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
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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.)

mwatson161 year ago
alu heatsink, or harvested hddrive would work, once paint is removed.
lime3D3 years ago
Nice. I read the comments, and wouldn't change a thing. Good job.
idkwtf3 years ago
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)  idkwtf3 years ago
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 HHarry3 years ago
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 idkwtf3 years ago
ANY grade would work the same. The different grades effect machinability and strength, not thermal properties.
HHarry (author)  idkwtf3 years ago
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 HHarry3 years ago
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)  idkwtf3 years ago
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.
tylerpienta3 years ago
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?
SIRJAMES093 years ago
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*
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)  SIRJAMES093 years ago
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.
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.
farmsteader3 years ago
Ok , if i get my Forge working, what temp can i burn some beer cans to mold a plate for this ? Just a thought.
aluminum melts at about 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. this I know because I used to work in a steel mill
THanks SirJAmes09, will have to look into it, wanted to use a Rocket Stove type Forge, or propane .
not a problem Sir. :)

Any time.
jcreitz13 years ago
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)  jcreitz13 years ago
Thanks for the tip, but drilling through the aluminum rod was actually easy, drilling through steel is a different story.
jcreitz1 HHarry3 years ago
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.
here's an Instructable on making your own drill press:


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

Hope this helps. :)
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....
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.

Drilling through steel can be a pain to say the least....and can also be dangerous.
daveand53 years ago
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.
TY Sir.

you just shot a few holes in the arguments of the nay sayers. 8P
clazman3 years ago
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 clazman3 years ago
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 Skymeat3 years ago
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?
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 warm....it 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.

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

you get like 24 of them for $0.50(figuratively speaking)....my 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...

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.
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".
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 clazman3 years ago
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.
Remag12343 years ago
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.
SIRJAMES093 years ago
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.
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