Sunday, June 10, 2012
Little brass lamp
Yesterday's yardsale finds included a big box full of brass stuff. At the bottom of the box was this lamp.
A bowl on a stand doesn't look like what we generally think of as a lamp these days, but it's actually quite amazing. It is a very traditional style (although this one is more ornate and built for the tourist market) and runs off of almost any kind of fuel from old cooking oil to rum. Vegetable or fish oil is more traditional. This is very economical as you can save your old cooking fats and use them in this lamp.
I've read about these but I've never seen one used. Books say that they are very dirty and smelly kind of lamp. But when I tried it out, it turns out that this is even better than the 'standard' oil lamp that we use during power outages.
Fill the bowl with oil (in my case sunflower oil) and stick a cotton or linen wick in it (some weaving thrums). Leave the wick in the oil for several hours (the longer the better - but at least 5 hours) to soak up the oil. Then hang one end of the wick over the edge of the bowl slightly with the other end in the oil. Light the end of wick that is not in the oil (this takes a few matches on the first go, but gets easier the second time).
Now we have fire!
But, um, we also have smoke!
Don't worry, there is a way to fix that. Simply get something nonflammable like a knife or sewing pin or whatever, and use it to carefully adjust the length of the wick. Make sure the wick stays against the side of the bowl.
Once I get around to polishing up the inside of the lamp bowl, it will reflect more light and make the lamp an even better light source.
When comparing this to the 'standard' oil lamp, it has some considerable advantages.
First off a 'standard' oil lam only works well with lamp oil, an increasingly expensive petrol product. This traditional oil lamp works with any fuel but best with vegetable oil. I'm going to give a try of using it with old cooking oils next, as that's what many cultures use to use.
It produces quite a lot of light, maybe four to eight times a single tealight candle does. This depends on the fuel and the length of the wick.
This brass lamp doesn't produce much heat. It would be enough heat to say, run a Stirling engine, but not as much heat as a 'standard' oil lamp. About the same amount of heat as a tealight candle. After burning it for quite a while, the brass remained cool enough to touch.
Vegetable oil as fuel seems to last long than lamp oil for the volume of the fuel.
I can see all sorts of uses for this from emergency light to, um, I don't know, a way of fuelling a Steampunk device using reclaimed oils as an environmentally friendly fuel source.