Monday, January 18, 2010

Making an oil lamp, like Ma Ingalls

"What's a button lamp?" Pa asked.
"Wait and see," said Ma.
When he had gone to do the chores for the night Ma told Carrie to bring her the rag bag. She took some of the axle grease from the box and spread it in an old saucer. Then she cut a small square of calico.  "Now find me a button in the button bag, Carrie."
"What kind of button, Ma?" Carrie asked, bringing the button bag from the cold front room.
"Oh, one of Pa's old overcoat buttons," said Ma.
She put the button in the center of the square of calico.  She drew the cloth together over the button and wound a thread tightly around it and twisted the corners of calico straight upward in the tapering bunch.  Then she rubbed a little axle grease up the calico and set the button into the axle grease in the saucer.
"Give me a match, Charles, please," Ma said. She lighted the taper tip of the button lamp.  A tiny flame flickered and grew stronger.  It burned steadily, melting the axle grease and drawing it up through the cloth into itself, keeping itself alight by burning.  The little flame was like the flame of a candle in the dark. 
"You're a wonder, Caroline," said Pa. "It's only a little light, but it makes all the difference."
                                     The Long Winter

After the children and I read through that part, the wheels in my head began to turn and I wanted to mimic "Ma's button lamp"
I didn't have any axle grease lying around so I took my button, wound my fabric and used olive oil instead. I took a small mason jar, filled it with water about 3/4 the way full and then olive oil on top. Sat the button and the 'wick' inside and poked a smallish hole in the lid of the jar, just enough for my wick to stick out about 1/2 inch.
It worked. :)

It was so great to see the kids eyes when it worked and they thought I was just as clever as Ma. Now that is a compliment. :)
She was a wonder...
Have a beautiful day.
My Cup Runneth Over...


  1. Chas, you are so neat. I didn't make no button lamp when WE came to that part in the book. We just said, "Ohhhh, cool." I like you. :o)


  2. That is SO neat, Chas!
    You are such a fun, creative momma :)

  3. How neat ~ You are as clever as Ma Ingalls!

  4. Yes Ma, you are a wonder!

    As you, I too did not read the Little House books when I was young. That was because Little House was a brand new TV series that had me glued every Monday at 8pm.

    Later in life, when I finally did read the books, I couldn't believe how *far from Laura's stories* the TV show was. I like the books MUCH BETTER and re-read them from time to time.

  5. I think the show was excellently portrayed and the characters so realistic. I don't think they could have done a better job. Awesome show, was back then and still is in re-runs. I love LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.