Having lights in an emergency situation, whether short term or long term is a very important component in your emergency preparedness plans. But good quality candles can become quite expensive, and they are not usually a renewable item out of your home unless you are knowledgable in wax making and have the proper supplies. And batteries for small lights run out quickly. Because of this, it is important to have some alternatives of how to make your own lights using items around the house.
Before we dive into the core of the discussion, it is important to note that it is important to have larger light supplies like the Dietz Tornado Lantern or other similar lanterns that use kerosene. Just stay away from the cheap Walmart versions. They don't work very well and are very cheaply made. Aladdin lights are also very useful and highly recommended. Aladdin lights revolutionized the light industry in the early 1800's and put out as much light as a 60 watt light bulb. They are extremely efficient as well. It is easy to store kerosene for these lanterns for a long time and don't have the same risk as storing gasoline. Extra wicks are also easy to store. These lamps are very efficient (the good quality ones) and recommended in addition to the candles we'll be discussing in this post.
That being said, it is always a great idea to have other light sources when the lantern needs to stay in the main living area. The Crisco & Olive Oil Candles are great for areas like the bathroom, bedrooms, etc where light is needed, but a full lantern is either unnecessary or just unavailable. The bathroom, for instance, is good to have a small candle in throughout the night during a blackout, particularly if you have children. Just a little light is all that is needed. And having a tiny "night light" candle in the children's sleeping area (in a safe place), can turn a possibly scary situation for them into a more secure environment, emotionally. Light always brings comfort.
First of all is the Crisco Candle, which I dub the "Lard Light". It is a very simple candle that can burn brightly for a very long time with very little materials.
All that is needed is:
- Cotton string (I use a strand from a new cotton mop head)
- Pint or quart sized canning jar (or pretty much any jar really)
- Crisco or other lard type of cooking grease (or animal fat)
Next, simply scoop the Crisco into the jar, carefully eliminating any air gaps by packing it in with a butter knife or spoon. Once it has been packed in, take the handle part of the butter knife and run the sting down the length of the knife toward the handle, over the end, and back up the other side. This only works if the end of the knife handle is flat, not pointed. If it is pointed, find something flat that the string will stay put with while holding it.
Then simply shove the knife down into the center of the jar filled with Crisco, all the way to the bottom. Then slowly let go of the string with your other hand and carefully pull the knife out. If you'd done it right, the string is now stuck in the middle of the jar with the end protruding out the top (two ends actually). The thicker the stand of cotton string, the brighter the light and quicker the Crisco burns up.
Now carefully use the butter knife again to pack in some more Crisco, usually on the edge of the jar, pushing the Crisco over to fill in the gap made by the knife that was used to put the string in. Doing so will leave the jar of Crisco completely filled with the lard, with the string poking out the top.
Cut the string down to about 1/3" or so protruding out the top. Rub some Crisco on the wick. The candle is now ready. When you use the candle, if the wick is too saturated with Crisco it may have a hard time lighting. If that happens, just dry off the wick a little with a paper towel and then it should light right up.
Olive Oil Candle
Next is the Olive Oil candle. Actually, any type of cooking oil can be used (vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, etc). And both new and rancid oil will work (never throw out old, expired oil again!).
For the Olive Oil candle, I like to use shorter bottles that were used for various food items that may normally be discarded. Whatever you have will work and various sizes can be used. Personally, I always use 2 different bottles. One of them a taller one to store the wicks, wire and oil. The other to use for the actual, short candle. Both can be used, but one serves as the candle and storage case for the components.
To make a cooking oil lamp (Olive Oil Lamp), you'll need the following:
- Cotton string (I use a strand from a new cotton mop head)
- Glass jar (various sizes work, but shorter is better)
- Bailing wire (or similar wire that is fairly strong and also bendable)
- Cooking oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, etc - can be new or rancid)
First, you'll want to make the wick holder using the bailing wire. With one end, make several small wraps around the cotton string to hold it in place, but also loose enough that you can pull the wick up as it burns down. Every once in a while you'll want to trim the wick to keep smoke at a minimum. After making a few loops around the wick, make some more wider loops spiraling downward. Make enough loops that allow you to have the wire sit firmly on the bottom of the jar and spiraled up so the wick sits just over the oil level.
Have an extra 6" or so of wick that sits in the middle of the spiraled wire for soaking up oil and also for when you need to pull up the wick after burning or cutting some.
Next, just put the wire and wick in a jar, fill up to just under the wick and allow it to soak it up. Light it and enjoy. To put out the flame, just dip the flame into the oil and it will go out. This eliminates smoke that is usually a result of blowing out the flame.
To store the wick and wire, I use 2 jars. One larger jar to store the wicks and oil and a smaller one to use as one of the candles when ready. Make several for yourself and teach others how to make them as well. They are simple, inexpensive and so easy that any can do it!
Enjoy the journey!