Field expedient lamps, from the “Tornister-Lexikon”

Translated from “Tornister-Lexikon für den Frontsoldaten” by Gerhard Bönicke, Tornisterschrift des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, 1943.

“The simplest, most expedient light source is a flat bowl (a cup, small food cans or shoe polish tins) filled with rapeseed oil, poppyseed oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil or olive oil, with a cotton wick hanging in it that is fixed to the edge of the bowl using wire (but without wrapping the wire tightly around the wick).

Candles can be made using absorbent, absolutely dry cotton threads, that are dipped in melted beeswax, stearin, parrafin or ceresin wax, or melted remains of candles, or a mix of these materials, and allowed to cool between each dip, until a candle of sufficient strength is formed. To make an adequately thick wick, if need be, multiple cotton threads can be wound together.


An expedient petroleum lamp can be made out of an empty food can, with the cut-off lid soldered back on, as shown in figure 18.

To refill the can, a penny-sized hole is cut into the lid on one side, that can be closed with a fitting cork or wood plug. To pass the wick through, use part of another food can to make a rectangular sleeve, corresponding to the width and thickness of the wick, about 2 cm high, and solder it to the center of the top of the can, after cutting a corresponding slit in the lid. On the sides of the wick sleeve, solder a few angle-shaped pieces of wire as cylinder supports. For the cylinder, you could use a medicine bottle, with the bottom and neck portion removed. In the absence of a mechanism to advance the wick, you can use pliers or wire hooks to pull the wick out as needed. For a wick, you could quilt together multiple layers of muslin, cotton, flannel or similar.

Another simple lamp is shown in figure 19, made out of a food can, with the lid cleanly cut away.

At the top, the opening of the can is pressed together flat, and soldered. At both of the corners that are formed when the top is pressed together, are pressed in or soldered in rifle cartridge casings, that have had the bottoms removed using wire cutters, and have a wick (rifle cleaning patches) pulled through. For refilling the can, cut a penny-sized hole in the side and close it with a wood plug or cork. Intended for petroleum, diesel oil, fuel oil (not for gasoline or benzene!). The brightness of diesel oil can be improved by adding some table salt. Burning leaded fuels in enclosed spaces is harmful to health!

The next possibility, to make a lamp in the simplest way, is shown in figure 20a.

It requires 2 food cans, of which one is widened, so that it can be put over the other like a cap. In the widened can, 3 holes are cut, into which 3 rifle cartridge casings are pressed, each with the bottom snipped off with wire cutters. As a wick, rifle cleaning patches are again used. Through these three burners, this lamp produces a nearly shadow-free light- however, it uses an extremely high amount of fuel.

The last suggestion, shown in figure 20b, is again made of two food cans, one fit over the other.

Here, a flat sleeve for the wick, made of sheet metal, is soldered on, equipped with a slit for easily repositioning the wick. In the lid is placed a 2 cm thick piece of wood, fitted as tightly as possible, that protects from heat and greatly reduces the danger of explosion.

In place of a needle to reposition the wick, a thin piece of wire can successfully be inserted along with the wick, ideally intertwined with the wick.”

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