Introduction: Oil Lamp? Oh, Boy! Don't Spill It!

About: I'm the typical maker/DIY/nerd dad.


Oil lamps are cool because, like, they have been around forever.

Here is a simple one that fairly easy to make... but it has a little something that the others don't.

The really neat thing about this oil lamp is that it seals up tight when not in use, and therefore is a lot less prone to spilling all over the dang place.

I first saw an oil-lamp-in-a-jar like this when I was traveling in Chile on a work related trip. Of course, this fact doesn't actually add any value to the instructable, other than to inform you that I have traveled in Chile on a work related trip.


Step 1: That DIY Aesthetic We All Know and Love

I was really struck with how awesome these oil-lamps-in-a-jar were. And they seemed so simple to make:

- Take a piece of copper tube

- Bend it so that it supports itself and one end sticks up

- Stuff a wick into the copper tube

- Put that thing in a jar

- Fill that jar with lamp oil

- Apply flame

- Done

Of course, since I rarely make things easy on myself, I added the requirement that the lid of the jar needed to be functional when the lamp was not in use, and that the wick and holder had to fit inside the jar when it was all closed up.

The hardest part of this project was finding a jar that was short enough with a relatively large diameter and mouth. If I remember correctly, the jars I ended up using originally had pesto in them. I wanted short/wide jars because bending copper tubing into tight, curly, non-kinked shapes isn't one of my super-powers.

After finding the jar, I acquired some 1/4" O.D. copper tube (the stuff that is often used to connect up the water line to a refrigerator), some 1/8" lamp wicks*, and lamp oil.

*Initially, I tried to use various types of string/rope that I had in my possession, because I wasn't going to cheat by purchasing actual oil lamp wicks. What kind of DIY person uses things for their intended purpose, anyway? Seriously. And then I realized that I was acting like a silly person.

Step 2: I'm LIttle, No, I'm Big!

It took several attempts, but I managed to bend a couple pieces of the copper tubing into shapes that would hold the end of the wick above the top of the jar, but still fit into the jar when the lid was put on.

In terms of advice for how to actually bend the copper tubing... um, I pretty much just used telekinesis.

And lots of stuff that was within reach, such as wood dowels, round pieces of stuff, and an assortment of swear words.

So, maybe finding the right jar wasn't actually the hardest part of the project.

Step 3: Now You See Me

Step 4: Now You Don't

Step 5: Get Your Wick On

Since the copper tube is only a few inches long, stuffing the wick in from one end worked well. I would imagine that if using a longer copper tube, one might need to pull the wick through the tube as if it were a wire bundle being pulled through an electrical conduit run.

Or it might also help if there was an aglet (thank you wikipedia) at the end of the wick.

Step 6: Peek-A-Boo!

I only have a very small section of the wick protruding from the business end of the copper tube.

The wick goes almost all the way through to the other end of the copper tube, but doesn't extend beyond.

This gives a neater appearance overall, I think.

Step 7: Time to Put It Away

So, after blowing out the lamp and letting it cool, simply lift the copper tube out of the jar, turn it around, place it back in, and put on the lid.

Step 8: No Spills!

I've been using these oil-lamps-in-a-jar for over ten years.

Never had a spill (when the lid was on).


Fire Challenge 2017

Runner Up in the
Fire Challenge 2017

Lights Contest 2017

Participated in the
Lights Contest 2017