Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Copper Candles

As a followup to last week's article, I promised the BCP Facebook group that I'd show off a cool, steampunk-esque reloadable candle. They're fairly simple to make, they run on a variety of fuels, and they look pretty cool at the same time.

The materials required are few and simple. You'll need:
  • a length of copper pipe
  • two copper pipe caps to fit the pipe
  • a length of cotton twine to serve as a wick (not some manner of nylon or poly, as those materials will not wick fuel to the flame and will simply melt and make a mess)
The length and diameter of your pipe will determine how much fuel it can hold, and larger diameter candles are also a bit more stable.

I used a 3" length of 1/2" pipe for my candle, because that's what I happened to have bumping around the garage.

Solder or otherwise seal one end cap onto your length of pipe. If you don't have the tools or experience to solder, two-part epoxies like JB Weld will also do the job quite well. Soldering tends to leave scorch marks on your pipe, especially if you're an amateur like me, but a bit of sandpaper or buffing compound will polish things up nicely, if the shiny look matters to you.

While the solder is cooling or the epoxy is drying, make a hole in the second end cap with a nail or drill bit. Size the hole to be roughly the same size as your wick material.

Note the hole in the center of the cap. 
Pull the wick material through the hole and out about 3/4". You may need the aid of some manner of poking tool to get your wick started through the hole.

The top cap with the wick slips over the bottom portion. It is fairly easy to remove, allowing the candle to be refilled, but snug enough to limit evaporation and minimize leaks and spills.

Now that our candle is assembled, let's test some fuels. Unfortunately, I don't have any lamp oil or denatured alcohol handy, but I've used both of those in similar burners in the past and they work wonders. However, I did have a couple common household items lying around that could serve as possible fuels...

The short version of my basic testing methodology was to look for anything marked "flammable" that was a liquid. These tests were just things I ran across in two small closets. Later testing with things in my garage will undoubtedly have interesting results.

One of my first tests was with olive oil. It burned for a very short period with a low flame. A larger and better wick may give better results, but it proved too heavy of a fuel for this small model.

In contrast, this is acetone in the form of nail polish remover. The flame is tall and bright, but sputters a bit. I suspect the sputtering is due to the fact that acetone evaporates more readily than most fuels.

For just a few dollars in parts and 15-30 minutes of time, candles like this are a great prep. They're durable and reusable, and not overly picky about what they eat. Polished up, they even make neat conversation pieces or gifts.


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