An olive oil lamp is a surprisingly safe and simple lamp that you can do-it-yourself. It produces light, as much as, or more than, an ordinary candle, and is an alternative to kerosene-style oil lamps. The concept of burning oil from vegetables (olive oil) in the home rather than petroleum based kerosene seems more appealing, less toxic, and safer.

The Romans and other ancients regularly burned olive oil in their lamps, so, the concept is sound. Pure olive oil will not produce smoke, while other types of vegetable oils may produce some residual smoke while burning.

For those who are curious, the cost of burning olive oil in this lamp will depend on wick size (flame size and corresponding oil consumption), while my own experiment consumed 2 ounces (1/8 cup) of olive oil in 5 hours. This calculates out to about 10-cents per hour depending on how cheap you can find pure olive oil. An ordinary Votive candle may cost about 3 to 5-cents per hour to burn, although probably not as bright as the oil lamp.

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Step 1: Olive Oil Lamp Parts

You will need an ordinary metal coat hanger, a wick, a canning jar (these are heat treated and can withstand the hot temperature), and needle-nose pliers.

The wick shown in this photo is a typical kerosene lamp wick. Using a scissors, I cut the wick in half (length wise) so it wouldn’t be as fat as what is shown in the photo. You can use an ordinary candle wick.

TIP: A coat hanger is somewhat difficult to work and bend into a coil, while an easier approach is to use #12 gauge bare copper 'ground' wire, available at most hardware and 'big box' stores. It's softer and easier to work with.


<p>Can you tell me how thick or heavy your wicks? I have some thin organic cotton material that I have cut into thin strips and braided. They are currently soaking in salt and borax. I'm told that will slow the burn down even more. I am also going to try the seam of an old pair of jeans, and a piece of cotton clothes line for wicks. But I would appreciate it anyone here knows where I could find 100% organic cotton wicks? It would make this so much easier! I have a terrible time with chemicals. I am hoping to use this lamp, to heat my tiny camper! :)</p>
<p>I bet a semi-circle of an Aluminum Foil square standing up inside jar would make a good reflector !</p>
You can get this coil ready made at Lehmans.com. 6 for 18.00. They work like a charm. <br>They introduced them over 20 years ago. Lehman's is great for all kinds of things, check them out. Jim
Very neat idea! I think that a 'string' from a string-mop would serve as a wick as well. <br> <br>They are usually cotton, very absorbent, and probably a good size to use as a wick in this case. <br> <br>Great idea for 'emergency light' for those times when caught unprepared during a power outage.
Save half used birthday candles. They are a great source of wicks. Every year I get more.
Nice Instructable and useful. <br> <br>I have done some testing with a similar lamp and found that other vegetable oils work well such as corn oil. I tested rancid corn oil added to another edible fat and it worked fine. The point is that almost any liquid fat that is no longer edible can have a use. <br>
Quick and easy. Would be simple to do in case of a power outages.

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