Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Little Morning Project

One of my students once remarked that she thought that I was "good with (my) hands" because I did things like build my own simple monitor stand and paint or cover pieces of furniture on my own. Given that I have little regard for my skills in these endeavors, I thought she was giving me far more credit than I was due. Nonetheless, I do enjoy doing such things even when the results are hardly noteworthy.

When I was younger, I used to do these sorts of things all the time. Some of them were pretty good and others rather so-so. Mainly, I liked to paint murals on my bedroom walls, though I was also handy with pen and ink drawing, calligraphy, and making montages. I also used to embroider, crochet and to a much lesser extent, knit. Unfortunately, I don't remember how to do any of those things anymore.

Still, there's something very gratifying about doing something creative with your hands, even if it's unimportant or someone else's idea. This morning, during my usual time wasting on the Internet, I ran across instructions for an oil lamp made from tangerines. With mikan season in full force, I thought I'd give it a try. The instructions are here.

Taking pictures in the dark is hard, so please don't judge my blurry picture too harshly.

The main problem I have with a lot of on-line information, particularly projects and recipes, is that a lot of people aren't entirely honest about the ease, shortcomings, or desirability of the results. I'm pleased to say that this was one occasion where the project pretty much lived up to its potential. It took me about 10 minutes to do this, and about half that time was spent eating the contents of the mikan.

I made my candle about an hour ago (pictured above in its early stages) and it's still burning fine. I have a few notes though about how it burns, however. First of all, my patterned center hole looks kind of cute (at least for a first try), but it was too small. The inside of the pattern started to darken and smelled a bit burnt. I recommend cutting a bigger hole. With mine, I removed the top and just cut it larger once it started to darken up. Also, the top starts to dry out after about 40 minutes and it will look darker around the top when the lights are out and it's illuminated, giving a less even glow. With the lights on, it's still pretty much uniform in appearance, but if you want a uniform glowing ball look, you'll want to light these later rather than earlier.

The site that I got this from said that it smells faintly of orange while burning, but mikan don't seem to do that. I'm guessing other citrus fruit might do better on the aromatic front. Obviously, it's safest to put this on a plate and you absolutely have to keep an eye on it. The bottom of the mikan absorbs the oil pretty rapidly and I don't know what the consequence of this will be after hours of use. Note that I used canola oil rather than olive oil since it's cheaper and I have more on hand.

I think that 6 or 8 of these placed in a double row in the center of a table would look great for a romantic dinner or for a holiday dinner (as long as other lights like candles were on the sides for more illumination). I'll note that mine burned very dimly at first but got a good deal brighter as time went by.

Update: As the burning approached the 2-hour mark, the bottom of the mikan started to burn (like a larger wick) and the oil started to bubble and smell like burnt oil. Clearly, you can't burn these for too long, but they're good for about 90 minutes.


Helen said...

This is very cool!

I don't like oranges so I probably won't do it, but that site, Instructables is very interesting. I kept following links to interesting things there for about 20 minutes. I've bookmarked it for myself.

Emsk said...

Very nice! And your first try as well. I might have a shot myself. I bet it smells good as well.

Kelly said...

Looks good! It would be good for halloween even, for lack of pumpkins.

I'd probably try it with a navel orange.

How about just putting a tealight inside the bottom, instead of oil and a wick?