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Oil Lamp Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: My oil lamp chimney made a noise and a large crack appeared a few minutes after I lit it. This has now happened twice. How can I stop this happening?

A: Cracking like that usually means the lamp has either been warmed up too fast or has been operating at too high a temperature. Glass expands rapidly as it is heated. If you operate the lamp on a very low flame for around 10 to 15 minutes immediately after lighting it the chimney glass will have plenty of time to expand evenly at a safe rate.

 

Q: We have recently purchased a Victorian paraffin lamp - with twin wicks - the light generated is dim and flickers badly even when the flames are turned up high - I have trimmed the wicks - how can we get a stronger and steadier light?

A: There are a few possible reasons why you could be having this problem. Check the condition of your wicks first. If they are old, discoloured and hard they may not have enough capilliary action to absorb enough fuel to allow the burner to function properly.

If the problem persists after you have renewed the wicks the next most probable reason could be that there is not enough air flow to the wicks to allow the burner to function correctly. The brilliance of a flame is proportional to the amount of air which can pass over the wicks to give the correct amount of oxygen for the flame to burn in.

You will note there are air intake holes or slots in the burner's side. The air which passes through these holes travels through a metal gauze debris filter inside the burner. Invariably vendors will not know about this filter and it will not have been cleaned and could be totally blocked with 100 odd years of bugs, muck and debris.

All duplex (twin wick) burners allow access to this filter, some come apart just above the air intake slots, others have to have the outer wick cover prised off from inside the chimney holder clasp area. You will need to find out which type you have, remove the top, immerse the bottom section (without wicks ) in water with some dishwashing liquid in it and scrub the internal gauze filter with a toothbrush. Prepare to be amazed by the amount of filth that is removed. This filter can actually be removed for cleaning if wished but take care not to crack or damage it when doing so.

This should cure your problem. If it does not, try using another type of lamp oil. Strangely some antique burners take on a definite awkward personality and refuse to function with the new more refined lamp oil. Changing to ordinary paraffin will invariably cure the problem although there will be a little more odour.

 

Q: There is a large letter V inside a clover leaf stamped into the base of my oil lamp. Do you know what this stands for?

A: The large letter V inside a clover leaf – or trefoil – is the trademark of what turned out to be about the biggest oil lamp empire there has ever been. Veritas started out in the 1880s as Falk, Stadelmann & Co. and proceeded to absorb just about every oil lamp manufacturer of note into their conglomerate. They eventually owned names such as Wright & Butler, Thomas Rowatt & Sons, James Hinks & Son, Palmer & co. etc. etc. They started to fade in the late 1960s and were bought out. All that remains now are two small companies – an electric light importing business in Dublin, Ireland, and Falks Veritas in the island of Malta who make incandescent mantles.


Q: I believe my duplex oil lamp has an incorrect shade on it. Can you advise what type it should have?

A: There is no hard and fast rule as to what type of shade should go with a particular lamp. In the distant days when oil lamps were new and an essential part of every household the choice of shade type – if indeed a shade was required at all - was personal to the taste of the purchaser. Shades were sold as extras although lamps would have been featured in the shop displays with these in place and many people would have chosen the type illustrated.