homemade oil lamps

Homemade Oil Lamps are Easy to Make

Yesterday, I wrote about alternate uses for rancid cooking oils.  One of the ideas was to make an homemade oil lamp.  This morning I showed one of my grandchildren how easy, it is to make one.

I took a small metal can that had contained hard candy.  The can was about 3 inches in diameter.  I punched a hole in the top with a nail, just big enough for some jute twine to fit through.  The bottom of the can was then filled to the brim with olive oil.  The jute twine was then dipped in the oil and threaded through the hole in the top.  About ½ to ¾ of and inch of jute extended above the lid.

I then lit the twine and it burned about as bright as a candle.  Now because you are burning oil you do get some smoke.  Periodically you will have to pull the wick up to keep it burning clean.

homemade oil lamps
The lamp ready to be lit

Now wicks can be improved, the one I used was just a piece of jute twine, but you can make them out of many different things including cotton, paper or string.  The way to make a wick last the longest is to soak it in salt water; this slows the burning and makes the wick a bit stiffer.

With cotton or paper, soak it in salt water and then twist it up into a tight elongated roll and allow to dry.  Wicks made from twine or string, just soak in salt water.

Now these homemade oil lamps are not going to put out large amounts of light, but they are better than no light.  One of the problems with them is that they will blow out quite easily and if you are not careful, you can use a lot of matches.  Be careful using them around children and pets, if they get knocked over you can have an oil fire.

homemade oil lamds
A paper wick that is drying after being soaked in salt water. and twisted together

I have tried homemade oil lamps made from tuna cans and other things and they all have the same problems.  But if you use them wisely, they can help you extend your resources.


3 thoughts on “Homemade Oil Lamps are Easy to Make”

  1. Wicks: natural wicks work best. A polyester or poly/cotton blend will smell. Find an old piece of loose weave pure cotton or linen fabric and with pinking shears or scissors, cut a strip 1.25cm (½ inch) wide and 10cm (four inches) long. Soak the wick in oil before using it then poke the wick through the hole in the lid. Have it sticking up slightly above the lid top. I also tried plain kitchen string/twine, Lions knitting cotton – one strand and three strands plaited/braided together, and cotton dress fabric – all worked quite well. Don’t forget to pull the wick up every so often as it will eventually burn down too low to work properly. Do this with a pin and while the lamp is not lit.

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