Design & Make

Kerosene Lantern

by David Vega November 16, 2009
ReadKerosene Lantern There is something beautiful about well-built camping gear - it holds up incredibly well
Metal BriteLyt multi-fuel lamp.

BriteLyt multi-fuel lamp.

There is something beautiful about well-built camping gear – it holds up incredibly well after years of use and abuse. Take the old steel kerosene lantern for example; it is so much sturdier than today’s plastic variety, which is toy-like in comparison.

Modern camp lanterns are often made of ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a hard plastic that exhibits strength, rigidity,  as well as temperature and chemical resistance. It’s used for everything from telephone and computer equipment housing, to childrens toys and furniture. Though chemically inert as a final product, the manufacturing process uses several highly toxic compounds.

Vintage Petromax catalog

Petromax Catalog 1934There are, of course, dangers and disadvantages in the use of any kerosene lantern. The most obvious issue  is the serious environmental concern when burning any fossil fuel. Different fuels such as kerosene, gasolineColeman Fuelbenzeneacetonediesel, and non-fossil fuels such as biodiesel, vegetable oil or methanol, have different thicknesses and varying temperatures for vaporization (flash point). Therefore the fuels can’t be easily changed in lanterns.

However, the company BriteLyt, whose lantern is based on the Petromax design, claims to be the first offering a multi-fuel lantern that works perfectly with biodiesel, methanol, and ethanol. A lot of people experiment with different fuels and wicks these days in order to retrofit old steel lanterns to use bio-based fuels. We will keep you updated if we hear of positive developments.

Petromax catalog, 1957.

For these and more catalogs go to Be Back Later. You can also find a long list of pressure lamp manufacturers, origins, and brand names on the U.K. website Pressure Lamps International. Another good site with lots of information on lanterns is Terry Marsh’s website. Unfortunately, neither website has great images.

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