Chris in Canada writes:
I have found a way to make some really beautiful 'trashicles' for house eaves. These are crystal clear, and with care can be made to have the bumps, forks and rings of the real thing. All you need is an empty plastic water bottle, scissors for cutting the bottle, wire cutters or any strong cutter for cutting the ends from the finished icicles, two pairs of tweezers/needle- nose pliers and a candle of any sort, as long as the wick and surrounding wax is fairly clean. Unless you want a dirty icicle, that is. ;-)
Step 1- Cut off the neck and bottom of the bottle, then snip out a rectangle about 3/4" X 2". This little bit will be a test piece to determine how much time, heat and pulling you'll need to shape the icicles. If you follow the instructions carefully, you'll have made two icicles, but if something goes wrong, relax. It was just a materials test, not the real thing yet, and the materials you used failed to perform as expected. Just repeat the test until the results are acceptable.
Step 2- Light your candle, and holding each end of the strip in the tweezers or pliers, lower the centre of the plastic into the flame bit by bit until the strip starts to look wet, then remove it, trying not to pull it out of shape. This is the furthest into the flame that you can go for good results with your particular plastic. Too much heat and it will liquify rather than stretch, or poof into a tiny self-extinguishing flame at the mid-point of the strip.
Step 3- Next, test how it pulls by lowering the strip into the flame again. When it starts to look wet, begin to pull and stretch the plastic gently and evenly, at the same time moving it slowly up and out of the flame. You'll see and feel it getting very soft when it first looks wet, and then becoming almost liquid. As it comes up out of the flame it will stay soft for a few seconds giving you time to start stretching it into a strand. Work slowly, and when it starts to resist the pulling, simply reheat the strand by passing the whole thing through the flame for a few seconds and pull. Pulling slowly will leave the icicle completely clear, and pulling faster will result in tiny bubbles forming which is a common feature of most very large icicles. Repeat as needed until the strand thins out to almost nothing in the middle and breaks apart into two plain icicle shapes. Cut the icicles off at any length you want, possibly leaving a bit of the strip attached (then bent at a 90 degree angle with reheating) as a secure base for the glue if you are making thicker or longer icicles. Smaller icicles cut flat across can be attached with a dab of SuperGlue or simmilar.
Now you can make the basic tapered shape, try twisting the strip as you pull to create bends and twists, or make a forked shape. Cut a lengthwise slit about 1/4" long starting at one end of the strip. Hold the uncut edge in tweezers/pliers and working slowly, heat the cut end using the other tool to pull alternate halves of the end into separate strands. Let cool until firm (10-12 seconds), hold the icicle in tweezers just at the point where the forked section joins the main icicle, then heat and pull the rest of the shape. For rings, make a basic shape. Place the tweezers/pliers where the first ring will be, heat the icicle right above the pliers and give a little tug followed by an immediate push, being careful not to squeeze the tweezers/pliers. Let cool and repeat along the icicle as desired.
WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SPRAY THESE WITH SEALER, FAKE SNOW OR GLITTER ETC... DITTO FOR NAIL POLISH AND ENAMELS. ANYTHING OTHER THAN WATER-BASED PRODUCTS WILL CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE TO ALL YOUR HARD WORK.