How to Adjust the Wick Height on an Oil Lamp

Written by keith dooley
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How to Adjust the Wick Height on an Oil Lamp
Properly adjust the wick of an oil lamp before use. (Angel Herrero de Frutos/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Oil lamps have long been used as a source of easily transported light. Commonplace in many homes before the introduction of the electric light bulb, oil lamps were a safer alternative to open candles. Oil lamps today typically use a petroleum-based oil for fuel that is poured into a reservoir. A cotton or similar type of wicking material absorbs the oil and produces a flame when lighted.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Scissors
  • Oil lamp with fuel and wick
  • Match or lighter

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  1. 1

    Pull or adjust the wick up above the wick holder so it is accessible. Adjust the height of the wick upward using the mechanism that is featured on the type of lamp being used. Many oil lamps have a knob on the side that the user turns to advance the wick. On other styles of lamp, you may need to insert the wick by hand.

  2. 2

    Trim the wick with a pair of sharp scissors so that it is horizontally even. Hold the scissors as level as possible when making the cut and attempt to remove any strings or wick fibres extending up from the cut edge of the wick.

  3. 3

    Turn or push the wick down, depending once again on the type of lamp, so that the wick is just below the lip of the wick holder.

  4. 4

    Light the wick with a match or lighter and allow it to burn for several minutes. Observe the flame and smoke from the burning wick. Extinguish the burning flame if there is excessive smoke or if the flame is not roughly the size of a candle flame.

  5. 5

    Allow the wick to thoroughly cool, trim the wick again if necessary or adjust the wick height. Light the wick with a match or lighter.

Tips and warnings

  • The oil lamp will be operating optimally when a candle-size flame is burning with only a small amount of smoke. Experiment with the length of wick used until you find what works best in your particular size and type of lamp.

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