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.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

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!



  • Indoor Lighting Contest

    Indoor Lighting Contest
  • Metal Contest

    Metal Contest
  • Make It Fly Challenge

    Make It Fly Challenge

143 Discussions


2 years ago

Any oil would do. I'm from the Philippines, and there we used coconut oil; lard oil (from fats of the slaughtered pigs), and in the low countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) fats from whales. It doesn't have to be only olive oil.


3 years ago

would sunflower oil work?


Reply 3 years ago

EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) is not as refined and will burn with more smoke. The EVOO is good for you according to food and health pundits, but the smoke will be more irritating than refined olive oil.

This would be a good item to use the very cheap and stripped type of olive oil "for cooking." Using EVOO would be a waste, unless you were already pressing your own olives from your own trees. Have fun!


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

try used oil from a local place i reccomend italian food the oil stays clean and iv also heard japanese food dosent mess up the oil too bad just ask and you will have som free fuel


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Extra virgin olive oil should burfine - but it seems like a bit of a waste. You can get lamp oil, or pomace oil - they're cheaper, and that way you're not wasting something precious.


4 years ago on Introduction


The metal lid that came with the bottle, that will actually keep the flame ABOVE the lid?

It won't follow the wick down into the oil & start a fire?

I ask because I have 3 bottles with metal lids, one has a plastic insert inside the lid, and all 3 I would like to make oil lamps from/out of/etc...


12 years ago

Does the olive oil have a distinctive smell when it's burning? I think the smell should be as attractive as the lamp!

5 replies

Reply 12 years ago

The olive oil produces no smell or smoke while burning (although if burned for a very long time, it does produce a very small amount of fine soot). When you blow out the flame, it may produce a small amount of a strange smell - not necessarily unpleasant, but not great either. You may be able to change that by doing something like what Shark500 said, cooking something in it first.


Reply 5 years ago

greetings to Americans
the secret is to completely fill the glass of oil or part water and part olive oil (as much olive oil that you want to use and complete the rest water). But before for 15 minutes to soak the wick in oil. cooking oil did not work.


Reply 12 years ago

i want one that smells like french fries!


Reply 12 years ago

I've been using olive oil for my candle/flame needs for a few months and the nice thing about olive oil is -- no smoke - no smell ;) As far as used olive oil -- I don't know if it would have a scent or not. I think it probably would, but that's not the olive oil causing it :P


Reply 12 years ago

olive oil tends to absorb flavors very well. maybe cook some garlic in it for a little aroma therapy ; ) .


5 years ago on Step 6

No, it just makes it look nice in my opinion.


7 years ago on Introduction

I have a Q.

OK, I made an oil lamp & used extra virgin olive oil straight out of the bottle(because that is what I had), I pulled the wick upto 1/4 inch, let the lamp sit over night, lit the lamp & it went out on its own...I pulled the wick upto 1/2 inch & the same thing happened. Both times its acting like it's not getting oil(sputtered before it went out).

What did I do wrong?

The jar I used, is about 2 - 3 oz. & the jar is 3/4 full of oil. The wick is longer than the jar is tall plus I tied a weight at the very end of the wick to make sure that it would sink into the oil, so I have about 3/4 of the wick down INTO the oil.

The thing the wick goes through, I bought on Amazon & it's (supposedly) made for oil lamps...I have tried to think of everything that I may have missed, but I'm drawing a blank. Did I mention that the wick is cotton?


1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Just a thought - but if your tolorences were very tight between your lid and wick in an attempt to hold the wick in place and prevent it from falling into the lamp, then you may be creating a vacuum in your oil reservoir as the oil burns off, preventing the capillary action of the wick to take place. Once the flame burns out, the dry wick breaths enough to equalize the pressure in the reservoir, then the wick takes the oil and re-lights with no problem; until the vacuum is recreated. I would leave the top of the jar unscrewed and try to burn the lamp - if that fixes it, then find a way to vent the jar and you'll be good to go!


11 years ago on Introduction

It's a fun project, but you really need to add one more step. The wicking needs to be soaked in salt and dried. Most people doing this project will run into the problem that their wick burns out in 10 - 20 minutes. To match and even out perform commercial wicking, just add salt. Salt prevents the cotton from charring too early so you can burn your lamp for an hour or two without any adjustments.

To salt the wicking:
1. Cut your wicking from cotton cloth.
2. Put your wicking in a bowl with a little water.
3. Pour table salt over the wicking.
4. Squeeze the wicking dry and then dry further on a tray. You can bake it dry in an oven at 200F for 20 minutes or just let it dry overnight. It will be crusty with salt but that's good and the wicking will still be reasonably flexible.

This is what I do making my lamps and candles...

2 replies

Then AFTER you salt the wick, do you just use it however you normally would? or is there something else you do before using the wick??

I ask, because I have never ever heard of salting a wick...


After you salt the wick you let it dry out, then use it like any other wicking.

You may not have heard of salting wicks before, but companies seem to do this. I noticed that after some candles get wet, the wicks don't work as well even after the wick had dried have dried. This lead me to looking up wick additives and I found a reference in an old book about salt being used as an additive. I tried that and it helps.