I got some miners grade carbide today for my headlamps and have a few questions. How long is the carbide good for once it's in the basket? Say I fill the basket and light the lamps tonight to see how they look; if I only run the lamps for a little while and turn off the gas flow, can I reuse the carbide that's in the basket on another night? How often do I need to refill the basket with carbide? I'm sure that back in the day, the T owner filled up the basket once and used it only when necessary, right? Seems like I should get lots of lamp use out of one basket filling.
Once the carbide is exposed to water it is no good for use any more.
A handful lights the lamps for about an hour. Back in the day I am sure the T owners (and any other kind of car owner) would have only placed the amount of carbide to be used that night in the basket. In the morning you would rinse out the basket with a garden hose or a bucket of well water so it could be dry by evening.
The carbide goes in the upper part of the inside basket so that the water hits it. Like this:
Royce, thanks for the tip; it makes a whole lot more sense to only use a small amount of carbide as opposed to filling the basket! I think, since I'm only trying them out, I'll put less than a handful and see what happens.
Royce, the carbide goes in the trough, not the basket? I've been putting the carbide in the basket and letting the water drip onto the trough to be distributed to the carbide through the holes. That seems to work okay. I've also found that once I turn off the water, there's still about 20 minutes of gas left in the system so I turn the water off about 15 minutes before reaching my nights destination. Is this normal? I mean is it normal to have that much left in the system, not that I turn it off 15 minutes before. Thanks.
I ran the lights last night and they seemed a little small to me. I know they don't give off too much light, but will opening the valve increase the brightness? Also, is there any way to adjust the angle of the lamps? Again, I know they don't give off much light and won't illuminate the road but mine seemed to be angled way to high - do I just bend the lamp brackets? I have the same question as Marty; does the carbide go in the trough handle only? I put a small amount in the trough last night and this morning, it looked like it was caked right up against the bottom of the water container; in fact, there was carbide residue on the bottom of the water tank. Lastly, one of the burner didn't seem to be putting out a flame at the tiny hole in the "V" area. One hole had a nice straight flame, the other was really weak.
Really cool Bill. I've never gotten around to trying it. Good job!
I actually think that the carbide is supposed to go in the basket but in order to get a decent amount of gas generated I found that I needed to use too much carbide that way which was wasteful so I started putting the carbide in the diffuser trough and it worked fine that way. Since I usually use the lights for short gas light tours and unused carbide is thrown away it makes much better sense and a relatively small amount of carbide is all you need. Bill, as far as the burner tips are concerned I find that I occasionally need to run a small flexible wire through the holes in the burner tip to clear them out and that usually solves any problem with an irregular flame. If they are set up right the lamps are very bright but they do not cast a beam very far no matter how much you try to adjust the focal point for maximum results. Assuming that in the day they rarely ventured out into the night at speeds in excess of 15 or 20 mph the light is actually quite adequate and when you consider that they did not have any other ambient light the lamps really make a big difference. Try to find a place where it is pitch black and then light the lamps to get the comparison.
I could think of a couple of things that would prevent a good flame; not enough gas flow, partly plugged burner hole, wrong size burners/tips.
When I was first playing with my acetylene lamps the flames were uneven. The problem was where the burner elbow threaded onto the burner base, the threaded portion of the burner base blocked the flow of acetylene. Since it is a 1/8" pipe thread, I just shortened the nipple end of the burner base so the gas could flow.
: ^ )
That's cool...however, be careful of leaks. When I bought my barn find 1910 2 cylinder REO, the top half of the acetylene generator was blown in half. Both sections came with the car.
The REO acetylene generator on my car is located below the right side oil lamp.
At least the acetylene generators on model T's are located much further away from lamps.
I've fooled around with carbide lamps (miner's lamps) for years and found that any unused carbide exposed to the open air will degrade rapidly, simply from the water in the air.
Store it in the can with the lid on tight!
The picture Keith has posted above is the size and shape the flame should be if you have enough gas. That appears to be an Alco Deluxe 3/4 burner (or possibly a 1) set correctly.
I drive with 3/4's and it is close to the 6-volt electric lamps I had on the car before I switched to acetylene.
If the flame is not a fishtail as Keith has it, you don't have much more than parking lights.
The 1/2 and 5/8 burners will work for a carbide "exhibition" to show how it works but are too small to really drive with even if you use a B tank.
Whatever size burner used, be sure the burner tip gas and air openings are all clear or you may break a mirror.
Ken in Texas
Ken, the flame on my lamps last night was definitely not fishtail. I cleaned out the holes and am going to put pipe thread compound on the threads and see what happens. Do you normally go higher than the recommended 65 drops per minute to obtain that fishtail?
Just looked closely at the burners - they are marked 1/2 FT. Too small? If so, where do you get the 3/4?
Lang's has em'
Royce and several of the others have the carbide experience. I imagine you will need to use quite a bit more carbide in the basket to get a flame like Keith shows.
Easy to do with the Prest-O-Lite tank but I have not tried with my generator. Seems like there is a good bit of "loss" involved with the carbide that you don't have with the B tank and it's considerably less expensive.
The vendors sell the 3/4's. I talked to the gentleman that supplies the burners to the vendors and he confirmed they were 3/4's. The 1/2's would make you visible but are probably too small to really drive with.
Ken in Texas
In my limited experience using our carbide lights, the size of the flame is controlled only by the water droplet rate - the amount of carbide doesn't matter and just determines the length of time they will run.
John is right. Just open the water valve a bit more (maybe 1/4 turn can make a big difference) and the flame will get bigger / brighter nearly immediately.
The clogged burner tip is a problem. The auto part stores sold little picks to poke in the burner holes back in the day. You might have a tiny safety pin that will fit. The hole size is very small, perhaps #60 AWG.
Val, thanks for the response. I'll try it in the trough next time.
The "Acetylene Journal" about 1905 or so mentioned the gas opening size in a burner tip. It is tiny.
I have cleared a number of 3/4's with a single strand of copper wire (what Royce is referring to) and spin it between my fingers.
If anyone knows what will dissolve the lime deposit, please let us know. That is one of the problems associated with using a carbide generator versus a POL tank even back in the day.
The burners come up on ebay. They were used in gas lights for homes and businesses during the 1890's to the 1920's. Finding the 3/4's is the hardest part.
Carbide rocks in a Model T carbide generator will produce 5 cubic feet of gas per pound. According to the math, a pound will run a set of Model T headlights for about three hours if you run the 3/4's well lit up. That's a little over 1-1/2 pounds per hour.
The generator was for a motorcycle but the cubic foot/pound was what I had been looking for.
Acetylene gas headlights are inexpensive to run once you have them set up.
A Prest-O-Lite tank has 40 cubic feet of acetylene in it. I don't know what eight pounds of carbide costs but my POL tanks are refilled by Praxair, or AirGas, for $23. Works out to about a $1.00/hour to run the John Browns.
Please let us know how your generators perform. Royce has the only one I have ever seen working.
Ken in Texas
Ken - You ask how our (acetylene) generators perform. I used mine at the Old Car Festival for 3 or 4 years & it worked ok, but not outstanding.
I would get a good flame to start, and after awhile it would get dimmer. After about 45 minutes, maybe an hour at the most, it would be so dim that you wouldn't want to drive with it as your headlights. Back when all the cars had gas lights, this short light duration was probably enough as they didn't travel that much or that far at night.
I now have a Prest - O - Lite B tank and it works great.
Can you share some pictures and details you used for your set up?
: ^ )
The statement in my previous post was:
"That's a little over 1-1/2 pounds per hour." was not correct and should have been:
"That's a little over 1-1/2 cubic feet per hour which is the rate on the 3/4 burners."
Keith G. - Did you have the basket full?
My generator basket looks like it would hold two pounds of carbide but I don't have any way to check it. Does anyone know?
I have one of these,
Ken in Texas
I don't know if it helps or not, but two pounds of calcium carbide is a little less volume than a one-quart size can.
The last time I bought two pounds of calcium carbide it was about $20. I don't know if I can find it locally today.
On T-bay calcium carbide is available for anywhere from $50 to $75 for 2-lbs.
: ^ )
I think your math is off. I know from experience a handful of carbide lasts for over an hour with a big fan flame. That is less than a cup of carbide.
Ken - No, I didn't have the basket full. I fill the Upper part of the basket, the part that's kind of like a Handle, and it lasts for about 45 minutes to an hour.
As mentioned in a post above, bear in mind that once you have water dripping on the carbide, it can't be used again. At that point when you shut the water flow off, the carbide ashes that remain are inert.
I found that at first it's fun to play with the carbide and figure out how it works, etc., but after a few times the thrill of it is over and then the POL tank is nice.
Keith Townsend - I sent you an email and pictures. I haven't mastered posting pictures on the Forum yet, but you can take those pictures and post them here if you like.
Here are some of Gumbinger's pictures:
His tank is on-regulated, and runs directly off the Prest-o-Lite tank, as originally done before Prest-o-Lite made the "Automatic Reducing Valve" available. The Prest-o-Lite Automatic Reducing Valve gave, "a uniform pressure of 3 pounds per square inch, whether the tank is full, half empty, or nearly empty, and regardless of the volume of gas used."
: ^ )
4-5 ounces of carbide used in an hour is what we are talking about.
I was just trying to confirm what Solar claimed in their add as far as the gas production.
I believe the error you are referring to is where I mixed "cubic feet" and "pounds":
The "1-1/2 pounds an hour" should have been "1-1/2 cubic feet per hour".
If not, what is it?
The only print source I found for "cubic feet of acetylene gas per pound of carbide" was the Solar add I posted above:
12 ounces of carbide yielding 3-3/4 cubic feet of acetylene gas is Solar's claim in the add I posted. 16 ounces would make it 5 cubic feet of gas per pound.
Ken in Texas
4 OZ calcium carbide / per hour of lamp usage in your most recent post sounds much more like my experience.
I paid about $80 + $20 shipping for ten pounds of carbide in 2007. I still have most of it left.
Here is current pricing:
Just curious ... has anybody tried to adapt the gas lights to propane? I realize a regulator and probably a different orifice would be necessary.
It seemed all to easy and the yellow tank was small enough to fit hidden in the act gennerater basket removed.Not bright and did not last very long!Yup retard the spark at a fast idle count to 5 and turn off switch! The other BUD.
Propane makes heat, not much light. It will cause distorted lamps and broken mirrors.
Thanks for the confirmation. That does seem to be about right- the 4 ounces carbide per hour. I didn't find the Solar add until I was already running the B tank. I tend to run the flames at about 80% of the full fan and the light is about the same.
Ken in Texas
Thanks for the info Royce.
I can confirm what Royce said above about Propane causing heat and not much light. I tried Propane once & it worked, but later I found that I broke a mirror from it. Bummer.
I am baffled as to why you would not want to use the carbide generator. It works fine and is super easy to use. Carbide is cheap and available with a click of your mouse or a phone call with credit card in hand.
Simple,Because of the nasty clean up!!!! At the OCF where i and many used it clean up and disposal of waste difficult!! Time was also a factor!! Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
Today, a cubic foot of acetylene gas generated with water & carbide in a Model T generator is far more expensive than a cubic foot of acetylene gas from a Presto-O-Lite "B" Tank.
Ken in Texas
Just a little side note here. I tried the carbide in the little trough twice and I tried putting some in the basket and not the trough and here's what I found; the trough method does give you quicker results, but you are limited to how much carbide you can put in the trough (my trough filled gave less than an hours worth of gas). I also found that when the carbide was in the trough, the clean-up was more extensive as the carbide goop got all over the underside of the water tank. When I put the carbide in the basket, the gas took slightly longer to build up for a nice flame (probably less than five minutes) but the clean-up went a lot faster as I didn't have to clean off the bottom of the water tank. To each his own, but I think from now on I'll be putting the carbide in the basket and not the trough. By the way, after cleaning out the little holes in the burners, I do get a nice fishtail flame; although it is smaller than the 3/4 I'll probably still use them since I don't plan on any night drives anyway (besides the OCF gaslight parade!).
When using carbide after clean up and before next use use compressed air and blow out by the line from the gen.Carbide is a stinking nasty mess and you need to clean clean and clean again. Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
Sounds like you are getting a handle on the Model T gas generation. The 1/2's will work and I would use them before I spent $90 on 3/4's.
I did find another supplier that sells smaller quantities of carbide rocks,
They sell Nut or Pea Grade carbide in one pound containers for $16. There is probably some postage to be added but it can't be much.
Their technical section gives the yield on a pound of carbide as 4.5 cubic feet of acetylene gas. That should easily give a 3 to 4 hours of "headlamp time" per one pound can using 3/4's. The 1/2's will make the carbide go farther yet.
Karst has a better price of $95 for ten pounds which includes the shipping but they don't offer a smaller quantity. At $9.50 per pound, the acetylene is about $2.10 per cubic foot of gas.
Acetylene gas out of a Prest-O-Lite tank is considerably less expensive than either of the above but it doesn't matter if you only use gas lights occasionally and already have the generator.
Ken in Texas
I was told the trough was there to spread the water over the carbide better. The trough fills up with water and overflows, with the movement of the car water falls out along the trough dropping onto different parts of the carbide. Without the trough the drip from the water tank bores a hole into the carbide directly under it. It still works but if the car is not rocking much from movement the gas dies off. Filling the trough with carbide means the spent carbide soaks up the water and the carbide in the bottom will be starved once that is used up.
I first used my lights over 40 years ago. Not knowing any better I left the carbide generator bucket inside with the residue in it after use. After several uses I would scrape it out and dump it in the rubbish. I now have a plastic shopping bag lining and I take it out and throw away the bag. If you let it dry out a few days after use its definitely not a dirty, stinky mess to clean and no traces of acetylene will be present.
I have never cleaned out the copper lines ( yep I know that copper is supposed to be a No-No) or rubber tube and I just checked the rubber hose and its clean as a whistle inside.
As the calcium carbide will deteriorate if not sealed in a container I found the best thing to keep it in under the seat of the car was a Rubber Maid insulated bottle.
The trough cannot over flow or fill up with water. It is open at the bottom. The Vee is formed by two pieces of metal soldered at either end of the basket. They are not connected to one another at the bottom, so there is nothing that would keep water from dripping straight out the bottom.
Royce, You are correct. the trough is actually 2 pieces of metal fixed in a V so there is a split along the length.
Mine is missing, never bothered to put one in, the water just drips onto the carbide at the bottom. Actually I have not much to do this week so I will go and get one put in.
I'm with Royce on this, the carbide generator works well, sure you can upgrade it to a Presto-O- Lite tank or electric lights but you are missing part of what the whole experience of driving a Model T is about.
Its like starting with the electric starter instead of using the crank or using a distributor instead of the original coils it sort of looses something along the way.
I find it much more fun and more of a challenge to leave things as they were unless you intend to set out on a cross country trip. If its going out on a night occasionally or a days run of only a couple of hundred miles then leave the car with its original parts in place and working, you will enjoy the experience greatly,
About 40 years ago I changed my Model T from the club licence plates to normal car registration so I can use it at any time. The powers to be rejected the carbide lights when I applied but could offer no rule in support.
I complained to the Government minister for transport and he sent representatives to my house at night. After showing them how easy it was to start up the lights not have to have a battery that might go flat as there was no generator or me wanting to try and make one to fit a 1911 T Ford they allowed me to register the T with the carbide lights. The inspector actually noted that he had no idea that the carbide lights were as good as they were. Still to each his own.
Peter, some Model T's were delivered with Prestolite tanks from Ford during the early years, so it can also be considered an authentic experience.
When running with carbide lights and meeting another (modern) car at dark, do they usually flash with their high beams, insisting you should dim the lights or do they think your lights are already dim enough?
Actually dimming carbide lights wouldn't be so easy - ok, reducing the water drip eventually reduces the flame.
Rodger, Understand Prestolite tank is same era, but my brain says its not quite the same, just like magneto lights before battery lights.
I think it would depend on how high the gas lamps beam was set to shine on the brackets, mine show a light (make that flickering flame) on the road about 20-25 ft in front of the car on the road. If you see a pot hole you can avoid it if you are doing about 25mph.
Approaching cars are alerted that its something different even if they can't see what it actually is that's coming, the flame flickers and the light from the lamps moves around its not a steady beam, you can make a gas light out from a great distance.
When I drove the car to the "Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" film premier we had to go right into the heart of the city. People told me they could see the Ford from over 1/2 mile (approx.) away amongst the modern peak hour traffic.
I have two cars equipped with carbide lights. One I left original and have run it with the original lights. They seem to be bright enough to go down the road.
The other car I installed bulbs that screw into the gas line in place of the V burner. The wire gets hidden in the red tubing and I have a 12 volt battery under the back seat. If by accident I get caught after dark in that T, I HAVE LIGHTS.
I know, some of you purist just got sick. With the exception of the V burner, you can not see the modification.
Ford did ship new Model T's with Prest-O-Lite Tanks but it was an expensive upgrade over a carbide generator even for that time.
The cost differential between a brass carbide generator and a Prest-O-Lite "B" Tank was considerable even in 1913.
Erik posted an add from 1913 on the thread "Prest-O-Lite "B" Tanks" yesterday and that cost differential is apparent.
In that add, a Prest-O-Lite "B" Tank cost you $18.00 or you could by a brass generator "Same grade as furnished with Ford cars" for $3.00. That $15 is a lot of money in 1913!
Using the inflation rate 1913 to 2013, see inflationdata.com, of 2275%:
1. The 1913 Model T Touring sold for $13,650 - ($600 adj)
2. Prest-O-Lite upgrade $341.25 - ($18.00-$3 = $15adj).
Even if it is off, it is easy to get an idea of the cost spread. The only reason for spending the money in 1913 is probably the same as it is today, convenience.
I haven't done both so I will leave that to those that have done both methods to say.
Ford most likely had a special arrangement with Prest-O-Lite but it would interesting to know if there was a charge for the POL tank on the new cars.
In any case, there had to be a cost or "value added" advantage for Henry Ford or he would not have shipped any Model T's with a Prest-O-Lite Tank.
Today, the costs have reversed. It is much more expensive to buy the Model T carbide generators and carbide rocks to go in them than it is to buy a Prest-O-Lite tank a pay the recharge rate.
When it is all said and done, Peter Kable is correct, the carbide generator is a Model T brass car signature and,
I sure wouldn't mind buying a couple dozen of those $3.00 brass carbide generators today!
Ken in Texas