I designed these centerpieces for my upcoming wedding. Early on, we knew we wanted to do something with bottles, and this worked out very well. You can tell that the centerpieces use beer bottles, but (I'm pretty sure) they don't make us look like alcoholics.
- 10 lb. bag of ice for cutting bottles
- 3 pry top beer bottles per centerpiece
- unused bottle caps, 1 per bottle
- candle wicks (the wick should be longer than the overall height of the cut bottle)
- 24" long 2x4
- play sand (don't use regular sand which is basically dirt)
- clothes pins
- bulk wax (10 lbs. made about 50 candles)
- A downed tree or 8" - 12" diameter logs
Step 1: Drink Beer
Or have friends that drink beer, or buy some empty bottles. It really doesn't matter.
Regardless, make sure to get bottles with a pry off cap.
Step 2: Cut the Bottles
Take the labels off of the bottles. I did this by filling my sink with hot soapy water and let the bottles soak for about 10 minutes. Most of the labels came off pretty easily, and I used a scrub pad to remove the remaining glue. Some breweries use a different glue which is nearly impossible to remove, so I avoided those bottles.
I used the G2 Glass Cutter to cut my beer bottles. I have been very happy with the G2, and have had terrible luck with both the string and candle methods. I set the stock pot on the stove and heated it till small bubbles started to rise from the bottom. Right next to it, I kept a 5 gallon bucket full of ice water.
After scoring the bottles, I let the bottle heat up in the hot water, and then quickly moved it over to the ice water. I moved the bottle back and forth between the water baths until it broke. After the bottle broke, we sanded the sharp edge. Once we got started, we were able to cut and sand about a bottle a minute.
Step 3: Prep Bottle Caps
I cut the bottles to a variety of heights to keep every centerpiece different. For the taller bottles, the wicks I bought would not reach the top of the bottle. This made it difficult to hold the wick in place while pouring wax. To fix this, I wrapped some duct tape around the top of the wicks as an extension. When filling the candles, I made sure to keep the wax below the duct tape.
In normal candle making, the wick tab is commonly hot glued to the bottom of the jar to keep it in place. Instead, I attached the wick tabs to unused bottle caps. At first, I used the last of my hot glue to attach the wick tabs to the bottle caps. After that ran out, I started attaching the tabs using electrical tape. The electrical tape worked very well since it stretches over the top of the bottle.
Step 4: Assemble Bottle Components
After getting the bottle cap/wicks ready, I used my capper to install the caps. This is where using pry cap beer bottles is important. Twist off beer bottles break instead of capping properly.
In order to make the process easier, I made an assembly fixture by cutting a 2x4 to 24" long and drilled a 1-1/8" hole every 4". 1-1/8" diameter holes are perfect for the bottle cap to slide into the hole. Make the holes deep enough to allow the neck of the bottle to rest on the top edge of the hole. Before this was all over, I made three of these fixtures to increase my output.
One thing I learned is that the non-uniform diameter of the bottle will cause the wax to cool unevenly, thus creating sink holes. After putting six bottles in the fixture, I filled them with sand up to the shoulder. This helps prevent sink holes in the wax as it cools. Another benefit is that you use significantly less wax which is much more expensive than sand.
I used a one inch diameter dowel rod to pack down the sand in the bottle. The better job you do packing the sand, the more defined the line between the sand and the wax will be. As you are packing the sand, try to keep the wick in the center of the bottle.
To keep the wicks centered while I poured the wax, I pulled up on the wick and clamped it in place with a clothes pin.
Step 5: Pour Wax
I melted the wax using a double boiler. To do this, place a trivet or metal cookie cutter at the bottom of a pot. Put hot water in the pot and then a "pouring" pot filled with solid wax on top. Bring the water to a light boil (a heavy boil will splatter water everywhere). Slowly heat the wax until it melts.
Once the wax melted, I poured it into the candles. Dry the bottom of the pouring pot before pouring the wax to avoid dripping hot water. Be very careful not to spill the wax while pouring since it can burn your skin. I tried to pour the wax near the center of the bottle to avoid getting wax on the side walls of the bottle.
Step 6: Make the Bases
To make the bases, we employed the help of my dad. I grew up in the country, and my parents use a wood burning furnace, so there is never a shortage of logs.
He cut us a bunch of pieces of pin oak varying from eight to twelve inches in diameter and from two to four inches in height. He appreciated having a wide range of sizes since chainsaws aren't known for being overly accurate.
After cutting the bases, we drilled three 1-1/8" holes into each of the bases. Like the other portions of the process, we drilled the holes in semi-random locations. Using a drill press probably isn't absolutely necessary, but it made the entire process go much quicker and ensured the holes would be vertical.
Once we finished drilling holes, we loaded the bases with candles, and were ready to go.
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