Monday, November 21, 2016

A New - And Better! - Way To Make Floating Candles

Two years ago my DIY floating candles for our Harry Potter tree got a lot of attention online, so you might recognize these:

Those are battery-operated candles, though, so if you need to make LOTS of them - say, more than 10 or 20 - then the battery cost alone starts to add up. (They each take 2 AAs)

The only other floating candle method I've seen uses toilet paper rolls and LED tealights. The tealights are too small for the rolls, though, so you have to use hot glue to make a "shelf" inside the roll, then hang the candle from the roll itself with a V of fishing line, making it hard to hang straight.

I don't like the look of the fishing line V or the TP roll seams, and I'm too lazy to collect and paint dozens of TP rolls, so I set out to find a better, easier way.

And here it is:

My method requires no painting (unless you count the "wax" drips), no fiddly hot glue shelves for the lights, and no fishing line Vs. These hang directly from the flame tips - so they hang straight - they only cost a few cents more than the TP method, and best of all, you can make them any length you want!

 Here are a few hanging:
Instead of toilet paper rolls, my candles use cream-colored card stock.

Want to see how I did it?

Then let's make some candles!

You Will Need:

- cream colored card stock, cut in sheets 5.5 inches wide by however long you'd like your candles to be. (I did a variety of lengths)
- paper glue (optional, but handy, since it dries faster than Elmer's)
- Elmer's/white craft glue
- hot glue & hot glue gun
- battery operated tealights (I ordered these 100 from Amazon for $36)
- clear thread or fishing line (quilter's thread is great)
- white craft paint
- Dremel (not pictured) *or* a heavy duty needle 

 Step 1: Roll a tealight into the top edge of your card stock:

Step 2: Now add a second tealight into the bottom edge:

Tighten the card stock around the two tealights, making sure the edges are straight. Give the tealights a tug to make sure the roll is tight enough to hold them, but not too tight. This will take a few seconds of fiddling, but you'll get the hang of it, promise.

Step 3: When the roll is snug and straight, open your hand to allow just the very edge to open, like this:

Keep pressure with your thumb to prevent it from unrolling more.

Add a thin line of paper glue to the edge:

Then spread the glue outward with your opposite finger. This part's important; you want the glue spread all the way to the paper edge, and not too thick, or it will make the paper buckle.

Immediately close the roll up again, and hold the flap down with both hands, like this:

I had to take the picture, but imagine my other hand in the same position on the other side.

If you're using paper glue, this will dry in about 5 or 6 seconds. White glue may take a little longer.

Ta daa, a paper tube!

[Quick note for longer length candles: for anything over, say, 6 inches, it helps to pre-roll your card stock around a thin piece of PVC pipe or a broom handle to curl it. This makes it easier to glue, and helps avoid creases/dings in the paper.]

Step 4: Now let's add a bottom. This is optional, but I think it looks nicer when the candles are hanging.

Cut a small square of the same color card stock, and remove one of the tealights from your tube.

Use Elmer's (or white craft glue) to make a heavy bead around the bottom edge of the tube.

Squish it down to the square of paper, then immediately smooth the glue bumps with a scrap of paper or your finger. Ever caulked a baseboard before? Same idea.

When you're done, there should be no visible cracks.

Step 5: Once the glue is dry (make sure it's dry!) trim off the excess square with scissors:

Your candle has a bottom! Mazel tov.

Step 6: Now the fun part: HOT GLUE WAX DRIPS.

Start with a heavy, extra-long bead of glue over your paper seam, to help hide & reinforce it. As with my last candle tutorial, start your drips at the bottom, then work your way up.

More drips = more drama, but if you're doing a ton of these, feel free to be more sparing, like this. 

Step 7: You could almost leave the hot glue drips as-is, since they look kind of waxy, but let's go the extra mile and paint them.  Luckily this is fast, easy, and you don't even need a paint brush:

Just squirt some paint on a plate (or the lid to your hot glue sticks), then use your finger to lightly rub the paint on the very tops of the wax drips. Be generous, so the paint covers well.

Here's the difference the white paint makes:

This is also why I recommend cream colored card stock; it helps the white "wax" show up better. Feel free to experiment with different color combinations, though!

Step 8: Ready to string 'em up?

Most LED tealights have a rubbery plastic "flame" which extends far enough past the inner LED to let you to do this:

(I couldn't do this one-handed, so thanks to John for stepping up. ;))

Not gonna lie: a Dremel will make this job infinitely easier, but you can pierce the plastic flame tips with a thick needle as well. Just thread your clear line through the needle and go to work.

With a Dremel, however, you can zip through all the candles at once, then poke the clear thread through the hole later and tie a knot, no needle required.

It helps to brace the flame tip on a flat surface, like this.

Step 9: Use flat white thumbtacks to hang your candles. Stick the tack into the ceiling partway, wrap the end of the clear line around it 6 or 8 times, then push the thumbtack the rest of the way into the ceiling.

Step 10: To turn your candles on (oh yeah, nearly forgot this part! Ha!) simply pop the tealight out of the tube, switch it on, then re-insert. This is why your tube tension is important: too tight, and you'll have a hard time putting the light back in! Fortunately even my "too loose" tubes still hold fine, though, since the paper weighs so little.

In a dark room the ceiling tacks are barely visible, but even with the room lights on, I'm betting your guests will be too wowed by the candles to notice them all that much.

That's what I'm banking on for ours, anyway!

Here are about half of my finished candles:


I'm not sure we'll be hanging all hundred, but we plan to blanket one room with at least 60 or 70 floating candles. Rest assured I will be taking plenty of pictures when we do. [CANNOT. WAIT.]

This is all for a Harry Potter Christmas party John and I are hosting next month, btw. Here's a peek at another, mercifully faster craft we put together last week:
The sign is foam board, and the letters are craft foam. I'm aging it here; still not quite done!

Hope you guys enjoyed! And if you decide to make your own floating candles, please share pics over on the Epbot FB page, so I can see!


New here? Looking for more Harry Potter crafts? Then  I *highly* recommend checking out my Craft Page for everything from light-up wands to mandrake bouquets to flying snitch ornaments!


  1. These look great! And you have a crazy amount of them. The room is going to look amazing. I can't wait for pictures!

  2. I can't wait to see your pictures once they are all hanging! 100 candles... Even if you don't use quite all of them, it's still going to be awesome!

  3. *SQUEE* That is SO COOL!

  4. I'm insanely jealous of those attending your Christmas party!

    I love this tutorial as well...I made a bunch of TP roll candles and I just am not a huge fan of the look of them (especially the V of clear line as it's much more visible when the light hits it since it's right next to the flame instead of only above it).

    1. I am also jealous of those party attendees!! Can't wait to see the pictures!

  5. And now I'm going to make some floating candles for my stair way!!
    --Piper P from Washington State

  6. These are just as amazing as the first version. My only problem, plaster ceilings, which, I am 99% certain I could not stick a thumbtack through. I guess if I didn't do too many I could use clear command hooks, but those get pricey pretty fast.

    1. Could you use double-sided poster tape? It's clear, holds surprisingly well (even on surfaces that aren't completely smooth) and is made to peel off again afterwards without damaging the surface.

  7. For anyone who doesn't need 100 of these and may already be annoyed by the prospect of getting on a stepladder to turn the lights on and off... look into a smaller set of LED tealights with a remote! Here is one: There are plenty of others on Amazon etc. Remote controls are totally magical. ;)

    1. ooo! You could shout "Lumos!" while you waved the remote to turn them on!
      (Or at least, I totally would...)
      Love this idea!

  8. These are gorgeous!! So if I wanted to make these and use them every Christmas, is there a way to upgrade to remote controlled lights or some other fancy mechanism? I'd be willing to pay more to save the time of turning on and off several dozen everyday through the holiday season.

  9. Very cool!!! I want to a Harry potter themed summer camp one year, and their floating candles were just cut Styrofoam on fishing line, but it was still fun coming in to the cafeteria (er, great hall) every day.
    Also, if your guests need favors, at Wal-Mart over in the watch and jewelry section I saw huge boxes of little pom poms in keychain that made pretty cute pigmy puffs. :)

  10. If you're feeling *extra* lazy, you could buy some white glue sticks and then not have to paint the dribbles. I used red glue sticks as the "wax" seals on my Hogwarts invitations. Also, we did it your original way (with the battery powered tapers) but I thought getting through the flame tips was a pain in the butt, so I tied the string around the base of the flame and again at the tip of the flame. you couldn't see it, and it didn't require hole poking.

  11. For the drips you could also use opaque white or off white glue sticks in your glue gun.

  12. Jen - Since candles seldom burn evenly, have you figured out (or tried to figure out) how to make the tops of your candles varied?

  13. This is awesome!! I am going to give these a shot. Also, I think we have the same table as shown in the pic with all the candles. World Market? :-D

  14. how do you turn the tealights on or off? or are they just permanently on?

  15. These are freaking awesome! Great idea! Thanks for the tutorial!

    Did you guys ever have the Potter-themed Halloween party you were planning? Or are you saving the Pensieve Punch for the Christmas party?

    By the way, I ended up making an orange version of the punch on Halloween to surprise hubby and son, and it was a huge hit. I had to go get the dry ice from an actual dry ice dealer since all the Publixes were sold out because of Halloween, and she insisted that I needed five pounds of it even though I knew that was too much, but we had so much fun with the leftover dry ice that I'm not complaining. Anyway, I think that might end up being a Halloween tradition now, so thanks for the idea!

    Hope you guys will have a beautiful Thanksgiving! I'm so thankful for both of you!


  16. i recognized your photography style on pinterest for these and realised suddenly that i hadn't visited in months! MONTHS! :O

    and it's taken me 6 days to get caught up on what i missed! this is just a long way of saying i love these candles and i love you and john. you guys are awesome and make me all smiley.

  17. As much as I like your new, heftier candles, I still love the"dollar store" ones I made to hang around the top of my tree last year. I went ahead and bought ones from Amazon that have an automatic timer (no climbing up on a chair to light them every night). It's sweet to watch them gently flicker on every evening .

  18. This may be a silly question, but how do you store them without messing up the paper tube?

    1. I have a small cardboard box that I stack them in. The paper is so light they don't crush each other, and the box protects them from everything else in the storage bin.

  19. This may be a super silly question but is there a trick to make rolling the cardstock easier? I'm assembling these for a School of Wizardry Escape Room fundraiser and the paper keeps bending and creasing on me. I feel like I must be doing something wrong!

    1. Hmm, it's possible your paper is a little too thick, or maybe has fibers in it that's messing with the curve? I'd try a slightly thinner cardstock, see if that helps.

  20. hi!
    Planning a HP birthday party for my 8 yr old in a couple of months. Where did you get the brick back drop?

    1. Those are our actual walls, not a back drop - they're refinished brick paneling.

  21. What size bit do you recommend for the dremel? Turns out we don't have a small one ... at least not that I can find and have to go get a new one. (Just when I think SURELY I have all the supplies to do any crafting project I go and find out I still need more!)

    1. Oooh, I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you what size we used; I just picked the smallest one from a small set of Dremel bits we have. Your hardware store should sell similar sets, or find them on Amazon for cheap. You want something about as wide as a sewing needle, if that helps any.

  22. I thought part of the taste made video seemed familiar. They definitely stole your candle I'm assuming the rest of the video is pilfered too. Just thought you might want to see.

  23. Where did you get your cream colored poster board?


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