Monday, September 7, 2009

Kerosene addiction II: Round wick lanterns

Round wick lanterns are considered a step up from their flat wick counterparts. While flat wick lanterns are usually intended for use outdoors and in sheds, outhouses etc, round wicks are made for being used in the manor proper.
This said, though they are invariably more expensive and the technology is seemingly more advanced than flat wicks, they don't give out that much more light. But if you use these rather than flat wicked storm lanterns in your parlor, you will give the impression that you have a degree of gumption and your ducks in a row.
After having used them for a while, the wick in these will end up being spent unevenly. Homo electricus will react to this by turning up the wick, leading to incomplete combustion, lots of soot and not noticably more light.
To trim a round wick, take the burners off their oil houses, and let the wicks dry out for a day. Turn up the wick until a millimeter of the wick's lowest part juts out, dip the protruding edge of the wick in kerosene and light it up. Let it burn out, any loose threads jutting up can be scraped away with a knife.
Gear for trimming below, the dish is for dipping the top ends of the wicks in.
In books written today but set in a a non-electrified place or period, one will sometimes read about lights being trimmed while in use. Even the otherwise very clever Philip Pullman makes this mistake. This is entirely normal. It only takes a couple of decades for one set of skills to be almost entirely lost.

There is currently an astonishingly harshly worded entry on kerosene lanterns on Wikipedia. The subject does bring out the activist in some.

See also on this site: Kerosene addiction I: Flatwick lanterns

3 comments:

Oldfool said...

The smell of kerosene brings back memories of my childhood. My grandmother had a kerosene cook stove and the main house heat was kerosene as well. There was a drum of kerosene in the yard until I was in my teens. It's a wonder I didn't set fire to the woods I played with it so much.
I heated my bus with kerosene for a while. That heater was essentially a large lamp with a round wick. Kerosene became hard to get during that time and I ended up with some that was contaminated and that finished the wick off. A new wick cost more than the stove was worth.
When I lived in Mexico I had a stainless Aladdin with a tall slim chimney that gave light equal to a bare 60 watt bulb. It had a round wick and I think they called it a rare earth wick whatever that means.
I still have a couple of lamps but for now it's cheaper to use batteries.
When you live with kerosene light there is great incentive to trim the wick properly.

Diane said...

Great info thanks! Like what OldFool said...kerosene brings back memories my years in Japan. Kerosene heaters was the norm where I lived.

Northmark said...

Using Aladdin lamps is a black art, a tradition of such complexity and convoluted reasoning that puts kabbalah to shame. Will certainly post something about that!

I sometimes wonder about what a little fusspot I have become, surrounding myself with, and to some extent depending on, old-style technology. Whet, trim, oil, adjust etc ad nauseam. Is it possible to do this well, yet avoid becoming horribly boring?

I wonder what would make most sense, transporting gas to use in a generator to power some low-watt lights, or transport kerosene to use directly in lamps. The lamps generate heat, of course, but that's not really essential as I can easily chuck another log into the oven. Will try to find out.