A long time ago, before people began wrapping their Christmas trees in electric lights, candles were added. One particular method developed in Germany during the 19th century involved using weights to balance the candle holders that were perched on the branches. They are also very popular in Scandinavia. I prefer this style over other candle holders that use clips to attach the candles to the branches since they can tilt.
These are great gifts for anyone in your life who goes crazy for Christmas or might be attempting a more traditional look this year.
You will need:
14 gauge single strand copper wire
1/2 inch candles
A semi-dull knife
Sheet metal vise grips
15/32 inch diameter (Or something close) bar; I used the handle of an old pry bar
Jewelery pliers (Good ones)
Jeans and a small towel
If you are wondering why the bar's diameter is thinner than the candle's, it is because wire never conforms 100% to the base you wrap it around; it always expands just a little bit. Also, you want a snug fit for your candle. One other note, not all candles that say "1/2 inch" are exactly the same 1/2 inch in diameter, so you may need to alter the size of your bar to match the results, but I'll go into more detail in step 3.
WARNING: You may burn down your entire house if you light these and are not careful. I never light mine anymore, and when I did I was always present in the room with a fire extinguisher and blew them out before I left. If yo choose to make these and set light them, make sure your branches are sturdy, the candle holders are sitting upright, and they are not sitting directly under any other branches. If you choose not to light them, it simplifies things a whole lot.
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Step 1: Strip the Wire!
I recommend you wear work glove whenever working with wire to reduce personal wear and tear. There are a few steps where you will need your fingers to be more dexterous than your gloves will allow, but you'll figure that out all on your own.
You will need a to your jeans, a small towel, and a dull-ish knife. If it's too sharp, it will catch the copper wire, but it fit's too dull, it won't cut into the insulation.
What you are going to be doing is cutting the insulation off the wire wire by dragging it across your knee with the knife staying still. It may take a few tries before you get the feel for it, but eventually, you will be able to slice long strip without having to start again.
Place the towel over your knee. Place one end of the wire on your knee with the knife in your dominant hand pressed against the wire at an angle. With your non-dominant hand pull the wire back, but keeping the knife still. A strip of insulation will peel off as the wire is dragged under the knife blade. I've never cut myself doing this; the knife is always too dull to cut through my jeans, but I use a towel for extra protection.
Once you are done stripping, put your clothes back on and move onto step two.
Step 2: Drawing the Wire!
Clamp the bar into the vise horizontally. Fix the vise grips onto one end of your stripped wire and bend a piece over the bar. With the vise grips in your dominant hand and grabbing the wire with the other just after the bend, drag it over the bar. Hold the wire firmly, so that it is taut as your draw it across the bar. This will straighten the wire; there will be a slight curve, but it should be relatively straight. I like to draw out about 42 inches, then cut it off; 42 inches in enough for me, but you can make it longer if you would prefer longer legs on your candle holder. At this point you can draw a few more pieces before moving onto the next step depending on how many candle holders you would care to make.
Step 3: Bending and Coiling the Wire
You will still need the bar in the vise, but you will also need a pair of sheet metal vise grips. Honestly, any vise grips with a smooth gripping surface will work, but I on;y had the sheet metal ones on hand; they work OK.
Take one of your pieces of drawn wire, put the two ends together and find the middle. Next, fold the wire into too strands, gently using your Jewelery pliers to cinch the fold.
Next clamp the folded end onto the bar perpendicularly. Once secured, wrap the wire around the bar, making a coil. I wrap the two ends four times around, then I wrap the just the top wire closest to the top half-way around so that the two wires are pointed in opposite directions. Now would be an ideal time to try to straighten the wires by firmly running your thumb down the outside of whatever curve is left in the end pieces.
Using your jewelery pliers, hold one tip of the pliers up against one of the wire leads using your other hand to bend it at a 90 degree angle. Repeat this with the other end of the wire.
At this point you may release it from the vise grip, remove it from the bar, check to see how well the candles you bought fit into the coil. You should be able to twist them in with a snug fit. If it's too loose or tight, find a different size bar. If the coil is too loose and you cannot find a smaller bar, I will explain how to deal with that in step six.
Step 4: Making a Spiral
Use the ruler to measure out ho long you want the legs to be, then bend the end at a 90 degree angle on each of the legs. You don't have to measure it unless you want all you candle holders to be a consistent size, but I recommend at least 3 inches.
Here comes a difficult part; you may want to practice this with a loose piece of wire before you try it with a half-finished piece.
Grab the wire just past the bend in the leg firmly and wrap it around itself until you make a small spiral. Use your pliers to grip the spiral as you continue to wrap it, making the spiral bigger. Repeat this step with the second leg before moving on to the next step.
Step 5: Wrapping the Marbles
This is another step that requires practice, so I would practice it a few times before using a half-finished piece.
Pull one of the spirals out, making a cone. Using your fingers, wrapping the wire around the marble until it hugs it completely, then cut off the end with wire cutter.
Sometimes after I pull out the spiral, I pre-coil it around my thumb before inserting the marble. It can make for a tighter wrap.
The first few candle holders I made weren't as smooth as the ones I make now, but you get better with practice.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
A this point you may be able to simply twist the candle into the holder like a bolt into a nut, but if it's too loose, you may use your jewelery pliers to bend the very top end into the coil, making a tighter fit for the candle.
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