Oil lamps have been used for thousands of years, in one form or another, to give light and warmth. Early oil lamps were made from clay, and later from metal and even glass. The shapes of old-fashioned oil lamps vary greatly, from a simple bowl with a lip for the wick, to Aladdin-style lamps and upright metal lamps with glass covers.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Modelling clay
- Cotton batting
- Oven tray
- Olive oil
Shape the body of the lamp with the modelling clay. An oblong bowl, with a height and circumference of around 3 inches is plenty for an oil lamp.
Squeeze one rim of the bowl between the thumb and forefinger to create a spout where the wick of the lamp will come out---the lamp should look much the same as a small cream jug.
Roll a sausage of clay around 3/4 inch thick for the handles. This can either be attached on either side of the bowl, or a single handle opposite the spout. Attach the sausage pieces of clay in the shape of a C to the side of the lamp.
Bake the lamp on the oven tray in a 300-degree F oven for around 20 minutes.
Pull a section of the cotton batting and begin twirling it between the fingers to create a fibre that is around 1/8 inch thick. Draw more batting into the thread as you go, creating a length of cotton fibre around 8 inches long. Make two additional threads the same way, then braid the three threads tightly together---this will be the wick.
Put 1/2 inch water into the bottom of the bowl and place the braided wick inside. Cover the wick with salt and let sit for two hours. According to Mother Earth News, salting a wick will make the lamp burn brighter and the wick last longer. Squeeze out the wick and let it dry.
Fill the baked and cooled lamp with olive oil, below the line of the spout. Rest the end of the dry wick on the spout, with the rest of the length of wick in the oil. The wick will suck the oil into itself in a matter of moments.
Tips and warnings
- Olive oil is particularly good for oil lamps because it has a very low flash point, so dangers from the lamp tipping over are reduced.
- The lamp can be made into any shape, as long as there is a receptacle for the oil, and a place for the wick to sit, the lamp will function.
- Check that the clay is waterproof before purchasing.
- Always keep oil lamps out of reach of children.
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