(Just for a change, a practical post.)
Several people asked me about the oil candles I referred to in Perfect Whole, Superstorm Sandy Edition, so I thought I would post some pictures and directions for anyone who also finds herself running out of candles at a crucial moment.
These worked so well that I am putting cotton twine and vegetable oil on my list of emergency supplies for the next time the lights go out.
Here’s how you make them.
1) Gather supplies. You will need:
- Cotton kitchen twine (a.k.a. beef twine)
- An empty tea light OR a piece of aluminum foil OR something else to stabilize the wick
- Vegetable oil
- A heat-resistant glass dish, such as this Pyrex dish (a thin glass votive I tried shattered from the heat, so avoid those).
- Something to pierce a hole in the tea-light foil. I used a corkscrew.
2. Cut a piece of twine a few inches long.
3. Pierce the center of the tea-light foil.
4. Pour an inch or two of oil into the Pyrex dish and saturate the twine in it. The more oil in the dish, the longer your candle will burn.
5. Remove the twine from the oil and thread it through the hole you made in the tea-light foil. Leave about 1/4″ poking out of the top. This is the wick of your candle. The length of this portion will determine the height and brightness of your flame. (The ancient admonition to “trim your lamp” will suddenly make sense when you experiment with wick length, just as all those agricultural proverbs start to mean something when you begin gardening.)
6. Place the foil and wick in the center of the dish and light it.
You can also use this trick to extend the lives of candle stubs. Under normal condition, you might just discard a leftover candle, but when you don’t know when you’ll have electricity again, every bit of light counts. Pour enough oil in the Pyrex dish to level with the candle stub, and soak the remaining wick from the candle in the oil. Stand the stub up in the center of the oil and light the oil-soaked wick. As the candle melts, the wick will burn the oil instead of the wax, and it will last for some time. I burned a two-inch stub this way for hours, and the red wax looked pretty melting into the golden oil.
Before a storm and during a blackout, stores frequently run out of candles, but I have never heard of a store running out of kitchen twine and cooking oil.
Our electric lights are on now, but I burned our leftover oil candles while I was cooking the night after the power returned, just because they were warm and cheerful. Five days of candlelight was, apparently, not quite enough.
If you have any good blackout tips, please post them in the comments.
Nota Bene: As a responsible blogger, I should probably point out that things you light on fire get hot. Please be careful.