Hanukkah Menorah: Innovative Wicks for Oil Burning Candles!

My family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas. In this post, I’m showing you how to make my newest and most innovative creation to date! I’m making wicks for oil burning candles that are re-usable, cheap, readily available and burn safely.

In my previous post, I showed you how to transform these shot glasses into festive oil burning candles. Here’s how they started out; notice the logo:

At the end of the post you’ll see how pretty they turned out in the final display!

Safety Precautions (Please Read Before Skipping to the Tutorial if you Didn’t See it in My Previous Post!)

In my last post, someone asked, “how do I know if my shotglasses are heat safe”?

The only way I know of telling if glass is tempered or safety glass is to view the glass through polarized lenses in bright light – preferably sunlight. Most people have polarized sunglasses so this is ideal.

If you try to view tempered glass in sunlight with a polarized pair of sunglasses, you will see lines stretching across its surface (and sometimes dark shady spots) – which is a good indicator that the glass is toughened. These are formed during the tempering process. Try this method first on a glass that you already know is heat safe: a Pyrex measuring cup or glass dish for instance that’s marked microwave safe. You should notice the wavy lines I’m taking about.

Note though that even glass that is heat tempered is not guaranteed against breaking or cracking. Two of the most common causes of glass breaking due to the heat from a candle flame is first, a wick that is not centered and allowed to get too close to the side, and second is a flame that gets too close to the bottom.

To combat these potential problems:

  1. Fill the shot glass with enough water before adding the oil. In a traditional wax candle, if the flame reaches the bottom of the container, too much heat may be concentrated at the base of the wick which could cause the glass to crack. Water in an oil burning candle will prevent that from happening because the flame never gets lower than the surface of the water. Along with the water, my DIY wicks (which I’ll post tomorrow) has a binder clip that surrounds 2 metal posts. This design acts as an additional safety precaution to keep the heat from reaching the bottom of the wick/glass – however the water level will snuff out the flame before that happens.
  2. Centre the wick in the glass! The binder clip will help you do this because it is oblong on the bottom which will help you place it better centred than if you use a store bought wick (which tends to be very small and circular).
  3. 3. Proper cautions should be taken when burning oil candles, as with any other style candle. Protect the surface the candle is sitting on by placing it on a heat-resistant holder (I used a metal topped plant stand – Satsumas, made by Ikea which is non combustible).
  4. Keep the candle away from anything flammable (I rolled up my roman shades for instance to keep them out of the way).
  5. These particular candle only burn for just over 1/2 an hour, however, never leave a burning candle unattended. I didn’t check to see whether the shot glasses I used were tempered, however I’ve never had a problem with all the safety precautions outlined above. With proper supervision, a glass oil burning candle will give you beautiful ambient light, so keep all of the above in mind 🙂

On to Making Oil Burning Wicks!

To light up the candles, I experimented with many different materials and came up with TWO sustainable wick designs; last year I showed you a k-cup version. This year’s version is much better: it uses nothing more than a binder clip, some 100% cotton string and the post portion from some garment snaps. If you can find silver binder clips for this project (vs. the traditional black), they blend in better with the shot glasses.

While I used my wicks to create a display for Hanukkah (otherwise known as the Festival of Lights), these will also work to create oil candles any time of year and for any occasion. Try it out for Christmas, New years or even Valentines Day (there’s nothing more romantic than the glow of candle light)!

Making the Wicks with Binder Clips!

Gather up:

  • 100% cotton string
  • Two snaps (you only need the posts)*
  • Small binder clip

* Note: the post should be large enough to feed the string through the hole.

Cut a piece of 100% cotton string. The size will depend on the container you use. I used a shot glass that was 2 1/2″ high so I cut my string to that length.

A silver binder clip is less noticeable in the glass but if all you have is black, go for it!

Soak the string in olive oil. If you are doing a bunch of them, pour the olive oil into a container and soak all the strings until thoroughly saturated. DON’T FORGET TO SOAK THE STRINGS FIRST BEFORE ASSEMBLY – THIS IS INTEGRAL TO KEEPING YOUR CANDLE LIT.

Tie a knot in one end of the string.

Insert the knotted string through the long part of the post portion of a metal snap so the knot cradles under the hole (see the picture below, paying attention to the direction).

Open a binder clip and insert the knotted end of the post, then close the clip again to tighten it against the post.

Thread another metal snap through the string – again the post part, but this time the other side up (like a hat sitting on top).

Remove both binder clip arms.

Fill a shot glass about 1/2 full with water.

Then add 1/2 a heaping teaspoon of olive oil into the water; it will rise to the top and float.

Grab by the string and place the wick into the liquid so it rests on the bottom of the shot glass. It will stand up because the clip has a square bottom. Remember that it’s important to centre the wick in the glass; you want to prevent the wick from hitting the side as described in the safety precautions.

Use a lighter to light the wick to test one out (don’t forget that the entire wick must have been soaked in olive oil first).

Here’s how the test run looks before I made over the all the shot glasses. You’ll notice that I fashioned a Star of David out of blue glass nuggets:

With a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in the shot glass, the oil candle should stay lit for approximately half an hour.

Prepare all shot glasses at once (8 if making for Hanukkah) and transport them to where you will be lighting them (i.e. don’t light first and then transport!).

Don’t forget to soak the wicks in oil first before you light them and only use a metal snap and binder clip to make these (i.e. no plastic!).

For a menorah, you’ll need one more shot glass for the lead candle. It’s easier to have a real candle for this purpose so you can easily light the other oil burning candles. I put blue aquarium gravel in the base to hold the candle straight up.

I cut the lid from a K-cup and poked a bigger hole through the middle of the foil to accommodate the candle.

Then I inserted the candle through the hole (1/4 sticking through the bottom and the rest on top). Just make sure you have the foil side, and not the advertising, facing up. This serves two purposes: it keeps melted candle wax from burning your hand (a pet peeve of mine). The foil ‘shield’ of the K-cup collar catches any of the hot wax drippings as you light the other candles! It also allows the candle to sit on top of the shot glass without chance of it tipping over (remember to push the bottom of the candle firmly into the aquarium gravel). As an added bonus, the candle light will bounce off the foil and give additional ambient light. One more precaution; if your K-cup lid is made of a paper/plastic combination instead of foil, I don’t think I would trust it with hot wax (even if it is meant to come in contact with hot water). Either don’t use a collar (you can still secure the candle deeper into the gravel – or even sand – without it), or remove the paper from the rim of the K-cup and then hot glue your own piece of foil around the rim.

To clean these reusable wicks, take apart the posts from the binder clips. Toss them into a mesh bag as shown below and pop them into the dishwasher where you would normally load your cutlery.

When they come out, they’ll be clean, degreased and ready to use again with fresh pieces of cotton.

Here’s how they look lit up on the last day of Hanukkah:

Look how beautifully they glow; you’ll appreciate it even more if you watch this video below:

This is an upcycle that you can use over and over in conjunction with the shot glasses (but of course, you’ll need to replace the cotton string for the wick each time you do).

Now that you’ve seen how to make the wicks, if you missed it, head on over to the tutorial that shows you how I upcycled the shot glasses for this project.

If you’re interested in seeing the K-cup version of the wicks, see my previous holiday post (you’ll find it starts about half way down the page).

Of all my sustainable innovations, the oil burning wick is high on my list of favourites. Check out these other recent innovations on Birdz of a Feather (the first one is a Christmas gift idea):

BYOB Upcycled Gift Bag:

This one could be adapted for Christmas too; you could hang one on the tree for each family member!

Plastic Clamshell Shrink Art:

CO2 Detector Wall Safe:

If you enjoyed learning how to make your own sustainable wicks, please pin and share! You can follow us right here on Birdz of a Feather (link in the footer) or on Bloglovin’ (button below).

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Decoupaged Medicine Cabinet | Birdz of a Feather

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