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Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to use a lantern when the lights go out

A primary light source in a “lights out” scenario should be oil lamps. They put out much more light than a mere candle and they tend to be more stable and safe.

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 leeway you’ll end up with flooding problems which can then be followed by a fire.

How Much Lamp Oil Do You Need?

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 the really cold weather—though I have no idea why. This means that a half gallon of lamp oil will last about 140-150 hours.

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. You know...learn from the 10 Virgins--keep oil in your lamps. What is the meaning of the Parable of the Ten Virgins?

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.

Purchasing wicks is very affordable. They run about 50 cents to $1 a piece and one wick will last you a long, long time with proper care. Burning through a half gallon of lamp oil will only burn down ¼ to ½ inch of your 8 inch long wick (which is the smallest size that I’ll purchase). 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 trim the char off of the wick after each use.

To get the brightest light if you trim your wick nicely pointed. You’ll burn your oil just a bit faster that way, but really, just a bit.

Make Your Own Oil Lamp Wicks

Be sure that you only use 100% cotton.

That means instead of throwing out those t-shirts you can easily make 8-12 inch wicks that will last just as long as the commercially made ones.

Flat wicks, cut in a point at the top, will give brighter light.

Take squares of cotton fabric 12 inches long by 6 to 8 inches wide. Beginning at one end of the fabric, I fold the wide portion over and over again in a ¾ inch width each time. When I’m finished with the folds, I just put it in a sewing machine and sew down the length of the fabric once or twice to create a flat wick. (It doesn’t have to be all tight and pretty like you see in the commercially made ones; so you could conceivably sew these by hand if necessary.)

It’s important that your 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

So long as I keep your wick trimmed in a pointed top, it keeps the flame bright and smoke-free so that you have less to clean with the chimney. 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. So long as your wick is wet with the oil, the oil is actually what’s burning, not the wick. That’s why it gets shorter and shorter at such a slow pace.

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 I sugest purchasing oil lamps that don’t have a nice handle to use when moving the lamp. (The oil base shouldn’t get too hot, but it does get warm when used for a long time, so resist the urge to carry the lamp by the chimney or the base.)

An old-timer says that it’s best to let the chimney warm up for about 10 minutes before increasing the light output. It does make a difference.

A big flame isn’t really what you want. Not that you’ll actually measure it, but your 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.) You’ll want to make sure that your chimney gets cleaned of the soot as having too much on it can actually cause a fire. Soot build-up will also lessen your light and strangle the oxygen that you need for a nice, even burn on your wick. Obviously keeping the soot cleaned on your chimney will also give you the best light output too.

You never want to use a lamp without a chimney. Doing so will cause the chimney to overheat and can pressurize the lamp base and even create an oil fire. If you see any smoke while your wick is lit then you’ve got it too high. When it comes time to extinguish your flame, just cup your hand above the chimney and give a little burst of a breath. The air will travel down the chimney and extinguish it just fine.

I strongly advise you to not take for granted just how important light is.

Planning to have a couple more lamps, than what I originally thought was necessary, makes a HUGE difference.
Good News Post
(Hobby Lobby is a good place to start finding what you will need. They have an oil lantern for under 10 dollars.

UPDATE: I read on the web about using olive oil in a lamp or an olive oil "candle" in a mason jar. Don't waste your time trying to use olive oil because it will only burn the wick a short time then go out.) Story Reports

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