Introduction: Glass Bottle Oil Lamp

Picture of Glass Bottle Oil Lamp

Make a small decorative oil lamp out of an empty glass bottle with screw-on metal lid. It's cheap, easy, and possibly romantic.

The lamp is filled with half water and half oil (or all oil if you like, but it's not as pretty!), and will burn for several hours depending on its size. The one I made will burn for a good twelve to fourteen hours, perhaps longer (I haven't exhausted it yet). All of the materials I used, I had lying around already.

There are endless variations that can be made. If you ever did the experiment in grade school with food-coloring-dyed liquids that float on each other due to different densities, you can turn this into a beautiful piece of artwork. Glycerine and rubbing alcohol work well. Cork will float between the water and oil.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You will need the following materials:

1 glass or heavy plastic bottle with metal screw-on lid
1 sharp poking implement (I used the pointy end of a metal compass, but anything sharp, like a rusty old nail*, would work just as well)
1 bottle of olive oil
1 piece of 100% cotton scrap (I used a clean old sock with a big hole in it) **It's important that it be all cotton. If there is polyester or anything else in it, it may produce unhealthy fumes when it burns.
1 pair of scissors

*Rusty old nails are dangerous and should never be used for anything.

Step 2: Prepare the Lid

Picture of Prepare the Lid

Remove the metal screw-on cap and get to work poking a hole in the center of it with your sharp poking implement. Be careful doing this, as it's possible for the implement to break through suddenly, and you don't want a pierce your hand by accident. In fact, you probably don't want to pierce your hand at all. So go slowly - a twisting motion works well, or, if you have a drill handy, you can just use that and save yourself time and energy.

Step 3: Prepare the Wick

Picture of Prepare the Wick

Next you will need to make your wick. Use the scissors to cut out a long, thin strip of the cotton scrap. Make it longer than you need - you can trim it down later.

Step 4: Combine Lid and Wick

Picture of Combine Lid and Wick

This is the hardest part - you need to get the wick through that little hole. It helps to push the wick through, slowly, with the compass needle or the end of a bent paper clip. Once you get a little through, use your fingernails to gently pull it the rest of the way. If the hole feels really tight, you may want to widen it with the scissors - if it's too tight, it will stop the oil from climbing up the wick, and the lamp will not burn for very long. However, it needs to be tight enough that a slicked-up wick will not slide down through it by accident.

Once the wick is through, screw the cap onto the bottle. Pull the wick through the cap so that the very bottom of it is just above where you want the water/oil line to be. If you want to fill the entire bottle with oil, you can leave it as long as you want.

Step 5: Fill 'er Up

Picture of Fill 'er Up

Now that you have measured out the wick, fill the bottle with water (and/or any other layers you want under the oil, decorated with food coloring, if you like), taking care not to fill it too much. Screw the cap with wick back on to make sure that the wick isn't getting wet before proceeding.

Next, fill the rest of the bottle up with oil. If you have a large bottle, the oil will be full of bubbles - wait for them to disappear. This may take a few minutes, so find something constructive to do in the meantime.

Once all the bubbles are gone, you can put the cap back on. Drop the wick slowly into the oil so that it has a chance to sink. Be sure to screw the cap on tightly - if it's on too loosely, and by some unhappy accident the bottle were to tip over, oil could go everywhere and could start a nasty fire.

Of course, it should never tip over. But it's better to be safe, right?

Step 6: Let Sit, Then Light

Picture of Let Sit, Then Light

Now for the profoundly boring part: let it sit. I reccomend letting it sit for at least an hour, so that the entire wick is completely soaked with oil. If you don't wait long enough, and it's not completely soaked, the wick will burn off and the lamp will go out.

The wick should last you a good long time, but if you ever need to, you can pull more through the cap or easily replace it with more cotton scrap.

The lamp may take a few seconds to light, as oil doesn't light easily, but once it is lit it should stay that way until you either blow it out or run out of oil. It is easily blown out, and the light is bright enough to read by.

Never leave a lit oil lamp unattended. As I mentioned earlier, if it were to spill - maybe a cat or dog knocks it over - the results could be very, very bad. Even with the cap screwed on tightly, fires spread very easily and more quickly than you may realize. I take no responsibility for anyone who burns their house down with one of these things!


HercyN (author)2017-02-28

Any oil would do. I'm from the Philippines, and there we used coconut oil; lard oil (from fats of the slaughtered pigs), and in the low countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) fats from whales. It doesn't have to be only olive oil.

VictorV39 (author)2016-01-31

would sunflower oil work?

tomasina made it! (author)2016-01-21

nice ible thank you. here is my rendition. when completely finished they will be hanging lamps for outside

ecahseb14 (author)2009-11-29

does it matter if i use extra virgin olive oil?

DIY-Guy (author)ecahseb142015-12-29

EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) is not as refined and will burn with more smoke. The EVOO is good for you according to food and health pundits, but the smoke will be more irritating than refined olive oil.

This would be a good item to use the very cheap and stripped type of olive oil "for cooking." Using EVOO would be a waste, unless you were already pressing your own olives from your own trees. Have fun!

biofueljunke (author)ecahseb142010-08-27

try used oil from a local place i reccomend italian food the oil stays clean and iv also heard japanese food dosent mess up the oil too bad just ask and you will have som free fuel

SIRJAMES09 (author)biofueljunke2015-01-01

you can always run used oil thru a filter for the impurities...

wilderness (author)ecahseb142010-08-06

Extra virgin olive oil should burfine - but it seems like a bit of a waste. You can get lamp oil, or pomace oil - they're cheaper, and that way you're not wasting something precious.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2015-01-01


The metal lid that came with the bottle, that will actually keep the flame ABOVE the lid?

It won't follow the wick down into the oil & start a fire?

I ask because I have 3 bottles with metal lids, one has a plastic insert inside the lid, and all 3 I would like to make oil lamps from/out of/etc...

mrdspecs (author)2007-01-23

Does the olive oil have a distinctive smell when it's burning? I think the smell should be as attractive as the lamp!

Aira.vj (author)mrdspecs2007-01-23

The olive oil produces no smell or smoke while burning (although if burned for a very long time, it does produce a very small amount of fine soot). When you blow out the flame, it may produce a small amount of a strange smell - not necessarily unpleasant, but not great either. You may be able to change that by doing something like what Shark500 said, cooking something in it first.

ioo (author)Aira.vj2014-06-05

greetings to Americans
the secret is to completely fill the glass of oil or part water and part olive oil (as much olive oil that you want to use and complete the rest water). But before for 15 minutes to soak the wick in oil. cooking oil did not work.

theRIAA (author)mrdspecs2007-01-23

i want one that smells like french fries!

trebuchet03 (author)mrdspecs2007-01-23

I've been using olive oil for my candle/flame needs for a few months and the nice thing about olive oil is -- no smoke - no smell ;) As far as used olive oil -- I don't know if it would have a scent or not. I think it probably would, but that's not the olive oil causing it :P

WesDoesStuff (author)mrdspecs2007-01-23

olive oil tends to absorb flavors very well. maybe cook some garlic in it for a little aroma therapy ; ) .

Speedster44 (author)2013-10-21

No, it just makes it look nice in my opinion.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2012-03-29

I have a Q.

OK, I made an oil lamp & used extra virgin olive oil straight out of the bottle(because that is what I had), I pulled the wick upto 1/4 inch, let the lamp sit over night, lit the lamp & it went out on its own...I pulled the wick upto 1/2 inch & the same thing happened. Both times its acting like it's not getting oil(sputtered before it went out).

What did I do wrong?

The jar I used, is about 2 - 3 oz. & the jar is 3/4 full of oil. The wick is longer than the jar is tall plus I tied a weight at the very end of the wick to make sure that it would sink into the oil, so I have about 3/4 of the wick down INTO the oil.

The thing the wick goes through, I bought on Amazon & it's (supposedly) made for oil lamps...I have tried to think of everything that I may have missed, but I'm drawing a blank. Did I mention that the wick is cotton?


Gregmink (author)SIRJAMES092012-04-12

Just a thought - but if your tolorences were very tight between your lid and wick in an attempt to hold the wick in place and prevent it from falling into the lamp, then you may be creating a vacuum in your oil reservoir as the oil burns off, preventing the capillary action of the wick to take place. Once the flame burns out, the dry wick breaths enough to equalize the pressure in the reservoir, then the wick takes the oil and re-lights with no problem; until the vacuum is recreated. I would leave the top of the jar unscrewed and try to burn the lamp - if that fixes it, then find a way to vent the jar and you'll be good to go!

steam_cannon (author)2008-01-11

It's a fun project, but you really need to add one more step. The wicking needs to be soaked in salt and dried. Most people doing this project will run into the problem that their wick burns out in 10 - 20 minutes. To match and even out perform commercial wicking, just add salt. Salt prevents the cotton from charring too early so you can burn your lamp for an hour or two without any adjustments.

To salt the wicking:
1. Cut your wicking from cotton cloth.
2. Put your wicking in a bowl with a little water.
3. Pour table salt over the wicking.
4. Squeeze the wicking dry and then dry further on a tray. You can bake it dry in an oven at 200F for 20 minutes or just let it dry overnight. It will be crusty with salt but that's good and the wicking will still be reasonably flexible.

This is what I do making my lamps and candles...

SIRJAMES09 (author)steam_cannon2012-02-16

Then AFTER you salt the wick, do you just use it however you normally would? or is there something else you do before using the wick??

I ask, because I have never ever heard of salting a wick...

steam_cannon (author)SIRJAMES092012-03-08

After you salt the wick you let it dry out, then use it like any other wicking.

You may not have heard of salting wicks before, but companies seem to do this. I noticed that after some candles get wet, the wicks don't work as well even after the wick had dried have dried. This lead me to looking up wick additives and I found a reference in an old book about salt being used as an additive. I tried that and it helps.

Aira.vj (author)steam_cannon2008-02-01

Thanks for the tip on salting! I didn't know that, and I have been having trouble with my wick dying too quickly.

agis68 (author)2008-12-10

Nice idea BUT!: The combination of that kind of bottle with the huge quantity of olive oil SCARES me. Some years ago I made something like that but more stable. A jar (from marmelad) is more suitable take a look

SIRJAMES09 (author)agis682012-02-16

I LOVE THAT!!! that is an awesome looking lamp!!!

how did you attach the lamp parts to the jar lid???

is it bright enough to read by?? what kind of fuel do you use?
that is just too cool!!!!! :P

agis68 (author)SIRJAMES092012-02-17

I am really happy you like it. We spend enough days in my cosi country house next to the lake here in Greece. But we had to pay a lot of money to connect the house with the i said to my wife...why to spend and waste money lets make it like some years ago...So we cook and heat by woods,or gas and we read having ths . One of this lasts for 2 weeks using it every night. The upper part is from original lamp but little smaller.. Now to attach this on the jar i take an old case made of copper .Ideal for this are the lamp sockets. So I made a big hall and i pass the soket now the base of the lamb can be supported from the socket so that's is very easily and effective....I used to make dozen of thems and sell them in the local village bazar for 5 euro....

hope hlping you...

amethysteria (author)2008-01-04

Yay! I've made one, although I do have to admit that I tried it outside first, just in case it exploded! Aargh, I watch too much tv!

SIRJAMES09 (author)amethysteria2012-02-16

oil can not explode like a is too thick, too coarse, & it burns too slow. an explosion of ANY kind needs to be an extremely fast burn.

that is why cars & lawn mowers do not run on oil.

amethysteria (author)SIRJAMES092012-02-17

Good to know! Unfortunately, I have to admit that i'm one of THOSE women who dont know that.

leevonk (author)2007-01-23

I did this to burn the insulation off of electrodes in my lab. I used some 78% alcohol we had and the thick string from a mop head I bought from the dollar store. It worked well, but the alcohol evaporates if you don't cover up the lamp head really well when not in use (alcohol gets soaked up into the sting, evaps, repeat).

SIRJAMES09 (author)leevonk2012-02-16

a mop head from the dollar store??

I never thought of that....LOL

simple. cheap. effective. I like that idea!!! TY for sharing. :)

SIRJAMES09 (author)2012-02-16

Somewhere in this Instructable, Sappho made a comment about slowly lowering the wick into the oil so that it would sink into the oil....

I have an idea that just might be faster & maybe easiier to lower the wick into the oil.

tie a weight on the bottom of the wick. the weight cold be a nut from a bolt; or the bolt itself; a washer,anything that weighs more than the wick should work....

and if the weight should come undone & fall to the bottom of the bottle, oh well. you still have the wick in the oil which is what you needed to get done in the first place....

just a thought.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2012-02-16

I have a Q:

what about natural Jute Twine as a wick? would that work or would it just go out/stink up the house?

I do a lot of gardening & I use Jute to tie up the plants...I'm out right now but will be ordering more for the garden, that is why I asked....

cortwein (author)2011-10-21

Could you fill the whole bottle up with oil or do you have to have the water?

zoobr (author)2011-09-26

if i weave my own wicks, will it matter how tight i weave it, eg if its a tight weave will it slow down the rate witch the oil is soaked up or wont it matter ?

TraumaComet (author)2009-01-17

Great Instro! This is green in so many ways that it boggles the mind. Cool.

OhWheelie (author)TraumaComet2010-03-07

Could be greener if we were using oil that had to be thrown away anyway.  Like used fry oil, or even used motor oil.  Why waste?

ilpug (author)OhWheelie2011-03-15

motor oil is stinky and not nescessarily "green" it would work though, as long as it wasnt that modern chemical kind.

MEMJIM (author)2011-02-09

Great info Sappho, Thanks a Bunch. oh yeah, relative to Hycros' question, did ya' flick your Bic on the first date?

Hycro (author)2011-01-01

Did you place confidence in a personal relationship like the cap says?

maullove (author)2010-12-22

Nice, and I love the Jones soda bottles!

Berserker242 (author)2010-05-18

What all kinds of things can you burn in one of these or similar DIY jam jar lamps?

Can you burn tiki oil in them or is that too dangerous?

try veg and you will never go back

Deathcapt (author)2009-02-05

If you filled it with alcohol as a fuel, it could double as an emergency molotov!

ret1614 (author)Deathcapt2010-06-13

Ever tried an alcohol based molotov? They tend to not work very well. lol, and throwing this tiny little flame would cause it to blow out. This is much better as a candle. Oh, and alcohol burns with a blue flame, so no light, and vapour burns far better than liquid, so the wick wouldn't be doing it any favours. Leave the alcohol to the stoves

grue (author)Deathcapt2009-07-19

alcohol is lighter than water, so it's always a molotov

wazzup105 (author)2008-03-25

Thank you for the suggestion to use an old sock for a wick. I've got some leftover oil (from the sundried tomatoes) which I am not using and throwing it away seems like such a waste. This is a nice idea to get rid of that old oil in a purdy manner this summer.

elyador (author)wazzup1052010-05-01

hmm, that oil might stunk when you burn it.

The best use for oil from sundried tomato jars is cooking. Cut up some italian sausages and fry them in it.

wazzup105 (author)elyador2010-05-01

I burned it outside, so it didn't bother me, but just use it for cooking... hmmm... I'll try that. Thanks. Anything but just throwing it away.

(actually I wasn't happy with the way it burned either)

Franch1z3e (author)2010-02-14

hey..i was just wondering if you could stagger the levels of oil and water and still have the wick go through all levels? or will this affect the wick, like will only the first level of oil burn and the rest be only for looks?

soundmotor (author)2010-01-22

Nice instructable. The only downside to a bottle is that if bumped, it could fall over. I'd like to try this with a wide-base jar or similar.

About This Instructable




More by Aira.vj:Arrows for Paperclip BowGlass Bottle Oil Lamp
Add instructable to: