I appreciate the information everyone posted recently on maintaining the Q99, particularly the advice and insight from Jerry, aka deepcrete6. It was all very timely for my needs. Here is what I got into, and what I ending up with.
The fount was full of rust that had also caked the inside of the generator. After several heat/quench cycles and repeated attempts to gently slip the asbestos string out of the generator, it finally broke loose and came out in one piece. It was very coked in the loop area.
The string was doubled and extended from the very bottom of the generator tube, around the loop to the 6 o'clock position.
The doubled 'string' was 10 inches in overall length and filled the first 5 inches of the generator tube.
Not having any Zippo lighter wicking, I hoped to reuse the original asbestos string. I hit the highly carboned packing with a torch. The dense carbon turned to ash and left a mostly clean string.
Uh oh! Dang it. The string broke in two, right where it was doubled over.
A closer look at my surgery victim revealed the asbestos string has a fine wire core. No wonder these buggers are tough to dig out of the loop! And also why trying to push the packing out with a rod or wire is probably a bad idea.
So what could I use for packing? Well, right there on the workbench was a piece of fiberglass cloth from another project. I unraveled 10 long strands of glass roving.
I didn't have any guitar string to pull the strands through and tried a variety of substitutes. Fishing line in the 4 - 6 pound range just wasn't stiff enough to push through. 12 pound line gave me great encouragement, but in the end, I used piano wire and that did the trick! I doubled the wire and worked it through the full length of the genny from the tip end.
I inserted 10 strands of glass roving through the loop in the wire...
...pulled the loop up to the base of the genny...
...marked the fibers at 5 inches...
...pulled the fiberglass threads all the way through the genny until the wire loop came out the tip end.
I removed the wire and pulled the fibergass strands back through the tube until the magic marker line indicated there was exactly five inches of packing still in the generator.
The excess got trimmed flush at the base of the generator, just like the original packing.
With the cleaned tip screwed back on and the generator reinstalled, it was time to take it for a test drive. Three hours later, it is still burning brightly on the porch with absolutely no pulsing, dimming or clogging. The best run I could get out of it before was maybe 20 minutes before it dimmed or clogged. I'm feeling pretty good about this fettle tonight!
One Q99 rebuild certainly does not make me an authority. Would more or fewer fiberglass strands work better? Who knows? Are there other materials to use for packing? Probably. Maybe my experience will give you an idea to help you on your next project. Good luck!
BTW, I have a repro mica globe from Cigar Mike for this Quicklite, but any new test run, regardless of lantern age or model, gets conducted with a cheap China globe first. The mica will be back in for this lantern's next burn!