How to Make an Oil Lamp from an Orange

If you need a temporary, makeshift lighting when you’re off-grid or when the power goes off, an orange can save you. You don’t believe it? Well, try this step-by-step tutorial. All you need can be found in the kitchen: an orange and vegetable oil. This is so easy to do that even a kid can accomplish this trick.

Before you start, here are some things you need to take in mind:

It takes around 10-15 minutes, but you take your time.

If the orange peel is too fragile, you may not be able to do it at first time, but don’t hesitate to try again with another orange.

Don’t rinse the inside of the orange with water because oil and water doesn’t mix. The oil will spit and spatter and may cause a potential fire hazard.

Be smart and practice fire safety. This is not a fool-proof and accident-proof oil lamp, because if you accidentally spill it and it fell on a flammable item, it may cause a fire. If you’re doing it indoors with kids, teach them about fire safety and what to do in case of a fire.

Here are the things you need:

  • An orange – This will serve as the body of the oil lamp
  • A sharp, serrated knife – When you’re roughing it outdoors, you may simply use a puncturing tool and remove the pulp from the middle but it would be difficult. Using a knife to cut the orange in half is way easier. Other knives may also work.
  • A spoon – You need it for scraping the fruit out of the citrus
  • Cutting board – If you’re indoors, use a cutting board to protect your countertops. If you’re camping or living raggedly off-grid, you need a flat surface that you don’t mind getting juice into.
  • Vegetable oil – You may use olive, canola, peanut, palm, safflower, and other types of oil you usually use in the kitchen.
  • A lighter – Light the oil lamps with a lighter.

Here’s how you can make an oil lamp out of an orange.

1. Cut the orange in half.

You may want to mark a line for this for accuracy, but if you’re not particular about it, you can cut the orange right away. You can make it equal, but you can also decide to have one short lamp and one tall one.

2. Hollow out the middle.

Remove the fruit and pulp but be very careful not to remove the stem-like growth in the middle of each rind. These membrane stems will serve as the orange lamp’s wick. If you want to eat the orange inside, cut around the outer edge using a knife to remove the fruit part. If you don’t want to eat it, you can use your fingers to pull the bulk of the orange. Consider throwing it out on the ground for the birds and animals to eat.

Keeping that inner stem intact is a bit tricky, so here’s the trick. Peel the orange at the middle so both of the ends are still covered with peel. Once you have the “equator” of the orange bare, work your thumb or knife gently under the skin of the peel at the stem end. This means you are pushing between the orange fruit parts and the peel. Do it slowly and steadily to keep the peel and the middle stems intact. Work your way around the whole end until the peel is loose and only the stem remains. Don’t push your fingernails into the stem as it will detach your future wick. Do the same for the other half of the orange.

3. Clean it out and dry.

Make sure you remove all the pulpy material and fruit so that the inside surface is smooth and clean. This will ensure that there’s no water that will be added to the oil and that your orange will last for days. You can get creative by making interesting designs on the edge of the orange rinds. You may want to make the rim wavy, jagged, or any kind you want, as long as you won’t puncture holes in the body of the “lamp” where you will put the oil.

After that, allow the peel to dry for at least a day. It doesn’t have to be crisp and hard, but it needs to be completely dried out so it can contain the oil. Now, if you are indoors and you have a microwave, heat the citrus for 30 seconds or so you can dry out the orange peel and the wick a little. You can also use a blow dryer, an oven, or a simple paper towel. Be careful not to cook the orange – you just want it to be dry enough to make it easier to light the week.

4. Add vegetable oil.

Slowly pour olive oil in each rind. It must reach about ¼” to ½” from the top of the wick, because you have to make sure that there’s a small portion of the wick that will not be touched by the oil. Don’t make the untouched wick too long or the flame will be out of control, but don’t make it too short either, as it will go out very quickly. Some DIYers say that olive oil is the best kind of oil to use for this, because olive oil is used in most oil lamps and gives a steadier flame than other types of oil.

5. Light up the wick.

It takes a bit of time for the wick to light so be patient, especially if the wick isn’t fully dry yet. But keep trying and you’ll get a small flame. Nurture it with bursts of fire from your lighter, and it will come into its own.

Now, you have an amazing pair of citrus oil lamps! You can place it on a flat surface, but you can also float them in bowls of water. Don’t place it on top of a tablecloth – especially one made from flammable material – because the oil soaks into the peel. It burns for at least an hour, but it can last longer if you refill it with oil.