This excerpt comes from “Alternative Power”, a chapter in Jack Lawson’ two volume masterpiece, “Civil Defense Manual”. You can grab a copy of his book here. Jack is a strong supporter of American Partisan, and even had NC Scout write the chapter on Radio Communications (Chapter 17 in Volume I). I bought my copy the day it become available and I highly recommend you do as well.

The Reality

“The Reality of a Catastrophic Event is the shock to the mind that the effects it produces cannot be normally comprehended as possible”

– Jack Lawson, Author of the Civil Defense Manual

The world is slowly turning upside down and it’s not from magnetic pole shift… it is man-made and the tempo is increasing. What is right is wrong… what is black is white. What is logical… is illogical. What is good… is bad. Lies are the truth… and the truth is wrong. That kind of upside-down.

This is causing the system to break down. I believe much of it is on purpose, so expect disruption of the supply chain to steadily worsen. If you don’t realize that’s already in motion, you need to get out more often and observe. Shelves empty and products not available. When the shortage gets to food staples… you won’t have to get out of your home and observe… it will make itself apparent by people at your front door looking for food… and taking what you have by force.

This means disruption other necessities that most people can’t comprehend. Along with all this there will be multiple other Catastrophic Events that will occur at the same time making you believe that hell is visiting Earth. Maybe real pandemic/epidemics, fuel shortages, lock downs, failure of the internet to function, truck strikes, hacking and disruption of financial institutions and disruption of just about every type of business… need I go on?

Systems taken for granted… such as electrical… will not work. Your sources of illuminating darkness hours to light will be limited, for one thing.

What you can do…

Prepare for the ‘lights out’ before it happens. And as always, I recommend you store cases and cases of bottled water, food, medicines and have some means to keep your self warm and protect yourself and your family.

From what!? From the violence that will come from those who have been consumed by their iPhone Entertainment Center, latest Netflix movie or their Social Justice movements… these will be the most violent people… and the least prepared. It’s all in the Civil Defense Manual… so let’s take a peek inside…

Open flame fire

Fire. Since the age of the Homo Sapiens and Neanderthal man, fire has been the means of cooking, keeping safe from lions and predators, seeing in the dark and keeping warm. Fire can also be one of the ultimate of weapons in warfare and is normally overlooked as such. Its use has evolved in many ways… but it is still simply fire… and can be both friend and foe. See the Chapter in the Civil Defense Manual (CDM) on “Fire and fire protection.”

Fire Prevention Procedures need to be instituted when your CDM recommended Neighborhood Protection PlanTM (NPP) is activated and fires need to be supervised and restricted. This should be done to minimize the attention the sight and smell of smoke and light that fires can draw to your NPP and to minimize accidental fires. Most heating or cooking fires will be in makeshift containers and in places that a fire should never be, like around flammables, draperies and other materials that simply easily catch on fire.

The wood burning fireplace that hasn’t been used for a decade and decorative ones or natural gas fueled fireplaces that aren’t suited to have open flame fires in, will be used in an attempt to heat and cook. The result will be buildings and homes burning to the ground during the aftermath of Catastrophic Events. This will happen because fire department response may be extremely slow or non-existent after some Catastrophic Events.

This is another area that your NPP Leadership must educate people on firefighting procedures and control to prevent accidental fires. All fires should be outside, when possible, to prevent collateral dangers like accidental fires, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide gas poisoning and oxygen depletion in enclosed areas.

In a Grid Down situation after a Catastrophic Event, outside fire pits should be used only at night and in areas that contain the fire light as much as possible. Do your cooking and fire use at night if at all possible. Smoke will still be visible on full and partial moonlit nights, but smoke will definitely be visible during the day. To an Outsider or Intruder’s thought train… “Where there is smoke… there’s fire… and where there is fire… there’s food, water and warmth.” Fire discipline and time of use must be rigidly controlled by Leadership… or your NPP may suffer tremendously if it’s not.

Further, be aware that most synthetics, be they clothing or blankets, will melt from a fire and cling to the skin like hot wax. These will cause severe burns and major infections… way worse than cotton and natural materials which will simply burn. See the dangers of gases from synthetics in the Chapter of the Civil Defense Manual on “Fire and fire protection.”

If you’ve come to using open flame after a Catastrophic Event, make sure there are no natural gas leaks from broken lines. In some areas, natural gas will still be flowing or trapped in gas lines and low-level areas, even though water, electricity and all other utilities may not be functioning.

How to make a torch

In ancient times, a torch pointed downward symbolized death, a torch held up symbolized life and truth. Like medieval scenes from movies, the torch in the castle wall holder comes to mind. Most crude torches don’t burn for long… about 20 minutes max. In small confined areas, a torch will asphyxiate you by smoke, carbon monoxide or other gases and oxygen depletion.

Including the following information is another small item that Readers have told me makes the Civil Defense Manual so appreciated by them as a reference manual… little bits of invaluable information such as this. If the combustible torch mixture contains sulfur and lime, the torch will not go out if put into water. You have to experiment to get the proper mixtures according to what type of wick material you use. But amazing! It makes everyone wish that they paid more attention in High School Chemistry Class.

In all these types of devices… torches, fat lamps, candles… the fat, oil or wax fuel is vaporized and burned as the fuel. Again, it is not the fuel or fluid that burns but the vapor… and the wick is simply the item that holds the flame in place. Some oils create the vapor by the heat of the flame.

Make the torch by winding cotton strips (the torch wick) from rags around one end of a wood stick to make it look like an oversized ‘Q Tip’ end for the Jolly Green Giant. The length of the stick should make the torch easy to handle. Soak the head in combustible oil and light it as a torch. The cotton rag doesn’t burn, the oil does. Unless carefully made, to burn longer, torches will burn for about 20 to 25 minutes.

A torch is a fire waiting to cause a bigger fire to happen somewhere, and something you don’t want burning without it being watched and away from other flammables.

If you want a longer burning torch (40 minutes to 1 hour) that is premade, go to this seller’s site at Made in Latvia. The shipping is expensive but these have a good reputation.

How to make a grease, fat or oil lamp

Fat lamps. Lard lamps. These portable lamps are entrenched in ancient history. Don’t spill them as they will burn on and ignite whatever the fat or lard lands on. Use a larger plant pot two-thirds full of sand or soil to set the lamp in which provides a solid base and containment for spilt fuel as fire safety. Your lamp flame nestled just below the edge of the sand or soil filled pot, keeps drafts from easily blowing it out but will still omit lots of light.

Just about any type of grease, oil or fat with a natural fiber wick can be used together in a fire proof container to create a lamp. These have also been referred to as fat lamps, gras lights. Think… New Orleans Mardi Gras, or as translated from the French words “Mardi Gras…” is “Fat Tuesday” in English. Too much to explain so… read about it.

A fat lamp is simply a high flash point fuel (fuel that will not burn until it gets ignited by a higher temperature) of over or around 400o Fahrenheit that surrounds a wick, the wick holding the flame. Will butter work for a lamp fuel? Yes! So will, lard, Crisco (Like you remember your mother used to cook with if you’re over 60), olive oil, paraffin wax (paraffin comes from the bottom of the tank in the gasoline distillation process), vegetable oil, yes, even your tube of Chapstick lip balm, palm wax, soy wax (From farm grown soybeans… is almost smokeless), tallow (animal fat), Vaseline (Also from the bottom of the tank in the gasoline distillation process… that’s why it’s called ‘Petroleum Jelly’).

Fuel that catches fire easily is termed ‘flammable’ and has a low flash point of under 100o Fahrenheit. You DO NOT USE this fuel for lamps. Flammables like naphtha, alcohol, acetone or gasoline. If you do use these flammables… you will most likely be in the burn ward of a hospital… if there is one still functioning.

Fuel that doesn’t catch fire easily is termed ‘combustible’ and has a high flash point over 100o Fahrenheit. You DO USE this fuel for lamps. Like almost any combustible oil such as diesel fuel or the vegetable oil in the tuna fish can.

For more on fuel and proper storage, see the Chapter “Alternative power” in the Civil Defense Manual.

Glass containers

Mason and Kerr canning jars and other glass containers don’t work as oil lamps unless they are heat treated like ‘Pyrex’ glass. You know, what your husband, wife, Mom, Grandma cook a hot dish in the oven. Glass can withstand a fair amount heat to use for candles, but not much. Any glass container that is not heat resistant can crack and shatter when the flame burns down too low.

Now, remember those cans and containers I encouraged you to save earlier in the Civil Defense Manual Chapter “Food, cooking and storage” at Civil The time will come to use some of those. You can fashion all kinds of clever candle holders, grease and oil lamps out of them.

When creating this type of candle, I suggest you melt the fat or lard into a fire proof container… as most fats, lards and shortenings are packaged in plastic or foil lined card board containers that can leak or will catch fire if the candle is not constructed and handled properly.

A fat, lard or ‘shortening’ lamp can be simply made and will give you light for hours. Don’t leave these unattended or let the kids mess around with them. Keep the burning wick centered, if the container is not metal and the wick is floating, to prevent the container material from catching fire. You need a straw or something similar to poke and form a hole down through the lard to insert the wick.

The wick can be cotton string, small diameter rope, twine, a thin wooden dowel, or in a pinch, tightly rolled up paper stuck down into the hole. This wick placement works great when the wick is pushed down through the straw in the fat, lard or shortening. The carefully pull the straw out leaving the wick in the fat, lard or shortening.

Oil Lamps Defined

A lamp is a device that holds and burns fuel, typically combustible oil, as a means of producing light. Although oil lamps have taken on a variety of shapes and sizes throughout history, the basic required components are a wick, fuel, a reservoir for fuel, and an air supply to maintain a flame.

Diagram of oil lamp features courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum (Westenholz, 2004).

A little bit about the history of oil burning lamps…

Some of the earliest lamps, dating to the Upper Paleolithic (Spain, Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean areas of the Late Stone Age), were stones with depressions in which animal fats were likely burned as a source of light.

Shells, such as conch or oyster, were also employed as lamps, and even may have served as the prototype for early lamp forms.

Clay lamps appeared during the Bronze Age around the 16th century BC and were abundant throughout the Roman Empire. Initially, they took the form of a saucer with a floating wick.

An “Open Saucer” lamp. Courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum…

Open saucer lamp

Soon after, these saucers began to develop a pinched or folded rim which resulted in a nozzle and served the purpose of holding the wick in place, thus controlling the flame as well as the smoke. Lamps with folded rims are often referred to as “cocked-hat” lamps.

As they evolved, clay lamps became more enclosed, moving from a pinched nozzle to a bridged nozzle, and sporting the addition of a rim. These changes aided in increasing the reservoir capacity and reducing the amount of oil lost through spillage.

Lamps also began to show signs of experimentation with changes in overall body shape and the addition of multiple nozzles, a handle, and clay slips, a coating that was applied to the outside of clay lamps during production in an effort to prevent oil from seeping through the porous clay.

These technological advances have been accredited to the Greeks, whose lamps were exported all over the Mediterranean between the sixth and fourth centuries BC due to their high quality of craftsmanship.

A “Cocked hat” saucer lamp. Courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum… a wealth of historical knowledge.

The emergency tuna fish can lamp

I certainly am not clever enough to come up with this. Someone smarter than me with a lot of time on their hands created this and it’s really simple, and it’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that!” ingenious device discovery moments.

It’s an old emergency lighting device that really works. Tuna fish, or any fish or food that is packed in a can with soybean, olive or vegetable oil… can be used as an emergency candle. Don’t open the can by taking the lid off.

Tuna Can Lamp Materials

To make this type of emergency candle, start with the can as you pull it off the shelf. Take a nail, and using a hammer, sharply punch a hole in the center of the can for the string wick. Pull lengths and twist or weave cotton gauze into a string for a wick… or use regular string.

The wick has to be something that absorbs the oil and the wick has to be pushed through the hole to the bottom of the can with something like a toothpick or wood splinter.

Once the wick is saturated with oil, light it, and the candle will burn for hours. The one in the photo burned for 6 hours on into the wee hours of the night in our sink.

‘Fish on Fire’ …My Tuna Can Oil Lamp

When daylight breaks, open the can and eat the tuna fish for breakfast. The calories from the tuna fish will give you the energy to go out into the world to find a practical and sustainable source of light. Think… candles, lanterns, fuel oil, wicks… they’re cheap now. Go buy some… and plenty of fuel.


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