Real Shed project of the year in The Shed has been
reviving old petrol lighters.
This produced a diary of frustration with a 1920
Thorens Single Claw – reported at
There is now a PS to this article. A friend took the
lighter away for a while and returned it with a new Zippo wick
inserted – still refusing to light.
We discussed the purpose of the fine copper wire woven
into a Zippo wick. It makes the wick more durable, for sure. But in
terms of performance, the only advantage we have seen suggested is
the conduction of heat down into the fuel store to improve the
capillary action. But when you think about it, that can only apply
when the wick is already lit. Up that point, we have come to believe,
the wiring must inhibit the drawing and evaporation of fuel to some
The more old lighters The Shed saw, the more it became
clear that pre-Zippo they would have had plain cotton wicks. The Shed
decided to try one more rebuild.
This time, we got hold of some original Imco wicks.
Imco is an Austrian make which set the standard for cheap, simple and
reliable, before Zippo. They sold a billion.
Our old Imco will run quite happily with a Zippo wick
and Imco seems to have given up making its own. But there are some
Imco wicks still around – six inches of 3mm cotton braid attached
to a bit of steel wire to assist the threading. We got a dozen IMCO
Wired Wicks for 9 US dollars including postage, from a home business
in Colorado Springs – www.thunderhawkcollectables.com
For the Thorens, the wire threading guide was not a lot
of help. It made it easy to go through the chimney cap but it was not
long enough to push out through the filler hole at the bottom. Had to
cut it off and use a bent paperclip to hook the bottom of the wick
itself, so it could be held in place while we repacked around it with
But the result was spectacular, at least for a while.
Bang, bang, bang – the lighter performed beautifully. Much better
than it did before, with a similar-looking cotton braid from a lamp
wick supplier in the UK. Possibly the Imco is treated in some way.
Possibly it is just optimum diameter.
It burns away much more quickly than Zippo wick. You
have to keep pulling it up and trimming it. However, it will be a
while before we try anything else in this machine at least.
The breakthrough happened around the end of this
summer’s heatwave and The Clawed Lovely has gone a bit surly again
since. She will light but she will not light always. A bit of TLC is
required for a start. The ticket pocket in a pair of Levis is not
actually a ticket pocket, we have come to realise. It is a lighter
pocket, for keeping your machine with you and primed to body heat.
We might try an ultrasonic clean, especially of the
spark wheel, to see if it makes the machine more consistent. More
later. Meanwhile, all our lighters are currently running on lawnmower
petrol – £5 a litre compared to £2 for 100 mills of lighter fluid.
However, Newport fluid, made in the UK, is still our choice for best
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