A float for a vigil lamp is used to hold a lighted wick in a vessel of oil. Floats are usually made of metal or cork. The former ones may be simple or cross-shaped. They are attached to the top of a vigil lamp or other vessel with oil, and therefore, in fact, are not floats. The name, however, was borrowed from the Greek, where vigil light floats are made of cork, which holds them on the surface of the oil.
Cork floats for vigil lamps
The Greek tradition of making cork floats is not accidental. As lamp oil is often substituted with olive oil in Greece, the wick should be placed as close to the surface of the oil as possible; this creates a stronger flame. A cork float keeps this distance to a minimum. For safety purposes, a metal plate is placed at the top of the float to protect the cork from ignition.
Also, to minimize the risk of fire, Greeks pour a small amount of water into the lamps with cork floats first, and then fill them with oil. The water remains at the bottom of the vessel, and when the oil burns out completely, it puts out the wick.
Some cork floats also have metal wire inserts that allow you to adjust the strength of the flame. Pulling up the ends of the wire increases the flame. Pushing on the ends of the wire moves it downward, thus reducing the flame to the desired level.
How to choose a vigil light float?
The main advantage of cork floats over the metal ones is the ability to use olive oil or any other natural vegetable oil instead of lamp oil. Metal floats, or rather holders, are not suitable for this purpose because the distance between the oil and the fire is too great, and the properties of natural oils do not allow them to rise high up.
At the same time, wick holders are safer than cork floats: they are made of metal and, moreover, they do not come into contact with the surface of the oil. No precautions are required to use them; for example, you don't need to add water to the oil.
So, each of the two options has its own advantages, and now that you know them, choosing a vigil light float for will depend solely on your goals and needs.
Prayer for lighting a vigil lamp before prayer and worship
Set our hearts on fire with love for you, O Christ our God
So that in its flame we may love you with all our heart,
With all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength,
And our neighbors as ourselves,
So that by keeping your commandments we may glorify you,
The giver of all good gifts.