Make a Working Oil Lamp


Introduction: Make a Working Oil Lamp

I have several lamps and lanterns that use oil and candles for old time lighting. I thought -just how hard would it be to make my own? It is fairly simple. My first attempt was just using a tuna can and some cotton string braided into a wick. You will see it in the middle of the first picture after the test. It worked- kind of. I wanted to see how I could improve on it so I gathered up a #4 glass jar from my friends Dan and Carol Boley's fruit farm. It is about the size of an olive jar. I do not think the size matters that much. I wanted to recycle some oil I had used in the wok for deep frying tofu. I was just going to toss it so I thought I would give it a try; waste not - want not. I filtered it and used it in the tuna tin. The parts I used are a part of an old curtain rod the jar and the handmade wick.

Step 1:

I used the dart to poke a hole in the jar lid and then used a square screwdriver to widen the hole. I used the plyers to cut the rod and shape it as I needed it. I cut the rod so it would be sticking just above the jar.

Step 2:

I inserted the wick into the rod and the rod though the hole in the jar. I then added the oil,then topped it off with some fresh oil for the jug. This is just plain veggie oil.

Step 3:

The first wick worked a litle bit, but would go out. It was not large enough to draw the oil fast enough so I got a larger wick and added the first wick to it and inserted it into the rod. This worked better but not as good as I hoped to,so I took out some of the oil and added babyoil to the veggie oil to make the over all oil thinner. It is mixed about half and half. This time it lit up and has stayed lit with a good high flame for about 2 hours now. It has been burning this long and there is hardly any movement in the oil level. I will now let it burn for another hour and measure about how much oil is used in an hour. I will add a comment later to give you the findings. The flame does have a slight amount of smoke to it, about the same as I have seen with regular lamps. That is all for now. Have fun but don't burn the house down!

Michael J. Kaer, author of "What Money Can't Buy"



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    sweeeeet! im going to make one now

    I did my calculations and based on the jar holding about 250 ml ( about 1/4 of a quart) I estimated that it would take about 35 hours to burn all the oil in the jar or said a different way it sips oil at about a teaspoon and a half (around 7ml) per hour. I don't know if that is bad or good, but for the pennies it cost for the oil ( that I was going to toss out anyway) and a free recycled jar and the cotton string was just saved from a packages so again it cost me next to nothing, I would say that is alot of light for very little. The baby oil cost me $1.00 so 1/2 that is $.50. The curtain rod I just had laying around. if I had to pay for all the items and I had to even buy the wick, I would put the total cost of the project at about $1.00. I am going to experiment with sunflower oil next year, since I grow sunflowers and see how it works. I would love to get the cost down to even less than a dollar. If I press the oil myself, this could be a mostly sustainable project. Michael

    3 replies

    Well, I made a lamp out of a 400ml jar (about 0.8 of a pint) , and a unrolled and re-rolled cotton-wool ball. According to the above data (7ml an hour) my lamp would last about 4 months!!! (Don't think so, but who knows??)

    Here's a picture


    BTY: It has a green wick because i put water and green food dye in the bottom. (Experiment in capillary action)

    Nice first instructable, does it smell like fried tofu when it's lit? Yum, that would make me really hungry.

    1 reply

    There is not a lot of smell to it, what you do mell is more of the baby oil than anything else When I had just the straight used oil, it had more of the tofu smell. Lke I said , I was just going to toss the oil after I had used it twice, so this was just a recycling experiment at the start. Thanks for the comment.