Kerosene Lamp Love

Amethyst Glass Lincoln Drape Lamp

Amethyst Glass Lincoln Drape Lamp

Greg’s post about his oil lamp and the responses to it had me feeling nostalgic. When I was young (very young!) Grandma used sit in her rockeralongside a table in the living room, reading by the light of a coal oil lamp. I can see her reading there now, the lamp throwing rounded shadows that swayed and danced as she rocked.

Although she called it coal oil, the fluid that burned so brightly might have been kerosene. There is little distinction between the two fuels, but coal oil is distilled from a combination of cannel coal, mineral wax and bituminous shale, while kerosene is distilled from oil. Kerosene burns brighter, longer and cleaner than coal oil and it smells (a little) better, too.

Today you can buy lamp oil, which is further processed and refined from oil. Lamp oil doesn’t have a kerosene smell – as a matter of fact, pleasant scents are often added to it. It doesn’t smoke as much or produce as much soot as kerosene – but neither is it as cheap.

Coal oil was used in lamps before we learned to process oil into kerosene, and many of the same lamps that burned coal oil were used for kerosene without any adjustments or changes. The same lamps can be used with lamp oil.

Whether it’s coal oil or kerosene or lamp oil, the fuel is extremely flammable. If you pour a thin line of kerosene from your front door down the street and light it, it will follow the line all the way to the house. (Don’t try it!) It LIKES to burn, so remember that if you spill a little on your fingers when you fill the lamp.

When you fill a lamp, only fill it half to three quarters of the way – never fill it to the top of the lamp reservoir. Put the burner back on and adjust the wick so that it’s just above the top of the burner.

Aladdin Deluxe Brass Table Oil Lamp

Aladdin Deluxe Brass Table Oil Lamp

If you’re using a new flat wick, trim it just a little on either corner – about a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch, slightly rounding the top. Be careful to get it even so the flame will burn evenly. It took me awhile to figure this one out, but it seems obvious, doesn’t it? (I was very young when I witnessed the whole lamp thing.) Another thing is that you need to let a new wick soak for a half hour or so before trying to light it. It needs time to “wick” up the lamp oil or kerosene before it will burn. Yup, I’ve ruined a few wicks in my day.

Another thing I learned, but not through personal experience, thank heavens: Never turn the wick down into the lamp when it’s burning, as it can catch the top of the fuel in the reservoir on fire and the lamp will explode, with fuel and fire going everywhere. That’s not a pretty picture.

Wicks need to be replaced when they get too short to reach into the fuel, and chimneys get broken now and then. Most other lamp parts will last a very long time, but now and then you might need a new burner. Lehman’s has all the replacement parts you’ll ever need, and that’s good to know, because they’re not always easy to find.

Chimney Cleaning Brush

Chimney Cleaning Brush

I remember Grandma trimming the wick before she lit the lamps each evening. That removes charred edges and keeps the soot and smoke to a minimum when the lamp is lit. Chimneys are delicate glass! Grandma used a piece of wadded up newspaper to clean the inside, but I remember her washing them in her round metal dishpan. That was something that little girls never got to help with, so it was sort of a rite of passage when I got my own lamp and washed the globe for the very first time! (Lehman’s carries a handy brush for this purpose, too.)

Another (random) caution is that kerosene or lamp oil will freeze and become unstable when it thaws, so keep it in its original container if possible (for protection and identification).

Most kerosene lamps will burn for hours on a refill, making them inexpensive to use, and they’re so pretty I love to display them – no special storage needed – so they’re ready whenever I am.

They manage to be practical, frugal, decorative, and romantic all at the same time. I really doubt Grandma thought of those things though.YouTube VideosShe just wanted some light to read by, and that’s not a bad use, either.

To view an instructional video on how to use Aladdin lamps, click here.

About Pat Veretto

Pat is a frugal living expert with many published articles. She lives in Colorado and maintains her own Frugal Living Blog (which we love!).

13 thoughts on “Kerosene Lamp Love

  1. Greg, I saw Galen’s answer to your post after I’d posted this last night. Kind of embarrassing because I’m sure he knows more about them than I do. :)

    ailsaek, no, you can’t burn vegetable oil in oil or kerosene lamps, it’s not flammable enough and it would gum up the burner as well as the wick. I am coveting a couple of those olive oil lamps, though. You can burn vegetable oil in them.

  2. Hi Mom!

    Great article. Now I know why I like my kerosene lamps so well–it’s genetic. ;-) I’ve also been wanting one of those olive oil lamps, or the kit, or the book, or all three.

  3. At last – a place where I can admit my love of kerosene lamps! We only use our Aladdin when the power fails. This happens mainly in summer when we have severe storms and we are so appreciative of being able to carry on with whatever we were doing. We limit our use as mantles are difficult to come by, but having Lehman’s as close as the keyboard, things could just change!
    Great article Pat, good sound advice – and I really must have one of those chimney brushes.

  4. cyberscryber, imagine meeting you here! “I’ve also been wanting one of those olive oil lamps, or the kit, or the book, or all three.” Have you told Santa?

  5. Thanks, aussiegirl. I think a lot of people love kerosene lamps but never say so. Those chimney brushes beats a wad of newspaper, that’s for sure.

  6. Lol, I love this site…love the blogs and newsletter too, just don’t have a lot of time to read/post much these days. No, haven’t told Santa yet, guess I better get to writing him an email. ;-)

  7. We just reverted back to kerosene lamps and woodstove yesterday. No power for 11 hours wwith the temps around zero and 40-60 mph winds to bring trees down on the lines. It is very dark here this time of year, so we had 6 kerosene lamps going to see hour way around the house and a hurricane lantern tp care for the livestock. My sons even had to go out on the lake and cut a hole through the ice to get water to give the critters.

  8. Don, We hope all is well in Alaska, keep warm. In North East Ohio, we are experiencing some pretty cold temperatures as well. These cold temperatures are coming complete with the winds and the scattered power outages. The handy google gadget on my computer is telling me that it is about 27 degrees here in Dalton. Keep warm and let us know how it is going in Alaska.

  9. Don,, there you are I have been looking for you.. Only by accident i found this end of this web page.. How have you been? We just had our first big snow this past weekend, 10 inches before the wind took over.. Ok if I can rememebr how I got here maybe we can stay in contact now,, still havent figure out this site yet,, take care


  10. simplefarmgirl, Is there anything that we can do to help you with this site? We are glad to help

    We are going to keep the community together on our Lehman’s Life forum. Problems with inappropriate comments plagued the first discussion boards. I have a moderator lined up (need more), to help us keep the nasty spam off. If you have not been to Lehman’s Life, there is a link at the top of this web page and on or just click here. If you or anybody is having problems understanding the blog, feel free to contact us

  11. we have used kerosene lamps as needed and often because we simply wanted the ‘atmosphere’ that comes with its use, for over 30 years, and, as a child we used wood stove, a range, that consumed a forest a day! we kids were certain, as we had to keep wood box filled, with kindling, small to larger pieces of wood. i love using these lamps, we are extremely careful(i am a burn nurse~rn~now ret.)the children grew up with and learned very quickly what was hot and not to touch! used to live in montana and can appreciated cold weather ~ when it is cold and damp here, that combination will ‘git cha freezin’ too!! (north florida) nothing like the warm, cheery glow of a kerosene lamp on a miserable, freezing day. everyone take care and have a merry christmas ~ tingo