All About Brass Oil Lamps

Solid Copper Oil Anchor Lamp 7 inchSolid Copper Oil Anchor Lamp 7 inch

Brass oil lamps may be antiques or replicas of antique designs. There are also modern designs to choose from, as this type of lighting is considered warm, romantic and inviting. 

They became less popular with the introduction of electric lights. For many years, it was only possible to find them in antique shops or at camping supply stores.

Antique Brass Oil Lamps 

Antique Brass Oil LampAntique Brass Oil Lamp

The antique models were (and still are) quite attractive. There are several things to consider before purchasing an antique model that you intend to light.

This old desgin of lamps may have a wick or a ceramic mantle. Wicks are more traditional but produce less light, usually not enough to use for reading in a dark room. 

Wicks are usually made of braided cotton. They are similar to the wicks used in candles but are wider and more absorbent. The majority of the wick is placed in the fuel tank. The end that is to be lit fits through a wick holder.

The holder usually has a knob designed to raise or lower the wick. Raising the wick produces more light temporarily, while lowering it has the opposite effect. Some people turn the lantern off by lowering the wick until the flame is extinguished. Other options include blowing out the flame or covering it with a candle extinguisher.

Safety First

If you purchase an antique or used lamp, you should purchase a new wick before attempting to use it. If there is fuel in the lamp, you will want to dispose of it and refill the tank with fresh fuel. If you burned the old fuel, it would produce a lot of smelly smoke.

Old wicks also produce more smoke and may be fire hazards, keep any fuel outside of the house in a suitable approved fuel container marked lamp oil or kerosene out of reach from children.

Special lamp oil is the best fuel choice. Kerosene is considered the next best choice but it has a distinct odor that most people find unpleasant. Lamp oils are often scented to produce a pleasant fragrance.

Brass oil lamps with ceramic mantles produce enough light to make it possible to read in a dark room or at a campsite. New mantles have a cotton carrier that must be burned away before the first use.

Mantle Maintenance

Oil Lamp MantleOil Lamp Mantle

A new lantern will typically come with two mantles that are packaged separately from the rest of the lamp. If you purchase an antique, it’s a good idea to replace the mantle before attempting to light the lamp. They last a long time but can pose a variety of hazards when they become coated with soot, dust or other debris. 

It is important to read the directions before attempting to start a new mantle-type lamp and to follow the directions for use. Replacement mantles should come with these directions also. All fuel-powered lanterns are accompanied by the risk of fire and carbon monoxide build-up in poorly ventilated areas. 

Unless you are an antique collector or you prefer the appearance of an antique, it makes sense to purchase a new lamp, especially if you intend to light it. Some people use brass oil lamps only for decoration. Personally, I enjoy the subtle lighting. If you have not experienced the warm glow of  brass oil lamps, you really don’t know what you are missing.

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