Lighting Up Summer Nights: DIY Tiki Torch

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Summer Nights by DIY Tiki Torch Light

Summer nights — grilling on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine lakeside, or throwing an all out summer-time bash … none would be the same without the warm glow of torch lights. I am a sucker for Tiki-Torches, but if you know me by now, I’m also the first to find a way to “light up my life” without having to spend a penny.  This week’s guest on the Green Divas Radio Show — Jeff Yeager (aka the Ultimate Cheapskate) — would be SO proud!  

That said, time to take out my doo-dads and stuff to work a little DIY magic.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bottles – all shapes, all sizes BUT smaller bottles work better simply because you won’t need so much torch fuel.  More about that later.
  • Cotton String – it MUST be cotton otherwise it will not burn – it’ll melt  … OR this year I experimented with the tightly wound paper handles you find on fancy shopping bags.  Boy do they work like a charm!
  • Salt
  • Boric acid  (Borax)
  • Metal nuts & washers – all sizes and with varied sized openings
  • Torch fuel

Step One: Making the wicks

I do not know why or how this works but it does. I’ve been doing it for several years and while it’s a little time consuming, it’s well worth the wait simply because torch wicks can be costly.

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1. Combine 1 Tbsp. of  salt with 2 Tbsp. of boric acid.

2. Add 1 cup of water and mix very well until the salt and the Borax are dissolved.

3. Pour the mixture into a jar.

4. Add the string making sure it’s completely submersed. If you wish, you can cut the string to your desired length – at least long enough to hang down the entire length of the bottle you are using.

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5. The string needs to soak at least 12-hours.

IMG_4511  6. Remove the string and hang it out to dry.  Now it must dry completely – some website “tutorials” will say 5-days. If your string it thicker then yes.  If not, leave them out as long as necessary.  The thinner string takes about 2 -3 days.

7. Braid three pieces of string together.

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Step Two: Making the Torches

1. Gather your washer and your bottles. The idea here is to first choose a washer large enough to cover the bottle opening. More than likely the opening in the washer is going to be too large to hold the wick in place. That said, keeping adding washers or nuts with smaller and smaller openings until the last opening is small enough to ensure the wick fits snugly and will not fall out.

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2.  Take the braided wick, bring it through the openings in the washers/nuts until you have just enough poking through on the top to create a flame.

3. Fill the bottle half-way with torch fuel making sure to saturate the the entire wick. This is pretty easy as whatever the boric acid and salt mixture does, the fuel easily travels the entire length of the wick. Get your matches and light away. This is one of my favorite bottles … easy to see why. It’s also the wick I made using the paper bag handle. I actually like this better because there’s no braiding involved — it saves the somewhat tedious step of having to braid the string together.

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More about Torch Fuel

Tiki-Torch fuel is expensive and in my opinion it’s rather stinky. I know it’s supposed to smell like citronella but I just don’t get that. I found two recipes on how to make your own torch fuel on line and mixed one together. I used isopropyl alcohol, distilled water and essential lavender oil. Not sure if I did it right or perhaps my adding a little food coloring messed up the brew. While it lit, it wasn’t very happy to stay lit.

Recipe for DIY Torch Fuel

Then there is a recipe I have not tried using mineral oil and another using vegetable oil which seems pretty easy.

1. 1-2 tsp. of your favorite essential oil of choice. These help keep those nasty flying pests away: cedar, lemon grass, citronella, eucalyptus, chamomile or rosemary.

2. 1-cup of vegetable oil

3. Mix well and you’re done.

I have not tried this but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t work.

So, I’m all set with tiki-torches this year. My daughter, who has a very wacky sense of humor, took one look at the torches I made with the beer bottles and proudly said, “Hmmm, makes me feel a bit like a ‘Red-Neck’ — not that there’s anything wrong with that!” Besides, that is one very cool lookin’ beer bottle!

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About the author / 

Green Diva Mizar
mizar@pur2o.com'

Green Diva Mizar is a former co-host of the GD show. GD Mizar is also dedicated to providing safe, clean water to all through her company Pur2o Water Filtration & Purification.

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5 Comments

  1. kcee1982@gmail.com'
    casey July 16, 2013 at 4:49 pm -  Reply

    I used the lid that came with my beer bottle and just drilled a hole slightly smaller then the wicks. Will this work.

    • mizar@pur2o.com'
      Green Diva Mizar July 17, 2013 at 9:01 am -  Reply

      Hey Casey,
      What a great idea!
      I can’t see any reason why that wouldn’t work.
      Send us pictures when you’re done.
      Thank you for your question and for logging on to thegreendivas.com!

  2. sassyplayer239@comcast.net'
    Kalee April 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm -  Reply

    so with the water and alcohol fuel do you use a gallon of distilled water?

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