Monday, January 13, 2014

Article pictures

Last week I submitted two articles to Backwoods Home Magazine. Below are photos which might be suitable for illustrating the articles. These are posted so the editor can choose which ones she wants.

These photos are for the article on kerosene lamps. Some are alternate shots of the same scene.

Lamp Photo 1 -- Washing soot from lamp chimneys. It's best to use a plastic tub or other means to keep the glass from bumping into the sink, which can easily break the chimney.

Lamp Photo 2 -- Washing lamp bases. This illustrates some of the variety of kerosene lamps.

Lamp Photo 3 -- Clean chimneys. Let these air-dry completely, because a wet chimney can shatter if placed on a lit lamp.

Lamp Photo 4 -- A wick trimmed to produce a crown-shaped flame. A little bit of charring at the tip is normal and won't affect the quality of the flame.

Lamp Photo 5 -- Two ways to trim a wick to produce a crown-shaped flame.

Lamp Photo 6 -- This lamp has the wick adjusted too high. The result is a huge out-of-control flame that uses too much kerosene and soots up the chimney. In this instance, the chimney becomes significantly coated with soot within ten seconds or so.

Lamp Photo 7 -- A sooty chimney after about ten seconds of a wick adjusted too high.

Lamp Photo 8 -- A properly-adjusted wick should not be visible over the top of the burner. Adjusting the wick too high is one of the most common reasons people are frustrated by kerosene lamps and smokey chimneys.

Lamp Photo 9 -- The proper way to light a lamp is to hold the match horizontally to the wick, not downward.

Lamp Photo 10 -- A bulk order of burner units which fit onto canning jars, allowing an ordinary canning jar to be converted into a kerosene lamp.

Lamp Photo 11 -- Spare chimneys, purchased at thrift stores and stored in liquor boxes, which have dividers.

Lamp Photo 12 -- A package of new 3/4" wicks. These can be found at most hardware stores.

Lamp Photos 13 through 17 -- A lamp gives enough lighting to read a small-print book if placed close by.

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 15

Photo 16

Photo 17

Lamp Photos 18 - 20 -- A collection of kerosene lamps, illustrating some of the variety.

Photo 18

Photo 19

Photo 20

Lamp Photo 21 -- A classic kerosene lamp

Lamp Photo 22 -- A canning jar turned into a kerosene lamp. Not as pretty, but just as practical.

These are photos for the Low-Tech article. Not too many, I'm open to suggestions.

Low-Tech Photo 1 -- Wood cookstove. An excellent multi-purpose tool which cooks, heats water, supplies heat to the house, etc.

Low-Tech Photo 2

Low-Tech Photo 3 -- Food staples such as beans, rice, spices, etc. are versatile and inexpensive.

Low-Tech Photo 4 -- Indoor clothes racks (either standing or hanging) are an excellent low-tech alternative to clothes dryers.

Low-Tech Photo 5 -- Scythes. (Lisa, take note: this photo is only available in 1003 kb resolution.)

Low-Tech Photos 6-9: Scything wheat.

Low-Tech Photo 10 -- Maps won't fail.

Low-Tech Photos 11, 12 -- Books are your low-tech friends.

Photo 11

Photo 12


  1. What is the recommended fuel to use?

  2. What is the recommended fuel to use? Kerosene or lamp oil found in stores?

    1. Either. Kerosene (K-1 only, not K-2) is cheaper but smellier; lamp oil is more expensive but purer.

      - Patrice

    2. is there an alternative? would any animal grease do or veg oil? what could you use if you had no access to kerosene or lamp oil? or is there none?
      deb h.

    3. Vegetable oil lamps (including olive oil lamps) are designed differently than kerosene lamps. Vegetable oils are viscous and do not “wick” well, so the flame must be close to the fuel source. The wick in a kerosene lamp is too large and long to effectively burn olive oil. Therefore you should not try to burn olive oil in a kerosene lamp. Nor should you use kerosene (or lamp oil) in a lamp designed for olive oil. Kerosene is more combustible than olive oil, and since an olive oil lamp has the flame so close to the fuel source, a fire may result.

      - Patrice

  3. I love the simplicity of the photos. I feel comforted as my life resonates in your images. My only difference is that I have three clotheslines that I pull across the woodstove room when I am drying clothes.

    I am interested to see what is selected!

  4. Low tech ideas:

    Your sickle.

    Your books. They're a low-tech alternative to fancy TVs, iPADs and electronic readers.

    Your piano. A low-tech way to have music.

    Do you use paper maps instead of a GPS when you drive to Portland?

    Just Me

  5. RE: Photo 22 - the canning jar lamp.

    That looks like an accident waiting to happen.

    Perhaps a new product for Don's shop? Mason Jar Stabilizer.

  6. I'm sorry if this is a dumb question, but what is the proper way to extinguish one? Lower the wick until it goes out? Blow it out? Cover the top? Thanks!

    1. Not a dumb question at all. The proper way is to cup your hand behind the top of the chimney, angled a bit downward, and blow against your hand. The puff of air will bounce off your hand and down the chimney, extinguishing the flame.

      Alternately, just gently blow down the chimney. Don't touch the chimney, it will be hot.

      - Patrice

  7. HI Patrice...all the fotos are awesome. Just noticed under lamp photo #6 in the third sentence, 'because' should read "becomes'..I could be wrong though.
    Have a great week.

  8. Ideas for low-tech in my plan include a "rocket stove/heater", hand crank meat grinder and hand crank grain mill, two man buck saw and ax, bow and arrow, how about a wash board to scrub the laundry clean, a hand pump for your well, horse and plow or cart, hand milk the cow or goat and pounding out some butter with a old time butter churn, an apple press for cider, potato peeler, pencil and paper. Remember the old irons for pressing clothes? How about the solar dryer--clothes line. Ask Don about a brace and bit for drilling holes in wood or the yankee driver. Low-tech my favorite subject.

  9. Among my low-tech must-haves:

    A good hand crank coffee grinder.


  10. Serious question here Patrice...what else could you use for wick for your lamps? And you mentioned using kerosene as an alternarive lamp fluid could you expand on that? We have a couple hurricane lamps on hand, have used them and they are very smoky

    1. I think your lamps are smoky because the wick is too high. See this post:

      K-1 kerosene is actually what kerosene lamps are made for. You can buy lamp oil if you have a sensitivity to kerosene. Lamp oil is purer, but costlier.

      Things you CANNOT use in a kerosene lamp is anything with too low a flashpoint such as gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, Coleman fuel, white gas, paint thinner, mineral oil, hydrocarbon solvents (turpentine, acetone, etc.), or denatured alcohol.

      You also shouldn't use vegetable oils (including olive oil) in a kerosene lamp since vegetable oils are too viscous to wick properly and require a different type of lamp design.

      - Patrice

    2. what type of lamp design for veg oil?deb h.

  11. Hi Patrice,
    Just read the article you wrote: The Humble Kerosene Lamp in the March/April 2014 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine. It was refreshing and very detailed about oil lamps. It caused me to visit the site you include to order the top parts for mason jar lamps. I just love everything you write. Some people want to meet the president, a certain movie star or singer. Well I would one day love to meet you and talk with you for an entire day or weekend. Just to spend time with and learning all I can about homesteading things. You are just so awesome and hope you have a great week!. Hugs and blessings your way, Alicia (east Texas homesteader)

    1. Aww, thanks Alicia.

      As of this writing (Tue), I haven't yet seen the article in print, but then we haven't been off the farm since Sunday.

      - Patrice

    2. Is there any way to get the site information to buy the top parts for the Mason jar lamps? I didn't start getting BWH until September this year.


    3. Try this link:

      It is (or used to be) Item #7BR3273

      - Patrice