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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crafting an Oil Lamp from Tin Cans

One of my very best friends, Barbara, was a Fulbright Scholar in Yemen in the early 1990s. She brought gifts to me that reflected her frugal nature and lack of money, my frugal nature and pleasure with handmade gifts, and the frugality of the Yemeni people because of their lack of money.
Please do not think of your displeasure with the Yemen government while looking at this object as I explain the oil lamp. I am not opposed to your views at all.
This lamp is crafted from at least two cans unless this were a very tall bean can. You will notice there is a funnel on top for filling the can, a holder for the wick, and a handle. Oh, I pulled the wick out and cannot get it all the way back in with only a half inch showing like it should be. Does anyone know how to push the wick back in?
My friend told me in response to my questions, that this was not a tourist item. This is what the people use who do not have electricity in Sana'a. She did have electricity, but many did not or used lamps to avoid using electricity.
There's more to see.

 Look inside the little attached funnel. Besides the bean can used, obviously a BP can of some sort was used for the funnel.

Curious as to how this was assembled, I have turned the oil lamp every way I could. Look at the right side of the picture under the rim. The top was assembled, it appears, by turning the top edge of the can outward so a tiny rim is horizontal to the bottom of the can, flat in other words.  Then, the lid that is obviously about a quarter of an inch larger than the diameter of the can is laid on top of the can. It appears the round "lid" is crimped about an eighth of an inch or a bit more over and under the can piece bent horizontal to the can bottom. Am I correct about that? By the way, the little oil funnel and the wick holder were affixed to the lid of the lamp before the lid was attached to the bean can that holds the oil.

BP can strip used for a handle
The seam was welded at the factory as was the bottom. The handle is soldered/welded. The only part that is not soldered/soldered is the lid. Of course, the funnel for filling and the little chimney that holds the wick appear to be soldered, too.

See in English
On the can:
Net weight 390 gm
Ingredients:,Broad Bean, Water, Salt.

Healthy, right? And, the cans have been recycled.

While I am not sure I can handle the labor involved....can you?
This is one of my treasures.

Your turn
Are you as intrigued with the construction of this used item made from canjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj ...
(to be continued)
I went to sleep typing. (continuing) I am?


  1. It's all good. sorry I got so upset. the rat

  2. You might try twisting the wick while pushing it back in.

    1. Jane,
      I did that. No luck. I think I will just buy a wick that is more tightly woven. If I ever have to use it, I may just cut the wick if all else fails. Or, I can just use the wick elsewhere. Thanks for the suggestion. It never hurts to have clearer minds thinking for me some days.

  3. You could try some wire to push the wick down. Just bend the end a tiny bit at an angle, or try without bending at all... you don't want it to snag on the way out.

    I have a deep appreciation for such things, and for making do. It takes a lot of skill and critical thinking to avoid swiping a credit card or opting for a big-box solution.

  4. Ron,
    I will try that. Thanks. I still look at that lamp. I decided that the soldering on the lid was done first. Probably the wick was inserted at that point, inserted from the underside of the lid.

    I, too, have a deep appreciation of handmade things and making do. My father was a master at several skills. I cannot afford the credit card or big box solution. Even if I could the handmade will always appeal to me. It satisfies a deep need in me.

    If someone would make one, I would put the picture on my blog. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. I can't say I'd really want to own one, but they are fascinating. How clever.

    1. Clever, yes. I sort of imagine that this design keeps a person from having to find a funnel to pour in the fuel and has a secure top to keep a person from spilling it as it is moved in or out of a dwelling. She said these are carried at night outdoors, too.

  6. Thanks for sharing, that is quite neat.

    Does the wick holder come apart? It looks to be in two pieces, overlapping. If it does, it might be easier to pull the wick down from underneath.

    Did your friend mention what they used for fuel? The design with the funnel built in would make it very handy in the kitchen when draining fats off of meat.

    1. Wendy,
      All I know is that some sort of oil was used. She may have told me, but I don't think so.

      I just figured out that it does come apart. duh!

  7. This is a treasure. There is a persistent thought going through my head that the cut metal edges must be dangerously sharp...especially on the handle where I imagine fingers grasping metal edges would be involved. I'm thinking they are finished smoothly I just can't see it in the photo. Am I right?

    This is a fascinating example of repurposing!

  8. Sue,
    The edges are very smooth. I would be the first to get cut.

    I was equally fascinated with the repurposing, also.


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