I am a former magazine editor and like to write about home improvement, kitchens, interior design, crafts, vintage linens and lifestyle.
Create an Amazing Rock Oil Lamp
This warmly glowing oil lamp looks as though the flame comes dancing from inside the stone. Beginning with an ordinary rock found along the road, I created a twinkling oil lamp elegant enough for a dinner table, durable enough for outdoor entertaining, and easy enough for you to copy. All you need is a drill with a special bit, a little elbow grease, and a few easily found parts. You can make several—these lamps are great one-of-a-kind gifts!
Tools and Supplies
Use these items or close substitutes.
For Preparing the Rock
- Flat rock (approximately two inches thick)
- Electric drill. This is an ideal drill for the project because it's sturdy enough to do the job yet light enough to hold for the time it takes to drill through a rock. I also like not having to contend with a cord. With batteries, I can use it anywhere outside. And while I use one battery, the other can be charging.
- 1/4-inch carbide-tip drill bit (from 6–9 inches long). A regular drill bit won't drill through a rock; you'll need one with a tough carbide tip. This one is ideal because it's long enough to go through most rocks that you'll be using to make your lamps. If the drill is too long, it tends to wobble as you drill.
- Crystal clear matte acrylic spray. I like this matte acrylic spray because it brings out the natural color of the rocks and also keeps them from absorbing oil. Just a light spray is all it takes—if the spray is too heavy, the rock won't look natural.
For Attaching the Receptacle
- Silicone caulk (clear)
- Receptacle for oil (I selected a thick-walled, heavy glass container made to hold a votive candle because it looks elegant yet is large enough to hold a good bit of oil. It also has a flat rim that provides a broad surface to adhere to the rock. I have found these candle holders on Amazon and occasionally at discount stores such as the Dollar Tree. You can use any small metal or sturdy glass container you wish, but those with thick rims work best.)
- White vinegar (to clean the glass receptacle)
For Adding the Wick and Oil
- 2 inch-long glass wick holder. Wick holders come in both metal and glass, but I prefer these glass ones because they'll look almost invisible. The flame from the wick will appear to come directly out of the rock. These particular wick holders are 2 inches long, which means that you can use rocks up to 2 inches thick (for thicker rocks, buy the longest wick holders you can find).
- 1/8-inch wide fiberglass wick (5 inches long). The wick holders above actually come with fiberglass wicks almost 5 inches long, which is long enough to burn for many hours yet not so long that the excess won't coil inside the container.
- Small plastic bottle with nozzle tip
- Clear lamp oil. Clear-burning odorless oil works best. Some people prefer lamp oils that are scented, but with my allergies, I always choose kinds with the least fragrance. That's why I like this brand. It's also clear, and burns with a strong, beautiful flame. You'll control the height of the flame by trimming the wick with scissors before lighting it.
Step 1: Choose the Right Rock
Rocks abound around creek beds, in road cuts, in fields, or even in your own yard. Garden supply stores may be willing to sell small quantities of flagstones or river rocks as well.
Make Sure It's the Right Size and Shape
Look for a rock that is about 2 inches thick with a fairly flat bottom. It may be rough on top—in fact, texture is interesting—but the bottom needs to be flat enough and wide enough to attach a receptacle for the lamp oil beneath it. (I have experimented with drilling several holes in one rock and using a couple of receptacles. I have also glued one rock atop another with the holes aligned.)
Pick One Just Soft Enough to Drill Through
Sandstone, limestone, or other fairly soft rocks are easiest to drill, but avoid rocks with hard seams of quartz or iron ore that will dull your drill bit and wear out your arm. I tried to drill one for 10 minutes before I had to admit that the dark layer of iron ore was too much for me!
Don't Forget to Prepare Your Rock
Wash the rocks you choose to remove any loose soil, and let them dry overnight. Then spray the entire rock, including the bottom, with a very light coat of matte acrylic to enhance the color of the rock. Let the spray dry.
Step 2: Drill the Rock
- Insert a carbide drill bit (made to drill masonry) into your power drill; I used one that was 1/4-inch wide and 6 inches long to be sure that it would go all the way through my rocks.
- Place the rock on a piece of scrap lumber before drilling.
- Holding the drill in a vertical position, press the bit down firmly in the middle of the rock and begin drilling.
- You will immediately see dust (particles of rock) coming from the hole. The friction of the drill against the rock creates a lot of heat. Don’t touch the drill bit when you withdraw it or you’ll burn your fingers! I keep a pitcher of water handy and occasionally pause to shake out the dust and pour some into the hole as I drill, cooling things off a little.
- Keep drilling until the drill bit emerges on the other side of the rock. This usually takes only two or three minutes depending on how hard the rock is.
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Step 3: Attach the Receptacle
Important Tip: First, wash the container in soap and water. Then rub the rim with white vinegar to get rid of every speck of oil. This ensures that the silicone caulk will stick to it. For good results, don't skip this step.
How to Use Silicone Caulk
- Place the receptacle on the underside of the rock, making sure it covers the hole, and draw around it with a pencil.
- Run a line of clear silicone caulk just inside the penciled line, making sure that there are no gaps.
- Run another line of silicone caulk around the rim of the candleholder.
- Gently press the rim down onto the rock, joining the circles of caulk so there are no spaces through which oil can later escape.
- Wipe away any excess caulk with a paper towel.
- Leave the rock upside down and undisturbed until the caulk cures, which can take a day or two.
Step 4: Add the Wick and Oil
Cut a short length of 1/8-inch wide fiberglass wick (I used a piece about 5 or 6 inches long). Insert one end through the top of the glass wick holder and then through the rock, curling it into the receptacle. Your oil lamp is now complete! But before using it, you must fill the receptacle with lamp oil, of course.
How to Fill and Refill the Lamp
I like to transfer a small amount of oil to a small squeeze bottle with a pointed nozzle tip. To fill or refill the lamp:
- Lift both the wick and the glass wick holder just enough to insert the tip of the squeeze bottle into the hole in the rock.
- Squirt in the oil, and if a few drops spill, simply wipe it off.
- Before using the lamp the first time, let the wick soak in the oil for about an hour.
Tips for Using Fiberglass Wicks
Fiberglass wicks last a long time. Keep the wick trimmed almost even with the top of the wick holder. If it is too long, the flame will burn too high and the lamp will smoke. Using the small candle holder shown in my photos as the receptacle, my lamp burns for several hours without needing to be refilled.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Miracle Magnolia
I'd love to hear from you—and if you want to show off your own lamp, this is the place to do it!
Mickie Gee on September 20, 2017:
Just revisited this article. Still one of the best craft ideas I have ever seen.
ColettaTeske on June 17, 2014:
This would look really nice on my patio. Thank you for the great idea!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on June 17, 2014:
Wow, this is an amazing craft. Thanks for sharing!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on June 17, 2014:
What a totally awesome idea! This caveman lamp would be the perfect lamp idea for an outdoor party or back porch, I love it!
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on June 16, 2014:
Can't wait to make one of these rock oil lamps. Excellent project presentation. Welcome to Squidoo! Looking forward to seeing your next DIY tutorial.
Ruthi on June 16, 2014:
I love your Caveman Lamp made from rock and appreciate the terrific tips in your tutorial! I will not only try making a rock lamp of my own but you've also given me an idea for something else. Thanks! (Just what I need-another project ToDo!)
cticheli on June 09, 2014:
I love the one you made for me!
Mickie Gee on June 05, 2014:
This looks like a craft that I could actually make! A rock oil lamp would definitely make an impressive gift.