Self-Sufficiency Series

Friday, February 17, 2012

Maintaining oil lamps

This evening I decided it was time to clean and re-fill all our oil lamps. They were dusty and dirty and many of them were almost empty.


I removed all the globes...


...and washed them in soapy water.


After this I carefully washed the lamps themselves, being careful to only get the bases wet, not the fixtures.


Letting everything drip-dry.


We don't use that silly scented lamp oil that costs an arm and a leg. Instead we use kerosene. I can buy one-gallon jugs for less than $10 at our local hardware store.


Because these jugs don't pour easily (they dribble too much), I pour the kerosene into a measuring cup...


...and use that to fill the lamps.


This means fewer dribbles, but it still dribbles a bit, so I make sure to wipe the lamp base clean.


I filled our two decorative lamps as well.


We keep five oil lamps around the house in a state of readiness.


Sometimes we use these for "atmosphere," but mostly they're for emergencies. But I often light our decorative lamps just for fun.


We can also pull together as many as 20 more lamps because I have oil lamp fixtures that fit onto canning jars.


These are nifty little gizmos for which I spent some time looking, and finally found them at a place called Southern Lamp Supply. We bought two bundles of fixtures (they used to be in bundles of ten, but now they're in bundles of seven)(it's item no. 7BR3273, if anyone's interested).

I also buy glass globes for oil lamps whenever I see them in thrift stores. Globes break, of course, so I want a decent supply on hand just in case.

Anyway, that's what I did this evening.

32 comments:

  1. A kerosene heater can smell bad, but is there much odor from the lamps?

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  2. I happen to like oil lamps, so we keep a few around. I hadn't considered the jar fixtures, that's a terrific idea. I like the spirit of your post, too - if we each did one thing a day, even something small that needs doing anyway, how much more prepared could we be in only 30 days? It's how I keep from getting overwhelmed and hiding under the covers.

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  3. Our local wally world discounts their kerosene near the end of the winter for about 5 bucks a gallon, down from over 10. The price is almost as good as getting it from the pump, so I tend to buy as much as I can.

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  4. I like the fixtures that fit into the canning jars. Thanks for the information.

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  5. Nice post. I have at least twenty-five oil lamps in readiness at all times; hurricane country don't 'ya know. Say hello to Don for me...

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  6. Many thanks for that link. Now another set of items on the "get it next" list.

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  7. Yes, my now-ex and I "collected" lamps when living in Fla. VERY handy for hurricane season! I have a few up here, too, but no kerosene. I do have lamp oil that wasn't the fragranced stuff, but will be looking into keeping kerosene as a better (read: cheaper) alternative. Do look for plenty of wicking material, too. Our local wally world used to sell it by the roll, no more. Lamps are wonderful to have. Thanks for the tip about canning-jar fixtures!

    Kathleen in IL

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  8. Oil lamps are a great idea! And of course they should be a vital part of anyone's preparation for the loss of their electricity. We have four of them, and we live in an area where not long ago we actually lost power SIXTY-SEVEN times in one year! (We kept track.)

    When we first called the power company to complain, its spokesman told us an occasional power shut off and on was normal. After a year, we called again and asked if 67 times in a year was "normal." They finally sent a crew out to investigate.

    Things have improved, but we still lose power at least once a month, usually only for a few minutes, but sometimes for several hours. When that happens at night, our lamps have been a blessing. And the smell isn't bad, unless you buy the expensive perfumed stuff! --Fred & Deb in AZ

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  9. Thanks for the timely reminder! It definitely is time to stock up on wicking and kerosene for hurricane season. It wouldn't hurt to wash the fly legs and spider webs off the globes, either.

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  10. $10/gal for kerosene? Should be cheaper than gasoline.
    I guess I've had my head buried in the sand.
    Q

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  11. Love the tops that attach to mason jars, been looking for those!

    How would you clean the inside of a lamp previously used with lamp oil to begin using kerosene? I know I need a new wick.

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    1. drain out the globe as much as you can. then fill with warm soapy water using something that will cut grease or oil like dawn dish soap..let it soak a little bit then using a bottle brush give every thing a good swoosh and then rinse very well. tip over and let dry very well before adding more fresh oil/kerosene.

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  12. When using lamps and heaters use only kerosene or lamp oil. Diesel or #2 juel oil will plug up the wicks and the heater/lamp will stink and the light and heat will be substandard. If you look around you can usually find a gas station or oil distributor that sells in bulk for about the same price as fuel oil. Fill a 55 gallon drum, it probably won't get any cheaper and it never goes bad like gas does.

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  13. Doesn't kerosene smell? I know it's way cheaper than lamp oil (UNscented :-)), but I have to wonder about inhaling the fumes - especially with little ones around. Comments?

    Thank you for posting the link.

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  14. Thanks for the link to the jar fixtures. I have several lamps, but I am going to get a supply of the jar type for my unprepared relatives and friends. Would be good for barter and trade also.

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  15. My husband and I started collecting oil lamps 17 years ago and have them all around the house and keep them all full of kerosene. Most of the time we're the only house around "Glowing" when the power is out. We get our kero at the gas station, but never use that dyed stuff you find at some stations. I think we have about 20 lamps in our little house :)

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  16. i was reading a blog the other day that was suggesting to store your kerosene/lamp oil in a metal or glass container because the plastic bottles the stuff comes in will become brittle over time and actually shatter or split if dropped or fallen off of shelf.

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  17. I like Aladdin lamp oil best.
    It is a distilled product and burns brighter. It is odorless, and contains no dyes to gum up the wick and has a shelf life of 2 or 3 years.
    Kerosene can give some people headaches, will get old and needs to be thrown out after about 6 or 9 months. Old kerosene is good for cleaning sticky messes or starting brush fires.
    When I clean my lamp, I also trim the wicks of all char and trim to a very gentle oval point. It helps them to burn better.

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  18. The "reply" feature on Blogger doesn't seem to be working this morning, so I'll make a general reply regarding kerosene.

    There are two grades of kerosene: 1-I and 2-K (sometimes called K1 and K2). They are identical except for the amount of sulfur in the end product. K1 is purer (less sulfur) and clear in color. See this link for a bit more info:
    http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2001-04/986490196.Ch.r.html

    Using kerosene in oil lamps dates back to the 1800s and the Amish use it today, so it has a long history of use in lamps. There is a slight odor but nothing unmanageable. Maybe my nose isn't sensitive enough, but frankly I don't notice any odor. However I realize there are some people who are greatly sensitive to odors.

    I did a search on the shelf life of kerosene and have found numerous reports about people using 20 yr old kerosene without any problem at all. Storing it out of direct sunlight seems to be best, and since kerosene can absorb small amounts of water, metal cans can eventually rust and so plastic jugs seem preferable (though opinions vary on this).

    Bottom line, kerosene (K1) is a stable and economical means of lighting your lamps.

    - Patrice

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  19. Thanks so much for the link to Southern Lamp Supply. I have been trying to find supplies for my lamps.

    You are a true blessing for all of your readers with so much valuable information. Keep up the good work. Much love to you and your family. LCL

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  20. I really enjoyed that post Patrice, particularly with the photos added. We rarely have issues with loss of power here but I still like to be prepared. Although I do have quite a few sources of non-electric light stored, I only have one kerosene lantern and I'd like more.

    Thank you for the "bottle fixture" link. I've just made enquiries as to whether they ship to Australia - am awaiting a reply. I know that I can purchase the mason bottles here so that's half the problem solved.

    Love your blog - I've been following it for over a year now. It's the first site I check each day. I have much admiration for your efforts and just want to say thank you for sharing so many of the little aspects of your life. You encourage so many and are a great motivator. Know that your work is greatly respected and appreciated :-)

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  21. After the first shaping of the wick it is not normally necessary to trim the wick unless you let the oil run dry. Just pinch the charred area gently using a paper towell or Kleenex to remove the extra char. A wick should have a slightly charred tip. To trim it just wastes wick and does no good.

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  22. Does anyone have a good source for purchasing the wide wicks in bulk? Or do you just buy the packages with one or two lengths inside? I saw them recently at Ace Hardware but the packages seemed expensive for just a couple of replacement wicks. Thanks for always sharing what you're up to, Patrice! It motivates us all!

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    1. While that's exactly where I got all our wicks -- Ace -- the afore-mentioned Southern Lamp Supply sells wicks in bulk. I think I remember seeing glass globes in bulk, too, so be sure to check out all their items.

      - Patrice

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  23. Patrice, where did you find the glass chimneys for your canning jars? I have searched the internet for an hour and cannot find any like yours.
    Thanks!! LCL

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    1. Thrift stores. Literally all my chimneys come from thrift stores. The fixtures that fix on the canning jars are standard in size, so they'll fit just the regular chimneys. Whenever we go into a thrift store, I make sure to check the "clear glass" aisle of miscellaneous glassware, and usually can find at least one or two chimneys (sometimes more, sometimes less).

      If you want to buy them all in one place, Southern Lamp Supply sells chimneys of various sizes -- you can call them and ask what would be the proper size for their canning jar fittings. Here's the link:

      http://www.oillampman.com/chimneys/newPage12.htm

      - Patrice

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  24. Thank you for that great tutorial and link.
    I'm new to kerosine and have a beginner's question:
    Is breathing in the fumes from the kerosine stored in the lamps a health issue? I wouldn't store gasoline that way because of the fumes-- aside from all the other factors with gasoline-- but I don't know if stored kerosine fumes are an issue. Would it be healthier to fill the lamps as needed and store the kerosine in a closed container? Many thanks.

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    1. Kerosene evaporates very slowly, so the amount of fumes from a lamp is very very small. I never fill all my lamps just to have them "ready" if I'm not going to be using them, just the ones I use regularly. Keeping unused kero lamps filled is bad practice as you are "condensing" the kero that way, the more you top it up, the more you condense. What you end up with is kero that is a soup high in sulfur, carbon and other impurities that will stink and soot. It will also gum up your wick. If you only have one lamp for emergency use then yes keep it filled but throw the old kero out every once in a while.

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  25. Do you have any advice on stopping my lamp from smoking so bad? The chimney gets black quickly and then light cannot shine through. Thanks ma'am!

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    1. Aside from running the lamp too high with a smoking flame, the number one reason for sooty burning is using high carbon content kerosene. This is usually the cheaper kero that is made for degreasing purposes. You should be able to run your lamp for weeks without the need for a clean, even longer without it affecting light output. I'd say I'd have to run one of my lamps for a year to get it into the state you describe.

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