Frugal Living Oil Lamp Wick Maintenance
Growing up we had Oil lamps in the home in case the electric went out. These Effective and inexpensive forms of Light worked wonderfully keeping the Boogie Man away. I would say that if you went from home to home in my part of the world as a child. You would find that almost everyone had the same oil lamps. They were as common as soup beans and fried taters.
This was the 1970s and it wasn’t too many years before that the oil lamp was in common everyday use. Everyone at the time could remember their grandparents using them as their main source of light. I remember that lamp oil and wicks were available in every dime store and most supermarkets. And you could still go to the hardware store and get parts to repair your Lamp. Most common part needed would be the glass chimney. Seems like they were always getting dropped. Oh By the way If the lamp is burning that chimney is HOT!!!! Most people who don’t use them often don’t realize that the radiant Heat from the flame heats the chimney to finger print removing temperatures.
One of the most overlooked items in the oil lamp usage is the Wick and how to maintain that wick. For the lamp to burn efficiently and clean you have to tend the wick. Before the advent of the adjustable wick lamp you had to use a sharp pick to pull the wick up as it burned down. The problem is that you can’t adjust it as it burns. And if you pull too much out you have to remove the wick holder and pull the wick back. This way of adjusting the wick was both messy and inexact.
That is one of the reasons why the adjustable wick Lamps became so popular. With a turn of the adjustment you can turn up the brightness of the flame or turn it down. The adjustment exposed more or less of the wick depending on how it was adjusted. You can even turn the wick all the way back and it will put the lamp out. The problem with exposing more of the wick is that it burns brighter and produces more soot and smoke.
Once the wick has been exposed and burns down you have to tend the wick. This can be something as easy as trimming the burnt end back some from the end of the wick. Or taking an old tooth brush and cleaning the carbon from the end of the wick. Excessive carbon or tar build up on the end of the wick will make the flame of the lamp burn very dirty. Producing a sooty flame and leaving soot on the chimney or filling the room with sooty flakes that float around and stain your things. Good thing tending a wick is easy.
Tools needed just two. A Sharp pair of scissor and a tooth brush. Once you notice the oil lamp burning sooty. Or as my grand dad used to do after using the lamp but before you store it back away until the next power outage. You want to tend the Wick. First once the lamp has cooled “Remember the comment about temperatures high enough to remove finger prints on a recently used chimney.” Remove the Chimney and put it in dish sink to wash. Next pull or adjust the wick up and look at the end of the wick. You want to see about and eighth of an inch black line on the end of the wick. This is carbonized wick. And that is good if the black is larger than an eighth of an inch or it looks ragged or ash white it is time to clean the wick.
Take you scissors and trim the Burnt part of the wick back to about an eighth of an inch of the white part of the wick. Or take your tooth brush and gently scrub the carbon and tar from the end of the wick. It is just that easy to tend the wick.
Sometimes you will find that you need to start over with a clean section of wick. Bad Oil or Fuel in your lamp. Burning the Lamp dry and Burning the wick end Dry are two of the reasons you need to trim you wick clean back to the white and start over. Once this has happened you will need to Burn your wick in so that it will light easy the next time you use it. Once you have trimmed your wick clean just barely expose the wick and light it. Once the wick has a full flame blow it out and once cool take your tooth brush and gently brush the wick. This will set it up for your next use.
Probably the best thing you can do is to Use your oil lamps. Gain experience and knowledge on their use you just might find that you enjoy the light they put off.
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Photo From Flickr Commons Thank you: Oil Lamp