Easy and Cheap Oil Lantern




About: Mechanical engineering student. My main interests are in biomechanics, robotics, and prosthetics.

If you like to go camping or relax outdoors you know that flash lights can be boring and candlelight can be fun (or even romantic *wink*)

I made this simple and easy to do instructable so that you can use it outdoors, while camping, in your house, for power failures, or even just for fun. Enjoy : )
The thing I like about this is that it isn't easily blown out and you can carry it around and even hang it

If you make this or your own version I would like to see your pictures in the comments thanks...

Step 1: What You Need

*A small baby food glass jar (Gerber)
*A Medium sized Aluminum can (I used an evaporated milk can) that is not open
*A coat hanger
*100% Cotton rag
*Olive Oil
*JB Weld
*Scissors and other cutting tools (dremel...pliers...)

Step 2: Cut the Jar

Get your unopened can an mark a small window on the side of the can with a sharpie.You can change the size of the window based on how much light you want to shine through.

After it is marked cut  a small hole with a hobby knife and pour out the insides. Then with your knife or even easier a Dremel, cut out the window.

On the flat bottom part of your can drill a hole in the center to allow your wick to pass through. It should be about 1/2 an inch in diameter.

Step 3: Add the Handle

On the top of your can drill 2 hole on either sides  of the can. They should be about 1/8 of an inch big.

Grab your coat hanger and cut about a 9 inch piece of wire from it (or more depending on how you want it) with some cutters.

Bend the wire into a U making sure it is even. Then bend the tips of the wire facing each other (see picture)

Take the U you just made and push it slightly together so when you put it on the can you can snap it in without it falling off.

Step 4: Prepare the Fuel Jar

Once the can is done set it aside and grab your small jar.
Empty or eat the contents and clean out the jar.
With a drill or cutting tool poke a hole in the center of the lid. it should be about 1/4" in diameter or allow the cotton wick to snugly fit.

Grab your cotton rag and cut about a 5 inch by 1/2 inch strip and thread it into the jar so about 1/2 to 1 inch hangs out from the lid and the rest stays in the jar

Then you can fill it with your choice of oil. I used olive oil because it works well and is easily available.

Step 5: Glue Them Together

Mix up some JB weld (I used this because it is heat resistant but you can use other heat resistant glue) and spread it around the lid of your glass jar. Pass your wick through the hole you drilled on your metal can and wait 24 for it to fully dry (if your impatient like me find some other instructable to do in the mean time : )

Step 6: Finishing

When the glue dries the wick should be soaked with with oil and ready to test.

Because the can has a plastic coating inside, when you first light it you will have to do this outside.

With a lighter light the wick and let it burn for about 10 to 15 minutes so the coating in the can can burn off, then it is ready for use.

This lantern should last you some good hours of burning time and to refill simply unscrew the fuel jar , refill, the screw back in.

Tip: after using the lantern don't touch the wick or it will crumble. If it does crumble just pull up some more wick.

The light is bright enough to easily read by and to light your way through a dark house.

Try out some different designs and have fun : )

P.S. Don't burn yourself  : /



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    13 Discussions

    The Guardian 2

    4 years ago

    this is a great idea. but how in the world do you get olive oil to catch fire? I've tried and I can't get it to work... Suggestions???


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That just means the wick is sticking out too much. You either have to pull out less wick, or wait for the excess to burn away.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea, by the way i think thats a steal can. The only thin made out of aluminum now is soda cans. just thought i'd let you know

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    A)Its steel B) Those cans are actually made out a tin and steel mixture if I remember right.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Unique idea with epoxying the jar and can together. I usually just place the jar inside the can. Punching or drilling holes in a design around the can is another way to allow light out and can cast some neat effects on the surroundings

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not so sure about putting the jar inside the can. The heat build up might cause the oil and air inside to expand and put pressure on the lid resulting in a hotter, higher flame. You would use up the oil more quickly and I think it would be less safe. Besides, the constant heating and cooling of the vegetable oil may make it goopy, rendering the jar, the wick and the lid unusable. Again, not sure, but that's what I think would happen.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This kind of lamp could burn for a long time. Great choice of materials!

    The only thing I would suggest is a more squat jar. Because vegetable oil, particularly olive oil is heavy, once the oil level goes below a certain point on the wick, it is hard to light because the oil can't get up the wick fast enough.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent. Can't see any reason why this wouldn't work. It recycles common throw-away items into a useful appliance that should last years.

    3 replies