October 9, 2009
This document is a list of tools and materials I use to clean lamps with descriptions of their use. I have found many of these tools where I live in the Midwestern US; availability where you live may be different and products change over time.
Check valve tool: Coleman and some other US mfgrs used a check valve that is slotted and into which a threaded positive shutoff handle is threaded. Don Burchell (Dj7come11@aol.com) makes a tool for removing and replacing these valves that includes two threaded rods to hold the tool into the check valve during the removal/replacement process. Credit for the original design for this tool goes to Matthew Reid who documented his creation in a message on the Yahoo Coleman egroup on June 29, 2002. The two threaded rods cover both the old and new Coleman valves that have been used over the years. Directions for use come with the tool. I prefer this version of the tool to the one that Coleman sells as the latter lacks the threaded rod to hold the tool in place.
Dental tools for teeth cleaning – My dental hygienist, with the consent of the dentist, gave me tools that were worn and no longer safe to put in peoples’ mouths, but that she also didn’t have the heart to throw away. As she had a lot of them, I was able to get a variety.
The dental tools I find most useful are the two at the top in the image – these are great for cleaning threads and breaking away excess thread sealant before unscrewing lamp parts from one another. The lower tools are useful for getting gaskets seated, etc.
Flexible Light – I have found these at Sears (Bend-A-Light) and Pep Boys (Flexible Light) stores for about $15. These stores no longer carry the lights but they are available on line – search for “Bend-A-Light.” They take a small, high intensity light bulb and 2, AA batteries. The stem can be bent but I have never found a reason to do so. It is most useful - for looking in founts, pump wells, burner air tubes, etc. for obstructions and/or debris as well as to confirm that you have cleaned the part in question.
Fount dent removal tool – This technique is good for sturdy Coleman founts with their steel base plates and brass sides – whether the brass is plated or painted doesn’t matter. Do NOT do this if the fount has a brass base plate as well as brass sides as the base plate will bulge down; it cannot take the pressure. The tools are a filler cap with a Schrader valve, bicycle pump with a pressure gauge, funnel, a kettle of boiling hot water, and a pot of boiling hot water. The fount to have its dent(s) removed should have the fuel air tube and valve assembly left in place (to seal that opening) and the threaded rod in place in the pump check valve (to seal that opening, if present). Pour the boiling water from the pot into the fount using the funnel and tip the fount so you get it almost full of the hot water. Screw on the filler cap and attach the tire pump to the valve. Put the fount in the pot of hot water and raise the pressure in the fount with the pump to just over 100psi. You won’t hear or see anything but the dents will be greatly reduced in size/volume. The heat in the water seems to help the brass to return to its original shape. The air being pumped into the fount is being compressed but most of the volume is water so the job is quickly accomplished. I use 100 psi as it is below the 150 psi that Coleman is reported to test their founts; the lower pressure also allows for some weakening of the fount’s integrity over time. The paint or plating on the founts doesn’t seem to be affected by the process and, after using this procedure on several founts, I have not had a failure but have reduced the dents significantly in all of them.
The larger Schrader valved filler cap (below-right) is available from Amish lantern suppliers such as Peak Distribution (below) or Lancaster Lanterns, 5465 White Oak Rd., Paradise, PA 17562 or call their answering service (10-10:30 ET) at 610.593.2300. The late Steve Winicates and I made the smaller 242-size cap (below-left & center) with a Schrader valve stem from an Amish supplier, a washer which is tapped (threaded) to fit the stem, sealant to make a leak resistant connection between the tapped washer and the stem, and a flat gasket to fit on the inside of the washer.
Fuel handling tools: Rather than pour Coleman fuel or kerosene from gallon or other large volume containers, I prefer to keep a working supply in several aluminum fuel bottles such as are sold at REI and other such stores. I have also found these bottles at a couple of garage sales (go to garage sales that including “camping” items). When I move fuel from the container to an appliance, or back to the container, I always use a funnel to catch unwanted particles.
I don’t leave fuel in an appliance for very long so I will put it back in the fuel bottle and leave the filler cap off the appliance for a week or more to dry out the fount then re-cap. It is difficult to drain fuel from a number of appliances as there is a long
tube inside the filler hole to prevent fuel from accidentally spilling when the cap is off. Therefore, for most fuel transfers I use a length of plastic tubing from the hardware store and a bulb syringe (available online) to start the flow. A one foot length of copper tubing stuck in the end of the larger plastic tubing is useful for draining most of the fuel out of the fount as the end of the copper tubing can be bent to reach the seam where the bottom plate meets the sides. The small diameter tubing (from McMaster Carr) siphons more slowly but will keep siphoning if not interrupted too much and gets almost all of the fuel if well positioned in the fount.
Gasket making tools – Gaskets/o-rings for filler caps can be purchased at a hardware or auto parts store in a variety of diameters and thicknesses to fit many filler caps. Most of these are also likely oil resistant as well – ask to be sure. Another solution is to purchase a cork borer set (# 1-15, not # 1-9), cork borer sharpener, and pieces of Buna N Neoprene rubber. An internet search will locate sources for the cork borer sets and sharpener while McMaster-Carr Supply Co., http://www.mcmaster.com/, (630) 600-3600, is a good source of supply for the Neoprene. I buy the latter in 12” x 12” X 1/16” sheets as well as 4” x 4” x 1/8” sheets primarily for making check valve gaskets. Cork borer sets have been a staple in chemistry labs for decades but have largely been replaced by motorized borers. You might check with anyone associated with a chemistry department, e.g. at the local high school, to see if they are willing to take a donation for an old set. They are also available online. Cork borers are brass as is the cone of the sharpener (the cork borer set I have is plated – see image below). The sharpener has a steel knife blade that you hold against the cutting edge while rotating the tool around the end of the borer to be sharpened with the tip of the sharpener cone inside the borer.
To make a gasket, compare the diameters of the borer ends with the outside diameter of the filler cap. For example I use a #11 borer to make the larger Coleman filler cap. Press the borer firmly against the Neoprene on a board and slowly rotate the borer until the Neoprene is cut all the way through. Then compare the diameters of the borer ends with the inside diameter of the filler cap; in my Coleman example this is a # 7 borer. Sometimes I use # 10 and # 6 borers to make the Coleman caps; the Neoprene will expand and fill the channel for the gasket and can be easier to insert using a thumbnail or dental tool.
Jeweler’s forceps: Jeweler’s forceps are fine tipped and available online; the size is about as in the image below. They are useful for straightening bent pricker wires, stuffing tiki torch material in the tops of rebuilt generators (see below), and any other place where fine or confined manipulation of small parts is required.
Magnetic pick-up tool – I found mine at a Sears store and like it because the magnet is a small barrel at the end of an easily bent copper wire. The curve of the wire you see in the image works nicely to reach the bottom edge of a fount to pick up BB’s that I use for cleaning. It will also pick up all sizes of iron particles that may remain in the fount.
Pump well mandrel – smoothing tool – Newer Coleman lanterns have steel pump wells that can very occasionally be rusted near the bottom. The rust can cause the pump leather to be shredded while pumping. The mandrel below was made with a ¾” diameter hardwood dowel - a little smaller than the ID of the pump well. The dowel was drilled out at one end so that a metal rod could be inserted and glued into place so the mandrel could be put in a power drill. The slot cut in the dowel holds one end of the medium or fine Emory cloth, torn off to the same width as the slot and to length so it will fit into the well. Start with a coarser grit and end with a finer grit. The Emory cloth needs to have the trailing edge drag so you may have to reverse the drill’s direction. The drill does not have to be turned very fast or very long to smooth the pump well walls. Brad Johnson had this one made for me by David Larsen, who noted that the dowel can be replaced easily if it breaks or wears too much. Glenn Knapke tapes a piece of Emory cloth to a socket just a little smaller diameter than the opening and adds an extension so it can be turned by hand.
Robo-Grip pliers – This tool (upper in the image) is available from Sears. The important part of this tool are the optional Robo Guards jaw covers which allow you to free frozen fuel caps, etc, without damaging the knurling, etc. The larger Ridgid Robo-GripII pliers (lower in the image) are carried by Home Depot but the jaw covers are no longer available for them.
Steel wool: Steel wool in the fine 0000 size and available from hardware stores in packs, works very well for cleaning the soot and
stuck-on material from porcelain/enameled ventilators. Do not use it on any metal, plated or un-plated, as it will leave fine scratches.
Strap wrench – I bought this wrench at Sears with a smaller one for about $20. The one figured, with the 24” x ¾” x 3/16” strap is the useful one – for unscrewing the fuel valve assembly from founts that you have clamped upside-down in a bench vise. I wrap the strap around the bottom rim of the fount where the reinforcement of the bottom plate strengthens the fount and turn it in a counterclockwise direction to separate these two parts from each other.
Thread seal tape – Also known as PTFE yellow gas line tape. This is preferred over the white Teflon tape which is meant for water lines. To use I break off about 3”, fold in half lengthwise, and apply counterclockwise over the lower portion of the threads in the fuel line, e.g. where the fuel valve screws into the fount. With some practice you can tear off a long enough piece to just go around the threads twice. Most threads in lamps are tapered and should seal fine without the tape but the tape helps to thread the parts together easily and not have a leak.
Tiki torch wicks: Tiki torch wicks are available at hardware stores, perhaps seasonally. Small amounts of the material (~1/16” in diameter by 5/8” long) can be cut off a strand of the wick with a razor blade and inserted in the top of a generator after the orifice is removed. This will help retain some of the necessary heat in the generator for generating and, more importantly, will trap carbon particles that will otherwise clog the orifice. This is especially useful to restore an old generator to functioning if the pricker wire is broken. In effect you will have a match lighting generator but that is better than no generator at all.
Tip cleaner assembly removal tool – This is an essential tool for removing the tip cleaner assembly from Coleman 220/228B-F model lanterns. These lanterns have a recessed frame base that makes removal of the tip cleaner assembly difficult. First remove the generator, then the air tube/burner assembly. This exposes the top of the tip cleaner assembly. This tool, when secured in a bench vise, will allow you to put the end o the tool over the tip cleaner assembly and turn the fount counterclockwise to break the threads loose and unthread it.
You can make this tool with an 18” long piece of ½” galvanized (water) pipe and a saber saw with a metal cutting blade. If there are threads on both ends, cut the pipe off below the threads and then notch the pipe 5/8” wide x 3/8” deep across the end (lower image). I drilled a hole at the other end so I could hang it on my pegboard tool display.
The sides of the working end of this tool bend out from the force applied to break the threads loose. So far I have been able to put the end of the tool in the bench vise and gently bend the sides back in. The softness of the pipe metal helps to not mar the brass of the tip cleaner assembly during removal.
Wire gauging tool – Anderson & Forrester, Inc., Golden, Colorado, make this tool which is used to open clogged generator orifices on generators that have clogged tips and/or lack a built-in tip cleaner. The delicate wire is triangular in cross section so it drills a hole through the crud in the plugged tip when you carefully turn it at the orifice opening site. You have to be careful that you don’t turn it excessively as it will continue to enlarge the hole which will make the orifice too large to pass the right amount of fuel. It is good to buy several of these at a time so you have a backup for when they break. If you buy from the mfgr (they are on the internet, broach 3015 with handle) you have to buy a ~8 to meet their minimum order requirements. You can buy a couple from Peak Distribution in PA and probably from other Amish suppliers as well. Peak Distribution, 83 Old Leacock Rd., Ronks, PA 17572, phone 717.768.0040; FAX 717.768.0001.