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How to Make an Olive Oil Lamp

Updated on July 28, 2010

Some day in the (hopefully near) future, I would like to move out into the middle of nowhere with my dog and live off-grid. I realize this is easier said than done, don't worry. When it comes to electricity alternatives, solar energy can be a real PITA to harness and to be very frank most oil lamps scare the wee out of me because of the potential for starting a fire -- cos, hey, the last thing you want when you're living in the middle of nowhere is a 5 alarm fire eating your house up. The good news is, not all oils are dangerous in that regard, and an olive oil lamp could serve your needs if you want cheap, safe and green lighting. Of course you don't have to be living off grid or in the boonies to make use of these fabulous and safe oil lamps. You can make your own very cheaply and quickly and use them to create fantastic atmosphere in your urban home. That, and you can keep on handy in case the end of the world comes and you run out of birthday candles.

Here's what you need:

  • a wide mouth glass jar, like the mason / Ball sort your grandma used to keep peaches in OR a proper oil lamp -- there are loads of cool and hip oil lamps available online, many of them very earth friendly

  • a wick made of pure cotton or twine

  • olive oil (obviously!)

  • a bendable, thin piece of steel wire that stands about twice the height as the jar itself

Here's how you make it:

1. Shape one end of your long bit of wire into a hook shape. This end will drape over the edge of the jar's mouth. It will help anchor the wire inside the jar and will also make it easier to remove when you want to take it out of the jar.

2. The other end of the wire gets made into a coil that will sit on the bottom of the jar (and sit about 2 inches high) and have a wick placed into it. It does not have to be fancy.

3. Set your wick up by wrapping the wire around it and angling it so a portion of the wick is raised about 1/4 an inch above the wire itself. The rest of the wick will lay in the oil. Do not let the wick poke upward by more than 1/4 an inch or it could lead to smoking.

4. Add oil. You should fill the jar to the point where the wire is folded round the wick -- do not go higher than this or the lamp could end up extinguishing itself.

5. Light your lamp!

Why Olive Oil Lamps are so Fabulous

  • Personally, I love the atmosphere an oil lamp creates. You can use these for ambience all year round, you know, they don't just have to be for emergencies and tree huggers.

  • Olive oil burns very cleanly and will not smoke your home up as long as you set the wick up properly.

  • If it spills, it will not create a fire hazard because olive oil has a high flashpoint and the lamp will simply knock itself out and stop burning.

  • They burn brightly and a few ounces will last a few hours. This is much more cost effective than candles and you don't have to worry about hot wax cleanup, or finding something to stick the candles in.

  • You can make them sexy and fun by infusing them with herbs

  • You can be really frugal whilst being very green and earthy

  • You will impress Mother Nature

Image: m_bartosch /


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