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FLAME SPREADER LAMPS AND HEATERS
A CENTURY OF
Robert E. Dietz
submitted the first patent for a flat wick lantern
burning the new "coal oil" in 1857.
Production of the lamps begin in 1859. Dietz was
not just an inventor - he was one of the first
environmentalists. Prior to his new flat wick
lamps, lamps burned whale oil. Whale oil lamps were
smelly and smoked a lot, and the light output was
poor. Dietz could also see there was a
infinite supply of coal, a rather finite supply of whale
oil, and getting the whale oil was rather rough on the
whales. Within a few years, the whaling industry
took a hit and more whales survived, while at the same
time home lighting was vastly improved.
But flat wick lamps
and lanterns have a problem: turn the wick up higher for
more light, and they admit insufficient oxygen for proper
combustion and begin smoking. The flame spreader was
patented on Jan. 15, 1884 for use in circular,
center-draft worsted woven wick lamps. This
development introduced oxygen to both the inside and
outside of the wick, resulting in considerably greater
efficiency when a properly designed flame spreader was
inserted into the center draft tube.
Quite the opposite
from a flat wick, the flame spreader type lamps mandated
that the heat output be maintained at a high rate so the
flame spreader itself was heated sufficiently to burn all
the various liberated hydrocarbon products (coal oil),
and turning them down caused in incomplete combustion
process. All this was before the discovery of kerosene as
a petroleum byproduct. The oil companies did their best
to imitate coal oil with a product they called kerosene so they could have a
market share in an already established
design heater and lamp wicks are made of cotton.
Modern catalytic converter heaters operate at a higher
temperature than flame spreader heaters and also utilize
a wick with the top section being fiberglass
fibers (to contend with the higher heat), and thus
can burn lesser quality kerosene, some even red dye
kerosene, with a clean, odor free burn. Absolutely
clear kerosene must be burned in flame spreader design
lamps and heaters to have them produce a clean, odor free
HOW LONG WILL COTTON WICKS LAST IN
can be burned
dry. The disadvantage of cotton wicks is that
the cotton itself can burn. With care, a cotton
heater wick can last one heating season. But if the
heater is allowed to run out of fuel then the wick itself
will burn down 1/4". If the heater runs out of fuel
3 times the wick is shortened 3/4" and the wick life is
consumed - a new wick is required. So how long a
wick lasts depends upon the user.
HISTORY OF FLAME SPREADER HEATERS AND
Beginning in 1884,
circular wick lamps with flame spreaders were produced in
great quantities in the area around Meriden, CT, by
Bradley & Hubbard, Plume & Atwood, Miller and
many other companies, most of the early models sold under
the Rochester name and made by Miller. By 1886,
Rochester lamps were in production of
"store lamps" using a 2 9/16" wick, soon followed by almost all
other lamp companies. In 1888, the Perfection company began
producing center draft, flame spreader lamps at their Cleveland
Beginning in the late 1880's, Miller, B&H, P&A and the Standard
Lighting Co. of Cleveland began making
heaters with the principle concept being their store lamp font
with modified gallery to eliminate a chimney being dropped into a
metal cabinet. This provided up to 10,000 BTU/hr of heat without
a blinding light.
In 1894, Perfection basically scaled up their lamps
to use a 2 9/16" diameter wick, put the fount in a housing, and began
selling portable space heaters using their new "500" wick, although
the name "Perfection" was not used until 1901. The difference
between the heaters sold by Perfection and the large lamp companies
was in the wick carrier: they all used essentially the same 2
9/16" diameter wick, but the Perfection wick system was sold with the
wick carrier while other heaters used the same wick carrier as in
their lamps. It was easier to change the wick in a Perfection
heater than in a lamp-based heater, Perfection heaters were
inexpensive, and that pretty much ended production of lamp-based
Work on flame
spreader lamps and heaters was also taking place in
Europe. In France, a beautiful series of Kosmos
lamps (Gaudard) were designed in the late 1880's; the
equipment to make them using a modified water wheel was
manufactured in Brooklyn, and is still in use today in
the South of France. In England, Valor and Beatrice
were producing some very fine parlor heaters, most using a
variation of the 1 1/2" center-draft wick used in B&H
and P&A lamps, although Valor did produce a virtual
clone of the Perfection 500 heater. Photos of some
of those Valor and Beatrice heaters from my collection
are shown below.
With a few exceptions, production of flame spreader
heaters ended in about 1981 with the introduction of catalytic
converter heaters made in Japan. The exceptions were the
Moonlighter and Omni 15 heaters made by Toyotomi, the Corona SS-DK
and SS-DX, the KOGY 200A (all being essentially shrunken Perfection
heaters with an updated cabinet design), and
Production on all but the POD ended by the early 1990's. POD may
still be making heaters, but it is extremely difficult to determine as
they try very hard to have no visible marketing plan.
What doomed flame spreader designs? The
tip-over safety switch.
"Use only listed heaters. Only heaters that
have been tested and listed in accordance with Underwriters'
Laboratories (UL) Standard 647 [dated July, 1983] should be purchased and used. This
listing should be shown on the name plate of the heater.
"Most portable kerosene heaters are similar in
design. They include a wick so kerosene can be drawn from the tank to
the combustion area, a device for igniting the wick, an automatic
tip-over device designed to extinguish the wick if the unit is
kicked or turned over and a fuel tank."
Without UL Approval, retail stores could not obtain
insurance for the sales of kerosene heaters to cover any potential
problems and manufacturers of heaters could not get product liability
insurance. Perfection and Valor tried to develop safety tip-over
switches but they were cumbersome and difficult to use. It is
very difficult to ascertain the precise date that Perfection, Valor
and Aladdin flame spreader heaters went out of production, but 1984
appears likely the last year of production. POD in Sweden
continued to produce flame spreader heaters but without UL Approval:
distribution of POD heaters was severely restricted as a result and
they are difficult to find.
Flame spreader designs must be fed very high
quality fuel in order to burn clean, but catalytic converter heaters
could consume even relatively low quality fuel and still burn very
clean. The fiberglass wicks used in catalytic converter heaters
were also very reliable and long lasting compared to the cotton wicks
used in flame spreader heaters, and thus the century-old flame
spreader design was doomed to obsolescence.
To reiterate, flame
spreader lamps and heaters must be burned at a very high
heat setting so that the flame spreader is sufficiently
heated to complete the combustion process; turn
them down to an "idle" setting, and they will produce a
|Flame spreaders for various #2
lamps, left to right: Admiral, Rayo #22,
B&H 1904, Naugatuck, Miller, Improved Bristol,
B&H 6.2.96, B&H 7.1.90.
|Flame spreaders for other size
lamps: E&G #0, Standard, Miller #1, Radiant #4,
spreaders from the smallest to the largest, from
left to right: Kosmos #15; P&A Royal;
B&H; Beatrice 4012; Valor 420 Parlor Stove; and
a Perfection 730. Click photo to
gallery circa 1881
Beatrice 4120 gallery circa
420 gallery circa 1982
Perfection gallery circa
similarity of the design of the flame spreader
galleries shown above, covering a period of at
least a century. The original designs from
the early 1880's worked, with only one significant
change: the Perfection flame spreader was
designed to raise and lower; when the wick was
lowered, the lip on the flame spreader put out the
flame. Other flame spreader designs were removable,
Photo at right
shows the similarities between a Moonlighter and a
Perfection flame spreader: The Moonlighter is
essentially a miniaturized Perfection. The
early part-brass Perfection flame spreader is
unused and has the following patent numbers and
dates: In USA: 1045409, 1209789, 1047884,
1330845, 1061079, 1571301; DES. 44206, 45007,
45008. In Canada: 1914, 1915, 1917, 1921,
1926. In England, 1919 No. 150062; 1925 No.
260327. This flame spreader was made after
1926 and is clearly marked Perfection Stove
Company, Cleveland, Ohio USA.
similarity of design - the English Beatrice on the
left uses a 1 1/2" wick, while the Perfection 730
on the right uses the standard 2 9/16" Perfection
500 wick. Both are hinged and open the same
way, although the Beatrice has a built-in fuel tank
and the Perfection font is removable. The Beatrice
is essentially a small Perfection!
The wick design concept was extremely similar,
differing only in size. The Perfection 500
wick shown on the left is 2 9/16" in diameter,
whereas the wicks used in the Beatrice 4012 and
Valor Valmin are 1 1/2" in diameter, the wicks
fitting inside steel sleeves with slots to engage
the ratchet teeth to move the wick up and down as
needed. The wick on the right in this photo
is the Valor Valmin wick; the Beatrice 4012 wick
holder is virtually identical, but not
The Beatrice 4012 is unique in being an exceptionally poorly
designed heater. Whoever designed it knew nothing about air flow and
draft requirements for heaters - it was designed to fail, just like the
Turn the wick up enough to have heat output and the fuel would heat up,
lowering the viscosity of the fuel, the flame would raise until it was almost
uncontrollable and smoke and soot, and lowering the wick to eliminate the smoke
and soot would extinguish the flame. It was literally impossible to have
a steady flame! The photos below illustrate the problem. The wide
Beatrice flame spreader and narrow opening in the gallery, combined with the
flame spreader being only 0.50" above the burner plate, insured the flame from
the wick would be turn down, back onto the fuel tank, and excessively heat the
fuel!!! Guaranteed lousy burning. I modified an 1896 B&H Jauch
flame spreader to fit into the Beatrice draft tube, as shown in the photo below
right. Now there is sufficient airflow past the fuel tank, the wick gets
enough oxygen to burn clean - and the fuel is no longer being excessively
heated! I won. The Beatrice 4012 finally burns clean and steady.
Beatrice flame spreader on left measures 2.508"
diameter. B&H Jauch flame spreader on right is 1.173" dia.
||The opening under the FS is 2.352", literally
smaller than the flame spreader!
Modified B&H Jauch FS to fit the Beatrice 4012.
The Jauch flame spreader in the Beatrice font.
Now there is room for an airflow around the flame!
Beatrice had a lot of fun with their wick
sleeves. The Beatrice 4012 wick sleeve (near right) has an outside
diameter of 1.733'' with the gear slots vertical. The Beatrice 600 wick
sleeve is 1.610" OD with a slight angle on the slots. The Valor W44 wick
sleeve is 1.800 OD. They are heater-specific and not interchangeable.
Some of the older center draft wicks
are becoming difficult to find. Then one must be a
little creative. For example, for the past several
years the Valor Valmin wick was in short supply. My
previous models were a very rigid wick, with what looked
like an inner core of thick cardboard, to which a metal
"ladder" had been attached to engage the wick raising
ratchet gear. There was no way that wick could be
home made or modified from anything else. The last
small batch of Valmin wicks I received, however, were
made just like the originals over a hundred years ago -
still a stiff wick, but inside a steel sleeve.
Valor Valmin wick (W13) shown on left, with wick raising
attachment applied to the side of the wick.
Newer style Valmin
wick (w44) with the wick within a steel sleeve, shown
on the right. The wick is held in the steel
sleeve with two rivets, one on each side, shown
near the bottom of the sleeve at the right side, on
the photo at right.
Now I had something with which to
work. I ground off the rivet heads, removed the
rivets, and then removed the stiff inner brand new
wick. Then I drilled a 1/8" hole in the steel
sleeve close to the hole already present for the
rivet. The next step was to insert a 1 1/2"
#2T wick in the sleeve, and
sew it in place through the holes on each side of the
steel sleeve, with the same amount of wick projecting as
shown on the original wick in the photo above
right. It works perfectly! Previously, many
Valor heaters using the Valmin wick sat unused, or were
discarded, because new wicks with the ladder arrangement
(as shown above left) were simply not available.
But Beatrice 4012 center draft wicks will always be with
us, they are precisely the same diameter as the Valmin
wick, and the steel sleeve will last virtually
forever. My Valor 420 (shown) below has been in use
16 hours a day for weeks heating my office, burning
perfectly, cleanly, with no aroma, with a #2L wick sewn
into the steel Valmin wick sleeve. This
little trick could keep many fine Valor heaters in operation
for another hundred years! (The W44 wick sleeve will fit many
old Brit ''Parlour Stoves" but not the Beatrice models shown above.)
Valor 420 with
front panel removed
KEEP LARGE OLD HEATERS
many large heaters such as the Valor made with a 2
3/4" (7cm) steel carrier (below, right) holding a 2
9/16" wick, and the carrier with wick is no longer
available. You can keep that old Valor in
operation by sewing a new wick into your old
carrier! When measured flat, wick is approx 4
3/16" wide and 8 1/2" long (see below, left). Wick specially made for me by Hattersley in England. Wick #3L is available
on the Lamp Wick
page. The advantage of the #3L wick is
that it is longer than a Perfection 500 wick:
when it burn down, it can be raised and resewn into
the wick sleeve, doubling the wick
life! Click on photos to
right are two Handlan #30 Caboose lamps. They
are unusual, being made from heavy gauge galvanized
steel, as shown on the right hand lamp. I have
restored the lamp on the left and it is burning for
perhaps the first time in half a century. The
6" diameter, circular fount has a cylindrical
insert for the wick, and the space between is
filled with a rope batting which prevents the fuel
from sloshing when the train was moving.
P&A made the special gallery assemblies for
Handlan, with the wick raising gearing in the
gallery, whereas almost all other lamps have the
wick raising system in the fount itself.
These lamps produce virtually as much heat as the
Valor and Beatrice heaters shown above (all have 1
1/2" diameter wicks and flame spreaders), so they
would provide heat in the caboose as well as light,
and can burn for over 12 hours per tank
This page is a work in progress and will
be completed as I find the time. I can only
photograph items which I own, and I'm trying not to
overload this page with too many photos of different
heaters and lamps while still illustrating the extreme
similarity in the basic design concepts.
Lamp Collector’s Resource
Library: Old Lamp Catalogs on 3 CD's in
SEARCHABLE Adobe - NEW!!!
Lamp Wicks BY THE ROLL! - SAVE $$$
Center Draft Wicks
available only from this Wick Shop.
Standard lamp wicks
Aladdin Lamp Wicks,
Kosmos Lamp Wicks
Smudge Pot - Tiki Torch Wicks
- Toledo Torch & Some Dietz
Auto Motor Primer Wicks
HI SEAS 100C MARINE
DIESEL HEATER WICK
Center Draft Lamp
chimneys in borosilicate glass
from Junior "Tiny" to Mammoth lamps.
Standard glass lamp chimneys
& Kosmos chimneys
Globe Vulcan (Central Vulcan) Chimneys -
CHIMNEYS AND WICKS
Fabulous "Sans Rival"
borosilicate chimney for 14''' Kosmos lamps
Student Lamp Sans Rival Chimney with
1 7/8" fitter!!!
Sonnenbrenner Lamp Chimneys
- Dimension of
nominal base diameter by make, model and "line".
Information on lamps:
Aladdin Lamp History
Aladdin Lamp Wicks & Chimneys,
Aladdin - Exploded burner views
Lamp Repair & projects
Center Draft Kerosene Lamps
(Photos, information and history, etc)
Lamp manufacturers and brand names
Miller Lamps - a photo album
restored center draft lamps
USE, CARE and WICKING of CENTER DRAFT LAMPS
Early American Metal Font & Specialty Lamps
Flame Spreaders and
- Vulcan, Imperial, Veritas,
Belgian, Hinks, Messenger's, Young's Court, etc.
Articles by Alex Marrack:
Registered Design Numbers For British Lamps
GERMAN PATENT LETTER CLUES - DRPs AND DRGMs, 1877 to 1945
Site Index for all things Perfection
Links to web sites for parts,
information and restoration.
Site Index for all things Perfection
Kindler Wicking For Oil Stoves & Ranges
Alphabetical list of most kerosene heaters and the proper wick,
& cart checkout.
List by wick number and the heaters that fit them. (A
helpful guide for buying on eBay)
Measurements needed if you have an unlisted heater.
Care and Maintenance of Kerosene Heater Wicks
Installing Kerosene Heater Wicks - generic for unpinned
Owner's_Manuals & information for many kerosene heaters
Heaters - General types, how they work, recommendations
for some good ones - and those I would avoid.
Economic Benefits of
Troubleshooting kerosene heater common problems
In New Kerosene Appliances
Kerosene Heaters at Night
WATER IN KEROSENE causing "dwindling" and poor
Flame Spreader Heaters
and Lamps -
A Century of Excellence
Kerosene Heater Carts
why carry your heater around?
Kerosene Fuel Primer
Kerosene tank cradles
Building a Cradle
HEATERS MADE IN THE NETHERLANDS
Beatrice Boiling Stoves & Mini kerosene heaters
you can make
Sad Iron stoves; Wicks &
Wicking For Oil
Burning "WICKLESS" Stoves & Ranges
Kerosene Stoves, Lanterns and Ovens
Kerosene Stoves -
Recommendations on different models
Stove Maintenance and Storage
Butterfly A-822, 22 wick, all-aluminum
Butterfly #2487, 16 wick stove.
Butterfly #2412 Pressure
instructions for virtually any pressure stove.
Double Burner Stove;
good with any gravity flow stove.
Oven for Kerosene Stoves
Butterfly #2641, 10 Wick Stove
the least expensive emergency stove.
Butterfly #2698 Cook Stove -
THE Best Heavy Duty Cook Stove.
#828R Pressure Lantern;
same for most pressure lanterns.
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