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Caveman Lamp for a Modern Table

Updated on August 9, 2014

Amazing Oil Lamp Made from a Stone

This warmly glowing oil lamp looks as though the flame comes dancing from inside the stone. Beginning with an ordinary rock found along the road, I created a twinkling oil lamp elegant enough for a dinner table, durable enough for outdoor entertaining, and easy enough for you to copy. All you need is a drill with a special bit, a little elbow grease, and a few easily found parts. Make several--these lamps are great one-of-a-kind gifts!

All Content and Photos on this page are the copyright of Shelley H. Stewart

Future Rock Oil Lamps!
Future Rock Oil Lamps!

Choose the Right Rock

Rocks abound around creek beds, in road cuts, in fields, or even in your own yard. Garden supply stores may be willing to sell small quantities of flagstones or river rocks as well.

Look for a rock that is about 2 inches thick with a fairly flat bottom. It may be rough on top —in fact, texture is interesting— but the bottom needs to be flat enough and wide enough to attach a receptacle for the lamp oil beneath it. (I have experimented with drilling several holes in one rock and using a couple of receptacles. I have also glued one rock atop another with the holes aligned.)

Sandstone, limestone or other fairly soft rocks are easiest to drill, but avoid rocks with hard seams of quartz or iron ore that will dull your drill bit and wear out your arm. I tried to drill one for 10 minutes before I had to admit that the dark layer of iron ore was too much for me!

Wash the rocks you choose to remove any loose soil, and let them dry overnight. Then spray the entire rock, including the bottom, with a very light coat of matte acrylic to enhance the color of the rock. Let the spray dry.

Drilling through the rock
Drilling through the rock

Drill the Rock

Insert a carbide drill bit (made to drill masonry) into your power drill; I used one that was inch wide and 6 inches long to be sure that it would go all the way through my rocks. Place the rock on a piece of scrap lumber before drilling.

Holding the drill in a vertical position, press the bit down firmly in the middle of the rock and begin drilling.

You will immediately see dust (particles of rock) coming from the hole. The friction of the drill against the rock creates a lot of heat. Don’t touch the drill bit when you withdraw it or you’ll burn your fingers! I keep a pitcher of water handy and occasionally pause to shake out the dust and pour some into the hole as I drill, cooling things off a little.

Keep drilling until the drill bit emerges on the other side of the rock. This usually takes only two or three minutes depending on how hard the rock is.

Acrylic Spray Brings Out the Color - It also keeps rocks from absorbing oil

Attach the receptacle with silicone caulk
Attach the receptacle with silicone caulk

Attach the Receptacle

I selected a thick-walled glass container made to hold a votive candle as my receptacle because it looks elegant yet is large enough to hold a good bit of oil. It also has a flat rim that provides a broad surface to adhere to the rock. I have found these candle holders on Amazon and occasionally at discount stores such as the Dollar Tree. You can use any small metal or sturdy glass container you wish, but those with thick rims work best.

Here's a VERY important tip: Wash the container in soap and water. Then rub the rim with white vinegar to get rid of every speck of oil. This ensures that the silicone caulk will stick to it. For good results, don't skip this step.

Place the receptacle on the underside of the rock, making sure it covers the hole, and draw around it with a pencil. Run a line of clear silicone caulk just inside the penciled line, making sure that there are no gaps. Run another line of silicone caulk around the rim of the candleholder. Gently press the rim down onto the rock, joining the circles of caulk so there are no spaces through which oil can later escape. Wipe away excess caulk with a paper towel. Leave the rock upside down and undisturbed until the caulk cures, which can take a day or two.

Add the lamp oil carefully
Add the lamp oil carefully

Add the Wick and Oil

Cut a short length of 1/8-inch-wide fiberglass wick (I used a piece about 5 or 6 inches long). Insert one end through the top of the glass wick holder and then through the rock, curling it into the receptacle. Your oil lamp is now complete!

Before using it, you must fill the receptacle with lamp oil, of course. I like to transfer a small amount of oil to a small squeeze bottle with a pointed nozzle tip. To fill or refill the lamp, I lift both the wick and the glass wick holder just enough to insert the tip of the squeeze bottle into the hole in the rock. I squirt in the oil, and if a few drops spill, I simply wipe it off. Before using the lamp the first time, let the wick soak in the oil for about an hour.

Fiberglass wicks last a long time. Keep the wick trimmed almost even with the top of the wick holder because if it is too long, the flame will burn too high and the lamp will smoke. Using the small candle holder shown in my photos as the receptacle, my lamp burns for several hours without needing to be refilled.

Supplies for Rock Oil Lamp

Use these, or else close substitutes

Flat rock approximately 2" thick

Electric Drill

” Carbide-tip drill bit from 6 to 9" long

Crystal clear matte acrylic spray

Silicone Caulk (clear)

Receptacle for oil (I used a heavy glass votive candleholder with a wide rim)

White vinegar (to clean the glass)

2”-long Glass wick holder

1/8”-wide fiberglass wick (5” long)

Small plastic bottle with nozzle tip

Clear lamp oil

Using your lamp outside?

Drive off mosquitoes by filling your lamp with oil that contains citronella. This is for outdoor use only; don’t use this type of oil inside. And after using it, keep your lamp where rain won't get into it.

Oil and water don't mix!

I'd LOVE to hear from you - And, if you want to show off your own lamp, this is the place to do it!

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    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 2 months ago

      Just revisited this article. Still one of the best craft ideas I have ever seen.

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 3 years ago

      This would look really nice on my patio. Thank you for the great idea!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow, this is an amazing craft. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 3 years ago from United States

      What a totally awesome idea! This caveman lamp would be the perfect lamp idea for an outdoor party or back porch, I love it!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Can't wait to make one of these rock oil lamps. Excellent project presentation. Welcome to Squidoo! Looking forward to seeing your next DIY tutorial.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      I love your Caveman Lamp made from rock and appreciate the terrific tips in your tutorial! I will not only try making a rock lamp of my own but you've also given me an idea for something else. Thanks! (Just what I need-another project ToDo!)

    • profile image

      cticheli 3 years ago

      I love the one you made for me!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 3 years ago

      This looks like a craft that I could actually make! A rock oil lamp would definitely make an impressive gift.