More Light From Your Kerosene Lamp

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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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Diagrams show dimensions of the device.
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The device installs around the kerosene lamp's wick.

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!

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