For our holiday table this year, I wanted candles. Lots of them. And I wanted a bit of copper. And I wanted some sort of unique centerpiece that didn’t take up a lot of room so that there was plenty of space for food and elbows and…flights of wine (priorities). I always seem to be the queen of ridiculous centerpieces (usually floral) which crowd the table so much so that everyone pretty much has to hold their plates in their laps. It’s been known to happen.
So when I shopped around and couldn’t find anything similar to what I was after: Home Depot. Did you know that Home Depot (as well as Lowe’s and OSH) have a ‘Random Pieces of Metal’ section? (That is definitely the technical term). The selection will vary from store to store, but for the most part they have small-sized pieces of channel, tubing, flat bar, and sheeting. In most cases, you’ll find steel, aluminum, and even brass and copper. And I get really excited about this kind of sh**. Like: hearty-eyes-emoji excited. From this section of the store, I grabbed two 3′ lengths of 2″ wide steel C channel bar (because I made two candleholders).
Then I moved along to the copper plumbing section. So. Much. Copper. So. Little. Time. Here I grabbed 36 of the 3/4″ copper tube caps (again, this is for two candleholders–grab 18 if you’re only doing one).
Public service announcement:
Different stores carry different versions of the copper tube caps. Some have a flat bottom, and some have a tiny bit of a cone shape to the end of them:
You really want the flat-bottomed kind.
Now grab some copper tape in a few different widths. Get extra because you can use this stuff to dress up EVERYTHING.
Next, you want to stop by the hardware section of the store and pick up #6 x1/2″ long, Phillips flat head machine screws.
While you’re right there, get some of the corresponding nuts. This is just precautionary–you’ll need these if you wind up stripping the copper–which hopefully won’t happen but is relatively easy to do since it is such a soft metal. I’m just trying to prevent that dreaded second run to the hardware store. Get them now.
If you don’t already have them, pick up a set of metal-capable drill bits. I’m assuming you have a power drill and know how to use it. Don’t let me down now!
Let’s make this sucker!
Select three drill bits:
A 5/16, a 9/64, and a 1/8. We’ll start with the 9/64–this is what you’re going to drill through the steel channel with. On the back (flat) side of the channel, find the center and mark a line down the length of it. Measure 1″ in from one end, and drill your first hole there. Now drill another hole every 1.5″ until you’ve drilled 18 holes.
Now, switch out drill bits to the 5/16. Still on the flat side of the channel, drill out each hole with a decent countersink. You want to drill enough that your screw head sits flush with the back of the channel, but not so far that you punch a hole clear through. So drill a tad, then drop your screw in and test, then drill a little more and so on.
Now, we’re going to drill holes in the copper caps. Wear gloves; trust me. Select the 1/8 drill bit. Find the center of each cap, hold it open side down against your work surface with a gloved hand. Hold on tight, and drill through it (when the drill bit clears the copper, the cap’s going to want to spin with the bit–gloved fingers help manage this. Naked fingers don’t feel good when this happens).
Time to assemble! With the channel on its side, place the screw through the back side of the channel, and the copper cap on the front side. Hold the cap, again, with a gloved hand, and using your power drill, screw the screw into the copper until it’s snug, and no further. If you go too far, you’ll strip the copper, and then you’ll need to snug it down with a nut in the inside of the cap. Told ya you might need the nut. Also the game plan here is that the screw goes through the copper cap and sticks through it, so that there is a sharp point for the candle to sort of screw down securely onto.
Now: select your candles. I got some basic white tapers from Ikea, and then embellished the bottoms with the different-sized bands of copper tape. Please note: while copper tape withstands pretty high heat (like dripping wax from the candle is probably fine for it), I wouldn’t experiment with the flame touching it. I don’t know what would happen, and I don’t want to know. As with most candles, don’t leave these unattended, and extinguish the flame before it gets anywhere near the tape.
Insert the candles into the copper cups, twisting them down to screw them into the exposed screw tip.
For my holiday table, I experimented with different lengths of candles–but the taller the candle, the more the center of gravity gets a little wonky on these. The 12″ tapers from Ikea were too tall to be stable (the tall ones shown in the photo below), in my opinion. Something more like a 8″ or shorter is much better.
Two of these candleholders end-to-end really turned out to be a unique, awesome centerpiece for what would become a very food and drink-crowded table.
Here’s to never having enough candles!