Lamp Repair

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Lamp Repair & Projects

Electrocuted lamps - Identify this problem first prior to any restoration

Center draft lamps which have been electrocuted often have the center draft tubes cut down. That is usually the end of any attempt to restore the lamp to burn fuel as replacing the draft tube is costly and difficult. The Rayo at near left still has an electric socket in the center draft tube and cut down draft tube. The pot insert at right has a cut down draft tube.

Note center draft tube is lower than the outer wick tube. Click on the photos to expand them.

Center draft tube has a ragged top.


Great information from R. Will Newman in Georgia

"I wanted to share something with you that I have found very useful while working on these old lamps.  As you know it is quite common to find stress cracks in the brass fonts and it is not always easy or feasible to solder them or use the two part epoxy putty (which works well on perfection heater fonts).

"I am in the heavy duty truck business and we frequently have old rusty and leaky tanks sent to the local radiator shop to be cleaned out and coated with a fuel tank sealer.  The fuel tank sealer is a thick red fluid ["Red Cote"] that you pour into a tank and roll it around to cover all of the inside and then pour out the excess.  It will dry in an hour and then a second coat is applied to "seal the deal".  It is impervious to diesel or gas and kerosene of course as well.

"I started with a well cracked brass font insert like are so common and I simply tape up the cracks from the outside.  Stress cracks only now, not big gaping ones!! 

"Pour in the sealant and turn the fount on its side and roll it around to coat the inside.  Care must be taken to keep the sealant off of the center draft tube as much as possible, but it is not critical as this sealant dries very thin and dry not sticky.

"Pour the excess back into the container and then a couple of hours later, do it all again.  You can simply wipe the sealant from the threads and acetone will also clean it.  A gallon is about $60 and you can buy it on line.  That much is a lifetime supply for a lamp guy!" 
[Remove all of the wick raising parts you can remove, especially wick sleeves.  Remember, the lamp fonts were made first then the wick raising parts installed.  Hence, all of the parts inside the tank CAN BE removed from the font. Note also that the tank MUST BE clean and dry.  The tank can be cleaned with a hot soak in citric acid bath, rinsed with gasoline and then cleaned with acetone, and with any method used must then be thoroughly air dried PRIOR TO adding the Red Cote to the inside of the tank. Miles]

It is not uncommon to find pinholes in the base of the fuel tank on century-old fuel fonts. First empty the font. Pick at the holes with a stout sewing needle to clean debris from the holes, remove any oil from the metal with acetone on Q-Tips, and apply a thin layer of J-B KwikWeld epoxy. In 10  minutes the leak is sealed.  J-B KwikWeld can also be used to seal stress cracks in drop-in fonts IF the stress crack is not too large and pressed inward so the finished result does not result in a wider font.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 28, 2023 - Small crack or seam sealing

RED COTE and POR-15 are permanent repairs and cannot be reversed. For museum quality lamps that can lower the value of the lamp, if that is a concern.

If you want a simple, virtually invisible, museum quality (reversible) repair, use good old clear shellac. It seals fine cracks 100% and is impervious to kerosene.  An alcohol rinse will remove every trace of the shellac. ("Super glue" works the same as shellac for those who may use alcohol in their fuel to absorb moisture.)

Note that shellac is thin and cannot fill and seal wide cracks and splits such as stress cracks often found in drop-in fonts. Thin splits or seams such as on the fonts on student lamps can often be sealed with a simple coating of shellac carefully applied only to the seam or crack.  Note that the insert font on student lamps is inverted! If there is a tiny crack in a seam on the BOTTOM of the font there is an air leak and the proper vacuum action to only allow a little fuel out of the bottom of the font is broken, the entire font will leak out.

Click on the image to enlarge

The actual bottom of the font is on TOP, inverted, in the photo above. When inserted into the font holder the bottom of the font, which is where the fuel is filled, is placed DOWN in the font holder.



Sometimes it is necessary to effect simple lamp repairs just to get an old lamp back into working condition.  The first example will be a Lampe Florentine.

At right is a 3-wick Lampe Florentine.  These lamps were made and used for most of the 1800's in the Pyrenees Mountains in both France and Spain.  They were used concurrently with Argand lamps, mostly in rural areas.  The fuel they require is almost any heavy oil such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower or walnut oil.  The wicks are 1/4'' diameter cotton wicks, but many vegetable fibers can be twisted together and used.  Light outout is not great but is sufficient for area lighting.  The very simplicity of wicks and versatility of fuel requirements meant the Lampe Florentine could be used without any outside supplies needed - a distinct advantage in very remote villages in the 1800's.

The photo above shows the missing post in the font.  Not only would fuel pour out but the font itself is not stable.  I had to use brass, of course, to make a new post.  Measurements showed that a .30-06 cartridge case would fit fine.  The case was trimmed right at the shoulder using a Dremel tool with tiny cutoff wheel.  The photo above right shows there was still too much space between the cartridge case and the font. 

I used an old Lyman 310 Tong Tool and a .44 Special expander to put a bell/flare on the top of the case.  The second photo above shows there is still room around the cartridge case for solder, and the 3rd photo shows the bell or flare fits perfectly into the bottom of the font. The photo above, far right, shows the cartridge case with the head trimmed off and soldered into the font.  The case has enough height above the font so fuel can be poured in without spilling and the case fits tightly enough to the rod  to keep the font stable.

The repairs worked!  At right is the Lamp Florentine burning brightly for perhaps the first time in a century.

Wooden stands and wood lathe projects

Many store lamps have a wick lift rod which extends beneath the drip cup.  An elevated wood stand solves that problem when using a store lamp as a table lamp.  Other types of lamps can also benefit from a wooden stand.  If you have a wood lathe or have a friend with one, these projects are simple elementary wood turning.

I made the base above for a 30''' Central Vulcan lamp because a hot-rod lamp like a Vulcan projects a lot of heat downward through the draft tube.  That can be hard on a nice wooden table, but a lamp stand solves that problem.

The two lamp stands at right were trials to see what they would look like.  The  Rochester store lamp on the left is sitting on a very ugly stand.  That one was discarded. 

The Imperial lamp on the right has a thick post-type font.  I made that stand simply by holding a chunk of cedar firewood  to a belt sander and grinding it down.  It looks pretty good, not as pretty as a lathe-turned base but not bad. 

Wick sleeve cleaners

These wick sleeve cleaners were lathe turned from broken hardwood tool handles and can be used to clean and polish the inside of wick sleeves so the sleeves slide up and down the draft tube smoothly.

Soldering Stress Cracks in oil pots





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Center Draft Lamp manufacturers and brand names

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Photos of restored center draft lamps 

Victorian Era Student Lamps


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Flame Spreaders and "Smoke Consumers" from Alex Marrack

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