Super Simple and Cheap Emergency Lamp

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

My last homemade lamp creation continues to be a very popular post.  I thought it’s about time to try making an even simpler one, with items that can be found in most homes.  This lamp, as my previous one, was learned from reading  Lanterns, Lamps & Candles by Ron Brown, which contains a wealth of information about emergency lighting.


The items needed for this lamp are very easy to find:


Cotton ball or cotton puff

Glass container – I used a clear candle holder from Goodwill, but you can use a cereal bowl or even a tuna can

Vegetable oil

Aluminum foil

Matches or lighter

Flammable liquid (you can use a drop of nail polish, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly)



  1. Soak the cotton ball with vegetable oil. Shape a little tip on one side of the cotton ball.  This will be your wick.20121218_145117
  2. Cut a piece of aluminum foil the size of a nickel and poke a small hole in the middle with pencil.20121218_145226
  3. Pull the tip of the cotton ball through the hole in the aluminum foil.
  4. Place a drop of flammable solution (petroleum jelly, polish remover or nail polish) on the cotton ball tip.
  5. Light the cotton ball wick.

This lamp should last for a couple of hours.


This is a good way to use up old oil that you no longer want to use for cooking.

I realize there are cheaper fuels that vegetable oil, but it is good to know how to make lamps from easy to find materials in case of emergency.

© Apartment Prepper 2018


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