Simple Oil Lamp

In an earlier blog we looked at the advantages of an oil lamp compared to relying on a fire for light. In this blog we will look at how we can make a simple air dried pinch pot clay lamp.

shovelClay found under the soil layer 

If you are lucky enough to be in a region of the UK to contain clay soil you are already halfway there, if not a local hobby store or art shop can be a good supply. If you are lucky enough to have clay in your locality you need to get below the soil layer to reach clean clay with few impurities. Having any impurities in your clay can lead to cracking issues later on, obviously if you have bought clay from a hobby store this shouldn’t be an issue.

clay in soil Clay in soil

Above we can see digging further down reveals  more consistent clay more suited for our lamp making. Below we can see this clay being extracted.

clay handExtracting the clay from the ground

We need to put some energy into the clay now to make it workable. straight out of the ground it will be cold & stiff. Using our hands we need to add some warmth to the clay to make it workable. Depending on the ambient temperature with a small piece, say the size of a golf ball, this should only take 10 -15 minutes. Once you are happy roll this into a ball.

ballManipulating the clay into a workable state

pinch potStarting a simple pinch pot

Now it is time to start creating a small pinch pot. To start with just useing your thumb to create a little well. once this has been established start to introduce index finger of the same hand to form the outside as your thumb contours the inside. Rotate the pot round as you do so to give a consistent shape. If your pot starts to form the odd crack or two there is no reason to panic, simply work a little slip  over the area. Slip is a mixture of more clay and water, which is easily made, that acts as a glue helping to eliminate these problem areas. Adding a little more worked clay can help tackle any larger issues.

drying potsAir drying the pots slowly by the fire

Once you are happy with your form we need to allow the clay to air dry, placing it near a gentle fire and rotating periodically can help with this. Allowing it to dry gradually will help to minimize any cracking. The drying time  will vary greatly depending on the ambient temperature at the time of year you are working in relation to the heat of the fire and the movement of the air on the day. We are interested in forming a dried non sticky surface for our proposes which can be achieved within the day. To be completely dry this could take several weeks.

line of potsA selection of different designs

lit lampLamps with lit Rose Bay Willow Herb wicks & rendered animal fat or vegetable oil fuel

 Once they have achieved a dry surface all that remains is to take some of natures own wicking fibers such as Rosebay Willowherb or  Clematis which are still available at this time of the year and  by dipping a small amount of the fibres in a little rendered animal fat or vegetable oil they can be twisted into an effective wick.  Add a little of your chosen oil, normal vegetable oil works well, into your pot to act as the reservoir.  Dip the wick into the pot and lay the wick against the edge. Now light your lamp and enjoy the light it casts to continue your projects well into the evening.

Jay Jenner





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