There's probably been a lot of information and discussion on how to deal with a carbide generator and operate gas headlights in times past, but I'm not having a lot of luck with the "search" feature. I'm hoping to get some instruction on getting my gas headlights operable (and the carbide generator too) Thank you !
The search feature on this website works great. Be sure you set the search parameters to "whole words only" and a reasonable amount of days. I typically search 3000 days or 6000 days if I cannot remember approximately how old the information is that I am searching for.
You also need to be sure the search term is specific enough to produce a reasonable amount of results. Try searching the past 900 days for "carbide lamps".
In google or yahoo advance search, enter this phrase "acetylene headlights mtfca.com" without the quotes. Plenty of posts will appear.
Hi Rich, Yes, this has ben discussed in the past, but here's a brief description of how to do it.
First, I tested my lights separately to make sure they worked properly. I tested them by hooking an acetylene torch tip to the red rubber hose for the headlight, and then just opened the Acetylene a little bit. I had the door open for the headlight, then had my Wife light it. Then I adjusted the acetylene flow so the light burned properly. Watch for a flame to come only at the burner, no where else, and be sure to have a fire ext. handy just in case. Again, test one light at a time.
When you are satisfied that the lights are ok, then hook all the red rubber hoses up to the lights. Take the top off of the generator and fill it with water. Fill the "V" grove in the top of the basket with carbide crystals, use about a golf ball size amount of carbide, and spread it in the "V" grove of the basket. Then put the top (water container)on the generator. Open the valve on top of the generator about 1 full turn. This starts the water dripping on the carbide which then forms acetylene, and it will flow through to the headlights. It takes a bit for the acetylene to start flowing to the lights. Have the doors open on the lights and listen for a "hiss" at the headlights, which means the gas is coming into the lights. At first the gas is just a little bit, so blow into the light to evacuate the gas (so you don't have an excessive amount of gas in the light which could blow up in your face), then light the light. First the left side, then the right. Have the fire extinguisher ready as you may need it. You may have to experiment with this a few times until you get it right. You might have to open the water valve more at first until the lights are lit, then slow the water down so the light isn't so bright. If the lights don't light with gas from the generator, it may be because the carbide is old and has absorbed moisture from improper storage. You need dry carbide.
I hope this helps. I did it this way and it worked fine. I found that when lit, the lights were only bright for maybe 1/2 hour, then began to dim. At 45 minutes they didn't put out any light anymore, but still had a little flame. If you put more carbide in to start with, they'll burn longer. You have to experiment with that.
I did all this at the Old Car Festival for a couple of years and then decided I had enough of this fun. Now I have a Prest - O - Lite tank and really like. The lights don't go dim and they last with a steady flame for the whole evening with no problem.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I hope this helps you out.
Keith, I thought the perforated V-channel in the top of the carbide basket is a water distribution trough for the carbide down below in the basket??
Thank you much ! Fix my headlamps AND the search feature too . . . how cool is that ? Keith, I may have to pick your brain when I see what the equipment looks like. Thank you again.
Like Bill Harper you can also look at my web files at Supermotors.
Been there,did that,and like Keith i use a tank of gas now. As far as i can see the carbide generator is a pain in the butt!! Nope,i will not use carbide again! Bud.
Hi R.V., You could probably do it that way, but I did it as I described and it worked. Getting the water flow and amount of carbide just right does take some experimenting though.
The directions that Bill Harper posted above are what was used "back in the day". In them it says under No. 1 to "Fill the upper part of the inside basket.....with good grade calcium carbide".
I found that the ash from used carbide drops into the lower part of the basket. This ash is inert.
I made the correct brass gas lines and fittings for my 1911 touring. I have an original E&J acetylene generator and have an operating Prest-O-Lite tank.
There are a couple of us here who use acetylene lighting.
What are you working on?
What do you want to know about gas lamps?
: ^ )
That's a great picture ! Keith, sent you a PM
Nice pic. I have never even lit my lights.
Try them. A number of us that frequent the forum drive with gas lights as a functional system. I have a Victor acetylene generator and an operating Prest-O-Lite tank. The kerosene's and gas can be lit up in less than three minutes.
I lean toward using a Prest-O-Lite tank especially if you don't have a functional acetylene generator. POL tank from the welding supply house and gear was less than $200 for me.
If you want the carbide experience, there are some folks here that have that as well. The gas light setup on the car is the same. All you do is switch types of tanks on the running board.
Ken in Texas
Here's Clarabelle the '13 with her Carbide headlamps and kerosene carriage lamps
And here's Pete, the '12 Comm. Roadster P/U after coming home from a "dusk drive" with his headlights running on a small acetylene tank hidden behind the seat. His brass carbide tank is non-operation due to a hole in it. So I just leave it for show.
I have used the carbide generator on many of my T's over the years. It never fails to please. This photo was taken at the 2014 T Party in San Angelo, Texas. You put the carbide in the V trough as Keith said, that way the water drip always gets to the carbide. A handful of calcium carbide is good for about 90 minutes of light. It takes about 5 minutes for the generator to make enough gas to give good bright light.
Adjustment of the drip is very easy, you do that as per the Corcoran direction sheet above before you install the top tank on the generator.
Maybe I've got the wrong baskets, but on none of the four that I have could you put more than a couple tablespoons of carbide in the trough. They are all way too small to take a handful.
One thing to think about is when you shut off the water it will take a while before the lights go out,and even after they do you are still making a slight bit of gas!!Clean up should be as soon as possiable!!!!! Did i mention its nasty?? Bud.
I let it run until the lights put themselves out. Then I wipe out the inside of the reservoir with an old rag, then some alcohol and paper towels. It is a white powder with no particular odor. Not a big deal really.
It takes 1-1/2 cubic feet of gas to burn two Model T acetylene headlights, with 3/4 cubic foot per hour burners, for an hour. That would require 6 ounces of carbide to produce an hours worth of gas.
From the Acetylene Journal
Ken in Texas
I agree with Keith regarding the tank vs the generator. Although I'm a bit of a purist, I switched from my generator to a tank.
The generator is VERY messy and doesn't seem to produce as much pressure as the tank. With the generator my lights (1914) had a tendency to get blown out while driving. That hasn't happened with the tank. Plus, the tank is much easier to use. I open the headlights, turn on the tank, blow out the unlit headlights and then light and adjust them. Takes less than a minute.
I scrounged around local welding shops and finally found an off-set valve tank with "Prest-O-Light" embossed on the side. And I found and use those period headlight "sparkers". So, I guess I justify being a purist that way!
Model T #1 was shipped with a Prest-O-Lite tank.
Last trip to AirGas to swap a tank off my '14, I found two POL's in the acetylene B tanks. To most supply houses, they are just a "B" tank. Ask to look at the tanks because you have to be right next to them to spot a Prest-O-Lite. None of the folks working there will have ever seen the application.
If you look carefully, the tank under the left red arrow has a knurled valve knob on it. That is a new style "coarse" valve. I use a regulator and prefer that coarse valve. Quick on/off action.
The POL in the center has an old style square stem type valve. I believe your regular Model T coil box key fits that valve stem. If you use the "crack" the valve method to set your headlight gas flow, get that one because the valve is much finer for the very purpose we are talking about.
I exchanged another POL for this one that was in the left corner of the pile and bolted it in the mounts. The "B" tank will run Model T headlights for 26 hours at a cost of a little over a $1.00/hour.
I don't carry these fuel tanks inside a car or van even if they are empty.
Ken in Texas
Ken the two tanks I have look more like kegs. Are they not Prest-o-lite tanks?
This car is a 1912 Maxwell. I've been wondering if the V shaped burners are turned 90* from where they should be?
Here is a better shot of one of the tanks.
On the other hand the farmer/welder/build anything/fix anything/and sawmill owner on the next farm had a carbide gen for his torch.I think it was a better gas than we can buy and it worked very well!! It was a self regulating or make as needed but that is all i know about it.Bud.
Rich here is a video I found on You tube.
Looking at these tanks pics I noticed my tank is mounted about a foot back of where it originally was. Whoops! Gramps probably never even knew.
The burners are oriented correctly.
When lit, the flames comes out of each hole on the "Y". When the two flames meet, they fan out:
: ^ )
That is the correct position for the burner. I have not been able to take a photo anywhere near as good as Keith has just shared showing the proper shape of the flame when the gas is adjusted correctly.
If you don't have a gauge on the bottom, they will fill your tank if it certifies. Yours has the fine valve, the decals and looks really nice. Unless they would promise to get that tank back, I would buy a tank to swap and keep the restored tank to show the car.
The gas light beam can be focused as well as raised/lowered and that is done with the burner/stand.
Be careful with your mangin mirrors. A cracked, plugged or broken burner can put an acetylene flame on your mirror and crack it.
Ken in Texas
(Message edited by drkbp on October 30, 2016)
Just a reminder for those using gas lamps for the 1st time, DO NOT place your left hand on the hot bonnet when cranking. the burnt skin will discolor your brass, not to mention the lamp makers name embossed on your palm. Yes I'm speaking from experience, you can still read "Victor" faintly in my palm.
Thanks guys. I am lucky enough to have two tanks. The one on the car was full a few years ago. If it didn't leak it still should be. I didn't know they were adjustable. The car is in the enclosed trailer for winter storage. I probably won't try to light them until next year.
Troy, I'm curious how you keep your mirrors in place; I don't see the usual lead holders around the edges.
The gas headlights are air cooled and I don't light them until I am ready to drive the car. Even with some stop-and-go traffic, the bonnets will not get as hot as your radiator.
When showing folks how the acetylene lights work, I don't leave them lit for more than 3-4 minutes. The same goes for setting up the system, checking burners, etc.
The kerosene side and tail light bonnets don't get any hotter sitting still than the gas light bonnets do driving. Except for the gas station, I leave the kerosene's burning until I'm through with the drive. They will burn for 20 hours or more with a full font of kerosene.
Ken in Texas
Bill I really don't know. I've never really looked much on the inside of the lights. The car is in storage next town over or I would take a look.