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Vegetable oil requires special wicks.

COUNTRYSIDE: In reply to the article about trying to save lampwicks, from G.W. Pfahl: Flat wicks cannot work with vegetable oil, as that type of oil is too thick/heavy to rise up that sort of wick and burner design (now someone tells ya!).

Those vegetable oil "floating candles" use a different wick substance, usually fiberglass, and the flame end is close to the oil.

Vegetable oil that has "gone south" (rancid), is not fit for man nor beast's consumption, as the fatty acids in it have changed to an unhealthy form. It is fit to use for getting the woodstove going, oiling squeeky hinges, or, one can use it in oil lamps designed for this.

Use cotton kitchen string to form a four-strand braid, wound tightly, and knot the ends--it only needs to be a few inches long. Use a glass canning jar, for instance, as a container. Put only about an inch or so of oil in the bottom of it. Make a twist of plain (non-coated) wire to hold one end of the wick just above the surface of the oil in the jar, and let the rest of the wick soak in the oil (note: most of the wick is in the oil, and very little airspace is between the burning wick end and the surface of the oil). Let the entire wick sit to soak up oil for a few minutes, so the whole wick is wet through with the oil.

With this method, olive oil is burned at the rate of about 1/2" in about four to five hours. It makes enough light to navigate by, and is not easily blown out by stray drafts. This oil burns cleaner than lamp oil--that is, less smell and smoke. It can use up rancid oil, as well. I have not tried it with solid vegetable oils, such as Crisco, but it might do for those, too, if the stuff was melted first (though those do not go rancid for a very long time ...). Even with olive oil costing so much more than lesser oils, it is still cost effective to use it in this sort of lamp, as it burns slowly.

This is the simplest vegetable oil lamp configuration. There are others, but they require more tools and things most might not have around the homestead.

It might even be possible to use a flat wick for Vegetable oil lamps if: you roll it into a tight tube, and hold it in the wire twist in the same position in the jar ... so the burning tip of it is suspended within about a 1/2" of the surface of the oil. I have not tried this yet though, as I need my flat wicks for the kerosene lamps ... and cotton string, stray wire, and old canning jars are still abundant in my junk cupboard, for no additional cost! -- C. Holmes,
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Author:Holmes, C.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 2001
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