See the Light: An Upcycle Craft

Turn the hollowed-out shells of oranges or other citrus fruit into easy, eye-catching oil lamps. It takes just minutes, and they will lend a touch of magic to your summer evenings on the patio.

If you juice oranges regularly or use them in smoothies and fruit salads, you'll accumulate a lot of empty orange rinds. You can dry or candy them for later use in the kitchen, but there’s a craftier alternative! Give life to your hollowed-out oranges by turning them into simple oil lamps. It requires little in the way of time or special equipment, and the lamps' bright but gentle light gives a room – or patio – a sense of timeless peace.

Natural Wick Method

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp or serrated knife
  • Spoon
  • 1 medium or large orange
  • 1 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (approximately)
  • 2 saucers (optional)


  1. Cut the orange in half. Use a spoon to remove the segments for your smoothie or fruit salad and then carefully scrape out the membranes as well. In the middle of the orange's rind, you'll see a column of white, spongy pith. Leave this intact as you work – it will become your lamp's wick.
  2. Set the empty orange halves in a well-ventilated place to dry for an hour or so. This step is optional, but you'll find it easier to light the wick if it's dry.
  3. Set the orange halves on the surface where you plan to use them. It's sometimes helpful to put them on saucers or small plates, which provide a stable surface, make it easier to move the lamps, and catch any drops of oil that might spill.
  4. Pour the oil carefully into the orange halves. A medium-to-large orange will require about a half-cup of oil per half.
  5. Wait a few moments for oil to infuse the wick; then light the lamp. If the wick is still slightly damp, this might take two to three attempts.

Cotton Wick Method

Things You'll Need

  • 2 halves of a juiced orange
  • Spoon
  • Paper clip
  • Cotton kitchen twine
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • 1 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (approximately)


  1. Scrape the membranes from juiced orange halves with a spoon. The central column of pit is usually obliterated by the juicing process, which will leave a perfectly hollow half-orange.
  2. With a paper clip, lift the inner loop slightly away from the outer loop. Grasp the inner loop and rotate it 360 degrees, like the hand of a clock. This makes a small "eye" in the middle of the paper clip. Cut a piece of cotton twine 3-4” long. Thread the twine through the eye, and then squeeze the paper clip together with a pair of needle-nose pliers to hold the twine in place.
  3. Fill the half-orange with olive oil, then clip the paper clip to the lip of the orange rind.
  4. Drop the loose end of the twine into the oil. Repeat with the second empty orange shell. Wait a few moments for the oil to permeate the wicks; then light them

Grapefruit, lemons, limes and other citrus fruit can be prepared the same way. You may need to trim the bottom of some fruit to make them flat before filling them with oil.

For a more aromatic light source, infuse the oil with herbs or citrus zest. Alternatively, purchase scented lamp oil.

To make candles instead of lamps, melt paraffin, beeswax or old candle stubs and use them to fill the orange halves. Insert lengths of cotton twine to serve as the wicks.

TIP: Lamps are a fire hazard if they're overturned. Always place them out of the reach of pets and children, and don't place them near or beneath curtains, hanging decorations or other flammable items. Always supervise the lamps as they burn.

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