Introduction: Pocket-Size Oil Lamp

Picture of Pocket-Size Oil Lamp

Yes! Score! Free mini-shampoo bottles from that cheap hotel! Err, now what do I do with them?
Why, make lamps of course!

This is a lamp which will burn many oils (Canola Oil - A couple dollars at the grocery store for more than you'll ever need, and free in the kitchen - is my personal favorite). It packs down tiny to slip into your pocket yet will give you SIX hours of a bright flame which is, according to my highly scientific method (holding my hand and friend's hands over different flames), much hotter than a wax candle.

No parts that can break if used properly.... I hear of people trying to pry things with their knife, but "Gee, I bet this lamp will be a great expedient anvil!" isn't likely to be heard, so theory makes this design unbreakable....

Neat things:
-If a small candle can warm up a snowcave as much as 20 degrees this should be able to do better :)
-Oil of this sort will either not evaporate or do so at an extremely slow rate... No, "Whoops, should have screwed that cap on tighter"
-Flame Size is adjustable from a monster you could probably cook with too a tiny even flame which will last a loongg while.
-The viscosity of the oil is such that if you knock this over, you have a generous gracer period before oil starts getting everywhere.
-Oil burns, NOT the wick (obvious, but perhaps some weren't sure)

~This involves fire, don't burn yourself, others, or things which may harm others if burned.
~Don't eat the small parts, you could choke on them.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials

This is by far the most difficult step.

After much scrounging, I came up with
~this shampoo bottle
~7/16" socket (for 1/4" drivers)
~Heavy, Solid Copper Wire, I'm no electrician but I'd guestimate 12ga.? Look at the pic :)
~The border/trim of a cotton towel
~Canola Oil

This is what I had on hand, find what you can.
~Possible body containers include nip bottles, those fuel additive/ 2stroke-oil bottles, film canisters, pill bottles....
~If you're using a container that will not tolerate heat (i.e. Plastic) you'll need something to dissipate the heat. My solution was to find a socket which fit the neck of the bottle snugly, slide it up from storage position when lighting, this takes the 'waste' heat from the flame and gets it out into the air (warming you or your food in the process) and keeping it away from your container.
~Wick Material. If you have some on hand, great. If not, even better. Find a cotton rag/towel which has a border. This will provide you with some very nice 3/8" (or so) flat/tube wick. NOTE: Do not use any synthetic material -it will melt and/or produce nasty vapors.
~Oil: Just about any will suffice. Vegetable oils (Olive, Canola, etc.) are quite nice. Mineral Oils and Animal Oils work just fine.... Got seal blubber? Scrape some of the oil off of it and fill your lamp up. Try adding salts to the oil. They'll make the flame burn brighter, and depending on the salt, turn the flame different colors. Sodium based salts (i.e. stuff on your food) will give your flame a good, bright yellow/white kick.

Step 2: Put Everything Together

Picture of Put Everything Together

In my case:
After trying three different 7/16" sockets, I found one that fit "just right" - very snug and won't go anywhere on its own, but can be slid with ease. (insert with 1/4" square up for wick) When folding the lamp into closed position it becomes possible for the socket to fall into the container body. To remedy this, make a stopper: Take the thick copper wire and form one loop the size of the base of the container. Continue to form into the shape shown in the previous step's picture. The top loop should be just large enough to fit into the large end of the socket (while allowing space for the wick of course). It's length should be such that the socket will lie flush with the rim of the container without being able to fall through. The bend in the middle allows it to spring a bit.
Then trim towel border to size (the overhand knot in mine is from before the copper wire when the socket fell through, the knot made retrieveal easy).

I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

This is my prototype model, I'll neaten things up and think of improvements for the one which I'll be using. One idea thus far: Adding an aluminum reflector (Such as that from a soda can) around the body which can be slid up behind flame and thus double light in one direction. Not sure what to hold it in place with though, bicycle innertube is too loose.... thoughts? Let me know if I need to clarify/fix anything here :)


Wiggitywasted made it! (author)2017-07-13

Something I found that works really good is a 1/4" socket but and a maybelline fit me foundation bottle(glass)

dwalker36 (author)2014-03-11

One better, you could use a small metal container... such as a the new coke bottle that is aluminum.. or an small flask....

Boomer1 (author)dwalker362015-12-14

Hmmm. sounds like serious miss-use of a flask. ;)

davidbarcomb (author)dwalker362014-11-28

Thanks, great idea

mdblocher (author)2015-06-09

Other possible bottles - Tabasco Sauce, or nail polish bottles.

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce bottle for a larger one.

Emmit_Nelson (author)2015-06-04

Would old spent Co2 cartridges be a suitable replacement for a shampoo bottle? They're metal so it wouldn't melt from the heat generated.

lilpepsikraker (author)2009-07-09

Just to warn anyone that I used soybean oil (Wesson "vegetable" oil), and a film canister for this. I made two, and left them burning outside (testing, and soybean oil reeks!!!) The wrench bit heated up and ten minutes later, I go outside and they both have sunken into the melted plastic mess along with oil. Don't use plastic! It heats up and melts, a super great fire hazard! Good thing I tested outside, I would have not had a computer to write this on, as my house would be rubble.

DianeS6 (author)lilpepsikraker2015-03-28

Applying fire to plastic causes it to melt.

Imagine that.

M. A.G (author)lilpepsikraker2014-12-31

Just curious, who would make a homemade oil burning lamp light it inside their home and walk away leaving it unattended? Nobody that's who. I just don't understand where the hazard was and how you saved your house from becoming rubble???

MrE (author)2014-04-04

So all these questions and the fact that this is made from plastic is answered in my ible.

I made a lamp that will do all the things you want and does not melt, it uses a fiberglass wick so the sick does not burn and has it's own lighter. I hope you check it out and please leave a comment. Not to steal anyone else's thunder, just thought I would throw a little LIGHT on the subject.

SnipeMeNot (author)2014-01-13

Is there away to adjust flame on the go?

Yard Sale Dale (author)2013-11-27

Interesting idea, but beware, a famous radio personality was once arrested for suspicion of having a "molotav" for making an oil lamp from a small glass jar. If you need sockets (for projects or for actually using wrenches) try old hardware stores and pawn shops. Sometimes they'll have "bargain bins" full of mismatched sockets where you can buy them individually.

Ricardo Furioso (author)2013-06-12

Fabulous. Thank you.

Boogy man (author)2012-04-20

Neat cool ;) see yall later

lusbyjeff (author)2009-12-10


been looking for paraffin oil alternatives and it seems that canola and olive are the way to go.

can these be used in a regular "store bought" oil lamp without much hassle? just fill er up and go? or more to consider than that?

can it be used in the oil burning candles or would that be a no go. have read somewhere that the smaller wicks won't work with veggie oils.


sharlston (author)2009-11-12

i made one like this and based on this so faved and 5 stars

the bottle i used was 30ml and it lasted eight years ago before i knocked it over and even then it wasnt even nearly empty so this is great

sharlston (author)sharlston2009-11-13

i mean 8 hours

weaponscollector94 (author)2009-08-20

or add copper sulfate for a colored flame!!!! cool! FIRE!!!

weaponscollector94 (author)2009-08-20

hehehe i like the little shampoos too! my mom was at a fancy hotel and she got me pretty much half a backpack full of soaps, conditioners , lotions, body washes and a few the hotel trinkets! but the point is they have little aluminum caps and they would probably work great for this project!

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2009-06-16

can you rig it up w/ the ignition of the old lighters, by old lighters I mean the thing that turn and then it will spark, like the flint or something

yes you should like a zippo?

Flash Gordon (author)2009-03-29

This is a really awesome 'ible i gonna make one out of a pill bottle.

Thrixx42 (author)2007-01-14

I made an oil lamp that's a little different from this design. I took a wierd single- serving maple syrup bottle from a hotel breakfast. (its like a 1-10th scale real syrup bottle made of clear glass). I just used a piece of tin foil instead of a socket and some doubled up twine. My problem is, it always dies down after about 5 minutes, even when its completely full of canola oil, and I think it's the wick. What do you recommend for a good, small wick?

CanDo (author)Thrixx422007-01-14

You can try: border of towels, paper towels, toiletpaper/tissue, old t-shirts, jeans, etc. Just experiment, good luck :)

octavian234 (author)CanDo2008-07-11

which you canalso get ftom hotels...hehehe

CanDo (author)Thrixx422007-01-14

Also meant to mention - have you ensured that the wick is completely saturated with oil? Wait an hour or so and try again, if not the material simply isn't suitable.

pyro13 (author)CanDo2007-06-30

i use rolled up cotton ball for a wick, because it burns better, and it can double as a firestarter in the wild, also i add salt 2 my oil to make the flame brighter and hotter

Vendigroth (author)CanDo2007-03-09

there's nothing quite like srealing everything not nailed down from hotels, eh?

blodefood (author)2008-04-11

The canola oil is good as it is a lot safer than kerosene or alcohol. Non-toxic too!. I think that a vegetable oil lamp should be a shorter wider container. Depending up on wick thickness and depth of container it gets harder for it to pull up cooking oil from the bottom of the container as it is heavier than kerosene or lamp oil.

Spartan Phalanx (author)2008-03-26

With this you could probly power a dry cleaner bag hot air ballon bettter than candels.

Charles IV (author)2008-03-26

That's awesome man I gotta make we a bunch of these.

JoeyJaroz (author)2007-11-11

i made like 3 but instead of the socket bits i used tin foil they are SOOOO useful

Most dollar stores carry a set of sockets. 10 for a buck where I live. GOD I LOVE DOLLAR STORES!

burton6054 (author)JoeyJaroz2007-12-30

or even use the metal bit of a smaller light bulb. just and idea

mkamchin (author)2007-12-31

sweet... i want to make one of these!

Lord Of Mystra (author)2007-09-09

you could roll the soda can metal around the bottle and duct tape it in a tube that will slide up/down the bottle. LONG LIVE DUCT TAPE!

unidyne (author)2007-08-12

Prisoners have been known to make items like this out of small shampoo bottles, pudding cups and yogurt containers, and using aluminum foil as the lid, a shoelace or woven string as the wick and baby oil as the fuel.

FireKicksAss (author)2007-07-15

i made one of these not to long ago but when ever i put the cap one the socket goes in and i cant get if out.

CanDo (author)FireKicksAss2007-07-16

Did you make the part shown here made with copper wire? This prevents the socket from falling in...

the gizmoman (author)2007-07-11

you can do this with film canisters too

Vendigroth (author)2007-03-09

oh i like this. I'll have to make a few, they look lke a great light

a little crazy (author)2007-01-28


CanDo (author)a little crazy2007-01-28

Is the wick cotton? If you are using any synthetic materials for a wick, they may melt or burn. It could also be a problem with oil 'feeding' the wick. I'd wait a bit longer, try again, then switch wicks.

a little crazy (author)CanDo2007-01-28

i used an old shirt that said it was 100% cotton , it did smoke a little tho mayb its not ill try sometin else/also i dipped the wick to make sher it had enough,is it possible to hav to much?

CanDo (author)a little crazy2007-01-28

Letting the wick sit normally in the lamp for an hour or so is the best way to soak it without getting excess. Are you sure the wick is not too long? Too long of a wick will produce smoke -try shortening it. Also, are you sure the wick itself war burning? It's normal for it to become a bit charred.

a little crazy (author)CanDo2007-01-28

the wicks bout 3 inches long and the top of the wick completely burned off

electronicfreak22 (author)2007-01-25

K thanks

electronicfreak22 (author)2007-01-24

I dont really get the purpose of te copper wire... Is it necisary?

CanDo (author)electronicfreak222007-01-25

I'm not sure if you read it, but: "When folding the lamp into closed position it becomes possible for the socket to fall into the container body. To remedy this, make a stopper: Take the thick copper wire and form one loop the size of the base of the container. Continue to form into the shape shown in the previous step's picture. The top loop should be just large enough to fit into the large end of the socket (while allowing space for the wick of course). It's length should be such that the socket will lie flush with the rim of the container without being able to fall through. The bend in the middle allows it to spring a bit." If that was unclear: You don't NEED it for the lamp to work, if you are however making a setup exactly like mine, you run the risk of losing the wick inside of the oil otherwise, which makes a rather unpleasant retrieval process...

qwerty (author)2006-12-10

Who cares what size the wire is? Just cut up a wire coat hanger and use that. It's cheaper and it holds its shape good enough

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