Simple Driftwood Tealights With A Drill Press

A recent workshop renovation uncovered a box of wood turning blanks sawn from driftwood logs. Some were kept for the original purpose but several had split. Rather than waste them I decided that an up cycling project was in order utilising my recently purchased drill press.

Tealight holders are super simple to make, requiring only a 38 mm forstner bit and, ideally, a drill press with a depth gauge. A handheld electric drill (or modern brushless cordless) could be used with a steady hand or drill stand, though would make the job significantly more difficult.

Tealight 1

The wood blanks were sawn along the splits (roughly in half) to form semicircular pieces of roughly equal size. A sliding mitre saw with a fine tooth blade made light work of this, and gave a nice smooth square edge to sand from. A few minutes with the belt sander smoothes the sides and perfects the rounds, though I didn’t go too far so as to avoid sanding out the character in each piece.


I then used the drill press to machine the holes, adjusting the depth gauge for each piece to align the top of my forstner bit slightly below the top surface of the piece, which gave me a hole of roughly 16 mm in depth. There’s no need for absolute precision here, providing the depth of the two holes in any given piece are the same. Your mileage may vary depending on the particular forstner bit used.

Tealight 2

Optional use of a dremel with a sanding band makes smoothing out the insides of the holes a doddle. This also removes a fractional amount of material and improves the fit of the metal tea light inserts, as 38 mm is tight yet 39 leaves some wiggle room, so somewhere in between is best. A sanding disc helps to flatten off the bottom of the hole, removing the small divot created by the guide point of the forstner bit. An average tea light is approximately 16 mm in height, so you should aim for a finished hole depth of approximately that figure though I tended to go slightly more to give a bit of extra room. As above, a little more or less doesn’t hurt.

Tealight 3

I also happened upon a Beech worktop sample. This was sliced in half and given a decorative beveled top edge on the router table, before a quick sand. Two holes per piece were drilled and finished as above.

beech block Tealight

Finally, all were given a coat of linseed oil for a bit of added protection and to bring out the grain. They were well oiled so given plenty of time to dry on both sides. As you’ve probably noticed, I forgot to take pictures of them during the production process so the photos here are of the finished articles. I think they came out rather well. If I were to make them again I would go for a circular design, and would likely cut them all to at least the same height. Though this would almost certainly result in some wasted wood, it would save a great deal of time in machining the holes as the majority of the time on this project was taken up adjusting the depth gauge for each piece. Still, a nice way to breathe new life into scrap wood otherwise destined for the bin.

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