“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. 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. 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 of the 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.”
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.
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.
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 DefenseManual.com? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 one of those “Why didn’t I think of that!” ingenious devices.
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.
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.
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.
How to make candles
Let’s talk wax fueled candles. For a candle to burn, the candle’s wick is lit by another fire source. The flame of the wick melts and vaporizes a small amount of the combustible wax, which is fuel, surrounding the flame. The vaporized wax combines with oxygen through convection (circulation currents from heat) movement around the wick flame to ignite and form a consistent flame on the wick, just above the candle wax. What determines the burning time of a candle is the dimension and shape of what holds the wax and wick… and the quality of the wick.
Ah! Times haven’t changed much. In days of yore, the rich would use beeswax candles while the peasants, now referred to as Joe Schmoe, would use rendered animal fat… tallow. That being said, even in the High Mucky Muck’s castle rooms, candles of wax might be used only on special occasions. Light from the fireplace, the oil lamp and torch were much more common sources of illumination.
How to make candle wax from bee honeycomb
Somewhere there will bees, or someone will have bees (no pun intended) as a business, in a Grid Down situation. You need their honeycomb which is beeswax, not the honey, for candles. Beeswax candles emit a pleasant scent of nectar and honey and are they’re naturally smokeless.
Bees wax is essentially the equivalent, to a bee, as our poop is to us. Going through the work of making beeswax candles will encourage you to never throw any candle wax away. You can collect it, re-melt it to make new candles… then, you just need the candle wick material.
Let’s make beeswax for candles…
- Crush and strain honey from the honeycomb.
- Put the crushed pieces of honeycomb in a cheese cloth type towel bundle and tie the four corners at the top.
- Place the bundle in a large pot of water and heat to just over 150o Fahrenheit, but do not go over 180o.
- Once it appears that most of the wax has melted out of the bundle, slowly pull the bundle from the pot using a stick to lift it out. Twist the tied ends of the bundle from the top down to the remaining honeycomb, to extract the remaining wax from the bundle.
- The honeycomb wax will float to the surface of the water and when the pot cools remove the surface wax.
- There will be some pure honey in the bottom of the pot so slowly pour off the water.
- Discard the remnants of the bundle from the towel.
- The surface wax can be further melted into thin sheets or melted into the container for your candle once you put a wick in the container… or, you can roll the thin sheets of beeswax tightly around a wick and place in a jar.
- Shazam! Fire it… and there will be light!
How to make wick material
If you buy wick material you will notice that most consist of flat woven material. The reason for this is when the wick burns, it curls over into the flame where it is completely burned and doesn’t leave ashes that contaminate the candle wax. Natural fibers work best for wicks. Like cotton thread, dried plant fiber or even a wooden dowel will work for a wick (wood needs periodic trimming off the burnt wood if it gets much over a ¼ inch long).
Other resources that can be used for wick materials… wooden splinters, cotton threads from clothes twisted into a string, hemp and like stringy fibers from dried plants, white cotton kite string (does anyone even know what a kite is now days) or gardener’s string, non-synthetic mop head fibers, non-synthetic twine, toilet paper, cotton shoe laces.
Wick material soaked in a solution of borax and salt produces a brighter candle, reduces the smoke produced and slows the burning process for a longer burning candle. Keep your children and pets away from borax as it’s toxic when it’s ingested or the dust is inhaled. You’ll use this Borax solution to treat the base wick material when it has no wax on it.
Let’s make some bright burning and long-lasting candle wick material…
- Dissolve a solution of 1 tablespoon of borax and 3 tablespoons of salt by stirring it into a quart of boiling water.
- While the solution is cooling, submerse your twisted cotton string or braided flat cotton rope into the solution. Leave the rope soak in the borax and salt solution for 24 hours.
- Take the rope out with a fork and hang it outside to dry for 48 hours.
- At this point the candle wick is ready to use unless you want to coat it with candle wax to stiffen it… as follows….
- Melt 4 tablespoons of candle wax in a small container.
- Dip the borax/salt impregnated wick into the molten candle wax covering the wick rope completely with wax.
- Hang the wax covered wick as a straight waxed string to dry. Do this process again if you want a stiffer wick.
Candles that are a natural mosquito repellent when burned
Citronella candles. Citronella Oil can be used as an antiseptic, deodorant, insecticide and for parasite control. But let’s concentrate on one aspect of Citronella Oil that is a definite… it’s a natural mosquito repellant. More accurately, Citronella Oil makes humans invisible to mosquitos. Only the female mosquito detects human beings by sensing the carbon dioxide we exhale. A female mosquito knows that if she follows the smell of carbon dioxide to the source, she’ll find a red-blooded animal that she can suck blood out of to feed her eggs and provide her nutrition.
Blood sucking females!? I’ve known a few females like that!
Citronella Oil masks carbon dioxide which keeps the mosquito from zeroing in on us. Whether it’s part of the candle burning or the oil put directly on skin, the fragrance from it conceals us from the mosquito. Citronella Oil stains clothes and is not good for the lungs if inhaled constantly.
How to make citronella oil
You need 1/4 ounce of nard grass (aka Lemongrass and Cymbopogon) leaves and stems. Lemongrass is gown in the United States, but depending on where you live, you may have trouble finding it. Get a book on the botany of your area and learn to identify Lemongrass in the wild now, during Normal Civility.
You need one cup of olive oil or a like neutral ‘medium’ oil to absorb the Citronella Oil.
Use a slow cooker such as Crock-Pot or a low temperature Dutch oven buried at the edge of a fire. You need to keep the fire going for six hours to keep the temperature high enough.
- Cut the nard grass leaves and stems into one-inch pieces.
- Combine the olive oil and nard grass leaves and stems in the slow cooker.
- Cook the oil and nard grass mixture for six hours.
- Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth. The strained mixture is your citronella oil. Discard the nard grass.
- Mix the oil into your candle wax at a ratio of 10 drops of Citronella Oil to a pound of melted candle wax.
How to make lamp oil
Your NPP should have located and marked any birch trees close by. The bark of other trees may work, but birch bark is easy to pull off the birch tree. As the birch tree grows, it ‘sheds’ its bark in pieces. These cannot be too dry. The birch tree is a hardwood tree and is a member of the same family of trees as the alder tree.
Birch trees are considered ‘weed’ trees by many arborists. They have a short life span but are considered an invasive problem tree that are akin to unwanted weeds. Once they get into an area… they are like Cousin Gretchen the mooch… they’re hard to get rid of and they keep coming back.
Birch trees also require sunny areas, so look for them in open areas and near streams, lakes or rivers. Birch trees typically grow in lowland areas in the Continental United States. Birch trees can be found where the soil is cool and consistently moist, but it also grows well in soil that most shrubs, trees and plants do not do well in.
However, birch trees have shallow root systems that will not withstand dry, hot areas and soil. Their shallow root systems are sensitive to drought but ironically, birch trees are often one of the first trees to pop up after a fire.
The birch tree has long been a source for beer, tea, and syrup (from the sap of the sweet white birch), through different processes. The ‘birch still’ was as popular as the ‘moonshine’ still at one time, but not as illegal. This oil was referred to ‘Birch Oil’ and ‘Oil of Wintergreen’ that was used to flavor candy and medicines way back. It has been replaced by synthetic wintergreen flavoring.
Birch oil is Mother Nature’s fuel oil. Unlike other oils, birch oil extract is heavier than water and will float to the bottom. This oil can be extracted by heat and used for lamp fuel, lubricating grease and sealant.
As a sealant, it’s one heck of a lot less messy than pine pitch. You know, pine pitch like the kind Clark Griswold got off his Christmas tree when he was lying in bed trying to turn pages of a magazine with his fingers stuck to them with pine pitch in the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
I hope you love trees as much as I do. So, if you’re going to start stripping birch trees of their bark, look for trees recently fallen that have bark on them that is not totally dried out.
You can easily extract birch oil by building a fire and using the two can extraction method. One can is the ‘still can’ with a hole in the bottom, centered over the ‘collection can’ underneath. Pack the ‘still can,’ with a ½” hole cut in the center of the bottom, with birch bark. Pack the birch bark in like toilet paper is layered on itself. Strip the birch bark off in pieces that will set edgewise below the top of your ‘still can.’
Start from the outer edge and lay the birch pieces close together until the can’s packed full. The other can sits underneath to collect the oil tar that will drip from the hole in the top can. Bury your collection can at the bottom of the fire pit with the edge above the bottom to keep ashes out. Put the ‘still can’ on top of the ‘collection can,’ cover the ‘still can’ to keep the birch bark from catching fire.
Place your firewood around the ‘still can’ and fire your pit. The heat from the fire will soon produce a collection can full of birch black oil tar. Actually, it will look like the oil from the engine of one of my past girlfriend’s brand-new car that she never knew needed to be changed… black, smelly and thick.
Birch black oil tar is very smelly, but can be immediately used in lamps, including the Ye Olde Englishe Oile Lampe type, as in the photo. I am still perplexed and amused by the English putting an ‘e’ at the end of every word in the Old English written language. So is pointe pronounced “pointy” or “point” and if not “pointy” then why?
Back on subject… If you want to make a super-good tar like sealant, cook off more of the liquid until you get the consistency of birch tar you want. The oily tar extracted from birch makes great waterproofing for winter snow boots. I sealed an old pair of leather boots that allowed melted snow to seep in and wet my socks.
I am not a shoe store’s best friend… I had these boots for over 45 years like most clothes and shoes I own that I can still fit into… which is not my Rhodesian camouflaged fatigue jacket… that was a much thinner Jack.
I used a pasty consistency of birch tar, thoroughly working the tar into the sole to uppers joins with a stiff toothbrush. My feet didn’t get wet for years, as long as I put mink oil over or kept the uppers wax polished.
I hope you got some good information from this essay… a peek at the information that will benefit you from the Civil Defense Manual, as our many Readers have commented to me or our staff that they have.
As I say and recommend…
Be prepared. Then relax, enjoy each and every moment of life… and love your family with uninhibited passion.
– Jack Lawson