How to Make a Clay Olive Oil Lamp - Late Roman Style

I made a couple of oil lamps yesterday to see if it was possible to make them during Seminary.














How to make a clay oil lamp

I created a Flickr tutorial for this project and posted it here: - follow this link to find more pictures and instructions for making these simple clay olive oil lamps.

What I learned

First off, these lamps are not created the way that lamps would have been made during Bible days. Those oil lamps would have been turned on a potter's wheel.

These clay lamps took a little over an hour to make.

I used terra cotta colored air-dry clay by Amaco. A big block of it cost $10, and that clay would be enough to make about 30 small lamps. It was a difficult material to work with for me, since I had never done any kind of pottery before. I had to cut chunks off and soak them in water for about 20 minutes before I could get the clay to a consistency that I could work with. I think that Crayola's air dry clays or oven baked clays are probably easier to use.

Folded lamps (like the farthest one in the picture) take more clay.

The clay tools I bought made working with the clay so much easier and fun! The set I got cost around $7.00 at Michael's.

I lit my lamp using a tightly twisted up paper towel as a wick. It worked perfectly. A tablespoon and a half of oil burned thirty minutes, until I blew the flame out.

ATTENTION! The type of clay I used absorbs oil. You will need to coat your sculpture with a varnish or other finish to prevent the oil from soaking in and causing your lamp to crumble.

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Jenny Smith's picture

I saw the Sculpey brand clay,

I saw the Sculpey brand clay, but it was way too expensive to use for an entire Seminary class. I've got 16 kids, and the clay alone would have cost over $40 for them. Since CES/SI gives us a whopping budget of $50 for the year AND given the time it took to make these, I will not have students make these during class.

I did, however, buy a tube of the Crayola air dry clay for about $6.00 and made the folded Old Testament style lamp. That was super easy and took about 5 minutes (yes, really) and it would be possible to make that style of lamp during a single class period, or for FHE with small children or a Primary or Young Women activity.