Betty lamp

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Darryl Ponder
Posts: 324
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:10 pm
Location: Minnetonka, MN

Betty lamp

Unread post by Darryl Ponder » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:31 pm

Here are some photos of a Betty lamp I just finished.

Tom Sanders and Martin Pansch helped me get started last October at Martin's hammer-in. Thanks for the help guys! I had seen the one Martin made (see his personal gallery in the Bellows for a photo of it) and wanted to make one like it.

The Betty lamp was the primary lighting source of the earliest pioneers in the 1600s and 1700s. It burns any fat, from grease or rendered animal fat, to plant based oils, to whale oil, which was the preferred fuel when available because it gave off the most light. It will burn coal oils, but you have to be careful about using fuels that are too volatile in it.

Having now used mine burning vegetable oil, I can say that our forefathers really didn't have much in the way of light! My Betty lamp burns at about two or three candle power with a warm yellow orange light. You can read by it and you can see things around a room with it, but it isn't a bright light. It is about as bright as the LEDs in my house on things like the oven clock or microwave clock. What is amazing is how sensitive your eyes are and how they can adjust to a low level of light. You can certainly work around the room lit by a Betty lamp.

One interesting thing about the lamp design is that it is designed to get warm. I had read that comment, but didn't really believe it would happen, given the flame is on the end of a wick and heat rises. However, as the lamp is used, the whole metal container gets warm, not hot, with the warmest area right under the internal wick holder. It truly is a "besser" (German "better", morphed to English "Betty") designed lamp in that it heats up the fuel before burning it.

I get asked a lot "what's the chain for?". It is just a chain holding a pick for the wick (the pickwick). As the lamp burns, the wick is very slowly consumed and over time you need to pull it up a bit. The pickwick is there, hanging on a chain, ready for you to adjust the lamp wick as needed.

The hanger that looks like a small fire poker mounted on the lamp back is designed to hang the lamp vertically from a suitable object or to be stuck horizontally into the wall in cracks between the logs or boards of your home or barn.

Here is a good article on early lighting, including the Betty lamp (make sure to scroll down and see page two):

Here are some more images of Betty lamps:

CIMG1873 (Medium).JPG
Betty lamp, made by Darryl Ponder, Oct 2012
CIMG1873 (Medium).JPG (53.57 KiB) Viewed 3420 times
CIMG1855 (Medium).JPG
Betty lamp, made by Darryl Ponder, Oct 2012
CIMG1855 (Medium).JPG (91.01 KiB) Viewed 3420 times
CIMG1866 (Medium).JPG
Betty lamp, made by Darryl Ponder, Oct 2012
CIMG1866 (Medium).JPG (33.02 KiB) Viewed 3420 times

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