Hurricane Sandy is hovering over us at the moment. Since we expect power to go out today (and stay off for several days), I thought I'd share how to make a simple oil lamp from materials most people have at home.
- pliers (needle nose pliers are best)
- a thick glass jar or glass (works with goblets as well)
- oil (olive oil is ideal if you have it)
- wick (can make from cotton cloth if you don't have wicks)
- Twist a coil in the end of your wire. This will hold the wick and prevent the flame from burning down the wick.
- Bend the wire so the wick is held in the center of your jar. It helps to bend a small loop in the wire where it will be outside the jar to help you lift the wire out of the jar for lighting your wick.
- Push the wick up through the coil. Pull the wick so it is only an 1/8th of an inch over the wire coil. The end of the wick should be long enough to reach the bottom of your jar.
- Place the wire and wick in your jar.
- Add oil to your jar so it comes just below your wire coil. You can pour the oil over the wick if you want.
- Pull the wire/wick up and light it. Oil doesn't like to burn, so it won't catch very quickly.
- When the wick has caught, lower the wire/wick down into the jar.
- If the flame is too high, life the wire/wick out and tug gently on the bottom of the wick to reduce the amount of wick sticking out above the coil.
- When you want to extinguish the flame, dip the flaming end of the wick in the oil. The oil will not catch on fire, but will immediately cool the hot end of the wick. This will prevent the wick from smoking, which it will do if you just blow it out.
If you don't have wicks in your utility drawer, you can cut strips of cloth from either a cotton t-shirt or a used tea towel. These home-made wicks will last longer if you lay them in a shallow dish of water, then sprinkle liberally with salt. Let them soak for an hour, then let them dry. For more information, read Ruth deJauregui's article on How to Make a Wick for an Oil Lamp Using Recycled Materials.
Here are some more pictures.
PS - As always, be careful with fire. The top of the jar will get hot.