I liked turning the first two tea light candle holder projects. The simplicity of turning a holder out of a branch while leaving some natural bark is very attractive. The second tea light project was making an upside down bowl for the tea light holder. In looking at the upside down bowl I wondered about placing additional tea lights around the central candle. The challenge would be making the placement symmetrical on the platter.
Tea Light Holder Turning Challenges
The challenge of placing the tea lights off of center on the tea light holder attracted me to this project. I thought of removing the bowl or platter from the lathe and using a drill press but I did want the placement to be symmetrical. Also my mini lathe does not come with an indexing plate. Two ideas helped me to proceed with this project.
First was the hex shape on the back of the face plate. This is there so you can use a wrench to loosen the faceplate from your headstock. It is hex shaped so there are six faces to the nut. If I could attach something to the faceplate and rest it against the lathe bed then I would have a constant position and six reference points. A C-clamp and a block of wood worked. I saw a similar idea when making a citrus juicer in a Craftsy course I reviewed.
Second was a sled to hold a hand held drill. In this case the hand drill drives the forstner bit rather than the lathe because we are not drilling on center. A little work at my table saw gave me a sliding sled and a few extra items fastened the hand drill to the sled. This meant that the forstner bit would always drill in the same position.
By moving the C-clamp on the nut of the faceplate I could rotate the platter and drill three different spots for the tea lights. Mathematically speaking by using every other spot on the nut I moved the platter 120 degrees between each hole for the tea lights. Three times 120 equals 360 degrees, a full circle. I could have used every flat spot on the nut which would be 6 placements of 60 degrees each. I thought 7 tea lights would overwhelm the platter and only did four.
Wood Selection & Preparation
For this project I have a piece of western red cedar. This is a soft wood and I like the grain patterns. I will need to take light cuts and to be gentle with the wood because it will dent really easy. I cut a piece off of the cedar plank, trimmed the corners off, and marked in the lines between opposite points to identify the center.
Placing the face plate on the blank I screwed it into position with 1” wood screws. Notice the hex shape on the faceplate. This lets you use a wrench to remove the faceplate from your lathe after turning the front, but it also allows you to “index” or position your platter in 6 different places.
Mount the wood on to your lathe. You are now ready to turn the blank round. collett ch
Turning a Multi Tea Light Holder
Turn the blank round with your bowl gouge. Practice taking light cuts so that you reduce the tear out on the soft cedar wood. You want to flatten the face of the blank as well at this time.
I use a 1 1/2″ forstner bit to drill out the holes for the candles. With the central hole you can use your bowl gouge and scrapers to make the hole for the candle. However this will not work for the other holes we will be making. So you will need a 1 1/2″ drill bit / hole saw to do the other holes. Put your forstner bit into a collett chuck and mount in your tail stock. Bring the tail stock up to the blank and secure the tail stock. Do not tighten the quill.
With the lathe turned on slowly advance the quill on the tail stock. This will move the bit into the wood and make the hole for the candle. The forstner bit is just smaller than the candle holder so drilling to the thickness of the bit gives you a good depth. Once the hole is drilled check to see how the candle fits.
If the hole is too tight for the candle then use sand paper or your bowl gouge to enlarge the hole so the candle will fit in. I leave the tea light candle a bit proud so that if it does get stuck you can use pliers to help ease it out of the hole.
With the hole done for the center candle, shape the rest of the platter for your tea light holder. I wanted to make a flat spot for the next three candles lower than the center candle but other designs are possible.
Here is the view of the back of the faceplate when mounted on the lathe. We will need this to position the platter in order to drill the next three holes for the tea light candles.
Tea Light Holder drill sled
This portion requires a little bit of work at your table saw. I needed a sled or platform that would slide on the bed of my lathe and hold a hand drill in a stable position.
At my table saw I moved the fence to 1 1/8″ away from the blade. I ran the two by four piece of wood along the fence creating two parallel cuts in the wood. This created a center piece of wood that was 1 1/4″ wide which will fit in between the rails on my lathe. I adjusted the blade height and fence so that I could run the sled along the fence and complete the cut to achieve the final shape as shown. I had to do a bit of sanding to get the sled to slide easily on my lathe.
I attached metal strapping to the block with wood screws. I also put some thin wood under and behind the drill to hold it in place. Remove the forstner bit from the collet chuck and insert into your hand drill. Slide the unit towards your platter on the lathe. This is the time to adjust the drill to get the holes in the right position.
Now we are ready to drill the holes but we need to hold the platter in place. I took a medium sized C clamp and a small block of wood and attached them to the back of the face plate. I then rotated the platter until the handle of the C clamp rested against the bed of the lathe. (In my case the back of the faceplate was too narrow for the width of the surface on the C clamp. A small block of wood allowed for a good tight connection with the C clamp.) Note: make sure you can attach your C clamp, or wrench, exactly the same way each time. This will ensure that you are moving the platter to the right position each time you drill.
Drilling the outer tea light candle holes
Position and double check that you are drilling where you want to!
Do not turn on the lathe! Turn on the hand drill and move the sled forward to drill the hole in the platter.
Move the drill sled back and clear from the platter. Move the clamp on the face plate to the next position. Since I was drilling for three tea lights I skipped one of the surfaces on the face plate. This will give me three equally spaced holes on the platter. Here I am drilling the third hole in the platter.
Now we can see that all three holes are drilled and symmetrically placed around the platter.
This is the time to finalize the shaping of the platter and to do your sanding and finishing. Remember to work through your sanding paper from coarse to fine grit. Wipe the platter down between each size of sandpaper.
Turning the back of the candle holder
To turn the back or bottom of the platter remove the faceplate. Unscrew the faceplate and remove from the platter. If you have made the second tea light project you will have a jam chuck ready to use. If not put a piece of scrap wood into your multi-jawed chuck and turn a spigot that will fit into the center hole of your platter.
I use the tail stock with a live center to give additional support to the platter.
This is almost at the end of shaping the bottom. As cedar is a soft wood I wanted to leave a good section of wood between the bottom of the holes and the underside of the platter. There is about a 1/4″ thickness under the candles. I removed a bit more wood under the central candle. Sand and finish at this point.
Sanding the outer tea light holes
I tried to enlarge the outside holes by hand. It was taking forever. So if I couldn’t sand the holes on the lathe, because they were off center, I could turn my lathe into a sanding jig! I mounted my multi-jawed chuck on the lathe. I then placed a small, round, turning blank into my chuck. The blank had to be small enough to fit into the hole for the tea light. Using double sided tape I attached a 120 grit piece of sand paper to the end of the blank. Make sure that the sandpaper overlaps from the front of the lathe towards the back. I did a similar trick to sand the captive rings on the baby rattle. To sand the inside of the hole I turn on the lathe. The turning blank rotates the sand paper and I can hold the tea light holder by hand and sand the inside of the hole. I balanced the tea light holder on the end of the turning blank for the picture (the lathe was not on!). This allowed me to quickly sand and enlarge the holes so that the tea lights would fit into the holes.
I now have a 4 tea light candle holder. I was going to cut away the sections between the outer candles but I’m not sure what I want to achieve, design wise, at this time. So I’m going to finish this project now. If I do change my mind and adjust the shape I’ll do a new post and link it from here. Let me know what you think of the tea light holder in the comment section below.
Design and Marketing Considerations
These tea light projects have been fun. They are a relatively quick project to turn and easy to customize. Be creative and turn tea lights of all shapes and sizes. Do make sure the tea light holder is stable.
I would encourage you to include them in your inventory as it would provide you with some lower priced products to sell. The branches for the first tea light project, could be collected from pruning and the blanks for the other two projects could be made from soft wood cutoffs. This would reduce your wood cost. Of course you could turn them out of fancy hardwood and increase the prices accordingly. There are lots of different pricing strategies you could consider.
Tea light candles are small, come with their own container, burn for only a few hours, and are very common. I use beeswax candles in my tea lights. You can make your own beeswax tea light candles at this link. These might not be as elegant as a matching set of turned traditional candle sticks but they are safer especially if there are active children in the house.
I hope you liked this project and the series on tea light candle holders. Please sign up for my newsletter to receive updates when I have posted projects or business articles. The box is at the top of the right hand side bar. Thank you for visiting my page. Please share any tea light projects that you have done with me.