Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Trouble with alcohol lamp

I have never had an issue with my alcohol lamp until today. I went
about my usual routine, filled it part way (under 1/2) with the right
alcohol, and waited a while before lighting it so the wick would be
saturated. The wick is long, the end is in the alcohol. It’s set up
just as it should be, but the wick will not hold a flame! Doesn’t
matter how long or short the wick is, it won’t light. I trimmed the
top of it just in case the burnt part was causing the trouble, still,
nothing. Does anyone have any ideas? At this point I’m thinking maybe
it’s the alcohol that I’m using, but I know it’s the right kind.

Thanks in advance

Sounds like water in the alcohol.



I have the same problem with this kind of lamp

I have sorted it out by

  1. cutting the wick again (it gets hard and crusted -almost as if it
    contained some man-made fibres?)

  2. taking some alcohol and soaking the cut wick again with a pipette

  • then it works.

I am assuming that

  • perhaps the wick is not 100% cotton, and once =98crusted’ would
    not soak so well up to the burnt top

  • the type of bottles often sold to jewellers (as Cookson’s uk above
    ) have ‘hats’ for the wicks which do not prevent evaporation hence
    the wick does not stay wetted by alcohol- but lets it evaporate via
    its fibres

  • since my 1/2 full bottle was completely empty (after the hols) at
    my return to the workshop!


Getting fed up with wasting time, I am now after

i) an old-fashioned ground glass stopper type of lamp

but the above does not allow me to order as I am not an educational
institution - does anybody know a source in UK other than e-bay?)
(available in US eg


i) possibly for a wickless lamp I found when I looked for solutions
for the problem

(no idea if this is any good either) Hope that the above is of some
help as I’d assume that you are in US

  • I am in UK and carry on looking


I have had this problem using methanol for fuel. Methanol absorbs
water from the atmosphere. That means that your wick is soaking up
water, which will not burn. If your wick just won’t light or sputters
this could be what is happening. I started to empty my lamp back
into the fule container and leaving the lamp cap off so that all of
the fuel in the top of the wick evaporates when not in use. Yes, it
is a hassle but when I want to use the lamp I fill it and am able to
use it.

Sometimes I was able to take a paper towel and squeeze the top of
the wick a few times to soak up the water. Then put a few drops of
fuel on the wick to prime it.

Deciding to search more - I found this

How to Make/Modify and Use an Alcohol Lamp

Seems to give most answers to our problem…


Thank you guys for your help! I think it sounds like a water in fuel
problem or water in the wick.

All the suggestions help! It lit the next morning, but I had to
leave for work and haven’t tried it since. I’ll give it a try tonight
as I have to get some sprueing done :slight_smile: