Common plants such as sunflower, peanut, soy, flax and pumpkin are easily pressed from seed to produce homemade lamp oil. Pumpkin seeds, for example, contain about 45 per cent oil. Common plant seeds are plentiful, and many are easy to gather wild or grow in your garden. Pressing oil from common plants involves surprisingly low technology. A screw press is all you need to manually produce lamp oil from seeds. As of 2010, the price for a manual oil press or expeller was about £97.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- 1 pound plant seeds
- Manual oil press
- Small oil lamp, with oil
- Plastic funnel
- Clean glass jar with lid
Wash 1 pound of seeds with water to remove all dirt, sand and stones. You can gather seeds from plants you grow or buy them in bulk from a natural foods store. Drain in a strainer, and sun dry. Artificial drying methods may dehydrate seeds, so they won't produce oil.
Mount the manual oil press on the table. Some have an adjustable screw that tightens, while others are screwed securely into a board that you can then clamp to a table or kitchen counter. Follow all instructions specific to your manual oil press manufacturer.
Fill a small oil lamp with 5 grams of oil. Mount the lamp under the oil extractor's press cage. Light the lamp with matches. Heat the press cage for 10 minutes.
Pour seeds into the seed inlet. Turn the hand crank to feed and press seeds into the press cage. Let the oil lamp burn the entire time you are expelling. Heating the press cage improves extraction by liquefying the oil. The lamp will use around 5 grams of oil per hour.
Place the funnel under the press cage to drip oil into the glass jar. Crank your manual oil press to express oil. Depending on the type of seeds used, you can collect about a quart of oil in a half hour. Transfer finished oil to a larger container if you wish.
Set finished oil aside to settle at room temperature. Seal with the jar's lid when the oil is cool. Clean out any plant residue from the press cage. This leftover residue is also called press cake.
Tips and warnings
- A plastic soft drink bottle with the bottom cut off makes an inexpensive recycled funnel.
- Press cake is an excellent concentrated protein for farm feed, organic fertiliser or fuel.
- Do not burn plant oil in kerosene lamps. Kerosene lamps must be converted before using any other fuel other than kerosene.
- Dirt, sand and stones that are left in seeds can destroy your oil press.
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