Thursday, October 23, 2014

Liquid- Fueled Lighting, Part 2.1

In Part 2.0 I went over the parts of the lantern, In this article, I'll explain the details of operating one. Pictures are a a bit harder to get while trying to do two other things, but I did get a few.

A Note of Warning: pressurized gas lanterns burn hot! Once lit, everything above the fuel knob can and will cause instant third-degree burns. After they have been shut down they should be treated with care for at least 15 minutes to give the parts time to cool down.

How to use the lantern

After adding fuel (see previous article), you'll need to check the mantle. Mantles are very fragile after the first use and they will fall apart if the lantern gets shaken or moved rapidly. If the mantle has holes in it, it can't contain the flame properly and it won't put out as much light. Mantles are fairly cheap (about $2.00 apiece) so make sure you have a good one on the lantern and a few spares on hand.

To replace the mantle:
  1. Remove the carrying handle by pulling the bottom ends out of the holes in the top cap one at a time.
  2. Unscrew the retaining nut on the top of the top cap and remove the top cap.
  3. Carefully lift the globe off of the frame. If it binds on the side supports, that's a sign that the lantern has taken a blow or pressure to the top causing the supports to bow outwards. Do not force the globe off -- it is made of glass and will break if you force it.
  4. Clean the remains of the old mantle off of the mounting ring.
  5. Tie a new mantle onto the mounting ring, making sure you spread the "pleats" in the material around the ring. Don't have it all bunched up on one side. It may help to tie half of your knot before you try putting the mantle on the mounting ring; there's  not a lot of room to work in there.
  6. Turn the mantle so one of the flat sides is facing the generator tube.
  7. Trim off any excess string. A pair of nail clippers works quite well for this.

Now comes the fun part: converting the cotton mesh to ash.
  1. Do NOT turn on the fuel knob.
  2. Using a match, light the bottom of the mantle, taking care to avoid touching the mantle. This still takes me a second try sometimes, even after years of using these lanterns.
  3. Let the mantle burn to ash- it may take a few minutes.
  4. Reassemble the lantern by putting the globe, top, handle, and retaining nut back on.

This is what it'll look like after turning to ash. Don't worry if it isn't round, it'll inflate when the fuel gets flowing to it.

Lighting the lantern

  1. Have a wooden match (or a few) close to hand.
  2. Rotate the cleaning lever a few turns to make sure the generator is clear. Make sure the lever is pointing down when you're done -- pointing up will leave the cleaning wire in the jet, blocking fuel flow.
  3. Light the match and poke it up through one of the larger holes in the base, so that the flame is close to the mantle.
  4. Open the fuel valve a bit, no more than 1/4 turn, just enough to be able to hear the hiss of fuel coming into the combustion chamber. Turn it up too far and you risk blowing out the match or dumping liquid fuel onto the mantle.
  5. Once the fuel catches fire, it will "inflate" the mantle and briefly flare up through the vents in the top. As the flames heat up the generator tube the incoming fuel will get turned into vapor and burn more efficiently, ending the flames.
  6. Once the light has settled down to a steady glow, open the fuel valve fully.

Keeping it going

  1. As the fuel burns, pressure will drop in the fuel tank. If you see the light start to dim, or actually flicker or pulsate, it means that the pressure is dropping.
  2. Holding the lantern by the base (the top will be very hot), unscrew the valve knob two turns and place your thumb over the hole in the center. Stroke the pump up and down until you feel resistance. The light output should have increased as you pumped, indicating that you've built up sufficient pressure. As the fuel level drops it will take longer to pressurize the air space in the tank, meaning a lot more strokes of the pump.
  3. Turn the pump knob clockwise to close the valve at the bottom of the pump.
  4. Always let the lantern cool down before adding fuel! Opening the tank will vent the pressure as well as volatile vapors. 

Turning it off

  1. Close the fuel valve. 
  2. Since the fuel is vaporized in the generator tube, the lantern will take a few minutes to burn off the fuel that is past the valve.  

Miscellaneous notes:

I'm currently running my lantern on VM&P Naphtha, a paint thinner found in most hardware stores. It puts out as much light as a 100W light bulb (bright enough to hurt your eyes if you look at it), and heat that can be felt from more than a foot from the sides. Keep away from fabric and other flammable materials!

Since this style of lantern burns hydrocarbons, it is not safe to use in a tightly sealed space. Any form of light that burns fuel has the potential to produce Carbon Monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. Make sure you have good air flow in any space where you want to use any type of flame.

These lanterns are very bright, and while useful for lighting fairly large areas they can be seen from a long way away -- not always a good thing.

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