DIY Olive Oil Lamp Instructions – Make Your Own Vegetable Oil Lamp

I made this diy olive oil lamp years ago. I was curious. You might simply call it a vegetable oil lamp.

The diy project was fairly easy, and best of all it actually worked!

Olive Oil – Vegetable Oil for a DIY Lamp

All oil will burn at their own unique flash point temperatures.

One reason that olive oil is a good choice for cooking is because it has a high smoke point (~400 degrees-F), a high flash point (600 degrees-F), and a high auto-ignition temperature (815 degrees-F).

The concept of burning vegetable oil (e.g. olive oil) inside the home rather than petroleum based kerosene seems more appealing, less toxic, and safer.

The Romans and other ancients regularly burned olive oil in their lamps, so, the concept is sound.

Pure olive oil will not produce smoke as it burns, while other types of vegetable oils may produce some residual smoke while burning.

How Much Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil Does The Lamp Use?

My DIY olive oil lamp consumed 2 ounces (1/8 cup) in 5 hours.

It will depend on wick size (flame size and corresponding oil consumption).

Olive Oil Lamp – Safer than Petroleum Fuels

Olive oil is not nearly as readily flammable as petroleum fuels (for example, it will take longer to light the wick). If the olive oil lamp is spilled, the oil will not ignite like a petroleum fueled lamp certainly will…

The flash point of a material is a good indicator of how likely it is to catch on fire if there is an ignition source nearby. At the flash point, the material will have just enough vapor available to support a flame. The lower the flash point, the more of a fire danger the material is.

Flash point of Kerosene: 100°F
Flash point of Olive Oil: 600°F

Auto-ignition temperature of Kerosene: 428°F
Auto-ignition temperature of Olive Oil: 815°F

 
CAUTION: As with any open flame, use care and caution. Respect the flame!
The author assumes no responsibility of any resultant fire.
Common sense required.

You’re going to need some vegetable oil lamp wicks:

>> Wicks for your project
(view on amzn)

DIY Olive Oil Lamp Instructions

You will need an ordinary metal coat hanger, a wick, a canning jar (these are heat treated and can withstand the hot temperature), and needle-nose pliers. I used a wide mouth canning jar (easier access).

The wick shown in this photo is a typical kerosene lamp wick. Using a scissors, I cut the wick in half (length wise) so it wouldn’t be as fat as what is shown in the photo.

TIP: A coat hanger is somewhat difficult to work and bend into a coil, while an easier approach is to use #12 gauge bare copper ‘ground’ wire, available at most hardware and ‘big box’ stores. It’s softer and easier to work with.

bend-hanger-until-it-breaks

Grip the pliers firmly to the metal wire of the coat hanger and twist back and forth until the wire snaps.

how-to-make-olive-oil-lamp-wick-holder

Using the needle-nose pliers, grip the end of the wire and then wrap the wire around the pliers about five times around. Do this somewhat loosely so as to make it easier to slide the wind off of the pliers afterward.

pry-wire-coil-off-pliers

Use a screwdriver to assist in pushing the wound wire off of the pliers.

olive-oil-lamp-wick-coil

The wound wire will serve to hold the wick.

wick-wire-in-olive-oil-lamp

Form and bend the wire while using your pliers to shape it such that the wound portion of the wick holder from the previous step will sit on the bottom of the jar, in the middle of its diameter as shown in the photo (looking down into the jar). Bend the rest of the wire up the edge of the jar so you can form a handle to support it on the jar’s lip edge. Refer to the final side view image of the olive oil lamp.

bend-wick-holder-up

Bend back the top portion of the wick holder. This will allow the wick to point somewhat upwards when we insert it later.

bend-wire-over-jar

Form a hook to hang over the edge of the jar as shown.

feed-wick-through-holder

Pry apart one of the upper winds so that the wick will slip through as shown.

squeeze-wire-to-hold-wick-securely

Once the wick is through the wire, pinch the wire enough so the wick is ‘just’ secure and won’t fall back through. Not too tight though, or you won’t be able to easily feed the wick later – after it burns some…

trim-the-wick

Trim excess wick. Too much wick and the flame will smoke. Too little wick and the flame will be small.

wick-assembly-in-olive-oil-lamp

Fill the jar with pure olive oil to a level part way up the wick holder. Pour the oil over the top of the wick to speed up the soak.

light-the-olive-oil-wick

After the wick is fully absorbed, light the wick. You will notice that olive oil is not nearly as readily flammable as petroleum fuels and will take longer to light. This very fact assures that if the mixture is spilled, the oil will not ignite.

insert-wick-assembly-into-olive-oil-jar

Insert the flaming wick assembly back into the jar.

olive-oil-jar-lamp

Enjoy the lovely soft flame of your olive oil lamp! Pretty neat, yes?

SAFETY:
As with any open burning flame, use care and caution.

Respect the flame!

The author assumes no responsibility of any resultant fire.
Common sense required.

 
Update:
Alternatively, you may feed the wick all the way through the center of the coil as pictured, with the last spiral pinched tight enough to hold the wick, but not too tightly.

oil-lamp-wick

[ Read: Fire Extinguishers: 3 or More Locations for House Fire Preparedness ]

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46 Comments

  1. A smaller round wick, like a piece of string, burns slower.
    Mine went over nine hours on less than two ounces of oil.
    I LOVE these!

  2. Nice article.

    Let’s say that I want to put more oil in the jar. Would you adjust the wick assembly?

    Be well.

    1. The olive oil lamp that I made (the photos above) holds about 1/4 cup oil before covering the wick. One issue with the thick olive oil is it doesn’t seem to wick up too high. In other words, If the wick is too high above the pool of oil, it may have trouble.

  3. It just occurred to me that you could float the wick assembly with a couple of styrofoam peanuts. The kind they used for packing.

    Be well.

    1. You can float a wick through an ‘ole’ fashion piece of cork.
      I have also seen it done by pushing a wick through a thick piece of bark that floated.

    2. Cut the bottom off of a soda can. This will float on the oil. Punch small hole in the center of this disk to push your wick through.

  4. would an ordinary lamp work? i plan to try with a small lamp i have that usually works with kerosene. fuel is held in the base and a glass top encloses the wick, which can be easily wound up and down on a small dial.

    would this work? it would be more convenient, surely.

      1. I have tried to use 2 different style kerosene lamps that I have here, and neither one of them worked properly with olive oil as fuel.

        I believe that the olive oil is too thick to absorb quickly enough through the height of the wick to burn efficiently. It would burn, however the oil wouldn’t draw up fast enough and after a few minutes the wick tip would begin to ash, being starved for fuel.

        I believe the olive oil lamp (in a jar as described in my post) burns properly because the distance from the wick tip to the pool of oil is short.

    1. You can make a “wick Candle” by simply putting oil in a basin and floating a piece of twine. Take toilet paper, wrap it around your hand till it is thick but not thick enough to fold inside. Tuck the ends inside leaving thick paper around the edge. Light the bottom and place at an angle. The higher the angle the hotter the fire. This should last about 5 minutes. Makes a Medium Hot fire.

  5. Does this have to be done with a wide mouth jar? Can it be done with a regular-mouthed canning jar, or will it go out being starved for oxygen?

    1. The flame may become too close to the glass other than in a wide mouth jar. Even though these canning jars can withstand high heat, I would prefer not to test the limits…

      1. Fill the jar with those pebbles noted above?? Uses less oil and sure to keep the wick burning because it’s closer to the oil.
        Good idea!!

  6. Any oil based liquid will burn, even baby oil. Survival candle? Find a pine with a KNOT of sap built up on it. Cut into the tree around and behind it, take it back to camp. This knot with lite easily, burn a long time and produces a VERY hot fire. Yes it smokes, but remember a little goes a long way with pure pine sap.

  7. Super cool! I never knew Olive Oil burned. Learning new things all the time on this site! Thank You!

  8. I have tried it with a kerosene lantern, and I found that the olive oil did not wick quickly enough through it’s mechanism (the distance between the reservoir and the tip of the wick), and therefore the wick charred too quickly. Not sure if other types of wicks would be better or if this issue was unique to the lantern I tested…

  9. Any vegetable oil should work as well and since olive oil is more expensive I say use the oldest oil you have available.

  10. I have tried vegetable and canola oil and they char and make a lot of soot. Olive oil burns amazingly clean. Probably why it’s healthier for you. You can just add it to a pre made scented candle for longer burn time.

  11. if you float the olive oil on a layer of water, you don’t have to worry as much about heating the glass. old, thick, coke bottles used to work very well, and also diffused the light in interesting ways.

  12. For a longer burn time increase the diameter of the container, not its depth.

    If you use a glass casserole dish or pie plate as your container you can use multiple wicks creating a stove when needed.

  13. Ghee (clarified butter) has an almost unlimited shelf life for use as a survival food. When melted it makes as good a lamp fuel as olive oil. After the SHTF a survivalist is more likely to have access to a cow or goat to make ghee than an olive tree to make olive oil.

  14. BTW used or rancid vegetable oils or animal fats can be used as lamp oil or for cooking, although they don’t burn as cleanly. Recycle that cooking oil.

  15. Recycle wine bottle cork round slices and pull wick through the middle for floating and enjoy your romantically lit dinner with wine of course !

  16. Great post!You inspired me to make a few of these and we’ve been using them. I learned a few things along the way.

    #1 They burn amazingly cool. I can grab the jars with my hands after hours of burning.

    #2 They can fly through the air and land in weeds without setting a fire (attacked by wind. Long story).

    #3 If you make the last loop in the wire, before it goes vertically to the handle, nearly as big as the inside of the jar, the flame wont shift too close to the glass (see pic #7).

    #4 I switched to empty candle jars because they come with a diamond pattern in the glass that softens the bright spot nicely. We use Gold Canyon jars because they come with a bale for hanging and lids, but any jar from a quality candle should do.

    #5 Olive oil is great, but any vegetable oil works for us, but you have to keep the lids on when not in use or they gel and clog the wick.

    #6 I used copper wire and the handle can be tucked in the jar so you can put a lid on. I doubt a coat hanger would let you do that.

    Now, all I have to do is figure out a way to keep the moths out.

  17. “Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning burning burning, give me oil in my lamp I pray. . .!

  18. I made my lamp with one of the small canning jar and not having the handle to lift out the wick to light it, I use a long stem lighter to light my. Its a nice looking jar with some designs on it and can be capped when not in use to keep dust out and hold the oil incase it tips over(if it doesn’t drop off the table and break on the floor). I filled my with canola oil and light it to test it out to see if it works. It work great and it made a beautiful table light for emergency or for table decoration. I also made one using a larger jar in the same matter, it works but not as bright as the first one. I think they looked real nice with almost clear oil to light-up the bottom area as for candles and lanterns with wide bottoms would shade those areas. LPL

  19. My DH & I built the oil lamp today.

    I bought floral wire at the $ Store….6 ft. long in 3 colors. Works great.

    Note: A wire piece 24″ long is sufficient for each lamp.

    Wick: I tried a shoelace. A candle flame burn test showed that shoelaces are nylon….melts with a bead & won’t sustain a flame.

    Cotton wicks might be cheaper in a hardware store than a craft store.

    Hurricane season is coming in 10 days…these lamps will make great family gifts (they can add the oil later).

  20. Hi there all. Very imformative and will come in handy. Thanks so much, will give it a try.

  21. I built one of these in a wide mouth pint jar, when you first showed this several years ago. It worked like a champ. I wouldn’t hesitate to use one of these anytime. I’m glad you showed this again, so the people who weren’t here then, have a chance to see it now. I still have the one I made, and light it occasionally just for fun. Thing works!

    1. I had forgotten about this old article until recently with the discussion about candles (wow- originally 8 years ago!). I enjoy renewing an old post once in awhile – refreshing it with better writing and current information…

  22. – Hadn’t come across this article yet – this is a better design (simpler, easier, less time consuming) than the design in Nuclear War Survival Skills, which I had built before just to try out. Kudos, Ken!

    – Papa S.

    1. – BTW, Nuclear War Survival Skills can be found as a free download. Once you go through it, you will want to buy at least one copy to keep on the bookshelf, just FWIW.
      – Papa

  23. For those of us that do not have the strength to make one, premade ones can be purchased at Lehman’s. Also a mason mug with handle might be convenient.

  24. I’m showing this to the (grown) kids over the holidays. They can certainly do this in their own homes. Thanks Ken!

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