to is "american legerstock" but i don't think you have them in your area. If you cant find a local shop you could order the aluminum online.
If you can't find anything, let me know, i can ship it to you.

idkwtf (author)HHarry2011-11-07

thank your for the reply it is much appreciated. all i need to know now is which type of aluminum is best for this application? 2024, 5052, 6061, 7075, Cast? which did you use?

lime3D (author)idkwtf2012-06-09

ANY grade would work the same. The different grades effect machinability and strength, not thermal properties.

HHarry (author)idkwtf2011-11-07

I honestly have no idea which type i used (the commonly used type?). The following website can help you decide which type to use. Feel free to ask any other questions.

idkwtf (author)HHarry2011-11-07

Thank you very much for all your help, i have decided to go with 6061-T6 1/4" thick 4"x4". I have one last question(hopefully). Would it be a fire hazard if instead of using aluminum rod pieces could I use wood support the plate? Is that why you use the beeswax?

HHarry (author)idkwtf2011-11-07

Personally i wouldn't use wood support, it just looks too dangerous. I used the beeswax just because i have plenty at home. You can use other finishes, just something to take care of the wood and make the grain pop. Do not use varnish because it can potentially deform and bubble by the heat.

tylerpienta (author)2011-11-29

couple questions
how long does it take for the aluminum to heat up?
and on a scale of 1-10 1 being ice cold and 10 being just from the coffee maker how hot does it keep the drink?

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-10-31

Q: did you heat up the bees wax then brush it on the wood?

Or did you soak the wood in the bees wax?

How exactly did you wax the board? *curious*

Skymeat (author)SIRJAMES092011-11-02

I've made a really nice finish with Beeswax, Turpentine, and linseed oil. It comes out sweet and piny. Also you can apply it at room temp. A little goes a long way, I have a dozen baby food jars of it sitting around here.

HHarry (author)SIRJAMES092011-10-31

I used liquid beeswax. Apply to surface with soft cloth and rub in circular motion. Leave for 15 minutes and then wipe off with clean cloth. If you don't have liquid beeswax follow Broom his explanation.

Broom (author)SIRJAMES092011-10-31

Don't know how the author does it, but both methods work. Also: blowing with heat gun (carefully, so you don't scorch it), then rubbing with wax. Or warming the wood in the oven at low temp (170-200F).

The only problem is a residual "scum" layer of wax. Heating the wood back up again beyond wax' melting point will help the wood suck up the excess - or you can wipe it off easier then.

farmsteader (author)2011-10-31

Ok , if i get my Forge working, what temp can i burn some beer cans to mold a plate for this ? Just a thought.

SIRJAMES09 (author)farmsteader2011-11-01

aluminum melts at about 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. this I know because I used to work in a steel mill

farmsteader (author)SIRJAMES092011-11-01

THanks SirJAmes09, will have to look into it, wanted to use a Rocket Stove type Forge, or propane .

SIRJAMES09 (author)farmsteader2011-11-02

not a problem Sir. :)

Any time.

daveand5 (author)2011-10-31

just a quick note to let you all know, a 6"x10"x1/4" aluminum plate with small feet that provide about 1/2" clearance from counter top will defrost frozen meat in about 1/2 hour.
So this is a good idea for a warmer, just reversing the process. Aluminum has terrific heat transfer ability, far out stripping steel. But if you want to hold the heat long after the flame is out, steel would be a better choice, but it will take longer to heat up.

SIRJAMES09 (author)daveand52011-11-01

TY Sir.

you just shot a few holes in the arguments of the nay sayers. 8P

clazman (author)2011-10-30

Some of the things presented here at Instructables is worrisome to me.

Take this cup warmer for example, It is extremely wasteful of energy. Also, this fact seems to elude the readership.

1. Considerable mass of the cup support absorbs as well as radiates energy to the surroundings.

Why not reduce the size (mass) of the plate to a bare minimum?

2. Metal supports that absorb energy from the plate and then radiate energy to the surroundings.

Why not insulate them from the plate?

3. Why not attempt to contain energy loss due to air movement?

This system is extremely inefficient!!

I hope these comments will instill further thought before spreading them throughout the gullible world via the internet.

Skymeat (author)clazman2011-10-30

1: The mass of the plate conserves the energy that is put into it. Steel might be a better choice because of the higher specific heat, but AL is decent too. The greater the mass the less you are loosing to air currents. So bigger is better.

2. They do absorb energy, but won't absorb much due to the small amount of contact area. and the solid nature of the struts.

3. It does. That's why you use a thick plate to capture the energy.

This is a pretty energy efficient cup warmer. I haven't built one, but I can look at it and tell you that it will keep your drink warm for hours on the cheep and look good doing it.

My only improvement would be to use steel as the warmer as it will hold a good bit more heat for the volume.

clazman (author)Skymeat2011-10-31

The mass of the plate conserves energy? Yes, to radiate and transmit to the surroundings.

Solid struts absorb less energy than hollow ones. That's a new twist on thermal dynamics and heat transfer. Nothing like inventing a PM machine.

A thick plate captures energy. Yes, and how much does it return to the cup and how much does it radiate to the surroundings and how much transfers to the surroundings.

Lets make the plate 3 inches thick if bigger is better and make it 12 inches square. Are you beginning to see the error of your arguments?

SIRJAMES09 (author)clazman2011-11-01

never fails....
there is always a critic in every crowd. :(

I have one I just built & maybe SOME, I stress SOME, of what you say might be right, BUT, it DOES keep my coffee cup DOES keep the coffee itself hot.....and it DOES NOT create a fire hazard.

So for me, it does everything I want it to do & nothing that I DO NOT want it to do.

Nobody is putting a gun to your head & forcing you to build this.....if you don't like this idea, oh well. that's your choice.

SIRJAMES09 (author)Skymeat2011-10-31


What about copper?? I'm told it's great at absorbing heat & transferring it to what is being heated...IE: in this case, the cup

I know that copper is expensive to buy, but what about scrap pieces of copper??

Steel would prolly be the cheapest way to go tho...cheapest as in lowest cost.

Just a thought...

SIRJAMES09 (author)clazman2011-10-31

Have you ever looked at the price of Tea candles??

you get like 24 of them for $0.50(figuratively speaking) point is, for $20.00, you prolly would not have to buy tea candles for a year or 3.

metal supports: they will NOT absorb enough heat to catch anything on fire, so there are no worries there.

yes screens of some kind could be added....BUT, that makes changing the candle more difficult...not harder, just more of a PITA (pain in the A**).

This system is more efficient than trying to find an outlet in an office that is not already taken by a computer, adding machine, or something else....

I think this is an excellent idea & one that I am going to build B4 I Question anything about the way it's made...

pyager1 (author)SIRJAMES092011-11-01

I agree with SIRJAMES09, But what about the fact it also gives off light!? To sit back in my chair, on the ole' laptop suffering, it would be nice to have a little candle light and keeping the coffee hot at the same time!!
Oh-yea, that's for me.

clazman (author)SIRJAMES092011-10-31

And to your belief that tea candles are "cheap is a poor argument for it is the same argument that mankind has used when energy was indeed "cheap". Waste of energy was not much of a concern, i.e. propelling a 4000 pound transportation device to convey a 200 pound person from point A to point B.

With the cost of petroleum rising how can you say that the tea lights are "cheap".

SIRJAMES09 (author)clazman2011-10-31

hey if you think tea candles made from wax are expensive, then what about tea candles made of Soy??

Wax is NOT the ONLY material in which to make candles from anymore....

When I can go to the Dollar Store(here in America anyway) & come home with a big bag of tea candles that will last me a week or more, to me that is cheap...

but hey, if you wish not to use wax candles, that is your choice.

Broom (author)clazman2011-10-31

You've wasted more energy on the internet, powering your computer to annoy this author and make yourself look like some sort of internet eco-hero, than this tealight cup heater ever will.

If you want to do something useful for the world, go outside and recycle some street garbage. Or plant a tree or some flowers. Or insulate your house some more - it can always benefit from more.

Remag1234 (author)2011-10-31

This will stir some of you up a bit.
The eco, Green crowd should stop trying to save the planet. It's been around for millions of years and has done well. While the screwballs are whining China and India are polluting the air in the entire world so your effort to make tea candles etc. is outrageously dumb.
A small ceramic dish can hold the tea candle and eliminate the burn factor.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-10-31

Here's a thought.

instead of drilling INTO the wood for the candle, what about making the whole thing a wee taller;

then have a "holder" for the candle that sits above the wood just enough to let air flow underneath(to keep it cool enough so as to not start a fire).

The "holder" could be glass, metal, whatever...

Again, just a thought.

HHarry (author)SIRJAMES092011-10-31

I think the overall risk of potential fire and black smoke is to big.

Broom (author)SIRJAMES092011-10-31

I like this, because I've seen a wooden candle holder burn to a black stub when I left a candle in it unattended once. There was a brass "retainer" to keep the flame away from the wood... which clearly didn't work.

99.9% of the time, it's overkill. The rest of the time, it can kill.

Ericc815 (author)2011-10-31

Awesome idea... I will build using a non-flamable base with a right-size cutoff of metal pipe/tubing as a candle holder so the candle cannot slip off base.

HHarry (author)Ericc8152011-10-31

Thanks, show your result when it's ready.

patmac (author)2011-10-31

If you are very eco responsible, you can even refill the tealights with leftover candle wax you may have around the house. This is a great idea, simple and useful. I wonder if I can make a slightly larger one for my teapot?

HHarry (author)patmac2011-10-31

Of course you can, but you will need two or three candles to maintain the heat.

About This Instructable




More by HHarry:Simple looking LED wall lightModern standing lampNest table lamp
Add instructable to: