The Junk Parlor

Repurposing An Oil Lamp Into A Bug Repellent Torch

My friend Mary showed me this idea on how she was repurposing an oil lamp into a bug repellent torch. Now, probably 5 years later I am actually getting around to doing it for myself!!

Finished oil lamp bug repellent lantern

Gather Your Supplies

Oil Lamps

Up close of the oil lamps I have to repurpose

Your first task is to gather some oil lamps. You do not need the chimney piece of the oil lamp. And while it is nice to have oil lamps with the burner collar, you can buy those online new if necessary. You will need to measure the opening on your oil lamp as they do come in different diameters. HERE is an example of what you will need to buy if yours is missing. I got lucky and all of mine had the burner collar and one even had an unused wick.

Up close of oil lamps without burner collars

Oil lamps come in all different shapes and sizes. You can get them in different colors of glass, hand painted, opaque, etc. You can also paint them yourself if you prefer a certain look.

In this situation I was not very picky as I needed them quickly for my presentation for Hello Iowa. Even in my 40’s I sometimes fall into that trap of procrastination!! Because I needed these in a pinch I searched my local Facebook Marketplace. I lucked out and found one for $2 that was already on my thrifting Thursday route! But, I needed more than one.

Up close of the oil lamps with burner collars still on.

I reached out to Gary at the Thrifty Flea Market to see if he had any cheap ones in his stash. And luckily he did, so I got 3 more. Amazingly these are all clear glass, which I wanted, yet different shapes! Whenever you are putting together a grouping it is nice to have a mismatched look, different shapes, sizes, or colors for variation. For the look I was creating I wanted clear glass ones. Remember I am a neutral girl!! Check out my house HERE.

If you’ve listened to many of my styling tips, then you know I often suggest things to be in odd numbers, yet I now have 4 oil lamps. I’m thinking about these oil lamps in more of a functional way, so I may scatter them all around our deck and front porch. Or, I may put one on our front porch and put a grouping of 3 on our side deck. When it comes time to using them I can spread them out around the area we want to drive the bugs away from. Then, to “store” put them back in a little vignette together.


Now I’m not sure if you can or should use a used wick, so I do suggest measuring your burner collar where the wick would come out and then order the appropriate size online. I measured my openings AND the wicks that were still in the burner collar. I ended up ordering THIS size.

I went a little smaller with my wick because I wanted to make sure that the roll of wick would fit in all of the burner collars that I had. I also picked THIS roll because it was a smaller amount. I didn’t want to have a bunch of extra wick laying around. I figured it would be easier to order it once I ran out and needed it, that way I could make sure I liked the kind and size I selected.

Picture of the Tiki brand torch fuel and wick I purchased for this project

Liquid Bug Repellent

When I ordered my wick off of Amazon, I forgot to also order the torch fuel, so I enlisted my husband to pick one out. THIS is what he picked. I only filled mine about half way because I wasn’t sure how often I would use it or how quickly it would burn through the fuel. If you have a special preference of torch fuel, please let me know in the comments!


up close of dirty insulators

I used to have buckets of insulators, but when we moved I didn’t keep any of them. Now, I look for unique ones for a good customer, but I don’t see as many of them living in the city as I did in rural Iowa. Again, waiting until the last minute to do my project now I HAD to have some insulators!

I turned to Gary at the Thrifty Flea Market again, but he was all out. I knew some vendor booths at Collectamania normally had some, and they did the day I went shopping too! I wanted clear ones to match the clear glass oil lamps. I also needed the bigger size versus the smaller size. Luckily I found a few options to bring home.

While I was hunting for insulators I was also brainstorming of other options. The insulators essentially replace the chimney on the oil lamps. The insulators are off when you want to burn the lamp. When you turn the lamps off, then you cover the wick with the insulator. This prevents the rain from getting in your oil lamp.

You could possibly take on and off the chimney, but chimney glass is normally pretty fragile. If your area gets as windy as ours does, the chimney becomes one more thing that could blow over and break. For that reason I just leave the chimney off. The insulators are low profile and heavier weight, so they are not as impacted by strong winds.

What if you don’t have insulators? Glass bells, glass candle votives, custard cups, etc. are all things you can use as lids. They are easy to source at garage sales and thrift stores for next to nothing! When I was testing out different lids, I found an oil lamp and memorized the booth location. As I found items that could work for lids I took them to the booth to test out on the oil lamp. You could do that too!

When I found things I liked, I took them to the counter. At the end of my shopping, I narrowed down what I wanted to actually purchase and what I wanted the staff to return to the correct booth!

Candle votive options you could also use as lids

Cleaning The Oil Lamp

Luckily none of the oil lamps I purchased were very dirty. I simply filled the sink with hot soapy water and washed the glass oil lamp base. I had one with some dried on oil that required a little more elbow grease. I let it soak with the hot soapy water and then put a washcloth inside the lamp. I left a little of the washcloth sticking out the opening so I could keep a hold of it. I didn’t want to risk not being able to fish the washcloth back out of the base.

Holding onto the washcloth I put a bottle brush into the oil lamp base. I used that to push the washcloth into the crevices that had the old dried oil. I got it cleaned relatively easily. If that hadn’t worked I had planned on using some WD-40. WD-40 is one of my favorite cleaning supplies. If you would like to know what else I like to use to clean junk, check it out HERE.

insulators and oil lamp in the sink getting cleaned.
cleaned oil lamp bases

Want to WATCH Instead of Read?

Assemble Our Oil Lamp Bug Repellent Torch

Put Wicks in the Burning Collar

To remove any old wicks from the burning collar you will simply pull out the wick from the back side. If it is sticking then you may need to turn the wick control knob. Once the old wick is removed you will need to insert your new wick. With an empty oil lamp place the wick down into the oil chamber. Determine how much access you want in the bottom of the chamber. The wick must be long enough to touch the torch fuel, so it is better to cut it longer than you think.

If your oil lamp has oil in it, you can measure the wick on the outside of the oil lamp. Once you have determined how much wick you need, cut it straight across. Take one end of the wick and insert it on the backside of the burning collar. The burning collar has little teeth inside it where the wick is placed. This holds the wick in place and the teeth move the wick up and down as the knob is turned.

back view of burning collar and it's teeth
Burning collar with new wick inserted

Some oil lamps will not have a knob. In that case simply push/pull the wick with your fingers.

Add Torch Fuel

The torch fuel I purchased has a unique insert under the lid that helps with pouring. I would pour your torch fuel over the sink or a trash can. If you aren’t confident in your abilities to pour without wasting a lot of fuel or making a mess, then I suggest using a funnel. Otherwise just pour your fuel directly into the oil lamp base.

I only filled mine about half way because I wanted to see how quickly it burned up. And how often I used it.

Reattach Burner Collar with the New Wick

Match Insulator Lids to Base

There are a few different ways you can make sure the insulators sit snuggly on top of the oil lamps. Which method you use depends partly on the diameter of your burner collar. It depends on the diameter of your “lid” and how strong your burner collar teeth or prongs are.

For one example I placed the burner collar teeth, the pieces that typically hold the chimney securely in place, inside the grooves of the insulator. See photos.

For another oil lamp bug repellent torch I pushed these teeth all the way to the center of the burner collar. Making the prongs tight to where the wick comes out.

And the last alternative is to push the teeth farther out away from where the wick is held. This gives you a larger diameter for your lid. It also holds the insulator lid in a more traditional way, like the oil lamp would have held a chimney.

Burner teeth pushed out

See a far out shot of how each oil lamp with the lid looks depending on burner collar teeth placement.

All three ways you can put the insulator on the oil lamp

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2 thoughts on “Repurposing An Oil Lamp Into A Bug Repellent Torch”

  1. I absolutely love this! My insulators are quite boring sitting on the shelf. I have my mom’s oil lamp and I am going to do this with. Will be nice seeing it burn when outdoors than only noticing it occasionally on the mantel. Thanks for sharing as I would have never thought of using my insulators in this fashion.

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