Turning A Bourbon Barrel Stave Into A Tea Light Holder

Turning A Bourbon Barrel Stave Into A Tea Light Holder main article image
Posted on June 18, 2021 by Amie Morrow
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Working with bourbon or whiskey barrel materials can be a lot of work and sometimes it’s more than a match for your tools. I ran into some troubles along the way making this little beauty and I will share them with you. Having some pretty heavy-duty tools or, like me, purchasing some attachments for the ones you already have, will help you to not end up crying in your sawdust like I did. But with the right tools and attachments, this beautiful little wood piece will be adorning a spot in your home in just a day’s time. You can use this rustic wood creation as a focal point on your coffee table, above your chimney, or even out on your patio table. 

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 1 wide bourbon barrel stave 3 inches in width 
  • 1 bourbon barrel stave 2 inches in width
  • Stain in the color of your choice or you can choose to leave it natural
  • 3 glass tea light candle holders
  • 3 flameless tea light candles (for safety) or 3 regular tea light candles if your comfortable using them
  • A pencil for marking the circles you will need to cut
  • 80 grit sanding discs for your sander
  • One ½ inch wooden dowel rod
  • Foam brush
  • Disposable gloves
  • Polyurethane (this is optional) 
  • Wood glue (I used Gorilla Glue)

Tools To Use

  • Finishing Sander
  • Electric Drill
  • 2 inch Hole Saw or 2 inch Forstner Drill Bit either attachment for your drill will work
  • Measure Tape
  • Jigsaw

Cutting To Size And Sanding Stave

So you have chosen just the right barrel staves, one is for the tea light holder and the other will be your base. Now you have a little work to do to turn it into a beautiful piece of wood art but you will be so proud once you are finished. Barrel staves are bowed in the center and you want your tea light holders to go where that bowed area is. First, you will need to identify the center of the bowed area on both your staves and then measure 11 inches to the left and draw a cut line with your pencil. Then measure 11 inches to the right and draw another cut line that will make the holder and the base each 22 inches long. Next, take your jigsaw and cut along the lines you drew on each end of the base and the holder. Now that you have cut both pieces to size, you will want to take your finishing sander and some 80 grit sanding discs and sand both staves. Make sure to sand the front, back, and sides of both of your staves, going over them multiple times. The picture shows that depending on how much sanding you do your wood will change colors because bourbon barrels are made from white oak and if you are willing to do a lot of sanding, you can uncover its natural color. 

Cutting The Tea Light Holes And Dowel Rod

Now, this is the step that caused me quite a bit of trouble and tears. Like any crafter, sometimes building something requires a little bit of trial and error. 

First, you will need to find the center of your larger stave, this one is the actual tea light holder and you will be cutting 3 holes in which your glass candle holders will go. Now once you find the center, take one of the glass candle holders and place it in that center area and draw a circle around the bottom with your pencil. Next, take your measure tape and measure out 3 inches to the left of the edge of that center circle and make a small line, then place the edge of your glass candle holder on that line and draw a circle around the bottom of the candle holder for your second holder position. Lastly, measure 3 inches to the right and follow the same steps for your last candle holder position. You should now have 3 circles drawn on one of your staves and it’s time to cut them out.

You will now need to use your hole saw (shown in the picture above supplies) if you want the area completely cut out but as I found out the hard way, without a heavy-duty drill that can be a task. I was able to successfully drill out all 3 holes after buying a new drill, and you may not have that option so you can buy a 2-inch Forstner drill bit (pictured below) and only hollow out an area in which to sit your glass holder in. Whichever way you choose is best for you the end result will look great.

I of course used the 2-inch hole saw and my new pricey drill (that I haven’t decided if it was worth it yet) and drilled the holes out completely. After drilling all 3 holes out I did a little more light sanding and then took a clean cloth and got all the excess dust off of both pieces.

This last little bit of cutting is a breeze after messing with those pesky tea light holes. Take your ½ inch dowel rod and measure 4 inches and make a line with your pencil, then from that line measure up 4 more inches and make another line. Now take your jigsaw and cut along both those lines. You will have 2 four-inch long little round pieces of wood that you will use to hold up the tea light holder from your base.

Time To Stain!

Staining Your Staves

So you have drilled out the 3 holes for your tea light candle holders, you have sanded both of your staves and lastly, you have cut 2 four-inch pieces of the ½ inch dowel rod. Now it’s time to put on some disposable gloves, grab the stain of your choice, and stain all 4 pieces.

Using your foam brush apply your stain all over the 4 wood pieces and allow it to stay on for about 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes have passed grab a clean rag or paper towel and wipe away any excess stain. You can keep wiping over the wood till you like the color. The more you wipe the lighter the color will get and once you’re satisfied with the color let it dry for 1 hour.

Assembling Your Tea Light Holder

Now that your wood has soaked up the stain and is dry, it’s time to assemble your tea light holder. First, you will need to take your drill and a 1-inch drill bit and in the areas between the holes on your tea light holder top drill a hole about halfway through the wood, this is for your dowel rod pieces to be placed. Drill 1 hole on the left side and 1 on the right side. Then apply some wood glue (I used Gorilla Glue) on one end of your dowel rod and a little bit directly into the hole to hold the wood piece in place. Once you have done this, give it 10 minutes to start drying and then hold the top over the base like you want it to look once it’s fully assembled and where the dowel rods hit the base, take a pencil and draw a circle around the rod, then set the top aside to allow it to continue to dry. Take your drill and drill holes half through your base then apply some glue into those holes, now grab your top and press the other end of the dowel rods into the new holes in the base and hold the pieces together for a few minutes. Now set it aside and allow the glue to dry completely, this should take around 15 minutes but you can give it longer. Keep in mind that your wood glue will dry clear, so no need to panic if you make a mess like me.

Once the 15 minutes have passed you can place the glass candle holders into the 3 holes you cut and then put what kind of tea light candles you like into them. Now just like that, you are finished with this project.

Project Tip: If you are going to use this project in your home there is no need to seal it with polyurethane but if you are going to showcase it outside on your patio, you will need to put a coat of sealant on it to protect it from the harsh elements of mother nature.

Find A Place To Show Off Your Creation

Your bourbon barrel tea light candle holder is now finished and all you need to do is find a place to show it off! I hope that you are satisfied with the end result of this project and that you have cried any tears over it like I did (or threw things and maybe yelled a few profane words). When I finally got mine finished I was glad that I stuck with it, so if you run into any trouble just keep with it. Building something yourself whether it be small or large gives you a very gratifying feeling when it is finished and when people come over and ask where you got it, you can tell them I BUILT THAT MYSELF! It feels good to say that and I know you will get that same feeling when you say it.

If you ever have any questions about any of my articles just leave me a comment and I will be happy to help you.

Happy Crafting My Friends!!


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Turning A Bourbon Barrel Stave Into A Tea Light Holder
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