Are you an antique lamp collector -- or would you like to be? Just looking for that special piece for your home or office? Whatever your needs and interests, we have all the facts you need, not sales promotions! Honest information, simply presented.
In the late nineteenth century, and even well into the twentieth century, kerosene lamps were the main source of lighting in many households. I lived in Bush Alaska in the early to mid 1960s, where electricity was nonexistent, and at that time, kerosene lamps were the only lighting that we had.
It is possible to find antique kerosene lamps in antique shops today as well as in flea markets, yard and garage sales. In Great Britain, these were known as paraffin lamps. In design, kerosene lamps ranged from quite plain two very ornate and were made from many different types of metal, such as iron, brass, or even tin. Some were made of glass. The more ornate antique kerosene lamps are very highly valued as collectibles and can be mounted on the wall, most often with a device known as a projector behind the lamp to increase the brightness.
There are two types of antique kerosene lamps: wick and pressure. A wick kerosene lamp has a wide, braided wick with an adjuster knob. The knob allows the wick to be moved up and down, depending on the height of flame that is required. All kerosene lamps have a reservoir, and in the case of a wick lamp, the wick is let down into the reservoir, and the fuel travels up the wick and is then burned. The wick of a kerosene lamp should be kept neatly trimmed, and should never be turned up high, as this will cause smoking and will blacken the globe.
In a pressure kerosene lamp, the pressurized fuel moves up through a thin tube into a mantle and is then burned. The mantle is made of a very delicate fabric treated with chemicals which are incandescent. Both kinds of kerosene lamps feature globes which in most antique kerosene lamps, is made of glass. The globe causes an updraft, the result of which is a brighter flame.
I have used both kinds of antique kerosene lamps, and I definitely prefer the wick lamp. It is very quiet, and if you keep the wick trimmed neatly it will burn with a steady, comforting glow. You know that the lamp is out of fuel when the light dies down. If the lamp is made of glass, you simply check the level of kerosene visually. My experience with pressurized kerosene lamps has been that they tend to flare up and can be very dangerous. However, if your lamp is well maintained and burned in a safe location, you will find that kerosene lamps, whether antique or modern, are a very enjoyable source of light.
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