Sunday, March 27, 2016

DIY: Tiki Torches

Custom Made Tiki Torches

Repurposed Liquor Bottles with Plumbing Supplies


We thought we were really smart when we splurged for the extra-large Tiki torches at Target. We bought the Island Kings and they were not cheap, and we needed at least seven of them for strategic placement around our deck.

Yes, they looked nice that first summer and we were completely enamored with anything that we could come up with that made our deck a nightime oasis. But over time, the honeymoon period ends and you realize you have a problem.

Tiki Island Torches  Purchase
There are many problems with them. . . things you figure out after you make your first purchase and realize how you could do things differently:

1. It doesn't matter if you buy the special stakes to keep these secure when you have sandy ground under your lawn. These poles are never straight, especially over time.

2. Having a large reservoir is fine and dandy but if you can't tell when it's empty, or that you have overfilled it, it's really a pain. Overfilling leads to ridiculous flares and sizzling that is scary around a wooden deck (as well as plant life, bird feeders, kids, etc.).

3. Metal containers rust.

I could go on. I really did like them when we bought them but we knew we needed something different. Our first prototype was completed today and it's been a work in progress. For right now I just have a couple of snapshots but I plan on really zooming in and providing some more pictures as we continue in our quest to make ten of these and get into the details of this project. 
While I will continue to update this in the next few weeks let’s start today with some of the basics.


I like using that word every once in a while but I guess “container” would do. We really thought long and hard about the bottles we were going to use. The original plan was to use wine bottles but we realized that we would either have to put a layer of shellac on top of the labels or come to terms that once the labels came off (rain and sun would be hard on them) that the bottles themselves wouldn’t be all that unusual. A wine bottle is a wine bottle after the label is gone.

We decided for liquor bottles instead. The thought was that some of the markings are etched on the bottle and the shapes of each kind of liquor  would make them all a little bit different beyond just the color of the glass. Before you go and comment that I must have a problem with having all of these at my disposal, I must tell you I have a friend who waits tables at a local comedy club and was kind enough to get me these. I didn’t drink all this liquor to start this quest!


I live with MacGyver. I don’t know exactly how he figured this out but we used different plumbing supplies to create the attachments and posts. We have a piece of ¾ PVC pipe (about 1.5 feet deep in the ground, that was then surrounded by concrete. I don’t want to have wavy poles every again! We even used a post level when we drove them into the ground. To make this easier, we sliced a 45 degree angle on the bottom to drive this in easier with a mallet.

To this base, we added a PVC female adaptor to “receive” the copper poles we made out of copper ¾ inch pipe.
PVC 3/4 inch female adapter

The bottom of the copper pipe has a copper ¾ inch male adapter to fit into the PVC.
3/4 inch male adapter

On the top of this copper pipe is another ¾ inch male adapter that screws into a floor flange that is attached to the bottom of each bottle with silicone glue.

Floor Flange


We used glass pebbles inside each bottle purchasing them from Michael’s with a weekly coupon deal (30% off all regular prices merchandise this week!). We had a more limited selection due to the size of the neck of each bottle but were able to purchase some peach, clear and silver pebbles. The glass pebbles were important to fill the bottom of each bottle so that the torch fuel isn’t at the bottom where the wick can’t reach.

What’s nice about these bottles is we can see when we fill them and know ahead of time when we need to refuel.


We bought wicks for the Tiki torches at Lowe’s in two packs. These are “Long Life Fiberglass” wicks that should last a long time. To fasten the wicks into the bottles we placed through a copper ½ inch to 3/8 inch reducing coupling. This allows the wick to be pulled out through the coupling, and the whole piece sits on top of the bottle opening. We did put a couple of layers of Teflon tape around the bottom section of the coupling to make it more snug as this will prevent water from getting in when it rains. We also added a ¾ inch copper end cap to fit on top of the wick when not in use, again for protection against the rain. We will have to figure out how to leave these somehow attached to the bottle.

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