Simple Vegetable Oil Lamp

WARNING: The lamp prototypes suggested below may not be safe for general use: especially not around children, left unattended, or close to anything flamable.

Oil Lamps

I got a beautiful Oil lamp that I use much.

Oil Lamp

This lamp uses Lamp Oil (kerosene, paraffin oil). When I bought that I was a little chocked with two thing:

  1. The price (compared to vegetable oil)
  2. How seriously poisonous it is (to the point I dont like to handle it, and I wonder if I want it at home at all)

However this “real” Oil lamp does not run well on vegetable oil (I have tried canola oil). It runs for a while but I think the problem is that the viscosity is too high so the oil does not flow properly upwards through the wick as required.

Vegetable Oil

I can buy canola oil for 25% of the price of lamp oil. And it is obviously not dangerous (since it is for cooking). However it is thicker and has a higher flash point. It is also supposed to not burn cleanly (leaving smoke and smell). So I was curious if I could design a simple practical and not too ugly oil lamp for simple (unused) cooking oil.

Skipping the failed designs here are the ones that kind of work.

A can lamp

What you see in the picture are five components:

  1. a metal can
  2. canola oil
  3. a few candlewicks
  4. a metal washer (the flat metal ring with a small hole in it)
  5. a metal “bridge”

placed inside a fireplace. This burns well: no smoke, no smell, burns for hours. I have read that vegetable oil consumes the wick faster than lamp oil. Perhaps that is true, but nevertheless the wick lasts much longer than it would have in a normal candle.

A little bottle lamp

How about moving the metal washer with the wick to a small bottle?

This is a very simple design and as you can see in the (somewhat unsharp) picture it burns nicely. But it only burns nicely for about 60min, and then it burns barely for another 60 minutes and then it dies.

Only the canola oil in the bottleneck is consumed. After that it appears the height difference between the oil level and the washer/fire prevents the oil from ascending the wick (fast enough).

A used candle jar

I tried filling an old candle jar with about 1cm of canola oil, and used a wick and a metal thing for this result.

This burns nicely! The sides of the candle jar does not get very hot, and the bottom of and the oil remains quite cool. The metal thing from a hardware store is obviously designed for another use.

The good thing with this design is that it is simple (jar+metal thing+wick) and that not so much oil goes into the lamp. You can easily reuse pretty candle jars that are already designed for the purpose.

Spirit Burner

I would not guess that most spirit burners (or oil lamps) work well. But SPIRI-1 from Böhm Stirling-Technik works perfectly with canola oil. The good thing is that it is (roughly) the size of a tealight so you could replace your disposable tealights. The bad thing is that it is quite expensive.

Conclusions

First I think vegetable (canola) oil is underestimated for decorative light at home. However I can see that tealights can be sold and managed in a safe way and are easier to use.

It often requires two matches to light the canola, because the flash point is very high. However I think the high flashpoint is also good for safety.

Cheap candles and tealights are made of petroleum and they don’t necessarily burn cleanly without leaving unhealthy particles in the air. I can not guarantee that the canola oil also does not leave any particles in the air, but the oil itself is not toxic at all.

Leave a Comment


NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.