An oil lamp, or oil candle, is one of the oldest form of light source to mankind, with stone oil lamps dating back 10,000 to 15,000 years ago! Today, we will talk about how oil lamps and oil candles work, which kind of oil lamp wicks to use, and how to make easy and beautiful mason jar oil candles in just minutes!
3 reasons I love mason jar oil lamp:
- So easy yet so pretty, mason jar oil candles take only 2 minutes to make using vegetable oils and water!
- Even safer than candles: if the oil candle is knocked over, the flame would be immediately extinguished by the oil and water. Still, please follow basic safety steps and don’t leave the lamp unattended!
- Bright and long lasting: 1 tablespoon of oil can last 2 hours as an oil burning candle!
These oil lamps can be a practical low cost light source, they are also the perfect easy decorations for dinner parties and festive gatherings!
* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .
(Update: we made many variations of mason jar oil candles you will see here, plus lots of helpful tips and FAQs at the end, don’t miss ! )
How do oil lamps work?
The earliest oil lamps use vegetable oil as fuel, and later versions of oil lamps burn kerosene or lamp oil drawn up through a wick by capillary action. We will be making the vegetable oil version here.
Which kind of oil and wick to use for oil candles and lamps?
Lamps that use kerosene or lamp oil has wicks specially made for this purpose. These long cotton wicks are not suitable for vegetable oil lamps because cooking oils have high viscosity.
To be honest, I tried some oil candle tutorials with long cotton wicks and vegetable oil , and failed completely! The long wicks simply don’t draw up enough oil and would burn up and and the flame would go out. These floating wicks work beautifully for all cooking oils!
How to make an easy and beautiful mason jar oil lamp in just minutes!
Materials for our DIY oil lamp:
- Large floating wicks: These floating wicks work beautifully and each oil candle wick lasts through many uses!
- vegetable oil: 1 tablespoon of oil can last 2 hours. Olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil and many others all work well.
- mason jars, glass bottles, water, and some decorative elements such as flowers, pine cones, pebbles, etc.
- You can infuse your oil with herbs, spices or essential oils for a lovely fragrance!
Gather some glass bottles and jars, fill with flowers or other treasures. Cover with water.
NOTE: one of our readers made a very good point- some people are allergic to plants such as Oleander, and Oleander cuttings can be toxic. Although these lanterns are decorative only, it’s a good idea to be extra careful and choose flowers and plants that are known to be safe!!
Pour some vegetable oil on top, till the oil form a layer of about 1/4″ thick.
The large floating wicks come with discs and small waxed wicks. Insert a piece of the waxed wicks half way through the center hole on the disc, and put it on top of the oil layer.
Now light your oil candle and enjoy the beautiful glow!
The flowers and fruits will last a whole week in the water.
Pine cones, pebbles, beads are all great additions too! Red holly berries, cranberries, and conifer clippings are great for the holiday season.
To extinguish the flame, just put the lids on the jars. The floating wicks can stay in there.
An update on some additional tips and FAQs:
- After many uses, the waxed wick will burn off, just replace it with a small piece of pre-waxed wick that you can cut into small pieces. The floating disc can last a very long time.
- some flowers will float to the top, you can hold the stem down with some small rocks, glass beads etc
- add food coloring in the water for a special effect!
- light olive oil and sunflower seed oil burns quite clean, I have not notice smoke except for when they are extinguished.
- fake plants will work too, just keep them away from the flame!
Thanks to everyone who asked these great questions!
Related Article: Easiest DIY Hanging Glass Jar Lanterns
Some more nature inspired fun for you: Make botanical ice luminaries-
Have a lovely weekend everyone! xo