In an end of the world/limited supplies situation, it can be a benefit to know how to make a torch. A torch may be used as a long-lasting light source or a small heat source. In an environment without electricity, a torch is an easy way to light an area.
In a survival situation, you may need to improvise a torch for one reason or another. In this case you need to use your environment to make a torch. There are three basic components to a makeshift torch: the handle, the wick, and the fuel. The handle is the part you hold on to and attach the rest of the torch to. It is commonly a 3-4 foot long stick that is about 2-3 inches thick, but it can be any material you can find that won’t melt or fall apart. The wick is the part of the torch that you light on fire. This can be anything from dry grass to leaves to twigs: as long as its flammable it will work. In fact, the more flammable the better because that means it will be easier to light. The fuel is what is doing the “heavy lifting”, so to speak, of the torch fire. You can use animal fat, wax, tree sap, or (should you be desperate enough) chapstick.
You need to coat the wick completely in the fuel, make sure that everything is covered. Wrap the wick and fuel around the top of the handle and tie it with something: a strip of cloth, flaky bark, vines, roots, string, wire, etc. Once you light this, it should last for a fair amount of time, but this depends on how much fuel you put into it. It should be noted at this time that these torches are not very stable and it is possible that it could begin to fall apart and you may even burn yourself, so be careful!
Birch Bark Torch
There is an even simpler way to construct a torch, though it won’t last nearly as long. This is a birch bark torch. To make one of these, you need to pull a sheet of bark off of a tree with papery bark like the birch tree. Your sheet should be about 2-3 feet long. Wrap it at an angle to form a cone. Make sure it is wrapped tightly, but not so tightly that it isn’t hollow in the center. Tie it in several places down the length with string, wire, vines, etc. This type of torch will only last a little while, but its a great way to get light quickly.
If you need a more permanent torch, you need to use more permanent components. For the handle, use something like PVC pipe or a metal post. The best solution for wick and fuel is string and lamp oil. You can make an oil reservoir using an old soup can and an old tuna can. Punch a hole in the bottom of the tuna can and feed a string (or actual candle wick) through it, then fill the soup can with lamp oil. Turn the tuna can upside down and place on top of the soup can. Duct tape the two can together and attach your reservoir to the top of your handle. This torch can still be leaky, especially if it isn’t held upright, but it offers a more permanent, reusable solution.
Of course, the best solution is to just scavenge a tiki torch from the Walmart near you. While chintzy, the $5 tiki torches in the Outdoor department at a Walmart or similar store are better built than most things you can put together “in the wild”.