Introduction: Make an Oil-burning Candle

Picture of Make an Oil-burning Candle

I had extra cooking oil that was used to fry tortillas for enchiladas. I couldn't just let it go to waste, so I made this support for holding a cotton wick.

This can be used to make any oil holder into a nice candle. If you are careful with the oil level, the wick will be consumed very slowly.

Step 1: Assemble Parts

Picture of Assemble Parts

Use an all-cotton string for the candle wick. Synthetic fibers will not burn cleanly. I am using a kitchen string that is used to truss poultry and tie up roasts.

Any kind of wire can be used for the wick support, but I had a spool of copper wire on hand. A large paperclip may also work.

Step 2: Begin Winding Wire

Picture of Begin Winding Wire

Loosely wind the wire around the matchstick.

Step 3: Complete the Wick Holder

Picture of Complete the Wick Holder

The coil should be made loose enough to slip off the matchstick. I use a fingernail to separate the turns of the wire slightly.

If the wire is packed closely, it will wick enough oil to burn along the entire copper sleeve.

Step 4: This Is the Finished Wick Holder

Picture of This Is the Finished Wick Holder

Adjust the spiral base to place the coil in the center, slightly suspended.

Step 5: Cut the Wick

Picture of Cut the Wick

The length is not really important. Just so it is longer than the wire coil.

Step 6: Fill a Container With Oil

Picture of Fill a Container With Oil

Adjust the wick so only an eighth of an inch projects past the copper coil.

Step 7: Now Use Your Match

Picture of Now Use Your Match

The oil may be a little difficult to light, compared to a wax candle.

Step 8: Using a Candlestick to Hold Oil

Picture of Using a Candlestick to Hold Oil

Step 9: The Wick Is Not Consumed

Picture of The Wick Is Not Consumed

Unlike a wax candle, the wick of this oil candle is supplied with fuel as the oil level goes down. The flame remains constant until the last of the oil is burned.


mr_marte (author)2017-02-19

I am intrigued. This type of 'ible is the reason I am here. Thank you for sharing.

DanYHKim (author)2014-12-13

I would like to thank all of you for your kind comments. This was my first 'ible, and I am gratified to know that it still draws interest. You have all been wonderful.

MissAnnaa1 (author)2014-12-13

I used a 100% cotton twine with canola oil and with the wire plus also a bottle of olive oil. I can't seem to keep the flame burning, it burns the cord up? I have even soaked the cord in salt water, still no luck. what am I doing wrong?

DanYHKim (author)MissAnnaa12014-12-13

I am not sure what you mean by "plus also a bottle of olive oil." Do you mean that you are using canola oil or olive oil as fuel? Both should work fine.
If the wick is being consumed, it usually means that the oil is not being drawn up the wick fast enough to feed the flame. Sometimes this is because the wick is too tall. That is, the distance from the top of the oil to the top of the wick is too far for the oil to be pulled up.
I have also had trouble when the wire coil is too tight. By compressing the wick, there is not enough space to form channels for the oil to flow through.
This is a deceptively simple project to make. It can work right off, or it may require a lot of experimentation to get the hang of it. Lately, I am finding that the oil that I have on hand forms a strange accumulation of soot that caps the wick, stopping the flow of oil and extinguishing the flame. It may be that I need to switch brands. So you may also need to do some experimentation in order to make this work out.

LisaG2 (author)2014-11-19

Hi: I tried using a 7mm cotton wick in mason jars filled with scented oil. I cannot seem to get the wick to stay lit. I have submersed the wick in the oil, I have let it sit in the oil to absorb on its own and still, it simply burns out. What am I doing wrong. I am desperate as I am trying to make these for gifts and the clock is ticking. Thank you so much for your help.

DanYHKim (author)LisaG22014-11-19

I have had problems keeping any kind of candle lit inside a jar or other tall container. There is often a strange 'pulsing' of the flame that precedes the flame's extinguishing, and I have decided that the problems stem from a lack of fresh air entering the container. The candle flame will exhaust the oxygen inside the container, and convection should let fresh air exchange with the spent air to support the flame, but some container geometries may prevent this from going smoothly. Instead, at some point, the flame will be reduced briefly, and the convection plume may escape the jar, to be displaced with fresh air. The new oxygen allows the flame to grow briefly, followed by reduction as the oxygen is used up. After a few such cycles, the flame will go out.\

You may be able to experiment with lifting your candle to a higher level inside the jar with a wire carrier of some kind. There is probably some maximum depth at which the candle will burn steadily, and beneath which the candle will smother itself. Good luck.

sangeeta.subhadarshini (author)2014-08-04

can u just let me know the science behind this experiment..???? please please fast

This wasn't really a science experiment. I just made a convenient support for a cotton wick for an oil-burning lamp.

noranora (author)2013-05-27

Thank you so much for this 'ible. Soon after I moved into my house the lights went off and I had no idea where candles were. I tried making something like this and it failed miserably, but it did keep me busy for about an hour until the lights came back on. Now in the future I know what to do in just such an emergency. Again, thank you.

впедак (author)2013-02-24

Interesting does it burn with used sunflower oil? Someone tried to pour candle with it?

DanYHKim (author)впедак2013-02-25

As far as I know, it will work with any kind of liquid oil.

daniel UIO (author)2012-12-26

you could use anything of similar diameter

SIRJAMES09 (author)2012-02-17

I have a Q for anyone who wishes to answer.

what is a better wick for oil candles & oil Lamps....cotton or fibre glass?

SIRJAMES09 (author)2012-02-16

I have a Q.

What about natural Jute Twine?

will that burn good for a wick?? or is that a blend of some kind?

I do a lot of gardening & I use this stuff every season...I'm out of it right now, but am going to order a 10 pound spool soon...that's why I asked.

mg9990 (author)2012-01-18

someone else had a great idea to put an oil burning candle inside one half of an orange peel. The candle becomes ever so slightly orange scented :)

DanYHKim (author)2012-01-08

With your construction and polish, I am sure it looks like a million bucks. I am glad that you took the time to write about your modifications.

micaellahvillarba (author)2012-01-07

what is the objective of this project?

I wanted to use up the tortilla-frying oil by making an oil-burning candle for decoration and light.

hcilliers (author)2011-12-05


I have a problem with my wick, for some reason no matter what type of cotton string or fabric I use, I have a perfect burning flame for about 1 minute thereafter it just dies.

Any advice to solve this problem will be great!!

thank you

DanYHKim (author)hcilliers2011-12-06

I wonder if you need to make the wire coil a little bigger. If the coil is constricting the wick, it will not let the oil draw up to the end of the wick, and the flame will run out of fuel.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-10-31

just for the record...

I give you 5 stars for this. This is an awesome project!! and one that can grow by leaps & bounds if you so desire. :)

TY Sir for the not believe I would have done this without you.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-10-31

if you go to a craft shop, antique shop, places like that, you can find all sorts of "lamps" that would work for would also find other things, other "containers" that you could use to make Lamps from...

One is only limited by their imagination....and their budget. :)

You have given me TONS of ideas...*evil grin*

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-10-31

OH!! one more thing I wanted to mention.....

Virgin Olive Oil burns clean & smells nice too! Olive oil will last longer than any other kind of oil so in the long run, you will use less oil...

what about adding different scents to the oil regardless what kind you use??

wonder if that will burn with the oil?

jeremymaravilla (author)2011-01-26

How many hours this candle take?
reply please..
by: jeremymaravilla

DanYHKim (author)jeremymaravilla2011-01-30

To make the candle took less time than to take the pictures. It really takes about 10 minutes to construct. It will burn for several hours, if you trim the wick to give a small flame. You can replenish the oil while it is burning, which I find very convenient, so it will burn almost indefinitely. Eventually, the end of the wick becomes fouled with soot, and does not draw oil properly, and so needs to be trimmed and repositioned. If you use a couple inches of string, you can simply draw a bit more of the wick through the copper coil, and cut it to the correct height with scissors for a fresh end.

I am very happy that this instructable continues to draw comment and attention.

SIRJAMES09 (author)DanYHKim2011-10-31

It looks like you used a tea candle base to put the oil that right?

For a different type of base, and one that is already flat & level, what about a copper end cap for plumbing pipe?? At most, we're talking $1.50 a piece....but I think that they are under $1 unless you get a 2 inch/cm cap, then they're a wee bit more but still cheap cost.

Gisturn (author)2011-05-18

I would like to know how do you put the wick throught the wire coil if this one is long I guess you might need another tool, isn't it ?

Thank you very much

DanYHKim (author)Gisturn2011-05-20

Usually, I can get away with just threading it through. If there is a problem, you can wrap the coil around something thicker than a matchstick, making a wider opening, or you can rub the wick through some wax to make it stiff enough to thread through more easily.

SIRJAMES09 (author)DanYHKim2011-10-31

some times a blunt needle will help feed it through as well....any blunt object that is small enough will usually work...

Not trying to "take over", just trying to help...I'll hush now.

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-10-31

The key word here is.....LOOSELY.

Get the wire too tight, & you won't get the wick through(I only added this for the benefit of others who may not understand).

biofueljunke (author)2010-08-30

copper dosent play nicely with vegetable oils it tends to turn the oil green if left for a long time

oakspoor (author)biofueljunke2011-08-02

That green is cupric oxide and is harmless. When cupric oxide burns it does make a pretty blue/green flame, so if you get the green oil to soak into the wick and reverse said wick there could be an interesting effect...

jerhpk (author)2010-12-12

My parents bought a store-made version of one of these. It has a thicker gauge copper wire, and the instructions that came with it state to use olive oil. Had i realized it was this easy, I would have made one long ago! Great 'Ible!

DanYHKim (author)jerhpk2010-12-14

I made this candle because our local health food store sells an oil candle made of a copper plumbing end-cap with a piece of copper tubing inside it. I couldn't see myself paying for this, so I experimented with different ways to support a cotton wick in oil. I like the way the copper wire coil looks, compared to the short piece of tubing, even though it is more fragile. In addition, it can be put into different kinds of containers.

ShadowJesus (author)2010-05-23

This is great!
It should be on the front page;p

zascecs (author)ShadowJesus2010-05-24

It once was. 

Knitwitz (author)2009-10-22

Great, Thank You for so much, for sharing your knowledge, keep it up.

lasermaster3531 (author)Knitwitz2009-12-27

 another great source of wire is the bindings from spiral-bound notepads and's thick, but somewhat springy and docile. I have been doing this for years.

peacenique (author)2009-09-26

I love this... especially when it's done in that metal candlestick holder. I'm going to keep my eyes open for one.. or two,or three.. when I'm at second hand shops. If you are still reading the comments from this: THANK YOU! Today I printed out a list of things to put in an emergency preparedness kit. This is perfect!

TCooper41 (author)2009-09-01

Just made a big version of this from a travel sweets tin, it works great! It's running on rapeseed oil, but for some reason it's kicking up a black, sooty smoke, any idea why? could it be the oil? Great Instructible!

AnqeIicDemise (author)TCooper412009-09-01

grapeseed oil has a lower burning point than corn/vegetable oil, hence the smoking. .-

TCooper41 (author)TCooper412009-09-01

Update, found out it was burning smokey because the wick was too long, it's been going for about 4 hours now and the wick has burned down slightly, it's burning much cleaner :-) Again, Great instructable!

xallie (author)2006-12-10

very nice done. nice photos too. is it only able to use corn oil?

DanYHKim (author)xallie2006-12-10

It can probably use any liquid oil, but may need some adjustment of the wick. I am using cooking oil that I had on hand. My objective was to have a use for cooking oil that had been used once for frying.

chuckr44 (author)DanYHKim2006-12-14

Yes, about every 2 hours you must pull up the wick. This requires putting out the flame somehow, grabbing the wick, and pulling a little more out. That kind of explains why kerosene lamps have that dial on the outside to raise the wick.

RaNDoMLeiGH (author)chuckr442009-07-24

I have some glass candles that use some type of synthetic-looking wicks and they don't have to be pulled up. It might be due to the fuel (lamp oil) or just because the wick/glass chimney assemblage is engineed to work that way. I also have some of the cotton-type wicks in glass hurricane lamps and those do need to be played with a bit. But I think it might be that you raise it up to get a hotter flame and draw up more fuel to saturate the wick, because I notice that after a while it has to be lowered again and I haven't had to replace the wick. hm. Not a lamp engineer myself, so take it how you will.

phrakture (author)RaNDoMLeiGH2009-07-31

Fiberglass wicks, possibly

sharlston (author)2009-07-27

how long with it last?


tackam (author)2008-05-11

If you mixed in a couple of drops of essential oil, I wonder if the fragrance would be released nicely, or just burned up?

RaNDoMLeiGH (author)tackam2009-07-24

the fragrance will last as long as the oil does. Mind your flash points and make sure any fragrance oil you burn is OK for burning. (Candle scents are recommended since they are intended for it.) You can do lavender, citronella, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, stuff like that -- they will easily dissipate in the oil. However, something like patchouli will glob up in the bottom, so if you want patchouli fragrance use a candle oil instead, or melt a little beeswax and incorporate some oil into that and then stir in the patchouli as it begins to firm up. But at that point you're making candles. I would stay the heck away from cinnamon because it's way to easy to get too much and wind up with sore eyes, nose, throat... If you prefer soy candles, use crisco oil for this type of oil lamp! (Reminds me of a story from a few years ago when I had a shop: I made soy wax candles scented with orange essential oil and one of my customers ATE his. Yuk.) I really like the way you have made this wick holder -- it's very simple and yet incredibly functional. I just saw another instructable where someone used those little individual serving size jelly jars to make emergency lights, but they'd poked a hole in the lid to pull the wick through. Combining the little jar and your wick holder would make it pocket friendly. I would carry a separate bottle of oil for refills if I were taking this on a camping trip or something, as these little lights don't use the fuel up very quickly. Note: citronella and other oils will sometimes eat plastic, so if in doubt put it in a glass container.

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