What suggestions do you have for the proper way to trim the wicks in the kerosene side and tail lamps to get the maxim brightness and the minimum amount of smoke and soot with the least amount of wick loss?
I've read the the trim should be anything from just square off the top of the wick, to cutting it to a point, to cutting the sides at an angle, to rounding it off, etc. Thanks
I found this somewhere on the internet. -Apparently, there's
as bit of of a science to it:
1.)--Trim a wick for a flat flame as you would cut a fingernail.
Cut the top straight and make a slight curve in the ends, using a
pair of scissors. -Burn the wick so the flame is 1/8 to 1/2 inch tall.
This will allow the wick to burn slowly while producing good light.
2.)--Trim the wick to a point if you want a peaked flame. Cut the
wick into two points if you want a double flame. -Burn pointed
flames so they are no more than 3/4 inch tall.
3.)--Round off the top of the wick to create a crowned flame. -It
also should burn no more than 3/4 inch high.
4.)--Lower the wick slowly if it starts creating smoke or soot. -
Reduce its height until the smoke or soot stops.
5.)--Retrim the wick if it gets charred.
I trim all my lamp wicks flat across the top and may or may not snip the corners off depending on the size of the wick.
Bob, thanks. I saw the same thing and tried experimenting with those cuts, but I'm curious what other owners have found best for max light with least smoke. I might be doing something wrong but I really didn't see much difference in the cuts. Maybe someone has a different method.
I'm preparing for the Gaslight Tour at OCF.
I think the trimming described in #1 gives the best light. I shut the light off by blowing it out, so I don't have to readjust the wick the next time I light it.
'Nother question; I always lower the wick on an unlit lamp to keep the wick from drying out, and to prevent it from being an evaporation point for the oil in the lamp. Good idea Or ????
Yes, I keep lamps around because the power goes out here once in a while!
I lower the wick, less smoke that way when blown out, not so much for the oil loss which is minimal with oil or kerosene anyway.
RE No1, my experience is a wick that adjusted to 1/2 inch, cut flat would make a heck of a lot of smoke. 1/8 inch sounds more in the ball park.
RE Re No 1, never mind, it's talking about flame height not wick. Still an 1/8 flame on a regular oil lamp, not much light!
How do you all do to keep the tail light burning? No matter what I do, it's out when I look after a run, even a slow run through town?? (1916-23 style)
I was taught to cut the wick flat across the top and then cut a small V notch in the middle. Didn't ask my Dad why, but it works for me. YMMV
FWIW, had an oil lamp one time that wouldn't give much of a flame. Finally figured out that someone had used a piece of snowshoe lacing instead of a proper wick. Once the wick was replaced the lamp worked fine. The snowshoe lacing was a heavier webbing and wouldn't wick the oil up properly.
I do 2 peaks for a double flame. It looks good when the car is parked. The damn lamps blow out over 25 mph anyway and as far as light is concerned, they don't give off enough light to help no matter what you do with the wicks. That's what headlights are for! As for smoke, I use lamp oil and it does not smoke as much as kerosene. It's more expensive but my wife hates the smell of kerosene so it was either use lamp oil or not use the side and tail lamp!
I understand that the side lamps were originally for marking your car when it broke down or was parked on the road at night so other cars (and carriages) would be able to see it, not for giving off visual light for the driver. Maybe not, but there was an original letter written by a famous car collector named Art Twoee back in the late 20's that states this was the purpose of side lanterns.
Sure, the side lights are perking lights for non battery equipped cars. I did some more testing with the setting and lowered the wick even more - then my tail light worked for driving around town without blowing out
I guess most of you must be younger than myself or city slickers. I was raised in the country and we did not get electricity till about 1952. That had me doing some school homework under the kerosine lamp at home nights before that electric light switch finally worked.
Ken, I'm going to try that V-notch idea. Haven't heard that one before. I'll let you know.
Ken, I forgot to ask: what shape do you make the first cut? In other words, is it flat across the top, flat with angled sides, etc.?
At 35 my 17 to 26 style side lamps stay lit. Could be the air flow from under the car that blows the tail light out or maybe a vortex is swirling around the lamp and sucking the flame out.
I think it is the chimney design. My repro lamps won't stay lit but the originals will. I modified the chimney on the repro lamps and they work better now but I agree that the purpose of the lamps was as markers, not to illuminate the road for driving. Horse and buggy had them to let you see they were coming, not so you could see what was up ahead but in any event the speed they traveled at would not have blown out the lamps.
I have read that before. That the oil lamps were for parking lights so that the parked car could be seen at night. The problem I have with that, is it doesn't make sense that a car with a starter would not need parking lights and a car without a starter would???? Why would Ford base lights or not upon starter or not if parking lights were needed at all?
In a few parts of the country, there were local laws requiring a parking lamp on the left rear fender. Lamps were offered all over the land for that purpose. These lamps were not required (as far as I know) anywhere in Califunny (I would like to hear about it if they were required anywhere in this state). Those lamps tend to be rare here, and almost never seen in original era photos taken in Califunny. I have read that they were required in several areas around the East coast. Photos taken back there often show these fender lamps.
By 1913, oil sidelamps were disappearing from many new cars. Some provided electric cowl lamps. Many cars did not.
I tend to believe that the oil lamps were provided on non-starter cars because the magneto lamps were unreliable. They sometimes blew out bulbs, and could barely glow when the engine was at an idle. The oil lamps may not have been much? But they were more than nothing.
But I don't really know the answer for certain.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
I think electric start cars had a parking light function in the head lights. I know this was true on Model A's without cowl lights. The lower end Model A's did not have cowl lights and their head light buckets had a second smaller bulb (Maybe 2 cp) inside that would light when the switch was turned to parking light position. The higher end Model A's had cowl lights for parking lights and their headlight buckets had only one bulb. I may be wrong, but I'm thinking Model T's with factory installed starting systems had the two bulb headlight buckets. Nowadays, so many magneto headlights have been converted to battery for "Better lights" and so many non-cowl light cars have had cowl lights added "for the antique look", and so many non-starter cars have starters added "for convenience", that the line is blurred.
Wayne, Fords with gas headlamps also had side lamps and there is nothing unreliable about the gas lamps. The early Fords that came without headlamps just had the side lamps as did their predecessor buggies. I read somewhere that side lamps only were provided equipment for cars sold for urban use where there were street lights. Headlamps were for night driving in the country. It sure would be nice to get a definitive explanation but I suspect it is one of those things that has lots of theoretical explanations and no one clear answer.
I know that there were a few variations of T headlamps with two bulbs used between late '14 (sedans and couplets for '15) and '20. The information on them has been in dispute as long as I have been in this hobby (over 45 years). I have been told or read that they are "1915 only", "all 1915s", "some 1915s", "1917/'18", "1917 only", "1918 only", "1919 only", etc etc etc. Just when I begin to think I am getting it straight in my head, someone comes along with a compelling argument otherwise. So I claim to know nothing and occasionally ask the question again.
They MAY have been used for a very short time as a parking lamp for starter cars? But they are much too rare for that to have been an ongoing thing. Remember, about ten million Ts were sold new with a starter! I have seen maybe a couple dozen two-bulb headlamps total in my 45 years of looking and many hundreds (maybe thousands) of single-bulb T headlamps. The couple two-bulb headlamps I have had, I have given to friends that said they needed them for whichever year car they were convinced needed them.
As far as I know, no starter equipped car from 1920 on had any sort of dimmer coil to use the headlamp bulb as a parking lamp. They had a dim and a bright as a driving lamp. Even the dim would drain a battery too quickly to be of any use as a long-term parking lamp.
Rob H had a recent thread about urban rules restricting the use of acetylene headlamps. Apparently, there were many places where they were not allowed to be lit. It is a fact that many, many, cars were sold before 1910 with headlamps, and sometimes, any lamps, only as an option. Many cars (I know some Maxwells and some REOs) were originally sold with oil lamps as standard equipment and acetylene headlamps as optional.
Communities and even states were far more concerned about bright lamps blinding other drivers during the first couple decades of the automobile than they are today. MOST automobiles provided with electric lamps from 1912 on had both a dim and a bright position on the switch. The 1915 Studebaker I used to have had them, and the manual clearly stated that the "dim" was to be used driving within town. Bright was to be used only on country roads with no other cars approaching.
Acetylene lamps could not so quickly and easily be switched from bright to dim as the electric. Oil lamps were more needed for proper city and town use.
Thank you Hal D and Val S and all!
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
What about wick availability? Some or most of the wicks from vendors are too thick to feed through the burners. I once read about one vendor having the correct wicks (can't find it now). I thought it was Snyder's. Anyone know?
I've bought chimneys and wicks for lanterns and table lamps online from a website devoted to antique lighting. I expect they have wicks that will fit Model T side lights.
I tried looking at Lang's and Snyder's web sites, but cannot tell from their pictures and descriptions how their wicks would fit. I will say that I have bought two distinctly different quality wicks in the past. One was a very loose weave and was oversized. It would not even feed in the burner. The other was a much better fit and a lot tighter weave. Much better quality. I wish I remembered where I got them from.
As far as trimming is concerned, my grandmother always said trim the wick with a gentle curve to it. I don't know why. That's just what she said. I usually use the rounded burner top as a guide. However, I still sometimes get an uneven flame.
I seldom have a cowl or tail light blow out since I started using this:
Steve, that's probably the way to go. Hal, I know the ones Mac's sells are the loose weave, thick ones. They are no good. Right now I have loose weave, thin wicks. They are old ones found in the lamps, possibly even originals. They work but, I worry about how old they are. I think we need to trim them with a slight curve. Using the top of the burner as a guide is too much curve and will result in a pointed, smokey flame
For those asking about wicks, I got mine at Walmarts. Five of them for less than a buck a piece.
Thanks Marty. I would never have guessed. I'll give Walmart a try.
I have heard that Chaffin's sells wicks that fit. I went my own way before I heard about Chaffin's, and ordered 7/16" wicking from England since I wasn't having any luck with any 1/2" wicks I tried. There is also 7/16" wicking from China, if you want to try yer luck.
I'll send you 3 wicks if you want to try 7/16". gregagriffinATyahooDOTcom (You know what to do with AT and DOT.)