Improvised Oil Lamp – Emergency Light & Heat With What You Have At Home
So here is the situation, the power is out and you either don’t have candles, used them all up or can’t find the flashlights. Being at home with no lights on at night is no fun and can hinder your ability to perform essential tasks. With no source of light you can’t read, write, prepare food, tend to wounds and are likely to bump into the furniture. In the field, imagine if your headlamp or flashlight malfunctioned and you have no source or light. No worries, you can make a simple lantern out of what you have around the house and what you could find in the field. Let’s have a look at the improvised oil lamp.
The homemade oil lamp has gone by many names. The fat lamp, grease lamp, stone lamp or the Betty lamp. Basically, it is a container with fat or oil in it with a wick sticking out. The wick absorbs the oil or fat and you light the end. The flame draws fuel from the container via the wick and presto, you have a lamp. There have been many versions of this type of lamp through out history and we will look at a design that you can make at home with what you have in the kitchen. Let’s start with a short supply list.
- small bowl.
- paper towel
- some olive oil or any cooking oil.
- paper clip.
- match or lighter.
Now to the assembly. Take the paper towel and tear a one inch strip. Take the strip and twist it tightly along its length. Fold the length in half and twist it together. You now have a wick. Next, take the paper clip and fashion it into a type of holder for the wick. This will keep the wick tip out of the oil but allow the bottom portion of the wick to absorb the oil. Twist the paperclip around the wick securely and make hooks on each end of the paper clip. Hook the bends over the lip of the bowl allowing the bottom of the wick to fall into the bowl. Add some olive oil into the bowl. The bottom of the wick should start to absorb the oil and the oil will eventually make its way to the tip of the wick. Carefully light the wick. Instant lantern. Have a look at the finished product as it will give you a better idea of what was made.
In the field you could use rendered fat from an animal for the fuel. The wick could be made from a strip of natural material like the bottom of a cotton shirt or a paper towel you have in your pack. Use only natural fibers for your wick. If you try to use 550 cord, your going to end up with a melted mess. Even a shoelace piece will work if it is cotton. A shell or a bowled stone could work as the container. As for the paperclip, you could just lie the wick on the edge of the container, no paper clip required. For fun I made a lantern out of an orange peal and a piece of cotton. No paper clip. I just rested the wick on the edge of the peal. No worries. I used olive oil but you could just as easily use rendered animal fat. The imagination is the only limit for this concept.
For my make shift lantern I am using three table spoons of olive oil. I did a burn duration test and the three table spoons lasted well over 90 minutes and this was outside. Not to bad considering the crude nature of the design. If your left in the dark with no lights, this would be a great way to get a little light in your life. It isn’t a stretch to think that a typical kitchen has cooking oil, a paper clip, paper towel and a bowl so making a lamp like this should be a none problem. In the field you would have to get creative and take the concept in step with what you have around you. As with all things fire related, BE SAFE. I don’t think running one or two of these indoors would be a problem but running more than that could lead to some smoke issues. After all, it is burning material and burning material puts off smoke. BE CAREFUL INDOORS. In the field, make sure you don’t set the forest on fire and be careful running one of these designs in a tent. As with all things fire make sure you always attend to it. Never leave a fire burning without keeping an eye on it. The good news is that if you spill one of these fat lamps it will most likely put itself out versus bursting into flame like a kerosene lantern. Not bursting into flame is always a bonus.
Bring light to the night.~ Adam, Modern Bushman >