Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Morning Light: DIY Oil Lamp Lust

I'm glad I got to contribute to the Yumiverse.
About a month ago, I saw a post on Root Simple about an oil lamp made out of a halved orange. I immediately scurried to Tumblr to share the finding with the world. A little while later, Root Simple posted that an oil lamp was the first project in their book, and I went a little mad searching all over the internet for oil lamp designs and ideas and methods. And I also emailed a bunch of people about it, including Yumi, who created the awesome WonderHowTo graphic to the left. 

Besides general DIY enthusiasm for using household items to make things instead of buying them, I went on my oil lamp research and experimentation frenzy because I wake up early in the morning to write (with ink and notebooks from Raw Materials) and for the last 1.5 years I've been buying candles for light. It's becoming less and less necessary as the sun rises earlier and earlier with the onset of summer, but I had just burned down my last candle. Besides, the candles that I had been buying from Trader Joe's gave me a creepy feeling because they're "dripless." Candle wax should drip. It just should. I've since come to understand that the driplessness has something to do with using petroleum in the wax (please feel free to clarify), which only adds to the reasons to embrace oil lamps:
  • re-purpose rancid oil that would otherwise be tossed out and wasted
  • re-purpose a glass container
  • re-purpose 100% cotton t-shirts that are no longer worn (or, are too worn--oh, grammar)
  • enjoy lovely, mellow light
In 2008, I experimented with cooking by candlelight, but I never did my morning writing by it because I never woke up so early that I needed to make light for myself. When I began working at East West Players in Fall of 2010, it was dark when I woke up to write. Having a bright light on, even a desk lamp, while writing out my first thoughts of the morning was too much, so I switched to candles. There's something comforting about the dark surrounding me while I write. (Maybe it feels safer to write out the crazytalk that I sometimes fill those pages with?) These are some of the links that I drew from to create my lamps:
***Using 100% cotton for the wicks is very, very important if you don't want the faint scent of burning plastic to tickle your nose. I learned this from experience.

Here are my lamp experiments:
Glass bottle lamp with paper clip wick holder.
(bottom is filled with water with green food coloring in it) 
This bottle used to hold coconut water, then various beverages I took to work, before the cap started to get a bit rusty/moldy and I decided to retire the bottle. I was glad to find a new purpose for it!
Even prettier from above.
It's very pretty in these pictures, but unfortunately it was hard to extend the wick when necessary and the shape of the bottle made the flame waver too much while I tried to write. I didn't have too much luck with the hole-in-cap method of wick-holding.
Halved-orange lamp.
So, the halved orange didn't work too well either, but it was also very pretty and fun to make. Here I'm using a matchstick as a wick because the pithy center did not dry out enough and I was impatient.
The problem I had with this lamp is that once the orange dries out over a couple of days, and the pith absorbs the oil... well, you can see the char there to suggest what happened. That citrus scent was very, very nice though, and I'm considering trying to use the oil-soaked pith for something else.

And now, the lamp that I have been using regularly for the last two weeks:
Ink-bottle Oil Lamp + Foil
I decided to try turning an ink bottle into a lamp since I had many lying around and I was going on a camping & climbing trip to New Jack City. And, okay, the romance of turning the ink bottle into a lamp by which to write also influenced me. These photos are from the campsite, but I'm still using basically the same setup with the foil in order to maximize the amount of light that falls on the page.
Steady flame, even with high-desert wind.
I will probably make more of these because of their nice size and portability. And now that I have a bit more experience, I hopefully won't be quite as messy. I had my first oil-on-notebook mishap a couple of days ago, but never having to buy candles again is so, so worth it. I just need to be more careful. I'll post in more detail about the making of a lamp... someday!