Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Oil Lamps For Light

You might not think that there's much to know regarding Tips and Tricks for Using Oil Lamps, but since I've practiced using all of my supplies that I intend to rely on someday, I've discovered that there are some idiosyncrasies when it comes to using and maintaining my oil lamps. I've got all sorts of brands and kinds of oil lamps and I've used all kinds of different oils for my lamps too.
The Oil Lamp--Primary Light Source
A good source in a "lights out" scenario will be oil lamps. They put out much more light than a mere candle and they tend to be more stable and safe. But in order to truly be "prepared" there’s a lot of simple information that one should know in using them. This is the best way to use lamps to get the most light for the longest period of time as well as some great do-it-yourself methods for creating your own lamp oil and your own wicks.
First, let’s start out with the most basic information. When you fill up your oil lamp, be sure to leave at least a ½ inch of headspace. Lamp oil swells in the summer time and if you don’t leave enough space you’ll end up with flooding problems which is wasteful and dangerous.

Alternative Lamp Oil
We don’t cook with canola, soy, or corn oil any longer thanks to the nasty GMOs present and the fact that they are hydrogenated oils, very bad for you. But these oils can be used in oil lamps. Even my favorite oils will go rancid sometimes. No problem. They can be used in my oil lamps, though using these alternative oils will put off an odor and don’t burn as clean as kerosene. As long as you don’t mind that, then you don’t have to worry about wasting any of your oil.

Lamp Oil
How much oil do you need? As a general rule, oil lamps will burn about ½ an ounce of lamp oil per hour. For some reason they will burn a little bit more in cold weather. This means that a half gallon of lamp oil will last about 140-150 hours. I find that the alternative oils (i.e. canola, rancid olive oil, etc.) will give you as much as a 10% lower output than traditional lamp oils. But the good news is that you can add as much as 5 to 10 drops of essential oils each time you fill the lamp and that will thwart much of that off-putting odor you get. For optimal burning you’ll want to keep the lamp at least half full all the time--not to mention the fact that if you keep your lamps filled halfway all the time, you're not likely to run out unexpectedly. One thing you need to be aware of is that lamp oils can actually freeze when you get in the 20 degree or colder range. Also, it’s best to make sure your oil is at room temperature before filling the lamp. Oil lamps burn about ½ oz. of lamp oil per hour.
Don’t use gasoline or alcohol in oil lamps. They are too volatile and burn dirty.
When it comes to purchasing lamp oil, the "ultra pure" lamp oil just isn’t worth the money. It freezes sooner than regular lamp oil does and it doesn’t burn cleaner. You’ll also want to know that the so-called "odorless" lamp oils aren’t really odorless. When using an oil lamp regularly you’ll get used to it quickly.

Purchasing wicks is very affordable. One wick will last you a long time with proper care. Burning through a half gallon of lamp oil will only burn down ¼ to ½ inch of an 8 inch long wick. This means that an 8- inch wick will last through about 15 gallons of lamp oil. The key to proper wick maintenance is to be sure the wicks are always properly soaked in the lamp oil. Never burn them dry. You’ll also want to trip the char off of the wick after each use. There are 4 different schools of thought when it comes to the shape of wicks. Some folks go for the "crown" shape which is like a slightly rounded point, some trim them just flat across, some trim them nicely pointed, and some don’t trim them at all. You’ll get the brightest light if you trim your wick nicely pointed. You’ll burn your oil just a bit faster that way. Using a pointed tip can get 140+ hours out of half gallon of lamp oil.

Make Your Own Wicks
Good oil lamp wicks are really easy to make. Be sure that you only use 100% cotton though. I’ve heard of some folks thinking that they were going to use nylon or "paracord" as their oil lamp wicks. You want just plain cotton. You can make 8-12 inch wicks that will last just as long as the commercially made ones. Take squares of cotton fabric 12 inches long by 6 to 8 inches wide. Beginning at one end of the fabric, fold the wide portion over and over again in a ¾ inch width each time. When finished folding put it in a sewing machine and sew down the length of the fabric once or twice to create a flat wick. These can be sewn by hand if necessary. It’s important that wicks are at least 8 inches long as 3 of your inches are going to be used for the lead space into the oil at the bottom and in the adjustment portion at the top.

Trimming the Wick
Trim the char off of the wicks after each use. As long as you let the wicks burn moderately and never let your wicks get dry, you’ll not have to worry about running out of them. As long as your wick is wet with oil, the oil is actually what’s burning, not the wick.
Be aware just how hot chimneys can be. Even after the flame’s been snuffed out, the chimney remains hot for as much as an hour. This is one of the reasons why oil lamps that don’t have a handle are more difficult to use. The oil base shouldn’t get too hot, but it does get warm when used for a long time, so don’t carry the lamp by the chimney or the base. It’s best to let the chimney warm up for about 10 minutes before increasing the light output. It makes a difference.
You don’t want a big flame. The ideal ratio of air to fuel when using your oil lamp is 94% air and 6% fuel.
Soot will build up on the chimney over time. Keeping your flame small will prevent this from happening. Make sure that the chimney gets cleaned of soot to keep from causing a fire. Soot build-up will also lessen your light and strangle the oxygen that is needed for a good, even burn on your wick. Besides giving you the brightest light.
Never use a lamp without a chimney. Doing so will cause the top of the lamp to overheat and can pressurize the lamp base and create an oil fire. If you see smoke while your wick is lit then you’ve got it too high. When it comes time to extinguishing the flame, just cup a hand above the chimney and blow.
The containers lamp oil is sold in is not good for long term storage. Store the oil in a thicker container. I have a lot of gas containers so I put some oil in those and marked it well.
Don’t take for granted the importance of light. Trying to cook or do anything without enough light is frustrating. Make sure you have enough lamps for your comfort.
I’ve made lamps by filling a canning jar with oil and putting a slit in the canning lid. It’s crude and there is no chimney but it works.
(It's also a great little Molotov cocktail. That is for informational purposes only...)

Being prepared is actually using your gear so you know how it works, if it works, or if you need an alternative.

Semper Paratus
Check 6