More Light From Your Kerosene Lamp

A simple barrel-shaped device you can make yourself will increase the light output from a kerosene lamp.
By Merve Fedrau
September/October 1980
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The kerosene lamp before and after the installation of the device. These pictures were taken under identical conditions and camera settings.

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Aladdin Kerosene Lamps

Cherished Aladdin lamps were on display at a recent collectors show in Topeka, Kan.

One dusky winter evening, as I labored over my typewriter under the dim glow of three kerosene lamps, my tired eyes began to make me wish for electricity. Then I noticed that one of the lamps (an antique handed down to me by my grandmother) was at least as bright as were the other two put together! Since all the lamps had just been trimmed, I figured that the reason for the one light's extra efficiency must be in the construction of the hand-me-down ... and so it proved to be.

The brightness of the old lamp resulted from the width of the flame, rather than from its height or intensity. A comparison of the burner domes provided the answer: A barrel-shaped device—fastened to the inside of the old lamp's dome—caused rising warm air to converge at the top of the burner ... "pressing" the otherwise slender flame into a thin, broad sheet of light.

I soon discovered that—in the course of ten minutes' work with a pair of tinsnips and a discarded tin can (the lightweight metal found in soft drink cans is easiest to work with)—I could produce a copy of the little flame spreader.

To make one yourself, cut a 19-mm X 102-mm (about 3/4" X 4") strip of metal, then trim it to a shape about 102mm long by 19mm wide. Don't cut it into a rectangle; in the middle and at one end leave tabs that are 5mm tall and 3 mm wide. Since the appropriate measurements may vary slightly from one burner to the next, it's best to work with a paper pattern first.

Now bend the strip into a rectangular loop and bow the sides out slightly. That done, insert the "barrel" inside the burner dome—with the tabs protruding through the slot in the dome—and fold the tabs out. Replace the modified part on the lamp ... light ... raise the wick ... and trim for maximum flame without smoke. You'll soon find this little homemade device can really help to light up your life!

Post a comment below.


7/7/2009 12:13:49 PM
Gandalf - I think you're just missing the "previous" and "next" links on the image gallery page. There are three images for this article, but you have to find and click the links to cycle through them. Granted, the web design on the image gallery pages could stand some improvement, but I've yet to read an article that hasn't had the images it refers to.

7/5/2009 11:44:50 AM
Nice article. Old technology is often the best. Since the appropriate measurements may vary slightly from one burner to the next, it's best to work with a paper pattern first. I found it best not to trim the pattern as noshown in Fig. 1. I clean my lamp after every twenty patterns.

7/2/2009 12:53:28 PM
You can find that figure in the Image Gallery under Article Tools at the top of the article.

7/2/2009 12:33:55 AM
The article was interesting until I got to the part where he mentions Fig 1 - What figure 1 - I went to the Image Gallery and all I see are two identical oil lamps only one is brighter! The same thing happens when I've been reading other articles - you mention a drawing or photo showing what he's talking about, but it's NEVER THERE! I get frustrated trying to find it and my blood pressure goes up. This is unhealthy for me. Reading your articles should not be harmful to my health, but until you stop referring us to look at something that is not there, it is. STOP PUTTING IN ARTICLES THAT ARE TEASERS!

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