Introduction: Live Edge Maple Burl Tea Light Candle Holder
My local hardwood dealer sells maple burl off-cuts by the pound. They often take burl pieces and make them into turning blanks (for use on a wood lathe), which is why you will see in the picture that most of them have circular pattern cut into them. I often browse their selection and try to think of interesting ways of using the wood, and this is where I came up with the idea for this candle holder.
For those that don't know a burl is a growth/deformation on a tree. The grain grows in different directions than normal and makes the grain really interesting to look at. I have included a picture of a burl on a live tree so you can see what it looks like.
Here is a list of the supplies and tools I used. It is either a link to the exact tool/supply or something very similar.
- Maple Burl (or any piece of wood that you think would make a good base for your candle holder)
- Bandsaw (or some other way of cutting the wood into the shape you want)
- Some way of making the wood smooth. Below are a few options
- Drill (preferably a drill press, but a hand drill can be used)
- Wood finish (I used Watco Teak Oil, but there are many great wood finishes available)
Note: The links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Preparing the Piece
As I noted earlier, often times the burl pieces have a circular pattern cut in them. I didn't think the circular pattern worked with my design, so I choose to cut the extra bits off.
First I marked a line with a straight edge. Then cut along the line with my bandsaw. You could use a jigsaw, a hand saw or something else to make this cut, but I find the bandsaw to be the easiest.
Step 2: Flattening and Smoothing the Flat Sides
Most often the burl pieces are very rough when you purchase them. You will want to flatten and smooth this out. There are a few different methods:
You can use a thickness planer (provided the wood is large enough, check your planer's instructions for the correct length for you) This is a very quick method and will get very nice results.
You can use a hand plane. It is a bit more manual effort, but with a sharp hand plane you can get very nice results as well.
If you don't have either of those, you can sand the roughness away. I use a random orbital sander, but you could just as easily use a belt sander or even just sandpaper.
Any way you choose, you will likely still need to sand the other edges of the piece. I like to start with 80 grit and move up the grits to 120, 180 and 220. Before finish sanding, I usually spray the piece down with water to raise the grain. I then let it dry and sand again with 220 grit for a perfectly smooth finish.
Step 3: Marking the Spots for the Candles
As each piece will be different, it is important to pick the right amount of candles. In this example I choose to have three so that it doesn't feel overcrowded.
I wanted them to be evenly spaced out, so I measured the total length of the piece (9 1/4") and divided it by 4 (the number of candles, plus 1). This gave me a measurement of 2 5/16". I then placed three marks on the piece 2 5/16" apart.
I used a center punch to mark the holes so that it will be easier to line up the drill bit in the next step.
Step 4: Drill the Holes
I first set the depth stop on my drill press to ensure that I did not drill too much material out, and to make a consistent depth for all the candles. I put the wood on the drill press and held up a candle beside the piece to determine the correct depth to drill.
I then drilled all three holes using a 1 1/2" forstner drill bit.
Step 5: Add Finish
My favourite part of every project is adding finish! In this case I used Watco Teak Oil as I find it really brings out the grain and it is a simple wipe on finish. There are many different types of finishes, so find one that works best for you and use it.
For the finish I used, you just wipe on the finish, wait 10-15 minutes and then wipe off any excess. I use a blue shop towel, but an old t-shirt works just as well.
Then wait a few hours (or overnight if you wish) and repeat.
Step 6: Add Feet
I added rubber feet to the bottom of the candle holder. I felt like this really made the piece looked finished, but it isn't a necessary step. Often these feet are sold as "cutting board feet" on amazon.
Pre-drill the holes using a 1/8" drill bit and screw in the feet.
Quick tip: By adding a strip of masking tape on the drill bit at the same height as the screws, you can make sure that you don't drill deeper than needed.
Step 7: Add Candles and Enjoy!
Now you just need to add some tea light candles and enjoy!
For those worried about having flame near wood, they make battery powered candles these days that are quite good!
If you make one of these, I would love to see them in the comments below!
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