The safe lighting of antique oil lamps can prevent major fire disasters. Coal oil, kerosene, and the commercial lamp oils are very flammable and dangerous when carelessly and improperly used.
It's important to know how to use lamps properly. Thanks to these practical tips on how to light oil lamps and how to properly maintain them, you can relax and enjoy your nostalgic lighting with confidence.
Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (c. 1920)
Years ago, when Dad taught me how to light an oil lamp, he stressed these three important lamp safety tips:
1. Never overfill the container with lamp oil; fill to just over three-quarters full.
2. And always make sure the lamp or lantern is sitting on a stable, level surface while lighting it, and...
3. NEVER leave burning lamps unattended.
Always be very careful of lighted oil lamps, especially when children are present. Unlike the youth of Grandma's day, young people are not as aware of the ever present dangers of a lighted lamp.
Lamp oil is quite flammable, and a dropped lamp could explode causing serious burns and quickly destroy a house with fire.
There are a variety of fuels approved for indoor use available from your local hardware stores.
Refined lamp oil tends to work quite well in oil lamps though it tends to burn less bright than kerosene for which they are designed. Olive oil and other vegetable oils are not recommended for use in flat-wick antique oil lamps because of their low viscosity.
More information about the fuel options available for oil lamps can be found online.
Oil burning lamps and kerosene lanterns fell quickly out of fashion once electricity and electric lighting came into widespread use. Fortunately, many households kept their old lamps and lanterns giving us the opportunity to appreciate these beautiful lighting devices from gentler times.
There is now a demand in the marketplace for both new and antique lamps either for decoration or to provide useful mood lighting, or to softly illuminate backyard decks and patios.
Therefore, it's important to know the practical and safe way to operate and maintain these old fashioned light sources. Lighted coal oil lamps are beautiful to behold, and they are completely safe when properly maintained and used.
Our old farmhouse didn't have its electricity installed until around 1950, and although I was only four years old at the time, I can still recall my parents sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper by lamplight while I played with my toys nearby on the floor.
One of the lamps we used is the one pictured. It was found abandoned in the attic of the Bell family's stone farmhouse when my grandfather purchased the property in 1918. The previous owner had been living there a long time, so the lamp's age is thought to be at least 125 years!
Its ceramic oil container fastened atop a brass base is colorfully hand-painted with two young ladies warmly dressed in their winter attire skating across the surface of a pond edged with evergreen trees and the upright stump of a fallen oak tree on the opposite side.
There's something restful and peaceful about soft lamplight, and when care is taken in their lighting, and they are responsibly used, they are a wonderful source of light.
Antique lamps can be found at flea markets and antique stores at various prices, and a selection of both modern and reproduction lamps as well as replacement chimneys and wicks is easily available online from Amazon.