Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Let there be light!

Have you ever wondered what to do with plastic bottles other than sending them off for recycling? Have you ever wanted a way to spread a little light around outside, but found that your tea lights keep blowing out?  The solution may be at hand!  With just a little bit of cutting, a bit of string and a tea light, an ordinary plastic bottle can be transformed into a storm lantern that will brighten any rainy British barbeque.
First drink what ever was in the bottle and it is probably worth rinsing and drying it too.  Then using a thin sharp knife such as a craft knife cut two or three holes in the base of the.  These will let the air into the bottle for the candle to burn.  They don’t want be too big otherwise they might let the wind in.  1cm in diameter seems to be about right. 

Then cut a door into the side of the bottle by cutting three sides of a rectangle and leaving the fourth side attached.  This will be your means of access, so make sure it is close enough to the bottom and large enough that you can put a tea light in and light it while it is sat on the bottom. 

Now all that remains is to attach some string round the neck of the bottle.  Get a length of string of at least 20cm and tie a slipknot at one end.  Tie the other end to the loop of the slipknot, then tighten the slipknot around the neck of the bottle.

Now you should have a bottle with loop of string at the top, some holes at the bottom, a flappy door in the side and no lid. Not much so far, but hang it up and put a tea light in it and you have storm lantern that is surprisingly resilient to wind.  In fact I had one hanging up in the my rather windy garden in the Somerset hills and the candle survived until the wind hit it with a gust sufficient to send wax sloshing round the inside of the bottle, which put the candle out.  Anything less than that should be fine.
At this point you might be thinking ‘the bottle is going to melt’, well surprisingly it doesn’t.  Now I should put a caveat it here that this design is based on experience rather than careful calculation, so can’t offer any kind of guarantee that it is not possible to melt or burn the bottle, but I have used them many times and had no problems.  As a precaution I would suggest that you do not use these lanterns indoors, but if you have a need for storm lanterns indoors there are some other issues that you should attend to.

As tea lights have a metal base they do tend to cast their light up and out, leaving quite a shadow underneath.  To counter this you could try sticking tissue paper over the bottle to scatter the light.  I haven’t tried this yet so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness.

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