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Custom Family Tree Candle Display  by Anna Hood


1.  I came up with this idea as a Christmas gift for my grandma. I started out by finding all of the bottles I needed for each member of my family (on my mom’s side at least). I had the wine and beer bottles already (and a large “Relax” Reisling bottle that turned out to be too short), but I had to buy the vodka and hot sauce bottles. I wanted bottles that would be gradually smaller in size and different colors that would look good together.

2.  Next, determined the height I wanted each bottle and marked a line around it so the edge would be straight. I did this by positioning a sharpie at the right height (I used cups/ bowls/ etc. to stabilize the marker at the same height each time) and twisting the bottle around in a circle as I drew. Once I had my line set, I scored all of the bottles with the Kinkajou and ran them under hot/cold water until they popped apart. It turns out the size of the blue bottle is just about as wide as the Kinkajou can go, and the Tapatio bottles are just about as small as the Kinkajou can cut. It also turns out I am not so good at the whole cutting an even line part of the process… which meant a lot more work in step

3.  AND THEN I SANDED UNTIL THE COWS CAME HOME. Some of the crack lines I had to sand down were an inch or more (like I said… not so good at this yet) so I started by rubbing those bottles straight onto the concrete in my yard since I didn’t care if it chipped down a bit. Then I used 60 grit sand paper and worked it down even further. I tried using several electric sanding machines, but I couldn’t control the bottles enough and a few cracked. (I cracked about a half dozen bottles in this whole process… then I would go buy more and in order to get the project done in a timely manner decided the best plan of action was to drink the alcohol and continue working). I graduated to finer grits and finished the glasses with a polishing compound.

4.  Weeks later (and well after Christmas at this point) I finished sanding and was ready to add pictures. I scanned in the original picture of my grandparents from their wedding day, and found the rest on my computer or other family members’ computers. I had several different plans for how to apply the pictures. First, I saw something on Pinterest on how to print pictures at home and then transfer just the ink onto contact paper, but I don’t have the right kind of printer and didn’t want to spend the money on getting the printed. I also considered printing them on clear labels, but after a test run I realized that all of the light colors would be the color of the bottle… not a great look for a fair-skinned family pasted to a green bottle.... I printed all of the images on translucent paper and spray-glued them to the bottles, but they colors bled through in some parts. It looked horrible. After a date with some Goo-Gone, I finally ended up printing the pictures on sticker paper.  

5.  To make the pictures easier to see, I made a tiered platform for the bottles to sit on. I used an abandoned headboard we had around my parents’ house for the wood. After getting some help from my dad and his power tools to cut and sand each piece, I glued the four blocks of wood together.

6.  Finally, I placed the pictures in their designated spots and placed battery-operated candles inside (she requested these over real candles). I would like to get remote-controlled candles for my grandma so she doesn’t have to turn each one on and off individually, but I spent all my money on the third Vodka bottle so that will have to wait for next Christmas :p




For the bottles:

1. Many empty bottles (1 Skyy Vodka, 3 Wine, 5 Liberty Ale, 2 Tapatio, extras when they break)

2. A Kinkajou Bottle Cutter and Included Accessories

3. Sand paper with various grits

4. Pictures printed on sticker paper

5. Battery-operated candles


For the display stand:

1. Wood for the stand

2.  Electric saw 

3. Power sander

4.  Wood Glue

5. A family

6. Patience

7. A grandma worth this amount effort <3