Why spend heaps on battery operated candle sets when you can save your paper towel and toilet paper rolls to make your own DIY Halloween candle clusters? Recycle, craft, and help the planet!
Of course, the reason it took me so long to do this project was because I thought there was a technical aspect to the candles – running wires from each light to a bottom base or arduino breadboard with a smartphone remote or toggle switch. To the at home computer hobbyist such advanced lighting schemes are no problem, but regular ole me had no idea how you could glue drips around a tea light yet be able to use its on off switch. Fortunately, our own illustrious horror hostess Emerian Rich made the simplest observation that there must be a shelf inside the roll to hold the candle. Huzzah!
Armed with such wisdom, I traced circles onto a piece of cardboard, cutting them out and trimming each to fit a roll before taping and gluing them inside at the tea light depth. Next I bunched my two clusters together with ten tiered rolls cum candles each, varying the designs so they are symmetrically asymmetrical rather than matched or mirror images. By stacking or cutting rolls, I could make the tiers taller or smaller, taping and gluing the rolls as needed. Rather than spray painting everything Halloween black, I chose red paint for year round décor. I debated painting all my rolls and going around their rims with the glue drops a la wax motif before gathering them together. However, I suspect that would mean I was painting in unnecessary hidden spots or stuck with glue in places that didn’t fit.
On to my trusty glue gun, I added globs of glue drips around my rolls – long drips, short lumps, globby pieces in all the nooks and crannies. Obviously, this is part of the candle look, but once hardened, the glue also added stability to the bunch and the rolls became quite sturdy. This is a time consuming detail that took a day to dry before touch ups, and in addition to clear, I used red and silver glitter glue sticks, hoping they might add a sparkly touch. For more realistic attention to detail, I also did a glue ripple around the bottom of the bunch. After Round One, I could see spots that needed more waxy drip effects, so I did another layer of glue globs to conceal any problem spots. At first, these looked really bad, obviously cheap, and barely held together. It’s not as simple as it looks – oh Etsy, glue drips and toilet paper rolls make tea lights look like big candles, yeah Pinterest!
Indeed, with different textures, thin cardboard, glue, and tape, these clusters needed several coats of paint. The more I painted and glued, fortunately, the more they really started to look like candles. The tea lights themselves also needed several paint coats. Rather than buying red that had a red light, I chose the white tea lights for their realistic glow. Originally, I wanted to do these bunches in an aged off white or creamy color. After seeing how many coats it took of red, however, I’m super glad I didn’t choose a light paint where all the tea lights could illumine every T.P. imperfection. For my final coat, I added a drop of darker paint called ‘Berry’ – last used in my Spooky Spellbook DIY – to the red base. I painted both clusters in this slightly darker hue, not worrying about every little crevice, resulting in an antique, realistic look. Now instead of obvious recycled materials, that a la wax dimension is what you see first.
For something more substantial than a plastic tray or no base at all, I picked up two silver plated trays at Goodwill for $2 each. Both clusters actually fit on one larger tray – a classy centerpiece that fits in right through all the holidays. Overall, this project took about four days with the drying time between coats as the biggest hurdle. One should also make sure the tea lights still fit as you add your gobblely glue trim. Some became snug and need to be wedge in gently. After the ins and out to turn them off and on, a few have chipped, so expect touch ups if you are going to repeatedly poke and prod at the candle lights. The 8 ounce red acrylic paint was $4 and a pack of 24 tea lights was $8, both from Amazon. So for around $16, I have two stylish, unique candle clusters compared to at least $20 for one from Spirit or gasp $80 at Pier 1 – neither of which appear to be available online this season. Of course, with store bought battery candles, once one burns out or there is a remote timer problem, they often don’t work anymore. When one of these goes bad, I can just change the tea light!
Though not necessary a family friendly project, one can customize these faux candle clusters – creepy face designs, blood drips on white candles, go huge by using tubes or piping instead of towel rolls, or dozens of individual rolls can become an entire room of Harry Potter floating ceiling candles. We all certainly use enough T.P.!
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