Or, some reflections on a power outage.
If you can’t find your emergency lighting gear in the dark, you might as well not own it.
It’s okay to know the approximate location of everything else, but you have to know the exact location of the matches and at least one candle. Alternately, stash a glowstick in the same container where you keep your candles.
Carrying the same emergency book of matches in your purse for several years can rub off the striking strip.
In general, do maintenance on your lighting supplies before the lights go out, because otherwise you’ll just feel stupid.
Adorably dim little tea light holders are designed to look pretty, not provide functional home lighting. Standard tapers and candlesticks are much more effective. Glass-sided lanterns are okay, but make sure they’ll accommodate whatever candles you have on hand.
Store the lamp oil near the oil lamp, and vice versa.
(During the Great Blackout of 2003, I patronized a linoleum Chinese restaurant in Park Slope that stayed open by lighting the place with improvised oil lamps: tuna or cat food cans filled with oil from the fryer, with big freestanding wicks made of twisted paper. They flickered wildly, gave off a lot of smoke, and can’t have been safe, but they worked.) (I still wouldn’t recommend using them.)
Your room will not be set up for a candle or lantern. Take the time to identify and clear off a suitable space. Consider putting a shallow dish or pan under it. Watch out for rising heat. In general, regard open-flame lighting as an unstable technology that requires constant monitoring and maintenance, and always manifests its bugs in the worst possible ways.
Candles and oil lamps are dim. No wonder our ancestors gave up and went to bed.
Once you’ve got your first candle lit and stabilized, you can fiddle around with the rest. My choice of first thing is a big devotional candle, the kind that comes in a tall cylindrical glass container, and is rated to burn continuously for seven or eight or fourteen days. I pick mine up at the grocery. Try to avoid the really colorful containers, as less light escapes them. Candles made out of white wax are less likely to be scented.
If you can’t stand the smoke from soft paraffin, they’re called sanctuary candles, and they cost more.
(Keep an empty devotional candle holder around to hold your scrap wax. If the blackout continues, you can melt down your scrap wax, insert a wick, and have a whole new devotional candle. Assuming you have a wick. Note: cosmetic cotton balls are made of short-staple cotton, and don’t spin well.)
A comparative survey: devotional candles are a bit dim until they’ve got a good pool of melted wax to work from, but they’re dependable and long-lasting. Tel Aviv brand utility and sabbath candles burn down quickly, but they’re bright. Three or four of them grouped together are bright enough to let you read big type or cook simple food.
Pure beeswax is awesome! It’s bright, clear, stable, long-lasting, and nearly smokeless and dripless. One beeswax taper in a wall sconce will light an area as well as a half-dozen devotional candles, and five or six inches of it will last all evening.
The chief virtue of IKEA tea lights (go ahead, get the bag of 100) is that they come in little lightweight metal cups. Once the tea light has burned halfway down, blow it out, then stick a sabbath candle in the melted wax and hold it upright until the wax cools and hardens. Stick this “base” into a tea light holder and light the sabbath candle instead.