Oil Lamp

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    Sat down tonight with one of my kids and tried out one of the ideas I had run across browsing all the wonderful forums and blogs revolving around self sustained living / prepping. We decided to try an oil lamp and I must say it worked out much better than i could have hoped!

    I had seen some ideas to make a light source from a container, wire, wick material, and oil. I also read some info on “floating” a wick on top of oil so i skipped the wire part and went right for floating.

    I gathered together a small crock type bowl, a soda can, some old blue jeans, and some vegetable oil. For tools I grabbed a 16 penny nail, hammer, tin snips, pliers, scissors, and a lighter.

    Taking the soda can, hammer and nail we punched a hole in the bottom of the can first. Then with snips we cut the bottom of the can off leaving less than a half inch of metal up from the bottom. Now we have a sharp and jagged can bottom with a hole in the middle. With pliers we worked the sharp edge down onto itself inside the can to make it safer to handle and give extra rigidity to the final piece. Taking a worn pair of jeans we made them into shorts for this upcoming summer. With the leftover pant legs we cut some half inch strips of material 6″ to 8″ long. We threaded the rolled edge of a strip up through the bottom of the hole in the can about 4-6 millimeters up. Next we poured some oil into the bowl and set the wick end down into it with the can now floating on top. Let the oil “wick” up into the material for 15 minutes or so…and light!

    materials minus the oil

    punching the hole first while the can is still intact and rigid is easy!

    no fancy cutting. We just started at the spout and snipped away!

    Snip snip snip

    Careful! these edges are sharp!

    Folding the edges down. We really should have used work gloves come to think of it. :whistling:

    A strip of material from 100% cotton blue jeans.

    Roll the material a little and thread. Much easier than threading a needle as my son demonstrates! :thumbup:

    Just a little bit is all you need. If your wick is too long the extra material has to burn down some. That makes plenty of ugly black smoke. :thumbdown:

    Lots of different kinds of oil can be used. We used plain ole veggie oil. Your used cooking oil would work well! I have read others who have said it can smell like whatever you cooked in it first like fish oil or french fry oil. Olive oil i guess carry’s very little smell and for the price of olive oil this is a great way to get a second use out of it! :thumbsup:

    We filled the little bowl up about halfway or a little more.

    Drop in your homemade wick and floater. Nice and slow with a little winding motion to let the wick soak up oil and keep it from clumping on top of itself.

    Time for a test! We actually made two. The second one was done very quickly even taking the time to snap photo’s!

    I would say it gives off the same amount of light as any single wick candle or tea light.

    All in all this was a fun and incredibly easy project. We learned how, with hands on experience i might add, to make an oil lamp from stuff we already had in the house. From now on i certainly won’t be getting rid of decent cooking oil after it’s been cooked in a while. Instead I will filter it into a decent bottle for later use as lamp oil!

    Some trial and error. I first tried to use kite string for my wick. I fussed over winding together several pieces of it to get the thickness just right. I did a poor job of winding it but gave it a try anyway just as a proof of theory for our experiment. What felt and looked like organic thread (sure seemed like cotton to me!) must have been a mix of materials or just plain nylon. That wick was hard to light then simply melted into a plastic chunk. :blush:

    The first denim wick I pulled up too much. When i lit it some of the excess had to burn down before i got a steady burn. This created a pretty decent amount of oily black smoke! Now that I understand the properties a little better I understand to blow it out and trim the excess. If you start with the right length of wick you get a clean and bright burn! If there is extra charred material left on the wick it burns less brightly and should be trimmed just like a candle.

    There are lots of idea’s on the internet for wick material. Pretty much any organic material can be used. old clothing like t-shirts, denim, or rags would work as we proved with the denim from blue jeans. Also plant material can be formed into wicks such as flax, sunflower stalks, corn husks, hemp, etc… (good luck with the hemp in North America.) :floppytongue:

    Also if your really self reliant some of these same plants can be used for the oil! Sunflower seed oil, flax seed oil, hemp oil…. :rofl:

    Another wick idea is plain old copy paper. the recipe is easy to find for soaking your paper wick in salt water, drying, and using.
    Of course string, twine, feed sack ties, and obviously pre-made wicking material can be used as well. A plain ole old fashioned mop head would make lots of wicks!

    As far as utility the lamps have been burning for 3 hours now and If i had to guess i would say these lamps would burn as long or longer than any candle. I suppose they would burn as long as you kept it filled with oil. Just a matter of pulling up a little fresh wick and trimming between uses. Since I used clean cooking oil I have not noticed any smell really.

    Well what do you all think? Lots of room for improvement and creativity. Making oil lamps could be a barter ready skill one day! Just look at all the beautiful pre-made lamps already on the market! from elegant glass wall sconces to bright red hurricane lamps or classic roman clay pots. Using this floating method or a wire wick holder in a variety of containers can really let your creativity shine.

    On a side note I also had to learn how to use an image hosting service…that’s where the 3 hours went between doing the project and posting this DIY lmao. The Lamp was MUCH easier! :blush:


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