ashley englishsmall measures

Small Measures: DIY Candleholders & Matchboxes

by Ashley

This past March, my husband, young son and I traveled to Portland, Maine. We were there for the launch party of a quarterly publication I write for. The magazine’s editor, Amanda Soule, had been until that point only a digital-world buddy of mine. She graciously offered to jump the cyber-to-real-world fence and welcomed us into her home for several nights. Amanda and her husband, Steve, are parents of five and caretakers of a thriving homestead in the foothills of western Maine.

Though our time together was brief, it was wonderful. We forged an instant affinity, as did our spouses and kiddos. While the whole experience was riddled with memorable occurrences, one recollection burns more brightly in my mind’s eye. Each night, as we settled in around Amanda’s dinner table with her family, she would light a candle or two. Though a simple gesture, as the lights were dimmed and the candle cast its amber glow across those gathered, it imbued the meal with a seeming sacredness. It invited contemplation and reflection.

Dining by candlelight is something we often reserve for holidays or when the power goes out, suddenly submerging us in darkness. The simple ritual Amanda created with her family had a lasting impact on me, and I try to remember to do the same as often as possible. To that end, today’s Small Measures is about creating candlestick holders and decorative matchboxes for lighting up your own nights. Should you find yourself turning off the lights and setting a glowing scene on your own dining table, I know Amanda would be thrilled. — Ashley English

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Making these candlestick holders couldn’t be easier. It’s as simple as screwing some piping into flanges on the bottom and either a coupling or union on the top. Done. As for sourcing your materials, you could either purchase them new at any plumbing or home-building supply store or scour used building materials stores.

Postindustrial Candlestick Holders

The Goods (per candlestick holder)

  • 1 galvanized or black steel pipe nipple (I used 3/4-inch piping that was either 8-inches or 10-inches long.)
  • 1 galvanized floor flange (Match the flange to the width of your pipe; e.g., pair a 3/4-inch pipe with a 3/4-inch flange.)
  • 1 galvanized or black union or coupling (3/4 inch will hold taper candles while 1 inch will hold larger candles)*


*Whether you opt for a union or a coupling on top is entirely up to you; it’s simply a matter of aesthetic preference. A coupling is smaller, whereas a union is a bit bulkier.

The Deal

1. Screw the pipe into the flange on the bottom.

2. Screw the union or coupling on the top.

3. Place a candlestick in the holder.

It’s really as simple as that.

Now that you’ve made your candlestick holders, you need some form of combustion to get them going. I used to be so tempted by those lovely (yet pricey!) matchboxes I’d see in housewares stores. Well, no more! A super easy and exceptionally affordable alternative can be achieved in just a few simple steps.

Decorative Matchboxes

The Goods

  • matchbox (I typically use Diamond Greenlight matchsticks, as they’re sourced from responsibly managed forests.)
  • X-Acto knife or similar cutting blade
  • craft glue stick
  • old magazines, books or scrapbook papers*


*Used bookstores or the bargain sections of bookstores often house a great selection of decorative books for sourcing images. That said, if cutting into the pages of a book screams of heresy to you, seek out decorative motifs on scrapbook papers or magazines suited to your liking.

The Deal

1. Cut out an image from your chosen magazine to the dimensions of your matchbox, book or scrapbook paper.

2. Affix it to the matchbox using the craft glue.

I’d be neglectful in my crafting suggestions if I didn’t encourage you to burn candles responsibly. Always trim the wick between uses to 1/4-inch and never leave burning candles unattended. Similarly, always keep matches out of the reach of children.

Otherwise, I encourage you, especially during these fleeting evenings where al fresco dining is possible, to put some glow into your meals. These candlestick holders and decorative matchboxes would also make a great gift for any postindustrial design-loving friend. Whether enjoyed at home or gifted to those nearest and dearest to you, nothing warms the heart, the soul and the room like candlelight.

*Photos and styling by Jen Altman

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  • Really lovely Ashley … lighting candles is something I want to remember but so often let the busyness carry me away that they sit there unused. I need to do better! We made a fire poker out of similar ingredients recently for an outdoor fire pit – it was such fun and so steampunk!

  • I love these pipe candle holders. They would look perfect in an outdoor setting or in a masculine apartment. Really great. The beautifying of the match boxes is a sweet touch!

  • I’ve been saving this project in my favorites for months! Finally did it yesterday with all galvanized parts and a union instead of coupling. It is sturdy and gorgeous and my three year old put it together and really felt proud! Would be awesome painted as well (if that’s possible…)