Last time I talked about fuel and wicks, so let’s get right into the lamps themselves and see how they work and how to maintain them.

The average table top or wall mounted kerosene lamps are pretty simple. They consist of a fount, usually glass or ceramic, but sometimes of metal. On top of the fount, which has a threaded opening, sits the burner assembly. There are a couple of styles, but the more common one is called the Queen Anne burner. This burner assembly consists of the threaded cap, wick feed assembly of gears and an adjustment knob, and a wick. The big round plate is called the chimney seat and there are usually four prongs to hold the chimney in place.

The kerosene lantern consists of an oil pot, or fount, at the bottom, with a threaded fill cap. Above that sits a removable burner assembly. This is a two piece unit which has an outer dome or thimble shaped cover. The wick assembly sits in a hole in the oil pot, usually held in place by a rubber grommet, and the thimble fits over the wick assembly. The adjustment knob should be to the right of the pots filler cap if installed properly.

Above that is the globe plate, and attached to the globe plate of which you will find a pair of wire globe retainers attached. These obviously hold the glass globe in place, which goes next in order. Also, attached to the bottom of the globe plate you will find the lever that lifts the globe for lighting. To either side you will find the tubes, which act as the anchor to keep all of these pieces together. Attached to the tubes is the wire bail, or handle for carrying or hanging the lamp. Always use this handle to move or hang the lamp, not the little D ring at the very top of the lantern.

That D ring is called the finger pull ring. It is attached to the crown of the lamp which is fastened to the globe retainer. This retainer is spring loaded, and when you pull up on the D ring the entire assembly will lift up allowing you to remove the globe for cleaning and replacement. In quality lamps these pieces are easily replaceable, although they rarely do. In cheaper models it’s easier to simply buy a new lantern if the spring breaks.

Those are the basic parts of the lamps. Some models, especially the better built ones have more, and can be further disassembled for cleaning and repair. Like I’ve always said, get the best quality you can afford to pay for and you won’t go wrong. One tip I’d suggest is you get enough spare parts on hand to rebuild or repair each of your lanterns at least once. If you get better quality ones it’s unlikely you’ll ever need the parts, but one never knows. With cheaper lanterns and lamps, simply buy extras as your budget allows.

We talked about fuel last time, and as a reminder never use anything but kerosene, real lamp oil or citronella oil in them. Lanterns and lamps that have a filler hole in them should be filled until just below the level of the bottom of the filler hole. Some lamps and lanterns have fill guides that you should adhere to for safety. If you already have a wick in your lamp, and this is the first use drop the wick level down and let it soak in the fuel for at least fifteen minutes before lighting.

To install or replace the wick, make sure there are no obstructions in the wick tube of the burner assembly. I find it easier to cut one end of the wick into a V shape and insert it into the top of the wick tube. Push down until you feel the wick stop at the wick adjuster gears. Turn the adjuster knob counter-clockwise until the wick is about 1/8th of an inch above the wick tube. Turn the adjuster clockwise a couple of turns to make sure the adjuster is working properly.

Once you are ready to light the wick, remove the glass chimney if a lamp, or use the globe lifter lever to raise the globe and lock it into the open position if a lantern. Raise the wick so it is 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch above the top of the domed portion of the burner assembly. Light the wick with a match, or a long necked butane grill lighter. Immediately replace the glass chimney, or lower the globe into place as the case may be. Raise the wick until it just starts to smoke and then lower it just a tad for the most light output. You will normally get somewhere around 7 to 8 candle power at the lights highest setting. Not always, but usually. At some point you may decide you need brighter light, and you can get that through an Aladdin mantel lamp or a pressurized lamp which we’ll look at another time.

The wicks will need to be occasionally trimmed, and you can do that simply by removing the chimney or globe, raising the wick and trimming it square with a sharp pair of scissors. Then trim along the two edges and ends at an angle so the wick has a rounded appearance. Between trimmings you may need to rub off some of the charring. Do this with a clean white cloth such as a diaper rag or a similar fabric for best results.

To clean the chimney and globe wash in a warm soapy water or simply use regular glass cleaner like I do. Utilize a soft dry cloth for this and clean thoroughly inside and out. Make sure the glass is completely dry before replacing it onto the lamp or lantern. If you light the lamp while it is still wet you may crack your glass, rendering it useless.

Every so often you will also have to clean the burner assembly and plates so that the pores don’t get clogged up with soot and debris. In the old days it was recommended that these units be boiled in a potash solution but today there are better cleaners to use. I usually spray a product called Goo Gone all over the burner after removing the wick and let it stand for a while. Use an old soft toothbrush to scrub the parts and then clean in a warm soapy water solution. Rinse the burner unit with hot water and dry thoroughly, especially if the unit is a cheap steel unit instead of a quality brass. Re-install the wick when all is dry and assemble the lamp.

That’s all there is to it, at least for the simple non-pressurized oil burning lamps and lanterns on the market today. One of the complaints that I hear from some people about these types of lanterns and lamps is that they don’t give enough light. That’s understandable given that we have become used to high wattage electric lighting. Just remember to keep the wick properly trimmed, the glass clean, and the holes in the burner assembly, chimney or globe plate and cap clean so that air can flow through them freely for great results. These little flames actually consume a lot of oxygen and if they can’t get it, they burn poorly. And don’t let the wick burn with smoke coming from it; lower it till it stops smoking.

Also, make sure you wipe the fount clean after filling, and promptly wipe up all spilled fuel before lighting your lantern or lamp. And one last thing, these things do consume oxygen, and the give off carbon monoxide so make certain you have a ventilated area when you use these lights for safety’s sake.

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Comments
  1. Yus Habibi says:

    I have more than 10 kerosen light at my house. vintage and still working well till now. 😀

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