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If you like candles, live without electricity, or like to have some lighting back-up, you might like this simple little DIY project. An oil lamp can have a number of advantages over candles and mineral oil lamps: • very cheap to run - can even burn used cooking oil • the fumes are less toxic than those of parafﬁn candles or mineral oil lamps • the production of renewable vegetable oil is less harmful to the environment than petroleum based products (including parafﬁn candles) • for the extreme survivalist, vegetable oil is easier to store in bulk, or can even be produced on the home farm • due to the wider base, more stable than candles, and the ﬂame of any burning wick falling into the oil will be extinguished • odour free when using olive oil Making an oil lamp is very easy, quick and cheap, and gives plenty of opportunity for a creative outlet. The basic element is nothing more than a piece of twisted wire, a length of twine, some vegetable oil and a vessel to hold it all in. The photos pretty well show how to do it, but there are a few tips which might help, and save some trials and errors. However, if you don't want to mess around with a ﬁddely job or don't have the tools and materials, you could, instead, buy a lamp or just the holder and spare wicks, as well as a booklet called I Didn't Know that Olive Oil Would Burn from Lehman's if you live in North America. You would be supporting a cottage industry practicing right livelihood. The maker is a small family business in the USA. If you live in the UK you can now buy the lamp or wick holder (made by the same company as the US wick holder) from www.allthingsgreen.net. The lamp is an octagonal jar with wick, wick holder and instruction leaﬂet and at �5 makes a very attractive and unusual gift even for the tightest budget. It would appear that price even includes delivery.
You Will Need:
• • • • • • pliers or a vice wire cutter (may be part of pliers) a nail or similar for shaping the wick holding coil (diameter as wick) wire vegetable oil container
Making the Wick Holder
The wire should be thin and soft enough to bend into a small circle. I had a roll of tinned copper wire from a skip (dumpster), which was just right for the job, but you could strip a piece of electrical wire, or use whatever you can lay your hands on which will do the job. Steel wire of the same diameter is much tougher to bend. It needs to be a little thinner than the wire shown in the photo, which is about 1mm diameter. Work out the length by using a piece of twine, wrapping it around the nail about 4-6 times, then tracing the height, the radius of the base, the base circle and the handle. As a guide, the simple holder seen in the photo here is made with a piece of wire about 35-40cm long. The height is determined by how much oil you want to have in the container. The top level of the oil should always be fairly close to the bottom of the wick holding coil. The wick needs to be drenched with oil at all times, or the it will be consumed too fast. If the oil is too far below the ﬂame, the oil can not be wicked up as fast as the ﬂame is consuming the oil. To avoid the constant need to top up the container, the surface area should be greater than the height, i.e. a wide, shallow container is best. Alternatively, drop some pebbles or marbles into the oil to raise the level as the oil is used up. The handle allows the wick holder to be removed from the container for lighting, and should be long enough to avoid burning your ﬁngers when replacing the holder. If the container is narrow, the handle needs to extend over the edge. If the handle is likely to be heavier than the holder and base, then the base needs to be counter-weighted by wrapping another turn of wire around the base. The shape of the handle will be determined by the dimensions of the container. If the container is wide enough to allow the handle to be inside it without the risk of getting burnt when grabbing the handle, then the handle should be below the rim so that the lid can be placed on the jar when not in use. Start shaping the wire by holding one end of it against the nail with pliers or a vice, and twist the wire around the nail a few times, until you have a coil about 1cm long. Hold the end of the coil with pliers whilst bending the wire parallel with the nail to form the stem, then bend at right angle and follow the shape on the photo, doubling up the base loop if necessary.
hemp. Please do look through the comments for other good suggestions. Update Thanks to all those who commented. the proportions should be more width to height to avoid frequent refueling.very sharp edges). You could even collect waste oil from fast food joints. casting more light onto the ground. Twist it under tension until the twine becomes quite hard. which may precludes sisal. but you could experiment with sisal. give it a go anyway. When the ﬂame shortens it is a sign that the wick is also shortening. Twisting the wick is a bit tricky. Here is some use for it. until it sticks out about 6mm. Prompted by the idea for a ﬂoating can base I made one which is shown in the last photo below. even the smellier types of oils can be used economically outdoors. However. and smokelessly extinguish the ﬂame. Perhaps you have a bottle of forgotten salad oil at the back of the cupboard. So forget the stench of a smoking frying pan. before the ﬂame can actually burn it. Some oil may be. It is also best not to extend the wick too far. Using the lamp The ﬁrst time the lamp is used the wick should be allowed to fully absorb oil before lighting it. though you can hold one end in your teeth as you twist the other end. jute. denser cord. Alternatively. As stated earlier. To extinguish the ﬂame use a candle snuffer. Remove any charred wick. purpose made or improvised. I used cotton twine. If it does. Tip: if the wick won't easily go through the coil (it should be tight enough to prevent it dropping out). Top up or drop in a pebble. the lamp can be tilted and the holder tipped over to submerge the ﬂame into the oil. The burner element is now ﬁnished. to ﬁrm it up. then the oil level may be too low. I found the domed base to be enough. any clearance above 4cm should be safe . but burning oil does not. If the ﬂame is too hot under the hand. burning vegetable oil must be very smelly. Think of Roman oil lamps. patio or garden path. they were shaped like a shallow gravy boat. Several ﬂames may even be hot enough to do a little cooking or heating water. and make sure the oil reaches to just below the coil.The Wick Most plant ﬁbre twine should work. then let go of the middle. The wick should not burn very fast. just place the lid on the jar. Smoking oil smells unpleasant. The hole should not be too tight though. The beauty of this kind of lantern is that the ﬂame can shine through the base of the jar too. If you have some handy. you could put the lid onto the container after punching a few holes into it. nettle or any plant bast ﬁbre. Now feed the twisted end through the wick holding coil from below. Ellie. If the container is shallow enough for the ﬂame to be above the rim. There is no ﬂoating material underneath like polystyrene. and other rough cordage. an the two ends will twist around each other to form a thicker. which will instantly. ﬂax. include some loops and hook a long handle into the loops. lift it up to light the lamp. The volatile oil will evaporate easily with the nearby heat. The resulting prongs which are sticking up will prevent the wick from slipping down. A length of about 40cm will make a reasonable length of wick. For outdoor lighting it is best to use a sheltering glass container.an old cotton shoe lace. and nothing better suited. then grab the middle. the way that tea light candles are used. but allow extra length for tying. however. still under tension. or pre-heating it. below. You could also add a few drops of essential oil for a scented light. you may want to use a saucer under the lamp or a small additional dish to keep the oily pebbles after topping up with oil. and a job best done with another person. If the holder is in a jar. If you use pebbles to raise the oil level. The can base was cut off with some old scissors (careful . It should be absorbent and reasonably smooth. the sides could be a little higher. Strain it and use it for your lantern. I then bent the edge over with some pliers to make handling safer. twist the wick as you thread it in. so that the wick can be pulled up as it burns down. It is also easy enough to make a portable lantern by wrapping some wire around the neck of the jar. and bring the ends together. Oil Now you may be thinking. Adjusting the wick length will be trial and error. as the oil level comes too close to the edge. and the slightest tilt will sink the holder. or if the handle is inside the jar as suggested earlier. and a special thanks to those who suggested some great ideas. I pushed a nail through from the bottom to make a hole for the wick. jute. the container can be of opaque material. maybe also a spoon for retrieving the pebbles. Click on images to enlarge . like a terracotta dish or heavy saucer. but olive oil burns very clean and without odour. and it should be pulled up a little with a pin or tweezers. also made a great suggestion for a wick . Other Uses A light in a shallow container with a trivet above could be used to keep food warm on the table. Container You can use any glass jar which gives enough clearance for the ﬂame. Keep the wick about 6 mm long. or tie one end to a door handle or chair leg or whatever. This will prevent any smoking. as a large ﬂame is more likely to smoke. Or how do you get rid of the deep frying fat after making a few batches of chips (French fries)? Light your porch.
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