Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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!