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  1. kappydell

    diy fat lamps

    I was looking around in the internet and started reading about boidiesel. Nice, but in a shtf situation where am I going to get enough cooking oil to be useful? Plus in temps lower than 60 degrees you need to mix biodiesel with 'regular' diesel your engine will clog, much as normal diesel will gel up in the cold. Methinks diesel is not all that useful - too finicky. Then I wondered can it be used in oil lamps, like kero? Nope, it gums up the wicks. You need to get a special wick. Well....why bother? Some time ago I researched and learned how to make fat lamps for light, both from cooking oil and from solid (rendered) fat like lard or crisco. Why not just cut to the chase and just make a fat lamp? I'm only needing enough light to not trip over things after dark, not repair watches. So I went back and looked up the article I wrote after my research & study. Maybe the folks at Mrs S might be interested in yet another use for those saved animal fats? BTW even fuel oil from a crancase will work in a fat lamp, it won's smell nice though and will smoke. But in a pinch, fat is fat and it all will light the night! So without further ado, here 'tis: FAT LAMPS – SIMPLE, INEXPENSIVE AND EFFECTIVE by Kathleen Dayton Although ‘fat lamps’ sound like an interior decorating faux-pas, they have historical credentials as inexpensive and easily made lighting systems. Fat lamps operate differently than kerosene lamps, but before the use of kerosene for lamps, fats were the common lamp fuels. Fat lamps’ advantages are that they are inexpensive, use an easily obtained fuel recycling cooking fats and other grease which might otherwise be wasted or worse yet, poured down a sink to clog plumbing, do not require the time and effort of making candles, and do not burn if tipped over during use. Their drawbacks are that they are comparatively dim producing about as much light as a candle, they can smell like the food that was cooked in them, they can sputter if you do not adjust the wick, and if you are using crankcase oil or axle grease for lighting fuel it will smoke quite a bit – great for chasing mosquitoes, but you might want to burn those versions outdoors. Two-wick fat lamps are easily fashioned which put out twice the illumination, and tin-can lamps can be cut to make a reflector to maximize the ‘candle-power’ of the lamp. Here are several types of ‘fat lamps’ that I have made, utilizing both oils and solid fats. The principles are the same in all fat lamps: a wick draws up melted fat which is then burned to create light. They all work very well. Fat Lamps using Jars The wire-stiffened wick type oil lamp was described in “Nuclear War Survival Skills” by Kerry Creason 4. Its basic operation is simple – a cotton string is weighted (to hold it down in the oil) and stiffened with wire (to hold the burning top just above the oil). That book also shows a floating type wick, but I did not try that one. Step 1 – Weight down the wick at the bottom. Step 2 – Stiffen the wick with wire. Step 3 – Place wick in jar, and fill the jar to 1/4 inch of the wick top, and light it up. See how simple? Now another type of wick holder for an oil lamp described as a Hobo Lamp, by B. K. Webb 2 . The original used baling wire to hold the wick; mine used a metal coat hanger, which for me was easier to obtain. Step 1 – Coil the wick holder. Bend the wire so the holder will stand up in the middle of the jar. Step 2 – Make a tall handle so you can raise the wick in the holder up to adjust it. Step 3 – Thread the wick through the holder (which should be snug). It should stick up 1/4 inch above the oil. Step 4 – Lower wick into the oil in the jar. It should not submerge the burning end, but the rest should be submerged. Step 5 – Fire in the hole! As the oil burns down, use a pin to lower the wick to keep it 1/4 inch above the oil. A Solid-Fat Jar Lamp This one was found on the internet, on a site marked “Homemade Lamps from Everyday Objects” 1 . You will need a glass jar containing solid grease (bacon fat, Crisco, etc), a cotton swab (Q-Tip), and an absorbent rag, sock, or piece of old T-shirt. Step 1 – Cut a 2 inch by 6 inch strip of cotton cloth. Step 2 – Wrap the strip around the swab, totally covering it. Step 3 – Stick the wrapped swab in the grease until only 1/2 inch sticks up. Step 4 – Smear a little grease on the exposed wrapping, and light it up. If you don’t want to risk glass breakage, the same principles work using tin cans. If you cut them right, you can fashion a sconce shape from the can, which acts as a wind break and crude reflector. Webb 2 made a grease lamp from a tin can and some wire using cotton twine for a wick. Step 1 – Cut the can to make a sconce, and file or rub with a stone to dull any sharp edges. Be sure to leave the bottom area uncut to hold the grease. Step 2 – Make a coil to hold the wick (Webb used an 8-penny nail to wind it on to keep the coil nice and even. Step 3 – Make the base of the wire into a ring to hold the wick upright in the middle of the can. (Webb made a clever variation for holding two wicks.) Step 4 – Make a wick to fit the coil. Braid several cotton strings together if needed, or use a cloth strip. Step 5 – Pack the fat into the base, keeping it 1/4 inch below the lower lip of the fat area. Smear some on the wick and light it. Tactical Intelligence (from the internet) makes a compact oil lamp from a tuna can. I made one and it works very nicely, but does burn with an open flame, much like a candle would. Nonetheless it is beautiful in its simplicity. You will need a tuna can with the lid partially attached, some oil, some old cotton cloth (rag, sock or T-shirt), and a nail or something sharp to make a hole with. Step 1 – Poke a hold through the top of a full tuna can, using a clean nail. Open the can almost all the way, leaving a hinge uncut to get the can contents out for use. (It’s easier to punch when full.) Step 2 – Cut a 2 inch by 8 inch piece of cloth. Twist or roll into a long strip. Feed 1/2 inch of it through the tuna can hole so it sticks out the top. Step 3 – Fill the can 2/3 of the way with oil. Shut the lid, let the wick soak up the oil. You can dab some oil on the top of the wick too. Light the wick. And finally, for the fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the button lamp. 3 Equipment: One metal button (Make sure it is metal; try it with a magnet to be sure. A plastic one could melt. A small square of cotton fabric big enough to fit around the button and gather at the top with a small tail, thread to tie it off, a small heat-proof plate, a match, some shortening (Ma used axle grease, but that is not easily found anymore!), and a box of baking soda (emergency fire extinguisher). You might keep a pad under the plate in case it gets really hot. Step 1 – Cut out a small rectangle of fabric large enough to wrap the button in and gather over the top with a ‘tail’ of gathered fabric. Step 2 – Twist the tail and tie it off with thread. Twist the tail to make a tapering wick, tying with more thread if needed. Step 3 – Smear shortening on the fabric. Rub it in well to saturate the cloth, but don’t leave gobs. Step 4 – Put a liberal blob of shortening on the center of the plate. Step 5 – Settle the button atop the grease, and light up the ‘wick’. I was delighted with the wide variety of ways to burn fats or oils, all of which were impressively inexpensive. Although I purchased a metal “betty lamp” for burning grease from the Smoke and Fire Trading Company some years ago, it did not come with directions for use! I might just fire it up, now that I know the principles of burning fats for light, and how to make a wick. I am glad I’ve learned how to make light so many ways. I never need sit in the dark, come what may. References: 1. “Homemade Lamps from Everyday Objects” from the internet; Tactical Intelligence: Intelligent Know-How for the Concerned Citizen, dated January 4th, 2010 2. “A Couple of Hobo Lamps” by B. K. Webb, The Backwoodsman, Vol 32, No 2, pp 20-21 3. Laura Ingalls Wilder Button Lamp: Little House on the Prairie Crafts and Projects, Laura Ingalls Wilder Button Lamp: Little House on the Prairie Crafts and Projects | Suite101.com http://www.suite101.com/content/laura-ingalls-wilder-button-lamp- a197080#ixzz1OpGadP8KSuite101.com 4. “Lighting”, “Nuclear War Survival Skills” by Kearny Cresson, © 1986, Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine , p. 102 Word Count 1376
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