The humble Bottle Lamp, the one that you make for yourself from scrap, is probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to put some light into the darkness, whether that is in your home during a power outage or in a cabin or cave. It is also something that the homesteader who needs to be frugal but needs some extra lights can make use of. At the same time one recycles old glass jars and short squat glass bottles.
Some vendors of survival goods and equipment do sell what I would call a 'glass jar' with a wick, which burns lamp-oil, and call it a "survival candle", but those things ain't no candles as such at all; they really are nothing but bottle lamps. And bottle lamps you don't bother to go out and buy and spend good hard-earned dollars on; you make 'em yourself.
In other places similar lamps were used in days gone by, and in some case that ain't even that long ago as in the case of the homesteads, the squats, and outstations, in the outback of the big island continent of Australia. There the Bushmen (in no way to be confused with the Bushmen of South Africa) used to use such lamps in various ways and they were known among some of them as "slush lamps". I have made such a small lamp from and empty (obvious, you say) glass bottle (see picture) that contained once an orange drink called "Orangina" and have used it on many an occasion when the light went out or when I was living in places without electricity. But there are also various other small bottles with metal screw top lids that you could use and which are equally suitable for conversion into a bottle lamp. The metal screw top is important, though if you haven't got one on the bottle then that isn't the end of the world yet either but I'll come back to that one later on.
The little bottle lamp that I made for myself took about ten minutes to make, and no more than that, after I had drunk the drink and cleaned and dried it. I made a hole in the center of the metal screw top and fitted a hollow rivet into it and afterwards I made a wick for it from a strip from an old 100% cotton T-shirt. It does work. You can use kerosene, JP4 high-grade aviation fuel as that used by helicopters, coal oil, lamp oil like citronella and such, as well as liquid paraffin. If you find a little glass jar or a bottle that is nice and suitable to be made into a bottle lamp but it hasn't got a metal screw top then don't despair. Use a 2p coin (that is a British copper coin of 1inch diameter) or a metal disc of similar size and especially one that fits well over the neck of the bottle in question, drill a whole thru the center, put your homemade wick thru this hole and, using this coin or metal disc in place of the metal screw top, your little lamp is ready to light your home.
Only small bottles can be used for making bottle lamps. The wick cannot draw the kerosene up from, for instance, the depth of a big bottle such as a wine or whiskey one. Ideally the bottle should be short and squat; no more than 5 ½ to 6 inches high and the wider, e.g. the squatter, the better. Whiskey pocket flask, the so-called quarter bottles, that can often been found laying about having been thrown away by some wino, are fine in height but their bases are too small and you would have to make something into which you could firmly "plant" the bottle so it won't fall over once it is alight.
© M V Smith