So since I made the tinted glass jars, (which apparently happened in January? Really?) I have been true to my word, and I have not thrown away any jars, bottles, or basically anything made of glass. I have quite the collection, and there’s always something soaking in the sink, in an effort to remove the label.
I had seen some posts here and there about making tiki torches out of wine bottles, and as per usual, I said to myself “how hard can that be?” Usually the answer to that question is “much harder than you think,” but in this case, it’s actually not that hard. I posted a couple of these over on Facebook and Instagram the other day and people seemed to like them, so here’s how you do it.
You will need:
- An empty booze bottle of your choice. It has to have a narrow neck. Wine bottles are great.
- Pipe coupling or bushing. This is a pipe fitting that is a bit larger on one end than the other. The smaller end should fit into your bottle opening. I used 1/2″ to 3/4″ bushing. If you’re like me, you will take an empty wine bottle to Lowe’s with you. And look like a weirdo when you forget that the wine bottle is in your purse when you go to pay for stuff.
- A pipe cap larger than the large end of the pipe bushing. In my case, a 1″ pipe cap. This will be a lid for the torch and you can use it to put the flame out. Technically, I guess you don’t really need this.
- Tiki torch replacement wick.
- Plumbers tape, in the same width as the narrow end of your bushing.
- Some kind of fill for the bottle. The type of fill is up to you — gravel, glass gems, sand, shells, marbles. Whatever. Just make sure it can fit through the opening of the bottle. And consider whether you’re going to see it when you’re done. If your bottle is dark, it really doesn’t matter what kind of fill you use so go cheap. If your bottle is clear, you might want to use something pretty. The good news about this is that if you ever decide you don’t want to use the torch anymore, fill like glass gems and marbles can be taken out of the bottle, cleaned up, and used for something else. Yay!
- Additional embellishments like twine, beads, shells if you want to pretty up the bottle. Up to you.
- Torch fuel.
I bought all of the supplies for this at Lowe’s, except the stuff I used to fill and embellish the bottles, which I already had because I keep all that stuff. I hoard craft stuff a little. And then I get kind of sad when I use it, because then I no longer have it. It’s weird, but I’m sure crafters out there will understand.
Anyway, the supplies cost me a total of $8.56 CDN, not including the plumbers tape which was 79 cents for a whole roll. I figure the all in cost for this is about $10 to $12 if you have to buy the fill and embellishments and torch fuel. So, in my opinion, it’s not cheap. But is is cheaper than buying a torch and you get something unique.
First step — take the label off your bottle, if you want to. Use whatever method works for you. I have yet to find a great label removal method and I have tried many — soaking, scraping, baking in the oven (which was supposed to be a miracle label removal method which didn’t work at all for me — if anything the label was more firmly stuck than before). I generally use a combination of soaking and Goo Gone, and yes, I realize Goo Gone has a big scary picture of a skull and crossbones on it, but I use it anyway. If you know of a non-scary alternative to Goo Gone that works as well as Goo Gone, please let me know. Now, if you have a super awesome bottle, like my 60th anniversary RCAF bottle, or you love a particular brand of booze, leave the label on. If your bottle happens to have 30 year old wine in it, like my 60th anniversary RCAF bottle, I suggest just pouring the wine down the sink. I know that seems like crime, but trust me, it’s the right thing to do.
Next, wrap the plumber’s tape around the small end of your pipe bushing. You are looking to get a pretty tight fit when you insert that end of the bushing into the neck of the bottle. You kind of have to experiment. I found I needed way more plumber’s tape than I expected.
Put whatever fill you’ve selected into the bottle. For the RCAF bottle, I used some green glass gems since the bottle was green. For the clear wine bottle I used sparkly gravel I had bought at the dollar store a couple of years ago, and added a few shells and pearls. I think a bottle filled with shells would be awesome, but I don’t have many shells that will fit into the neck of a wine bottle. For the whiskey bottle I used a bunch of marbles.
The fill serves a few purposes: it allows you to use less fuel, it gives the bottle some extra weight so the wind doesn’t knock it over, and it provides a stopping point for the wick, should it get pushed or slip into the bottle. For a 750mL wine bottle, you’ll need to fill it about halfway. You can test for the right fill level by putting the wick into the pipe bushing and putting it into the bottle. When the bottom of the wick touches the fill, you have enough.
Speaking of putting the wick into the bushing, do that now. Fill the bottle with torch fuel. Insert the wick/bushing into the bottle and wait for the wick to become saturated with fuel. Adjust the height of the wick (no more than 3/4″ above the top of the bushing) and light it. A side note about the wick — I found that the wick is a fair amount narrower than the 1/2″ bushing so the wick slides around a bit, even after it has soaked up some fuel. That’s one reason it’s important to have the right level of filler in the bottle — so you don’t lose your wick in the bottle. I could have tried for a smaller bushing, but then it wouldn’t have fit into the wine bottle properly. I haven’t found the narrow wick to be a problem in the use of the torches, but thought I would mention it, because some of the instructions I’ve seen indicate that the wick can be difficult to get into the pipe, but I did not experience that at all. Perhaps the wick comes in different sizes, but I found it hard to find just this size, so I didn’t even try to find another size.
At this point you can be done if you want. You can use the pipe cap to put out the flame and leave it on for storing the bottle when you’re not using it. Or you can skip the pipe cap and just blow it out or use a candle snuffer.
Or, you can embellish. I decided to embellish the two clear bottles. For the clear wine bottle, I found a shell that already had a hole in the top, because I am way too lazy to drill holes in stuff and I would no doubt break the shells. And my boyfriend was at work, otherwise I would have maybe asked him to do it. Anyway, I tied that shell around the bottle with some hemp twine, and then decided to wrap the neck of the bottle with the hemp twine. I have to say, hemp twine is the bane of my existence. It looks nice on the roll, but when you use it, it sheds all over the place, randomly bunches itself up and ultimately leaves pieces sticking out that look like grey pubes. I trimmed off the pubes after I wrapped the neck of the bottle. In retrospect, wrapping something that is just below something that is going to be on fire in hemp cord is probably not a great idea. But I like to live on the edge.
For the smaller whiskey bottle, I used an iridescent green plastic gem that I tied around the bottle with some thin iridescent ribbon. Then I wrapped the ribbon around the neck of the bottle.
In general, I think that wrapping the necks of the bottles might be a bit too much of a fire hazard. Might be best to just stick with hanging a charm around the bottle. Or hot gluing something on to the bottle. I’ll let you know if mine end up catching on fire. So far, they’ve been okay.
For the caps, I decided to fancy things up by hot glueing a shell onto one, and another green gem onto the other. A word of caution here if you’re using copper pipe. Copper is a really excellent conductor of heat. Be careful when applying hot glue to copper and then touching the copper. The only thing that burns more than hot glue is copper that has had hot glue applied to it. Or so I’ve been told. You could use E6000 if you’re a wimp, but then you’d be sitting around holding your embellishments until tomorrow because E6000 takes forever to set. Hot glue is magic.
So there you have it, homemade tiki torches. Enjoy your bottles, and keep mosquitoes away.
I have tons of bottles and nobody needs that many tiki torches, so stay tuned for other bottle related stuff coming soon.