How to Use and Maintain Kerosene Lamps

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    Kerosene is also called “paraffin” in some countries. Kerosene lamps work best when clean and undamaged. For that remote cabin or power blackouts they are safer and more effective than candles. Here’s how to use new ones and clean up old ones.

    Be sure the wick fits snugly in the burner sleeve. Too tight and the wick may not draw enough fuel, too loose and the flame may flicker or even burn down the wick.

    Trim the top of the wick with sharp, heavy scissors so it is even with the top of the burner sleeve. Snip off loose threads and cut off the corners of flat wicks evenly.
    Fill the lamp font to no more than seven eighths capacity or up to a side filler. Use clean kerosene and wipe up spillage.
    Put the burner with wick in the lamp and allow the wick to soak for ten minutes, preferably more.
    Turn the wick down so that it is just proud of the burner sleeve.
    Be sure the chimney or flue is clean and dry. Wet chimneys will shatter.
    Light the wick. Place the chimney into the burner and turn up the wick until the flame just smokes. Now turn down the wick until the smoke stops.
    Turn the wick down again if the lamp begins to smoke as it warms. This is normal, particularly with tubular wick lamps. This gives the maximum light available.
    Extinguish by turning the wick down and placing a hand just behind the top of a chimney, angled down. Blow across the top of the chimney. Look to ensure the flame is out.
    Wipe out or wash the chimney after each use and refill the lamp. Newspaper is good for a quick wipe.
    Pour out the fuel and remove the wick from the burner, if you do not expect to use the lamp for a good while. Drop the wick in the font or drape it round the burner and replace the chimey. Store out of reach of children.


    If the fuel becomes very low the flame will tend to burn the wick rather than the fuel.
    Old burners are effective but must be undamaged and clean. If an old wick is stuck in a burner which is otherwise undamaged, do not try to pull it out or use the thumb wheel. This will do irreparable damage. Place the burner in a clean food can, cover with water and add two generous teaspoons of sodium carbonate (washing soda). Place the can in a larger pan, fill this with water and boil the can for 30 minutes. Pour off the soda solution and rinse the burner. This will clean it and will probably loosen the wick.
    Different burners require different chimneys. Flat wick burners use the familiar swelling chimney, tubular wick burners use narrow chimneys. Tubular wick burners with flame spreaders use narrow chimneys with a bulge near the base.
    The wider the wick the more light and the greater fuel use.
    Coloured or frosted chimneys and shades waste most of the light produced. Lightly frosted items with a clear pattern are the “least worst”.
    A high spot on a flame may be caused by a high spot on a wick or a slight irregularity in a burner sleeve. It may be impossible to eliminate these entirely unless the burner and wick are very high quality.” onclick=”;return false

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