Olive Oil has been used as food, as a beauty product and as a light source for thousands of year
Create your own DIY olive oil lamp and enjoy the brightness of this ancient method of lighting. It is healthier than using paraffin based oils, and is nearly smoke free. Add essential oils or fresh herbs, if you want a little aromatherapy.
The olive oil lamp was used in the Temple Menorah in King Solomon’s first temple (1000 BC) and in the Second Tmple (515 BC) in Jerusalem. It was the oil that brought about the miracle of Hanukkah during the time of the Maccabees — over 150 years before Jesus was born. It is the oil that Jesus studied the Holy Scriptures by as a child.
In Greece, the olive oil lamp can be traced back to 3500 BC!
Why olive oil?
Olive oil burns cleanly, without smoking. It doesn’t spread toxic hydro-carbons into the air. Olive oil is a renewable lamp fuel.
Ancient olive oil lamps are shallow dishes of oil with a wick or rag held upright. These clay olive oil lamps were small bowls. They had a pinch of clay at one side of the bowl to hold the wick upright, just above the surface of the oil. If you don’t have a handy clay olive oil lamp kicking around your kitchen, you can make a wick holder with wire or paper clip The wick needs to be close to the surface of the oil, as olive oil doesn’t have fumes to keep the wick burning, while fresh oil enters the burn zone. Plan for a flame about 1 inch above the surface.
What kind of wick?
To make a lamp you need a wick, something to hold the wick upright and keep it from dropping into the oil, a vessel to hold the oil, and pure olive oil. The wider the wick that you use, the brighter your lamp will be. I like to use a braided wick such as is used in a kerosene lamp. These draw up the oil evenly, and give enough light to read by. Wicks can be found at your local craft store.
Ancient olive oil lamps used linen rags soaked in oil and gave a lot of light.
DIY Olive Oil Lamp
What you’ll need:
Lid for jar
Needle Nose Pliers
Using pliers cut a 8 inch length of wire.
Roll one end of the wire tightly around the nose of the pliers 4 to 6 times. Move to the other end of the wire and wrap a circle that will fit into the bottom of the jar that you’ve chosen for your lamp. Wrap this circle several times with the wire to make a firm foundation for your wick.
Using tweezers, feed your wick through the circle made by the pliers, and pull through the top as in the photo.
Place the wick in its holder in the jar. Fill with olive oil to within one inch of the top of the wick.
To light your oil lamp:
Allow the wick to absorb olive oil to the top of the wick. This may take 10 minutes or more. Once the wick is saturated, light the wick with a match or candle. It will start with only a small flame. The brightness of the flame will increase as the wick draws up oil into the flame. This may take a minute or two.
Trim the wick and pull a clean edge up into the top of the holder, each time you light it. A small amount of oil — about 60mls or 2 fl. ounces will burn for several hours.
As always, use precaution around an open flame.
To extinguish the flame, snuff with a candle snuffer or a metal lid. The jar and the oil won’t heat up from the olive oil flame, but keep it on a nonflammable surface as a precaution.