How to Maintain your Kerosene Lamps and Improvise Wicks.


Making the best use of kerosene lamps requires some practice, like everything else there is a learning curve.

When purchasing lamps, get extra chimneys, burners at least 2 or 3 of each and a substantial number of wicks.  I found some old wick material in rolls in a surplus store in Nevada.  About ten yards to a roll.  The wick store sells flat cotton rolls, 25 yards long for $9.50 to $14.00 depending on the width.

When using, everyday trim the wicks by rubbing the crust from them with your fingers.  Occasionally you may need to use scissors to trim the wicks.  If you have to use the scissors, trim the wicks so that the corners are rounded towards the center.  This will reduce the breakage of chimneys.  When you trim the wicks straight across the corner flames can flair to one side and crack the chimney.  I know this disagrees with what I have said in the past, but I continue to learn.

The burners will on occasion become clogged, if not cleaned.  Once a month boil the dirty burners in a solution of water and baking soda until clean.

Chimneys will often crack when lit in a cold room.  You will know the chimney is to cold if steam begins to collect on it.  At this point, turn the flame down low and wait for the steam to disappear and then turn the lamp up slowly.

Improvised lamp wicks can be made out of old felt hats and cotton materials.  First measure the width of the burner and the distance from top of the burner to the lamps reservoir.  Then cut your material to size and insert into the burner.  If your material is too thin, you can double or triple it and sew it together.  Tightly woven dishtowels work well.

See also  Aladdin Lamps


3 thoughts on “How to Maintain your Kerosene Lamps and Improvise Wicks.”

  1. If you have a sturdy, table top paper cutter or mat trimmer, you can make excellent wicks by trimming scraps cut from thickly woven military surplus web gear straps, slings, etc. Cut off any metal tabs or buckles from the ends, and pull out any metal grommets with pliers. Then trim the webbing to width, wind up and stash away, lightly oiled, in baby food jars until you need them.

    1. Thanks for the idea, ke4sky!

      Although I’ve used kerosene lamps for years, I’ve never thought of using surplus web gear straps as wicks. I prefer using kerosene lamps rather than propane lanterns because I can’t stand the hissing noise of the propane ones.

  2. I should have mentioned that this works only with the older cotton web gear and not the modern nylon stuff. That “should” be obvious, but I offer the caution anyway!

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