How to Make an Emergency Oil Lamp
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How to Make an Emergency Oil Lamp

An oil lamp is a very simple and easy to make so you can have light in an emergency situation. Learn how to make one before you need one, with what you already have on hand: oil, a can or jar and a wick (yes, you probably have a wick on hand).

Oil burns; grease burns; fat burns. All you have to do is saturate something that will wick up the oil, grease or fat and hold it while it burns and you have an oil lamp.

Simple concept, right?

It is.

The gracefully shaped Aladdin's lamp that we're familiar with is a type of oil lamp. It's fashioned from either brass or a similar metal with a spout through which a wick is threaded. The lower end of the wick is coiled into a bowl of oil. This is an example of many styles of oil lamps that have been fashioned throughout time. 

An oil lamp is not a kerosene lamp, neither is it a Coleman lamp or any complicated piece of machined equipment that you have to have. Aladdin lamps and others were made by artisans, but you can make an emergency oil lamp from a jar, a piece of wire and a strip of cotton cloth or yarn, or you can use a cat food or tuna can with a lid and a strip of cotton cloth or yarn.

The wire or the lid are to hold the wick (the strip of cotton cloth or yarn) up out of the oil. The wick should be long enough to coil a time or two in the bottom of the container while rising an inch or so above the top of it.oil lamp

Very simply, you twist the wire into a shape to hold the wick up out of the oil because otherwise, the flame would die. If you're using a lid, pierce a hole in it large enough to pull the wick through with little effort - you don't want it to be too tight or too loose. Too tight and it won't wick the oil; too loose and it will fall back through.

Once you have the wick in place. put enough oil in the container to come about half way up the wick. Let your lamp set for an hour or so until the oil has wicked its way to the very top. If you try to light it too soon, the wick will burn instead of oil and it will burn away in a short time.

As a quick emergency lamp, it can't be beat. If you don't have a can or a jar, use whatever you have. A bowl, a rock with a depression or a piece of sturdy plastic in the right shape can be used. Cotton yarn, braided cotton thread, a strip of cotton cloth, or a tightly twisted strip of paper can even be used, as long as it's saturated with oil. If you need a lamp faster than the hour it takes to soak the wick, work the oil into it with your fingers. Let it soak for a few minutes to make sure the oil has penetrated fully, then place and light it.

Depending on what fuel you use, you may notice smoke or an odor. Greasy, heavy oils will produce more smoke, while light oils like olive, will not. Odors are typical of the oil that you burn, so choose accordingly.

This lamp is safer than kerosene lamps because the flame won't burn on fumes or on the surface of the oil. If it's knocked over, the flame goes out.

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Comments (9)

Thank you dear sister Pat.Simple and useful info on making an emergency lamp. I was waiting for your article. Voted.

Thank you Pat for the wonderful tip. I live up in the Pacific Northwest where the winds knock out power frequently in the winter time.

Voted up

Oh, yes, the "hobos' stove"! A sardine can with a showstring in it works pretty well too for a short time if it still has oil in it.

Yes, like my friend James R. Coffey, I have seen this one before. Good info for the neophyte survivalist.

Thanks, Paulose and Chris! James, it can burn for quite some time if it's made to, and Jerry, there are always things that one person knows and another one doesn't. Sharing that knowledge is what it's all about.

Just what I needed down here in hurricane alley. Good information Pat.

Thanks, Beverly. :)

Thanks Pat, this is a wonderful idea especially where the power often goes in very cold or rainy weather...voted