Saturday, 26 September 2015

Rush lights

I  recently stayed in Galloway with my family and the place had copious amounts of rush beds running down the side of the property so I asked if I could harvest a few because they were a good diameter and size for making rush lights which are a sort of rudimentary candle.

 I've taken the above picture next to some ash and larch kindling I gathered for the wood burner for scale. I packed them and brought them home.

 They outside has dried somewhat but is still easy to sort. Most of the outer skin needs carefully stripping off to reveal the spongy inner (remove 80% or thereabouts). I find the best way is to support the stem underneath with an index finger and carefully slide a blade along to remove the outer layer in a controlled and shallow cut. If the blade goes too deep the inner material puckers up and often the integrity of that particular section. When stripping the outer layer if it is worth saving a small section at one end to give rigidity when mounting it.

As you can see this particular example has faded even more whilst drying. It is possible however to see the remaining beige coloured strip of the outer skin and demonstrates just how much of the outer layer has been removed. 

The reason for removing so much is to allow the spongy inner part to absorb fuel which then burns off as a flame to give light. To do a traditional one I should be making tallow, but in this instance I'll be using lard. Just to show how simple yet effective this process is in the above picture is a barely peeled mini rushlight I made which burnt for several minutes with only a brief coming to in a pan that had just had sausages in (although some of the that flame will be the outer skin burning too). It also works with the fat generated from the other campfire staple namely bacon.

The sizable rush lengths that I've stripped needed to be trimmed to fit in the saucepan I was using but even so they were about nine inches in length, so I need a saucepan due to the length. Sorting them is easy as all you do is melt the lard over a low heat and place them in for a short while before carefully removing and placing on a suitable surface. Take care when handling them out of the pan. 

Once they had cooled I knocked up a basic stand out of hazel and mounted one of the lights and used a match to get it going. It was rather windy and I tipped the stand forward for a couple of seconds to get the flame established. 

After I'd snapped some decent pictures I put two together to show the enhanced flame. You can see from this shot how smokey the flame can be. I wouldn't advise extended holding of these lights because the lard can occasionally roll down the length. It might be viable to punch a small hole in a sliver of wood maybe?

If you try them please do remember not to leave them unattended.

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