Sometimes, I'll come across a DIY that seems like the most inventive, adorable idea in the world—and then when I go to write about it I find that the tutorial exists in a million iterations all over the internet. (Old news, Sims! —my browser.) It happened to me recently: My friend Lucy mentioned, very casually, that she and her husband Josh turn their whiskey bottles into oil lanterns when they've drained all the good stuff. Cue the vinyl screech. It's resourceful, they're so pretty, and I'd never heard of doing such a thing before—win, win, win.
But this is the thing: The art of making oil lamps is... an old one. (We're talking BC.) So of course crafty folks have been turning vessels into lamps, by a similarly simple logic that was used thousands of years ago, in modern times. Empty vessel. Add oil. Add wick. Flame on. "Bottle oil lamp" throws a casual 70,000 hits my way on Youtube.
Does that mean it's not worth sharing how to turn a bottle into a lamp here? Pshh. I'm going to assume that some of you, like me, hadn't heard of how to do this—or maybe you'd like a refresher. Make them as a way to spare your favorite empty bottles from the recycling bin, or as candlelight that doesn't cost you a zillion dollars a pop. Here's how Lucy and Josh make theirs, which worked perfectly when we re-created it in our studio:
Once all the good stuff has been imbibed, clean out any lovely-looking booze bottles you'd like to turn into lanterns with soap and water and let them dry. Note: Not only do squatty, or otherwise broad-bummed liquor bottles look a little more polished than wine bottles (in my opinion), they're also naturally sturdier—and therefore safer. You don't want these tipping over! (Renters: Check your lease to be sure candles are A-OK to burn in your place before proceeding. There, I said it. )
A quick internet search will reveal just how many lamp oil options are out there (a lot). What you're looking for is something specifically designed for indoor use, or indoor/outdoor use—and also nontoxic, smokeless, and odor-free. Firefly is a good brand.
Using a funnel, fill the clean, dry bottles about 2/3 full with oil. Clearly label and store any leftover oil far away from foodstuffs—you don't want anyone mistaking it for a beverage.
Oh, you spilled a little? Fret not. Any small spills can be cleaned up with a solution of dish detergent and water (a water-based cleaner won't do diddly). And if you spill a lot of oil, there's hope for your carpet yet: Spread a layer of kitty litter, baking soda, or sawdust over the spot and let it sit for 30 minutes, till most of the oil is absorbed. Scoop it up and discard, vacuum the spot, then blot with some of the detergent solution and let it dry.
Cut a length of cotton wick so that it extends from the opening of the bottle down into a curlicue at the base (so, about 1.5 times the height of the bottle). A flat wick looks really nice, a little like ribbon, but nothing is stopping you from using a chunkier one—just be sure you can stuff it through your wick holder and that it's a tight enough fit to stay there.
Thread one end of the wick through the wick holder so that just a half-inch or so pokes through its top, then drop the long end in the oil, the wick holder into the neck of the bottle. Wait about ten minutes for the oil to soak all the way up the wick—you'll be able to see that it looks wet. Then tug on the exposed end until you see some of the soaked section emerge. Trim the exposed part of the wick to be 1/4-inch tall (any taller, and your flame might be unwieldy).
As mentioned, you'll want to put your bottle lantern somewhere kiddos and pets won't accidentally knock it over—where there are no fluttery curtains to drift into its path, no shelves above it to burn a spot onto. On a mantel, inside a decorative fireplace, or right on the tabletop would make sense (the whole short-and-squatty look doubles as a good idea in this instance, so dinner guests can see over and past them).
A few more things to keep in mind:
Have you ever made an oil lamp before? Share your tips (I'm curious about using essential oils...) in the comments.