The Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern


NOTE: This is a significantly revised version of a much earlier post published on 11/9/2010 that I have since deleted.

The Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern was patented and manufactured by Charles H. Stonebridge in 1906 and quickly became one of the most popular camping equipment items of the day.  In World War I it served as the U. S. Army issued Medical Corp lantern and field lantern in addition to being selected for use by the Canadian armed forces and the armies of several European nations.  A number of camping how-to books and dozens of magazine articles recommended the Stonebridge lantern, which can be seen in old book illustrations and photographs of early campers.  Some of the authors that specifically mentioned or recommended the Stonebridge lantern include –

  • Edward Breck – The Way of the Woods; A Manual for Sportsmen in Northeastern United States and Canada (1908), G. P. Putman’s Sons, New York, NY
  • Francis Buzzacott – Buzzacott’s Masterpiece, or the Complete Hunter’s, Trapper’s, & Camper’s Library of Valuable Information, (1913), McMains & Meyer Publishers, Milwaukee, WI
  • Horace Kephart – The Book of Camping And Woodcraft: Guidebook For Those Who Travel In The Wilderness, (1910) and Camping and Woodcraft, a two volume set, Vol. 1 Camping (1917), Macmillan Publishing, New York, NY
  • Calvin Rutstrum – The New Way of the Wilderness (1958), Macmillan Publishing, New York, NY
  • Stewart Edward White – Camp and Trail (1907), Outers Publishing Company, New York, NY

Early illustration of the Stonebridge Lantern (bottom right) in this collection of items to be included in the camp kit.

Stonebridge lanterns were produced in galvanized steel, solid brass and aluminum.  Woodcraft author Stewart Edward White highly recommended the galvanized model while author Horace Kephart recommended the brass version.  Aluminum models were generally not recommended as the aluminum of the day was very soft and could not take the abuses of camping without soon being bent out of shape.  Interestingly, Kephart’s own surviving lantern is an aluminum model.

Kephart’s own Stonebridge lantern.

Courtesy of the Hunter Library Special Collections and the Mountain Heritage Center Special Exhibit:
“Horace Kephart: Revealing An Enigma”

The Stonebridge was an ingenious, feature-packed lantern.  It had a flat, internal wind shield located beneath the peaked “roof” of the lantern.  The wind shield, designed to protect the candle flame in high wind, contained an opening for smoke to exit the lantern. The lantern windows were made of isinglass (thin sheets of mica), a material that is transparent rather than crystal clear.  Isinglass is somewhat flexible and more resistant to breakage than glass sheet but pressing on it too hard leaves whitish, cloudy spots that cannot be repaired.  Isinglass is remarkably durable.  Surviving Stonebridge lanterns manufactured more than 100 years ago are regularly found with the isinglass windows fully intact.  However, the method used by Stonebridge to install the isinglass makes it nearly impossible to replace a window if damaged or missing.

The lantern also featured adjustable air vents that regulated the amount of air entering the lantern.

The floor of the Stonebridge featured a self-adjusting flexible wire candle holder and 6 rows of small round vent holes to admit air and allow for drainage if water were to enter the lantern.  These vent holes are a bit of a nuisance as melted candle wax can (and occasionally does) drip out of them when the lantern is in use.

The lantern back was of a solid sheet that featured a brass rimmed port to allow the lantern to be hung on a nail.  It also featured a wire bail from which the lantern could be carried or suspended.

Of course, the most important feature was its ability to collapse into a flat, rectangular box that took up little space in the crate, pack or warbag.  Dimensions of the Stonebridge lantern are:  Folded: 4 1/8” x 7” x 1 /2”. Unfolded:  4 1/8” wide, 4 /2” deep, 10” high to the top of the peak of the “roof” and 14” including the extended wire bail.

The Stonebridge lantern was such an important part of camping for so long, when America entered the modern lightweight backpacking age, one of the most popular candle lanterns turned out to be a Japanese copy of the Stonebridge in aluminum alloy.  I owned one of these lantern back then but at the time did not know of it’s historical connection.  If you would like to see the Japanese copy in 1970’s action, I recommend you check out the “Backpacker & Hiker’s Handbook” by William Kemsley Jr. (Stackpole Books, 2008). Kemsley was the founder of Backpacker Magazine and the book is chock full of 1970’s hiking photos, many of which show this interesting lantern.

1970’s backpacking candle lantern was a copy of the Stonebridge lantern

Because I consider the Stonebridge lantern to be so quintessential to a traditional camp it was the very first item I purchased when beginning to assemble my woodcraft camp kit.  Rather than choosing an original, I chose a rustproof solid brass replica from Lee Valley Tools of Ogdensburg, NY (no longer stocked).  It now appears that Garrett Wade is the only firm that carries it. As the price was recently reduced, it may be that Garrett Wade plans to clear out their remaining stock.

As I had not seen an actual Stonebridge lantern, I believed the replica to be exact with the exception of having differently shaped air vents.  I’ve since discovered that the replica is quite different.  For a start, the dimensions are not the same: The Replica Dimensions Folded: 4 3/8” x 6 1/4” x 1 /2”. Unfolded: 4 1/4” wide, 4/3/8” deep, 6 1/8” high to the top of the peak of the “roof” and 12” including the extended wire bail.  Second, the stampings on the top of the lantern have been altered.

Genuine and replica Stonebridge Lanterns side by side

The original stamping that included the manufacturer’s name and the various patent dates, included the phrase “Made in the USA”.  This is absent from the Indian-made replica. The vent holes are also different, not only in shape (round holes instead of vertical slots) but they are not adjustable.  The floor of the replica is of solid brass sheet and the spring clip that releases the lantern bottom for folding is also different in looks and function.

This side view of the genuine and replica lanterns shows the differences in the shape and design of the vent holes

Still, despite these changes, the Stonebridge replica makes a great traditional camp lantern because it is  sturdy, it is rustproof, it does not drip candle wax through the bottom, and the isinglass windows are mounted in such a that they can be replaced if need be.  However, while I’ve been entirely happy with my replica, I’ve wanted a vintage Stonebridge lantern after seeing a nice original example a couple of years ago.

Stamping on genuine lantern

Stamping on replica lantern

Because galvanized steel versions made up the bulk of the company’s lantern production, nice originals often come up for sale on eBay, priced around $50-$100.00.  Brass models must have been made in very small numbers as I’ve yet to see one.  Aluminum models are only slightly less rare.  In ten years, I’ve only seen two.  The first one was out of my reach and the next one I bought.  It’s just like Horace Kephart’s personal lantern!

My example is in good condition considering it is aluminum.  I can attest to the fact that the aluminum lanterns are very soft indeed.  It is difficult to fold and unfold the thing without bending it out of shape.  In addition, the various components of original Stonebridge lanterns where held together with tiny steel rivets. The aluminum sheet is so soft, that with even moderate use, the large end of these rivets can wallow out the hole they are in, causing them to fall out, particularly those that hold the air vent adjustment.  In fact, the aluminum lanterns are so soft, if I were packing one for camp, I would put it in a sturdy, rigid cardboard box for protection.

Since I can use my sturdy brass reproduction for camping, I may simply display this Kephart lantern clone.  If you desire an authentic camping light from the woodcraft period, you simply must add a Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern to your camp kit.

A Flash in the Night ~ Vintage Flashlights for Camping


The Eveready #2697 Official Boy Scout Flashlight.  Introduced in 1927, it was the first outdoor flashlight sold in the United States.

Although kerosene lanterns and candle lanterns are perfectly adequate for most of my camp needs, there are times when I need a truly bright, focused beam of light.  That’s when a flashlight is indispensable.   I’m not talking about the modern super tech lights but flashlights that were created for genuine field use in the early to mid-20th century.  If you plan to replicate classic camping circa 1880-1920, then a flashlight might not fit in. While they were introduced in the late 19th century, batteries were too short lived and flashlights were not weatherproof enough field use.  Otherwise, having a flashlight in camp can come in handy and it is clear that they were being used in traditional camps during the pre-WWII period.

A short history of the tubular “outdoor” flashlight –

Conrad Hubert, a Russian immigrant (real name Akiba Horowitz) living in New York, owned and operated the American Electrical Novelty & Manufacturing Company, a firm that manufactured various small electrical products such as small portable fans, pocket lanterns and the like. Hubert became interested in the electrical inventions of David Misell, an English expatriate living in New York City.  Misell had invented numerous electrical devices including a small hand held lamp, a bicycle head lamp, a handheld device for lighting natural gas burning equipment and a handheld light, which he patented in 1898.


Conrad Hubert introduced the first dependable flashlight in 1898 under the name Ever Ready.

Hubert hired the inventor to improve his company’s existing products and to develop new ones.  When he learned of Misell’s handheld light, Hubert immediately recognized its potential and decided to focus on developing it. Both men, as partners and individually, patented several flashlight designs before Misell sold his patents to Hubert, who introduced the world’s first dependable flashlight in 1899.

David Misell’s first flashlight patent while employed by Conrad Hubert’s American Electrical Novelty & Manufacturing Company (Patent No. 617,592).


Of course the flashlight would not have been possible without the invention of the storage battery.  At the time, nearly all product development, manufacturing and marketing of batteries was conducted by the National Carbon Company.  National Carbon marketed the very first dry cell battery (the type we think of as a battery today) for consumer use in 1896 and the first dry cell flashlight battery in 1898.  That battery continues to be produced today in the same form, dimensions and power parameters as the “D-cell” battery.   The firm also supplied the materials required to manufacture batteries to the American Ever-Ready Company, who made batteries under their own label to complement their flashlights.  Ever-Ready battery sales outpaced flashlight production enough that Hubert changed the company name to the Ever Ready Battery Company.  In 1906, National Carbon bought s half interest in the Ever Ready Battery Company.  The business name was changed again to The American Ever Ready Company and the trademark was shortened to simply Eveready.

Most of these early lights featured tubular cases of celluloid fitted with a brass reflector and glass lens on one end and a steel battery cap on the other.  In addition to tubular flashlights, vest pocket lights were also popular.  These were shaped like a Prince Albert tobacco can with a lens mounted at the center of one end.  Flashlight bulbs were made using very thick carbon filaments, which were required to survive the jolting associated with carrying a portable light.  Unfortunately, the batteries of the day did not produce enough power to overcome the resistance of the thick filaments for very long.  If the flashlight was used continuously for even a short length of time it would become uncomfortably hot to hold and the batteries would quickly die. The device was nicknamed flashlight because the only way to maximize battery life and avoid overheating was to turn the light on for a second or two at a time to produce a “flash” of light.



                                                     Ever-Ready Flashlight Advertisement from 1899


The first great leap in flashlight technology was the advent of tungsten bulb filaments in 1910.  The new substance made it possible to produce filaments that were smaller in diameter and far more durable, meaning bulbs burned brighter and batteries lasted longer.  Around the same time, the familiar push button switch appeared.  By 1912, flashlights were cased in tubes of either hard vulcanite rubber tubes or nickel plated brass.

Around 1914, box lanterns entered the market. Box lanterns were small rectangular affairs with a standard tubular style flashlight lens mounted at the top center of one side.  One end featured a bail to allow the user to hang it around the neck or from a nail or branch.  These box lanterns were often shown being used outdoors in product advertising, particularly in Boy’s Life, the official magazine of the BSA. The heyday of the box lantern style light ended around 1921 when this style of light virtually disappeared from the market.

                            Eveready “Box Lantern” Style Flashlight

Beginning in 1921, Eveready introduced a line of new nickel plated tubular flashlights including the Model #2674 3-cell “spotlight” with a 300 ft. range.  The new light was heavily promoted for use outdoors.

                                      “An Eveready is as necessary as a camp axe”!

In 1927, Eveready marketed the first purpose-built outdoor flashlight with the introduction of the Model #2697 Official Boy Scout Flashlight.  The #2697 was very similar to the #2694 industrial flashlight and featured the same right-angle head, the “safety lock” switch and the hanging ring of that model.

The Eveready #2697 Official Boy Scout Flashlight patent.  This model was the first outdoor flashlight on the market.

The new Boy Scout light featured an olive/khaki painted case with elaborate detailing, contrasting with a bright nickel plated lens, battery cap, belt clip and switch.  The angled head, like the battery compartment, was made from brass sheet. The head was essentially hollow, sealed at both ends with brass plates riveted in place. This type of construction resulted in a relatively lightweight light but the hollow head was subject to denting.  The belt clip was attached to the head at the top and the back with rivets.  Like nearly all flashlights of the period, the #2697 used the #14 2.74 volt, 0.741 watt miniature bulb with the E10 screw base.  These bulbs were very dim by today’s standards.  The lens surround featured a screw-adjustable focus to produce a diffused beam or a spotlight beam and everything in between.  Oddly, the glass lens could not be changed if broken as it and the lens surround were permanently connected.  The #2697 was no brighter, more dependable or weatherproof than ordinary household flashlights but the right-angle-head, safety lock switch, adjustable focus lens and belt clip made it ideal for outdoor use.  The #2697 flashlight became the model for what an outdoor flashlight “looked like” for decades thereafter.

                                         My own Model #2697 flashlight

Flashlights join the military –

United States military forces were using flashlights before America’s entrance into World War 1.  At the time, flashlights were the responsibility of the Signal Corp.  Manual No. 3, Technical Equipment of the Signal Corp (1916) listed a 2 cell Ever Ready flashlight as standard equipment.  By the 1920’s the US Army Air Corp procured the Type A-1, 2-cell tubular flashlight.  However, all of the military flashlights used during World War 1 and most of the interwar years were issued for signaling or inspection purposes.  As this article is about outdoor/field flashlights, we are interested in the kind that are built to be rugged enough to withstand daily outdoor use such as Army soldier would carry.  And those did not exist until the late 1930’s when the US Army issued the TL-122 flashlight, a militarized version of the Eveready #2697 Boy Scout light.  The TL-122 was the first in a long line of military angle-head flashlights that continue to this day.

The TL-122 used the same case as the #2697 with the “TL-122” designation stamped into the head instead of the BSA emblem.  The light was painted Army olive drab and the lens, switch and battery caps were finished in black. The innards were unchanged as the TL-122 used the same #14 screw-base bulb.  Because the TL-122 was derived from the #2697 it featured the same screw-adjustable focus and odd lens construction that meant the glass lens could not be changed if broken, not a particularly good attribute for a light that might be subjected to battlefield abuse.  As the TL-122 was issued for a very short period they are relatively rare today.

More Angle-Head Lights –

In 1939 Eveready introduced an updated Boy Scout flashlight, the Model #8257, fitted with the newly developed PR9 2.7 volt, 0.41 watt, flange-base bulb. This bulb was brighter than the older #14 flashlight lamp. The case of the #8257 was less decorative than before and had a more functional appearance.  The head was crafted from cast aluminum instead of thin brass for greater durability.  The new head design was shorter by a half inch over the previous model.  The light was fitted with a more contoured belt clip mounted only at the back of the head.  The case was painted olive/khaki and featured nickel plated lens and battery caps, switch and belt clip.  The switch was also new and now featured a push button signaling switch.  As before, the BSA emblem was stamped on the head.  The lens surround was now redesigned so that a broken lens could be replaced.  The #8257 also eliminated the screw-adjustable focus of the previous model.  Instead, it featured a fixed focus spotlight beam.  At the same time, Eveready introduced the “civilian” #2257 flashlight that was virtually identical to the Boy Scout light.  It was finished in olive green with black lens and battery caps, switch and belt clip.

The #2257 was quickly adopted by the US Army as the revised TL-122A, first issued to troops sometime around 1941. The new TL-122A was the first to place the model designation stamping inside a circle, a feature that was used on all later variants.  The TL-122 was fitted with a large rubber O-ring seal in the battery cap to improve water resistance in that area.  In all other respects it was identical to the #2257.  Once America entered the war, TL-122A production was contracted to additional firms to ensure that demand for the light could be met.  These firms also produced a fair number of Boy Scout flashlights as well.  Although the TL-122A can be seen in many WWII photos, it was no longer is use by 1944 as it was replaced by the plastic cased TL-122 variants.  Good surviving examples of this light are uncommon today.

The TL-122A military flashlight (replica) compared to the Eveready #2697/TL-122.   The  TL-122A was a military version of the second generation Boy Scout flashlight, the #8257, introduced in 1939.


The cases of subsequent TL-122 variants (TL-122B, C and D) were made from thick plastic that was much more rugged than the earlier lights.  The later models  featured an extended battery cap to hold spare bulbs.  Because of complaints that the cases of the TL-122B smelled and gave off a waxy residue, it was quickly replaced by the TL-122C, which featured a sealed lens, battery cap and switch for near waterproofness.  The TL-122C is the most commonly found military flashlight from World War II.  The last variant, the TL-122D, added an extended shroud around the lens to hold various lens filters.  That model was never issued during wartime.  Today’s military flashlights are most similar to the TL-122D.

The plastic bodied variants did not go unnoticed by outdoor enthusiasts.  Calvin Rutstrum recommended TL-122B and C style flashlights in his book Way of the Wilderness (1946, Burgess Publishing Company, Minneapolis, MN).  Though the light illustrated in the book is not described as a military model, it is certainly a TL-122B or C model.  Rutstrum even mentioned that he carried spare bulbs in the battery cap and that recent models had the advantage of being waterproof.

A new kind of light –

Aside from the angle head family of lights, no other vintage outdoor flashlights existed (that I am aware of) until the introduction of the Rub-R-Lite, manufactured by William M. Lennan, Inc. of Los Angeles, CA.  The revolutionary feature of the Rub-R-Lite was the seamless rubber casing that made the flashlight virtually waterproof and more damage proof than any light then available.  William Lennan had been interested for years in developing a water resistant flashlight.  He applied for a patent of a rubber encased; water resistant flashlight as early as 1934, with patents granted in 1936 and 1939.  However, no product was produced as Lennan continued to modify and improve the design.  The final design of the Rub-R-Lite was patented on March 18, 1941 (2,234,972) and entered the market in 1943.  On August 3, 1944, the light was approved and certified for use in mines by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (Approval No. 0C-610).

                            Final Patent for the William Lennan Rub-R-Lite, March 18, 1941

In the lighting department, the Rub-R-Lite was decidedly non-revolutionary as it continued to use the common #14 screw-base bulb. However, it did feature an adjustable focus. This was accomplished by means of an internal focusing wheel.  By turning the wheel clockwise or counterclockwise, the bulb was moved forward or backward in relationship to the reflector, which changed the focus from a diffused to focused spotlight.


                            The innovative Rub-R-Lite manufactured by William M. Lennan, introduced in 1943


The light featured an internal chassis of lightweight steel that contained the lens reflector, bulb, focusing wheel, switch and batteries.  This chassis was encased within a seamless, natural black rubber housing.  The switch could be operated by pressing on the housing, where on/off finger positions were located.  To replace the batteries/bulb, or to adjust the focusing wheel, the lens was removed from the housing by gently prying the rim of the housing away at the edge.  The lens, which was seated in a groove molded into the rubber, popped out of the housing.  The reflector was then removed and the entire chassis was ejected from the housing by sharply shaking the flashlight, bulb end down, until the chassis slid partway out of the rubber where it could be pulled the rest of the way out of the housing.

                                              The Rub-R-Lite internals removed from the rubber casing.


While Rub-R-Lite brightness/beam was no match for military flashlights fitted with PR9 bulbs and fixed spotlight focus, it was the first light available to the general public that could be used confidently outdoors in all kinds of weather.

My Choices –

To round out my camp lighting selection I desired an outdoor flashlight produced during the traditional camping era.  Because I happen to be impatient, I didn’t want to wait to find a suitable original.  With that in mind, my first purchase was the replica TL-122A from What Price Glory.  This light is a close copy of a genuine Tl-122A with a few very slight changes. The light lacks the O-ring seal on the battery cap, which is stamped with the letters WPG instead of the original manufacturer’s trademark, the belt clip lacks the oval hole of the original and the rivets attaching the switch to the case are of copper instead of the brass or steel.

The WPG replica is fitted with an incandescent PR9 flashlight bulb just like the original. The fixed focus reflector is superb.  The light throws a sharply defined beam of light, though with the old style bulb, that beam is relatively dim.  The case is made from brass sheet and the head of cast aluminum.  Fit and finish are excellent.  The replica is painted Army olive green with black painted lens surround, battery cap, switch and ring – just like the original.

Because the replica uses a Pr9 bulb it is easily upgraded to the superb KT-LB 3 volt LED bulb rated at 30 lumens.  This bulb is very inexpensive and is widely available.  For long lasting performance, even in cold conditions, I replaced the standard alkaline D-cell batteries with AA-cell Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries.  This was accomplished by using a pair of parallel battery adapters.  These adapters use three AA-cell batteries to match the voltage of one D-cell.  This setup is much lighter than using the original size batteries.  The pre-focused beam of the flashlight, upgraded to the LED bulb, produces a bright, sharply defied beam of light.  Of course, the upgraded flashlight is nowhere near as bright as the tactical LED super lights of today but I didn’t need or want it to be.

Just a couple of years later I happened upon an original Eveready #2697 Official Boy Scout Flashlight in good condition.  It required some cleaning up but now works like new.  Of course, because it is an original, the #2697 was fitted with the very dim #14 screw-base bulb.  Sadly, there are very few LED upgrade lamps for this type. I found the #222 E10 LED bulb (1.5-3v – 6 AA-cell or 2 D-cell batteries, 50 lumens).  This bulb uses a plastic bulb cover that looks somewhat like an original #14 bulb behind the light lens.  Though the bulb does not seem as bright as the TL-122A replica, most likely because of the difference in the reflector, it is much better than the original incandescent bulb.  In terms of old time traditional camp beauty, this flashlight beats them all.



                                                          Boy Scout Flashlight and TL-122A flashlight.

I recently added another flashlight to my collection – a Lennan Rub-R-Lite.  The example I found was in remarkable condition.  The rubber case is undamaged and looks new. The metal reflector is in very good condition.  The lens, though a bit hazy in the center, is mostly clear and not cracked or broken.  Again, I upgraded the batteries and bulb.  For the bulb upgrade I selected an NL340 lamp (1.5v-9v, 2 – 6 AA-cell or 2 D-cell batteries, 0.5 watts power, 50 lumens) sold by Reflectalite in the UK.   All in all, it is a very rare example of the first American-made waterproof flashlight.

                                                     My Lennan Rub-R-Lite. A near perfect example.

I suspect that folks would like an idea of how the lighting performance of these three lights compare.  Absolutely the brightest, sharpest beam is produced by the What Price Glory TL-122 replica.  That’s because – 1)  the fixed reflector of the Army light is so good, 2) the reflector of this newly produced light is also new and is as polished and reflective as possible, and 3) the bright KT-LB 3 bulb.  This light is the most powerful vintage style flashlight you can buy.  It is too bad than a modified version with vintage Boy Scout markings is not produced.

The original Eveready #2697 Official Boy Scout Flashlight comes in second. The old style screw-adjustable focus never achieves the sharp spotlight beam of the TL-122 replica.  Being a roughly 90 year old light, the reflector just does not compare to the new one used in the replica, even with the brighter LED bulb upgrade.  However, it is certainly an adequate light and is the most beautiful of the lot in my opinion.

The 1940’s era Rub-R-Lite comes in a dismal third.  I thought this light would be GREAT but the lighting performance is far below the other two lights in my collection.  Again, the old reflector does not do its job like a new one.  The 50 lumen bulb is very bright and is not at fault.  The old lens is somewhat hazy and that is certainly a contributor (I plan to polish the haze out at some point).  It seems to me that the real culprit is the focus or lack thereof.  I have attempted to adjust the focusing wheel in both directions and while the bulb does move forward and backward in relation to the reflector, the best the light can do is produce a very diffused beam.  Still, it is a truly unique, rare vintage camp light.

So there you have it.  If you would like to add a vintage flashlight to your kit, you might want to consider one of the models I’ve tested here.  Here’s to brighter nights ahead!

Kamp Kephart 2016 Workshop Schedule

Steven M. Watts, (click his name to see a photo of Steve), the Master of all things related to classic camping, traditional camping and woodcraft, recently released his “Kamp Kephart” workshop schedule for 2016.


Sadly, I’m already quite late in posting this notice as I have been informed that the February 27th/28th Workshops –  Nessmuk’s KIt Bag &  The Aleut Pack Harness and the October 2nd Workshop – The Woodsman’s Bag  are already full! 

In addition, the March 13th Workshop – Frontier Fire  has only a few openings left.  Here is the Workshop Schedule ~



Click here if you would like to download the flyer.  Steve notes that he is still accepting registrations on the other courses.  If you want to develop your classic camping skills, don’t miss this opportunity to take one or more of these workshops!

Notice! Dietz Lanterns Available Again!!!

New Dietz No. 50 Comet lantern from W.T. Kirkman

Here is some great news for traditional campers.   W. T. Kirkman Lanterns, Inc. is now stocking a NEW production Dietz Comet lantern!  If you’ve read my post on types of kerosene lanterns, you know that the Comet is my favorite of all time.  It was the official kerosene lantern of the Boy Scouts of America from the early post WWII period up through the 1960’s.  With an overall height of just 8 1/2 inches and a base diameter of 4 1/2 inches, the Comet is the smallest cold blast kerosene lantern ever produced by Dietz.

I discovered that the Comet was listed in the 2013 Dietz product catalog but I could not find them for sale in North America.  I figured that Woody Kirkman would eventually stock the new Comet.  In July of last year, a reader, Terry, commented that Kirkman’s was again selling the Comet in addition to recommending that anyone interested also purchase the Kirkman replacement globe for the Comet as it was much better than the standard Dietz globe.

These new Comet lanterns are delivered with a holographic sticker emblazoned with the Dietz logo, something not seen on previous Comets.

New holographic Dietz logo sticker.

The really exciting news is that Kirkman’s is offering a tin plated version of the Comet (along with painted versions).  The tin plated model has not been offered since before WWII and is historically correct for a pre-war Comet.   The painted lanterns retail for $10.95 and the deluxe tin plated version sells for just $5.00 more.

Left: New tin plated Comet lantern Right: New red painted Comet lantern.
The holographic sticker has been removed with Goo Gone and elbow grease.
I think the sticker is incongruous with a vintage kerosene lantern.

Though I’m thrilled to see these lanterns available again, in my opinion, the quality of the product has declined over those sold just a few years ago.    For one thing, the globes now offered are not as finely molded nor of the same thickness as the previous version.

Left: New production Comet globe Right: Comet globe offered just a decade ago.
Note how much more precise the molding is on the older globe. The glass is thicker too.

Luckily, Kirkman’s offers a heavy glass replacement globe for the Comet lantern that is very nice (though it still does not approach the quality of the original).  If you purchase a new Comet lantern, do yourself a favor and buy a Kirkman’s replacement globe at the same time.  The difference in globe quality is amazing!

Left to right: 1) New production Comet globe 2) Recent production Comet globe 3) W.T. Kirkman replacement Comet globe 4) Original vintage Comet globe made by Hocking glass

Unfortunately, I have other complaints as well.  The red painted lantern I received was delivered with several paint chips.  I’ve seen little used vintage Comet lanterns over 50 years old that had fewer paint chips than the new Comet I received last week.  While the paint chips are small, it is disappointing to see a chipped finish on a lantern that has not seen a single day of use.

Left: Vintage Dietz Comet manufactured in 1950. Right: New Dietz Comet manufactured in 2013.

Here is a new Comet compared to one sold just a few years ago:

Left: Green Comet with brass trim is from a decade ago. Right: New Comet was manufactured in 2013. The bail and burner are of raw carbon steel like the original and will rust if not protected.

Previous Dietz Comets were delivered in a very nice cardboard box. New Comets are not.

I know it sounds like I am seriously unhappy with the new Comet but I’m not.  Even with my complaints, I would not pass up buying one.  For one thing, it’s a brand new Dietz Comet!  For another, even original Dietz hurricane lanterns were utility barn lanterns.  Those with painted finishes easily chipped in use and all but brass finish models quickly rusted if exposed to moisture.  If you use a kerosene lantern with a painted finish, it will get marred and if you use a tin plated lantern, it will rust if not protected.  As soon as I restore or purchase one of these lanterns, I give it a good coat of car wax.  Everything is waxed – bail, burner, cap, globe wires, chimney (inside and out) and lantern body.  I also wax the plated lanterns.  If you keep your lantern waxed regularly, it will never rust.

A collection of Comets that includes a couple of restored, vintage Comets, a new-old-stock vintage Comet, a new Comet made a decade ago and three new Comets just purchased from W.T. Kirkman (one red painted and two tin plated).

For traditional camping, these new Comet lanterns are just the ticket!  The beautiful tin plated model is a near perfect late 1930’s lantern while the red painted model looks just like much like the Comet of the ’50’s that was adopted as the “Official” lantern of the Boy Scouts of America.  You can’t get more traditional than that!

The Woods Arctic Sleeping Robe – the Woodcrafter’s Winter Warmer


The Woods Three Star Arctic Sleeping Robe



Today, outdoor folk depend on lightweight, efficient mummy shaped sleeping bags for a warm sleep.  Today’s mummy bags are truly a marvel.  Using high fill-power down, ultralight shell fabrics and advanced construction techniques, these light and lofty calorie trappers weigh less than four pounds and compress smaller than your pillow, yet are comfortable to well below 0°.  But what came before the modern mummy bag?  How did campers sleep comfortably in frigid conditions during the woodcraft age?

From the first traders to explore the North American continent until after World War II, outdoor folk used wool blankets, the most desirable being the Hudson’s Bay Company Point blanket.

A Canadian hunter packs up camp and his Hudson’s Bay point blanket  in Unloaded!”, the cover illustration for the November, 1921 issue of The Beaver, the Hudson’s Bay Company magazine for employees.)


















Yet, even the wonderful Hudson’s Bay blanket had its limitations.  The weight and bulk of blankets necessary to sleep comfortably in frigid weather was excessive.  Two blankets were required for camping at around freezing.  Much below that and even more blankets were needed.  As a single 4-pont blanket weighs a bit over six pounds, you can see that a cold weather setup, even when using the best blanket available, the camper had to deal with quite a bit of weight and bulk.  Of course, this problem did not go unnoticed by the old-time experts.  Warren H. Miller in particular, was concerned with how to sleep warm using something other than the blanket, devoting an entire chapter of his book Camp Craft to the problem (Ch. 3: Eliminating the Blanket, 1916).  Miller was more concerned with the great bulk of trying to pack multiple woolen blankets than weight.  He devised a pack bag lined with quilted wool batting that could be laced up into a sleeping bag.  Experimenting with various linings including a caribou skin, he found that he could sleep comfortably below 0° at a weight of just above 4 pounds.  He and others also described sleeping bags that were recommended or denounced depending on the writer’s experience or biases.

All of the early bags were rectangular (like a blanket folded lengthwise) in shape and insulated with layers of blanketing, wool batting or goose feathers.  The fill was encased in an envelope that closed with laced grommets, buttons or clasps.  There were debates about which insulator was best but no matter the fill, all were relatively bulky and heavy.  Nearly all were only moderately successful, most being soon forgotten.  However, one particular model captured the market and soon embodied the characteristics the public came to associate with the term “sleeping bag” – the Woods Arctic Eiderdown Sleeping Robe, manufactured by the Woods Manufacturing Company, LTD, of Ottawa, Canada.

The Woods Company, founded by James W. Woods in 1885, started out as a canvas products supplier but within a few years had evolved into a manufacturer.   Woods produced canvas tents and other canvas goods for prospectors, surveyors, lumbermen, and the military.  Sometime around 1898, the company introduced a new type of sleeping bag designed for extremely cold weather.  Externally, the bag was unremarkable but the insides were a different story.  The bag was revolutionary for being the first to use *duck down plumes for the insulation, stabilized with “Harwood patented” internal compartments.  The use of some kind of internal compartment to prevent the migration of down continues to be employed today.





















The Sleeping Robe bag was a 90” x 90” rectangle of tightly woven Egyptian cotton, lined with Kersey wool (later, Junior models with dimensions of 78″ x 84″ and 80″ x 80″ were also offered).  When folded in half lengthwise and secured with snaps, it became a sleeping bag.  A flap of wool was sewn to the open end of the bag to protect the head and shoulders of the sleeper.  The new bag proved to be warmer and more efficient than blanketing, batting or feathers for the weight carried (6 times warmer than wool, 3 times lighter according to Woods Ltd. advertising).   Today, the Woods Arctic Eiderdown Sleeping Robe is generally recognized as the first modern sleeping bag.

*The term “Eiderdown” in the product description referred to down plumes being used as opposed to feathers, which were in common use for pillow and mattress stuffing at the time.  Woods never used the down plumage of the eider duck.












The Sleeping Robe in open and closed positions

Interestingly, the Arctic Sleeping Robe was not mentioned in the early camping literature.  Perhaps it was not known to American camping writers as Woods was a Canadian company.  In any event, Americans eventually learned of its existence after the Robe was selected for use by the Amundsen Northwest Passage Expedition (1906) and the Steffansson Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1918).

During the 1920’s the Robe was chosen by the American mountaineer and scientist Bradford Washburn for his Yukon Expeditions and was included in the survival equipment carried on the polar flights of U.S. Navy explorer Richard E. Byrd.  It was also chosen by members of the Simpson-Roosevelts Field Museum Expedition to Central Asia and the First Canadian ascent of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak.


Expedition leaders in the 1920’s heaped praise on the Woods Arctic Sleeping Robe

With a growing awareness of Woods products in America, Woods opened a factory and sales office in Ogdensburg, NY (most likely to avoid import duty and taxes).  By the 1920’s, the Robe was carried by the best sporting goods stores including Abercrombie and Fitch, Griffin and Howe and Von Lengerke & Detmold (of these, only Griffin and Howe survives).  These shops served a very wealthy clientele that included Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Shackleton, Col. Townsend Whelen, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. The Robe was an ideal product to be carried by these high-end shops.  At an average price of $65.00 ($1,101.69 in 2013 dollars!), it was quite expensive and out of reach for all but the very affluent.

1920’s Woods Sleeping Bag pamphlet from Griffin & Howe, then located at 234 East 39th Street, New York, NY (the shop moved from that location in 1932).























By the 1930’s the Robe was firmly ensconced as the image of a modern expedition “sleeping bag” and was finally described in the outdoor literature when it was recommended by Labrador explorer Dillon Wallace (1863-1939) in “The Campers’ Handbook” (Fleming H. Revell Co., New York, London & Edinburgh, 1936).  Wallace noted that the Robe was part of the standard issued equipment carried by the Quebec Forest Rangers.

However, the most famous reference to the Woods Arctic Sleeping Robe in literature was in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, NY, 1940) ~

“He doesn’t know about that robe, Robert Jordan thought. Good old pig-eyes doesn’t know why I paid the Woods boys sixty-five dollars for that robe.”

“It is very beautiful the snow,” Pablo said. “You won’t want to sleep outside with the snow falling.”

So that’s on your mind too is it? Robert Jordan thought. You’ve a lot of troubles, haven’t you, Pablo?

“No?” he said, politely. “No. Very cold,” Pablo said. “Very wet.”

You don’t know why those old eiderdowns cost sixty-five dollars, Robert Jordan thought. I’d like to have a dollar for every time I’ve slept in that thing in the snow. “Then I should sleep in here?” he asked politely.


“Thanks,” Robert Jordan said. “I’ll be sleeping outside.”

“In the snow?”

“Yes”…“In the snow.”


















The book also includes a memorable love scene involving the Sleeping Robe but you”ll have to read that for yourself.

Hemingway made numerous references to the Robe in the book.  He was obviously knowledgeable of it.  His familiarity with the Robe was due to his owning one, no doubt purchased from one of the great shops described above.  A review of 1930’s era catalog descriptions and prices make it quite likely that Hemingway owned a “Three Star” Arctic Eiderdown Sleeping Robe.  The Three Star was the most popular model that Woods offered and retailed for an average price of $65.00 in the 1930’s.

The Arctic Sleeping Robe in its duffel bag. WOW! Just look at that logo!




















The Robe remained essentially unchanged from its inception through the 1960’s when it was updated with newer shell materials and a lighter lining than the Kersey wool.  Eventually however,  it was surpassed by a new generation of efficient mummy bags.  A good mummy bag filled with 3 pounds of 550 fill power down, encased in a nylon shell and closed with a nylon tooth zipper, weighed around 5 lbs. and was as warm as the 16 lb. Sleeping Robe.  Mummy bags quickly became the dominant type among serious outdoor folk, relegating the “old-fashioned” rectangular Robe to the “has-been” category.

Yet, the Arctic Sleeping Robe remained popular among a small cadre of enthusiasts and incredibly, remained in production along with other very historic Woods products (the #1 and #200 canoe packs and “Prospector” canvas wall tents) until 2008 when the company folded.  Today, the Woods name has been revived by Infinity Sports Group of Langley, British Columbia, Canada.  The new company brought back the Arctic Sleeping Bag though sadly, the canoe packs and Prospector tents are gone.  The latest iteration of the Arctic sleeping bag appears unchanged and prices are actually down from what they were 75 years ago (the current“5-Star” and ”3-Star” Arctic sleeping bags retail for $899.99 and $699.99, respectively).  Woods does not state the fill power of the down used in these bags and do not say if the bags are produced domestically or imported.  If they are made in Canada, using 600-fill goosedown or better, the price may be about right as the bags are quite large.  The “5-Star” in particular is made with two separate quilts filled with 1 3/4 pounds of down and that adds up to the equivalent of purchasing two sleeping bags and their attendant labor and cost.

Of course my interest is in the vintage Woods Sleeping Robes fitted with snap closures as they were an important part of the traditional winter campers’ kit, owned by some of the greatest explorers and outdoorsmen of the first half of the 20th Century.  And of course, I’ve always wanted to own one.











These old Arctic Sleeping Robes go for more than you’d expect.  Being the cheapskate that I am, I was willing to wait until an affordable Robe came along.  And wait I did!  For nearly seven years.  Then one day, a co-worker said he’d found an old sleeping bag among his father’s belongings and as I was a camper, would I want it?  Sure!  No matter what it is or what shape it’s in, I never turn down old camping gear.  To my surprise, the bag turned out to be a genuine Woods Arctic Three Star Sleeping Robe fitted with a snap closure!  This is the same model owned by Hemingway.

My Robe is of ‘50’s or ‘60’s era production, fitted with the poly/cotton canvas shell and closed with rectangular, nickel plated snaps.  It is lined with Kersey wool.  In most respects, it is nearly identical to those models made at the turn of the century.  Sure, I wish it had been made early enough to feature an Egyptian Cotton Shell but considering that it was free, I’m satisfied.

Note: The Robe was photographed on a 60+ year old Hodgman PakLite brand canvas air mattress, another wonderful piece of vintage gear. At my age, an air mattress is a necessity for sleeping on the ground and it would be incongruous to pair the Woods Arctic Sleeping Robe with a modern model.  For cold weather camping I recommend that you spread a Hudson Bay blanket over the air mattress before placing the sleeping bag on it.  The blanket serves to insulate the sleeping bag from heat loss due to conduction.

Hodgman PakLite canvas air mattress, circa 1948
Note: The mattress was greatly overinflated for photography purposes.













If you have the wherewithal to Woodcraft it in winter, then you’d best locate one of these Woods Arctic warmers with haste!






Kamp Kephart ~ Classic Camping Workshops

Classic camper and woodcraft mentor and friend Steve Watts has released the schedule for the Kamp Kephart series of skill workshops for 2014.

If you live near Gastonia, NC or can make it out there – DO NOT miss the opportunity to learn from a Master woodsman.  As you may know, Steve and David Wescott are working on an up-to-date series of traditional camping “how-to” books.  Called the “Classic Camping” series, the first of seven planned books are currently in the works.  To attend one of these workshops would be akin to attending a workshop conducted by Horace Kephart, Ernest Thompson Seton or Dan Beard a century ago.

The workshops are one-day affairs that are affordable and teach skills that are rarely offered as part of a short course curriculum.  Just look at the skills being offered next year –

Oh – if I lived close enough to attend!

Ax Prep, Sharpening & Care – Part Three

Long Lasting Protection for Head and Handle

Good Wood

















Step One – Weatherproof the eye of the ax

Before you address ax handle prep in any way, you’ll want to seal the junction between the head and handle, in order to protect it against moisture.  This will prevent the wood from shrinkage and swelling at the eye and keep everything tight.  No matter how snug the fit is here, moisture can enter the unprotected wood.

For this job, you’ll need to dip the ax, head down, in a 50/50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and kerosene.  The kerosene works to thin the oil for improved absorption.  A good layer of this oil inside the crevices between handle and eye makes the head far less likely to come loose due to the swelling and contracting of the wood caused by changes in temperature and humidity.

To begin the process, give the head a heavy coat of petroleum jelly to prevent the boiled linseed oil from coating and discoloring the ax.  Coat the first three inches of the handle (below the head) as well (this will prevent the wood from absorbing the boiled linseed oil).  Take care to not over the gap between head and handle at the top or bottom to allow the boiled linseed oil to soak in.  Now, place the ax head down in a bucket of the oil/kerosene mixture, making sure that it’s deep enough to cover the entire head and about an inch of the handle.  Leave the ax in the bucket overnight, which is long enough for the wood to absorb the oil completely.  Then remove the ax from the bucket, wipe the head  and handle clean and rest the ax head down on a piece of waxed paper or aluminum foil.  A lot of the oil will drain out of the head/handle joint over the next few hours and you don’t want to get it everywhere.  Check the ax occasionally and if you see a puddle, wipe it up.  After an hour or so, wrap the handle in a paper towel and turn the ax right side up to allow any oil to drain out of the bottom of the head.  Once drained, wipe everything dry.  Depending on the humidity, the oil will fully cure in a week or so.


Head protection: Left to right: 1) Ballistol Sportsman’s Oil spray, 2) boiled linseed oil/kerosene mixture, 3) Petroleum Jelly, 4) raw linseed oil (food-grade flaxseed oil) and beeswax compound, 5) Ballistol liquid (either version can be used)





Step Two – prep and protect the handle –

Time spent prepping and sealing the handle will make a real difference in how long the handle lasts and how comfortable it is to swing.  No ax brand I know of delivers their products with this job done completely (or at least to my satisfaction).  Let’s look at the handles provided by the manufacturers of modern axes.

Most “hardware grade” axes are delivered with varnished or polyurethane coated handles.    These hard, slick coatings must be removed as they make for a blister causing ax.  Some makers, such as Council Tool, offer their axes with lightly waxed handles.  This is a far better finish than the slick, sealed finishes.  However, most factory waxed finishes are too light to offer much in the way of real water resistance and even if the wax were heavily applied, it does little to prevent the wood from drying out.  The ideal finish should offer good long-term water resistance and condition the wood.  The only finishes I know of that do that are oil finishes.  Oil keeps handles in top shape, resists moisture and allows you to feel the texture of the wood without causing blisters as you swing the ax.  Though oil finishes offer good protection most of the time, if you carry your ax in predominantly wet regions, you may want to apply an  oil/beeswax mixture to the wood.  The wax offers better water resistance than oil alone.

Gransfors Bruks stands out for being the first modern company to fit their axes with linseed oiled handles.  From the beginning, company owner Gabriel Branby made a commitment to provide his axes with straight-grained, hand-rubbed, oil finished handles.  The result of Branby’s raising the bar on ax handle selection and finishing is that it forced competitors to improve their products as well.  Today, all of the boutique ax makers provide markedly better handles than they did a decade ago.  Still, even the boutique axes, including Gransfors Bruks, require additional weatherproofing work on their handles.  Here is what I do –

a) Smooth out the Grain

If the handle has been coated with any sort of hard or gloss finish, it must be stripped.  Use 80-grit emery paper (wood sandpaper).  This sanding will also remove any surface finish left by the boiled linseed oil.  (If you are working with a boutique ax, you won’t need to sand anything so your job will be much easier just go straight to the section on “Handle Finish”.)

When done, wet the handle thoroughly with water and let dry.  This will raise the grain of the wood.  Sand the handle again, using 100-grit sandpaper, to smooth the raised grain.  Repeat this wetting and sanding until the grain can no longer be felt after the handle has dried.   These steps will ensure that if the ax is wetted in prolonged rain, the handle will remain smooth and not produce blisters.

b) Give the handle some purchase

Give the bottom six inches (or up to the bend of the handle if it’s curved), a final sanding with 60-grit paper to provide a slightly coarse texture for the grip hand.

c) Burnish the cut ends

Finally, sand the cut ends of the handle (the eye and the handle bottom) up through 220-grit abrasive until polished smooth.  Now the handle is ready to accept a  new finish.

d) Apply a finish to the handle

Even if I plan to use an oil/beeswax finish, I start by giving the handles several coats of raw linseed oil (food-grade flaxseed oil).  Warm about four or five tablespoons of the oil in an iron vessel until it just begins to smoke, then rub it into the handle with a rag.   Do not immediately wipe off the excess oil.  Allow at least an hour for the oil to fully soak into the wood.  Before applying the next coat, wipe the handle down.  At least three or four coats should be rubbed into the handle, repeating the applications over the next couple of days.  Once the handle begins to take on a soft sheen, you’ll know that it has been fully saturated with the oil.

e) Protect the cut ends

Handle treatment is not done until you’ve sealed the cut ends of the handle. This step is important.  On many old axes, you’ll discover that the ends are often checked and cracked.  That’s due to water penetrating the fibers of the wood over time.  No amount of oil or wax will do the trick here.  You’ll want to completely seal the ends with an impenetrable finish.  For this purpose, I use Tried and True Varnish Oil.  This product is a completely natural linseed oil and pine resin varnish.  In Europe it’s known as hard oil.  The formula is actually coachmaker’s varnish, a product dating from the 1850’s.  Varnish Oil produces a highly durable finish that soaks deep into the grain of the wood to seal completely, leaving a flexible, semi-gloss sheen.   The maker claims that Varnish Oil is for indoor use only but I’ve found that it works fine for this purpose.  The stuff is expensive ($18.00/pint) but is applied in very thin coats, so a little goes a long way.  At the eye, I use a foam brush to apply a coat thick enough to fill the spaces between the eye and the head.  On the bottom, I apply a thin coat.  Allow the oil to absorb for an hour before wiping completely dry and buffing with a soft cloth.  Let this cure for at least 24 hours, then burnish with #0000 steel wool.  Repeat at least three or four times for full, long-term protection.

Handle Protection: Left to right: food-grade flaxseed oil (raw linseed oil), Tried and True Varnish Oil (Coachmaker’s Varnish) and Howard’s Butcher Block Conditioner (a semi-soft, food-grade mineral oil and wax blend).















Oil and Beeswax – the magical mixture

After the handle has been completely protected with an oiled finish and the ends sealed with varnish, you may want to protect it further for use in very wet weather.  This is where an oil and beeswax treatment comes in.  I use this wonderful mixture for so many things.  It is valuable for protecting ax heads and carbon steel knife blades from rust and for treating leather knife and ax sheaths in addition to using on wood handles.  To make the compound, place a beeswax disc (the kind sold for lubricating wooden drawer glides) in a half pint, wide-mouth Mason jar and add raw linseed oil to cover by more than double.  Heat the mixture in a microwave oven on medium power until liquefied and stir well.  Let cool until the compound hardens to a paste that is softer than the consistency of shoe polish.  It should glisten with the oil when your finger is rubbed over the surface.  However, it should not be so soft as to be more oily than waxy.  If you don’t like the consistency after hardening, just reheat, add more wax or oil as needed, microwave on medium, blend and cool again.  Oil and beeswax paste can be stored indefinitely.

To apply to wood handles, I reheat the compound until liquefied and rub the hot mixture into the wood.  This insures complete absorption.  For subsequent coats, just apply it in the solidified state to the handle and rub it in.  Just one or two coats do the trick.

Note: I’ve experimented with Howard brand Butcher Block Conditioner on handles in place of my homemade compound with good results though the product doesn’t have as much body.  It soaks into the wood readily and is easy to apply.

Handle maintenance

After this initial prep and treatment, wood handles should be oiled at least twice a year or more if you live in an arid climate.  If the ax has been carried for long periods in rainy or wet snowy conditions, allow the handle to dry for several days before re-oiling.  To clean a dirty handle, sponge it with a mixture of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water, allow to dry, then reapply the raw linseed oil.  Reapply a coat of varnish to the top and end of the handle occasionally.

Step Three – Protect the ax head –

The chief enemy of an ax head is rust.  Protect it by applying a coat of the magical mixture.  First, rub the ax head with a light machine oil (I use Ballistol), then heat the linseed oil/beeswax compound to soften it and apply a coating to the head.  Upon cooling, the wax will harden a bit, leaving a protective coating on the steel.


After you’ve worked so hard to get your ax in shape, you’ll most likely want to hang it above the fireplace like a trophy fish.  And no doubt it would look great there, especially in a log cabin.  However, you DO NOT want to store your axes indoors in a dry location.  The constant lack of humidity will cause the handle to shrink enough to become loose.  It’s best to keep axes in a shed or garage, protected from moisture but still subjected to humidity and changes in temperature.

In closing

There will be some who won’t go to all this work for an ax.  Axes are not valuable to our daily existence like they once were and do not merit the same kind of care they were given in the past.  Yet, there still exists a small cadre of serious ax users that use and depend on their wilderness ax.  And there are the cabin builders and other craftsmen who use fine axes to shape wood.  These folks always take the time to properly prep and care for their axes.  If prepped correctly and cared for, a fine ax can be passed down for generations. Yours could too.

Ax Prep, Sharpening & Care – Part Two

Re-profiling the Head, Convexing the Bit & Edge Honing

File marks on a vintage Plumb ax head, circa 1950. This old ax was found in new, unused condition.


Before putting an edge on an ax, you should always check to see if re-profiling is necessary.  Re-profiling means to change the shape of primarily the cheeks, that part of the head, just forward of the eye, down to within a half-inch of the bit., when viewing the head from above.  In my poorly drawn example below, you can see that some axes can have a very thick profile while other are quite thin.  Some may be very convexed and some may be ground nearly straight.  The profile of the head makes all the difference in how an ax performs. The most common issue you will encounter is that the cheeks of the ax are too thick, even if the general shape is good.


Ax Profile Grinds


Sharpening an ax without first thinning down the cheeks makes for a dangerous, inefficient ax because the resulting edge will be stunted, making it likely for the ax to bounce out of the cut when chopping.  If any thinning needs to be done, you should endeavor to create a proper ax profile.  This is one part of the re-profiling task.  The other is to convex the bit into the edge.  For now, we’ll look at getting the profile in order.

Does your ax even need re-profiling?

Today’s boutique axes are carefully ground for a specific use and usually do not need much in the way of re-profiling.  True, their edges may be delivered less than sharp but the profiles are generally good.  So, if you go the route of purchasing a boutique model, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

However, if you are dealing with a utility grade or vintage ax you may find that the profile will need some work.  Vintages axes in particular were often left quite thick as it was assumed that the new owner would grind the ax according to its intended use.  I’ve found a number of old axes that were never ground before the edge was sharpened.  These are problems can only be corrected by re-profiling.  What if the ax has been ground too thin?  An ax that’s too thin doesn’t throw chips well and sticks with every chop, requiring a tug to free it.  This is not only tiresome but will eventually result in loosening the handle.  Such an ax may be used for limbing but it will never be a good splitting or chopping ax.  Remember – you can always take steel off the head but you can’t add it back on!

To determine if an ax needs to be re-profiled and how much work needs to be done, you’ll need an ax gauge.  Bernard Mason included a full-size template for an ax gauge in his book Woodsmanship (A. S. Barnes and Company, New York, NY, 1954.  The illustration was also reproduced in the USFS Manual An Ax to Grind by Bernie Weisgerber (document No. 9923-2823P-MTDC, July 1999) on page 35.  I’ve included the illustration here but note that it has not been reproduced in the size to be used as a template.


Illustration by Frederick S. Kock, from Woodsmanship by Barnard S. Mason, A.S. Barnes and Co., New York, 195



















Ax Gauge in use. While the cheeks of this ax have already been thinned down considerably, further work needs to be done according to the ax gauge. The bit should fit into the gauge, up to the point of the opening.















I cut my gauge out of chipboard, a thick, sturdy cardboard found at any hobby or scrapbooking store.

When checking an ax at this point, you simply want to determine if the bit will fit entirely into the gauge.  If the cheeks are too thick and prevent the ax from fitting entirely into the gauge, re-profiling is needed.  If the cheeks are so thin that the ax does not “fill out” the cutout of the gauge, it has been ground too thin.  If the difference is slight, don’t worry, the ax will likely be a good one.  If the difference is significant, well – you can always find another ax!

The proper ax grind

The goal of re-profiling is to produce the classic fan grind illustrated here:

On a full-sized ax, the top of the fan grind begins at a point approximately 3-inches back from the cutting edge down to within a half-inch of the edge.  This is to allow for properly convexing the grind into the edge.  As the 3-inch depth is relative to a full-sized ax, it is of course, proportionally smaller if the head is smaller.

Re-profiling – 

There are a number of ways to re-profile an ax.  The time-honored, traditional method is to use an old-fashioned pedal grindstone like the one pictured below.


Illustration by Frederick S. Kock, from Woodsmanship by Barnard S. Mason,   A.S. Barnes and Co., New York, 1954

Good luck finding one of these nowadays (and having the room to store and use it)!  Let’s look at other options –

The  modern, fast and efficient way to do the job is to use a belt sander.  The Edge Master’s Pro Knife Sharpening System and the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener are two examples of belt sander sharpeners.  The belt cassette of the Work Sharp device can be rotated into “grinder” position to be used hand-held, with the ax placed in a vice, making it very handy for this kind of work.

When sharpening with a belt sander, be sure to keep the ax moving so that you do not risk ruining the temper.  Just don’t let it rest in one spot for too long and always remember to use light pressure.  While you generally do not want to apply enough pressure with a belt sander to create a shower of sparks, note that with the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener, sparks will always be generated when using the coarse and medium grit belts on carbon steel.   No matter the brand of belt sander, when you are re-profiling, check the edge frequently with your bare hand to see if the edge feels warm.  If it does, stop and let the blade cool down before making another pass.  You do not want to generate enough heat to risk ruining the temper.  It is best to have a can of cold water handy to dip the head into when it begins to feel warm to the touch.  To lessen the chances of ruining the temper, it’s best to do most of the re-profiling with the single-cut mill file and only refine the profile with a belt sander.

Of course, you can use hand tools only.  This will certainly take a lot longer but will never endanger the temper.  Keep in mind that hand work can be quite a job if the ax is tempered quite hard.  A vintage Plumb ax I own proved soft enough to easily re-profile with just sandpaper.  I started with 80-grit and worked up through 600 grit in just over half an hour and was done (I ran a file over the vintage Plumb ax shown at the top of this post to see if the temper was like that of the other I own and it was just the same).  Based on my experience with these two Plumbs I am of the opinion that the company tempered their axes rather soft.  By comparison, the vintage Harrold ax I restored is one of the hardest I’ve worked on.  A file slid right off the bit leaving hardly a mark.  To speed up the process I had to use a coarse diamond hone to thin down the edge.  Yet, as hard as it was, I still managed to refine the convex with sandpaper – so it can be done.  Let’s look at the tools I use for the job:

Re-profiling Tools: Top to bottom and left to right: 1) sanding block with mouse pad glued to the surface with Barge Cement. This one is used with sandpaper of various grits, 2) sanding block used with leather for stropping, 3) set of flexible diamond hones (coarse, medium and fine), 4) single-cut mill (ax) file (the filing grooves are only in one direction).  The file is resting on a 5) file cleaning brush, 6) Gransfors Bruks diamond file, and 7) Gransfors Bruks standard ax file.
















The best tutorial over re-profiling using these tools and method can be found here.

Though the video is about sharpening, the methods described can be modified just a bit for re-profiling.  NOTE: I just cannot get an ax sharp enough for my liking by using this method.  I think that perhaps I put too much pressure on the sanding block or something.  As a result, I use a different method to hone the edge (I’ll get into that later).

To begin, modify the tutorial by making straight strokes with the mill file, from the bit towards the poll, rather than at an angle. Keep the strokes flat at this point and DO NOT follow the curve of the convexed edge (if the ax has one).  Tilt the handle of the file up and off of the bit while making the stroke, filing the flat of the blade using the coarse side of the file.  Begin at at the center of the head, at the top of the convex “roll” (1/2 inch forward of the bit).  Push the file toward the poll, ending your stroke at a point 2 1/2 inches back, to create the apex of the fan.  You will immediately see the high spots that must be thinned down in just a few strokes.  Do not file the flat of the blade farther back than the top of the fan or the ax will stick in the wood and will be weakened due to being too thin.  The shiny, newly filed metal will serve as your guide, marking the boundary of the grind.

Once the outer edge of the grind has been established at top center, move to the outside edges to work on the rest of the fan.  I find it easier to switch at this point, from straight strokes to filing at an angle.  Remember to tilt the tail of the file up and off the bit.  File in opposing directions, starting with the coarse side of the file.  Then follow with up with the fine side.

Ax Re-profiling









Although the Gransfors Bruks ax files are much more expensive than a mill file, I prefer to use them for this purpose.  The short length of these files limits waste removal to a distance of three inches, which is just right for the job.

I find it easiest to clamp the ax to the edge of a work table to keep it steady using one bar clamp on the back of the ax head and two on the handle.  After working on both sides of the head, check the bit in the ax gauge to see if more filing is required.  Once the ax snugly fits the gauge, the filing is done.

Smooth everything out –

Once the fan grind has been created, clean up the rest of the head if it is significantly scarred, battered or pitted.  Ignoring the bit (you’ll work on it later), use both sides of the mill file to smooth everything out, taking care to preserve the makers stamp.  Your goal here is to reduce the appearance of pitting and other damage and square up the poll if need be.  Do not attempt to file deep scars completely out as you could easily alter the shape or weight of the ax!

When satisfied, go over the filed surface (including the fan grind) with 80-grit abrasive paper, followed by 100-grit paper and a 100-grit foam pad.  The paper will quickly smooth out any offending rugosities while the foam conforms better to minor indentations.  Now, return to the fan grind and use the sanding block as in the tutorial, working through the grits until you end up with a satin finish on every part of the head except the bit.  NOTE:  If the ax is not significantly scarred, battered or pitted, you can limit the filing and sanding to the area of the fan grind.  Now you’re ready to start on the bit and edge.

Take care of any chips –

If the edge has suffered a chip or two, these need to be removed before you try to convex anything.  Start by filing each chip out with the mill file.  Just file the spot flat.  When the edge is sharpened, any small flat spots will have been curved into the bit and will be unnoticeable.  If the chips are larger, you do the same thing but beware!  If you file away too much metal you can go beyond the hardened bit and end up with an ax that won’t hold an edge (I would pass up any vintage ax that is found with a deep chip).  Once any chips have been filed out you are ready to convex the bit.

Convexing and blending the bit into the cheeks –

All axes should have a convex profile.  But what about the bit and how it is shaped?  Some, like the Swedish boutique axes, terminate in a convex.  Most others terminate in a “V “bevel.

A beveled edge.

A convexed edge. This ax was never ground so the cheeks have not been thinned. You can see that the resulting edge is much too thick and needs some work.

To create the right profile and edge, the goal is to blend the bit into the newly thinned cheeks in a smooth, uninterrupted convex profile and then work on whatever edge you desire as a last step.  For this task, I use the plastic backed diamond hones.  The thin plastic backing makes it possible to flex the hones slightly, which helps to develop a curved bit profile.  Work through the hones from coarse to fine, following the instructions in the tutorial.  You should end up with an unpolished convexed surface, from the cutting edge to the beginning of the fan grind.  The convex is not done yet though!  It requires further refining and to do that, I use a different method, requiring another set of tools.

Refining the bit and edge honing – 

I use the following tools for this job:

Bit Refining/Edge Honing Tools: Top to bottom and left to right: 1) Paddle hone, 2) Stropping compound, 3) mouse pad, 4) sandpaper and abrasive foam pads in various grits, 5) Ceramic hone (mine is from a Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker), 6) Gransfors Bruks double-sided ax stone, 7) Eze-Lap diamond “stone”.  All tools are resting on 8) a large piece of leather, about 3/32 inch thick that I use in place of a mouse pad.
















The tools are used in this order:

  1. Sandpaper.  In grits varying from 80 grit through 600 grit paper (you can go further, with 600 grit or above bur remember, it’s an ax not a surgical scalpel).  The sandpaper is laid upon either a mouse pad or if like me you use too much pressure, a leather pad.
  2. Eze-Lap diamond “stone”.  The purpose of the stone is to create a small “V” grind at the edge.  This results in less sharpness but makes the edge far more durable.
  3. Ceramic hone.  Diamond sharpeners do not polish the surface of the edge and that is important to achieving maximum sharpness.  The very hard ceramic serves to finish and polish the edge.  (The Gransfors Bruks stone is used for field sharpening.  In use, you start with the coarse side of the stone, followed by fine side).
  4. Leather paddle strop loaded with polishing compound.  Even a highly polished edge must be stropped to remove the tiny burr that is the result of sharpening.

A great tutorial over refining the bit can be found here (the ax tutorial begins two minutes, twelve seconds into the video).  In order to establish a convex grind, I modify the tutorial by starting with 80 grit sandpaper to quickly develop the convex profile.  The key to the system is using some sort of resilient backing for the sandpaper so that it conforms to the curvature of the edge and creates a convex profile.  Usually, the backing is a thick foam computer mouse pad.  Note that if you apply too much pressure to the tool being sharpened you can quickly dull the edge.  This is because the resilient mouse pad allows the sandpaper to rise up over the edge which will quickly dull it.  If like me you find that you use too much pressure, switch to a smooth square of leather about 1/8 to 3/32 inch thick.  Leather is far less resilient than a mouse pad but will still do the trick.  Once the ax fits into the gauge move on to finer and finer grits of abrasive paper to polish the surface of your work.  I usually work up through 600 grit paper and then finish by stropping the edge (see below).

The micro bevel, field sharpening and stropping – 

The main reason that some like the terminal convex edge is because it’s sharper than one that is beveled.   I generally prefer a convexed edge modified by terminating the convex with a  small “V” bevel as it improves durability.  Note that if you field sharpen an ax with a purely convexed edge, you’ll actually create some sort of bevel in the process.   This video shows how field sharpening is done.  Note that the instructor is using a properly thinned and convexed ax so is nothing more needs to be done.  That’s the beauty of purchasing a fine boutique ax to begin with.

The profile of the vintage Harrold ax I’ve been restoring is good according to the ax gauge.  The edge has been given a small “”V” bevel for maximum edge retention.














Stropping –

Finally, I polish the edge further by stropping it with a paddle strop loaded with polishing compound.

When  the edge of a cutting tool is sharpened, a burr is created along the very edge.  This burr is like a very thin, flexible flap of steel,  When you sharpen one side of the blade the burr flexes to curve over to the opposite side.  When you sharpen the opposite side, it curves back to the side you are not working on and so on.     The video above is about honing the edge using only sandpaper and it generally works well.  However, this method produces a very long burr which I do not like.

Holding the ax in one hand, edge away, I start by pushing the paddle across the curved surface of the convex, avoiding the very edge.  The surface of the convex will quickly develop a high polish.  As soon as the surface begins to really shine, begin to strop the edge.  Stropping will remove the burr created by sharpening and will polish the edge smooth.  Now, wipe the head down with light machine oil to remove the filing and sanding dust and you’re done!

You should end up with a properly thinned and convexed ax that is quite sharp. NOTE:  you often hear folks speak of an ax being razor sharp.  I’ve done it as well.  And of course, some axes such as the Gransfors Bruks models do come razor sharp.  But shaving sharpness depends on the thinness of the bit and hardness of the steel.  The Plumb ax pictured at top is just not hard enough to develop such a degree of sharpness.  And while the Gransfors axes are indeed razor sharp, they accomplish that by being too thinly profiled to be a good all-around ax.  Also – axes do not have to be shaving sharp in order to do the work they are intended for.  They are chopping tools.  If you run your fingernail over the edge, it should bite into the nail and not slip off.  That’s sharp enough for ax work.

Once the re-profiling is done, only the edge of the ax will need to be touched up using the mouse pad/sandpaper method and the stone and strop.  In just a few minutes your ax will be ready to use again.

Ax Prep, Sharpening & Care – Part One

Vintage ax head in the process of being restored.  This ax was found in an abandoned house.  It was quite rusted and moderately pitted.  The ax had never been ground requiring significant re-profiling.  Due to the work involved, there was no way to preserve the patina.  The re-profiling was nowhere near finished when this photo was taken.

This is the first installment of a series of posts on my methods of prepping, weatherizing and caring for axes.  You may do things differently but I’ve found this system to work well for me.  I’ve organized the tasks involved in order of what to do as soon as you get your new (or old) ax home.  No matter how well made it is, no matter what has been done for you by the manufacturer, no ax is delivered in a weatherproofed state.  If you want an ax to depend on, for days, weeks, or months in wilderness, under all conditions, the head and handle should be properly prepped and treated to protect everything from water damage.  Water is the enemy of the steel head and the wooden handle.  You’ll have to prepare the ax for serious wilderness use.  In addition, most axes are not delivered as sharp as they should be.  If you own an ax, you should know how to sharpen it and how to keep in sharp – at home and in the field.  You should also know how to store your ax and protect it against rust and developing a loose handle.  Eventually however, a wood handle will work loose.  In that event, you should know how to rehang your ax.  So let’s begin with the tasks of ax prep.

To prepare an ax is a joy.  It’s not something that you do in a day.  It takes time and work, spread out over a couple of days or more.  Your reward is a tool that will serve you for decades without fail.  Folks today are often surprised and disappointed to find out that they have to invest time and sweat before using an ax but this is nothing new.  Until the introduction of the Gransfors Bruks and Wetterlings hand forged axes, no ax was ready to be used as purchased.  It wasn’t until the late 1920’s that one could even buy an ax in the store with a handle.  Until then, when you bought an ax, you selected a head out of a box and proceeded to have it properly ground and honed and then hung it, often with a handle made from a pattern handed down through generations.  The introduction of the “store-bought” ax occurred with the emergence of an urban population ignorant of ax use and care.

Where to start

The tasks involved in head prep will vary greatly depending on the condition of the ax.  It is new or vintage?  Utility or premium grade?  Well maintained or neglected for years? Let’s start with a moderately difficult scenario – a scarred, moderately pitted old ax with a lot of surface rust.   The head was never properly ground by the owner and while the poll is scarred, luckily, it is not mushroomed (I generally avoid old axes that have a mushroomed poll).

Your first step is to clean up the head.  Many old axes and most modern utility grade axes feature a painted head.  I don’t like a painted head at all.  The paint is going to get marred with use and will eventually wear off, leaving little to no rust protection.  Because of this, I always remove any paint as a first step in preparing an ax. It is assumed that this is to be an ax to use, so the old handle, regardless of outward appearance is cut off and removed prior to restoration.  An old handle should never be trusted on an old ax as they are often dry rotted inside the eye.

Handle removal

DO NOT follow the recommendation, often found in the old camping books, to bury the bit of an ax in the ground and build a small fire over the ax head to burn the remaining handle out.  There is simply too great a chance to heat the head enough to destroy the temper.  Instead, saw the handle off close to the head, put the head in a vice and drill several holes through the handle to relieve the wedge.  Next, turn the head upside down to knock the handle out as the eye is usually tapered at the bottom.  I like to rest the ends of the head on two wood blocks to suspend the eye off the work table.  If you cut a groove in one block a half inch deep, to accept the bit end of the head and a channel wide enough to accept the pole end of the head, and of the same depth, it will not move while you are doing the work.  The handle can now be driven out.  Experts typically use an ax drift for the job.  As I don’t have a drift, I use a length of steel rod about six inches long.  Pound the end of the rod with a hand sledge to drive the handle out of the eye and you are ready for the next step.

Head prep

In the case of a vintage ax that was properly ground and well maintained, having surface rust but no significant pitting, you’ll want to remove the offending crud, rust and paint, yet preserve the patina that has developed over decades.  To do this, use the Soda Ash and Battery Charger Method. 

NOTE – This procedure creates Hydrogen and should only be done in a well-ventilated area!  Make certain that it is not done near a flame or anything that could produce a spark!

You will need:

  • 12-volt battery charger with adjustable amperage.  Best would be a charger with a 5-10 amp setting.  
  • Soda Ash (Arm and Hammer Washing Soda is one brand)
  • A large plastic bucket or similar container (large enough to suspend the ax head into the center of the container without being near any of the sides and not resting on the bottom).
  • Six to eight 1/2 x 8 inch steel concrete anchor bolts
  • Steel wire
  • A large diameter stick, long enough to span the width of the plastic container
  • Duct tape




  1. Fill the container with warm to hot water up to just below the lip.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of the soda ash and mix well with a stick or large spoon.
  3. Arrange the anchor bolts around the edge of the plastic container, long ends down, hanging the “L” over the edge of the container, facing out.  IT IS IMPORTANT TO USE ENOUGH ANCHOR BOLTS TO COMPLETELY SURROUND THE AX HEAD.  This process is similar to the reverse of plating.  The crud being removed from the head is attracted to the anchor bolts, which work as a set of anodes.  Anodes work in line of site.  If you use one or two anodes, they will only remove the crud from the surface directly in front of them.  The more anodes the better the crud removal.
  4. Wrap wire tightly around the inside corner of the “L” bend of one of the bolts, twisting it tightly to make good contact. Run the wire to the next bolt and do the same.  Continue until all of the bolts are connected by the same length of wire, all evenly spaced around the edge of the plastic container.  After the last bolt has been wrapped with wire, leave a length of wire long enough to attach it to a lead on the battery charger.
  5. Use U-shaped loops of duct tape from the outside surface of the container, around the bolt, and back to the outside of the container, to hold each bolt in place.  Run a long length of wire through the eye of the head, looping around the axe.  Twist the wire around itself tightly to make a good contact.  Do this so that the wire ends up coming out the top of the head.
  6. Wrap the wire a couple of time around the center of the stick, adjusting as necessary so the head is suspended halfway down in the water when the stick is resting on the container.  Make sure that a very long length of the wire extends beyond the stick to attach to a lead on the battery charger.
  7. Connect the positive (+) lead clamp of a 12 volt battery charger to the wire that is attached to the connected anchor bolts.  These bolts work as a set of anodes, to attract the particles you want to remove from the ax head.
  8. Connect the negative (black,) lead of the 12 volt battery charger to the length of wire that is attached to the ax head and looped around the stick.
  9. Before turning on the battery charger, make certain that your connections are attached to the correct poles and that the ax head does not touch any of the anodes.
  10. Turn on the battery charger and set it on a 5-10 amp charge for 24 hours.
  11. Check the ax head after the 24 hour period.  To do so, TURN OF THE BATTERY CHARGER and lift the head by the wire looped around the stick.
  12. At this point, any paint on the head should be mostly removed.  If no paint is on the head, most of the dirt or grease should be gone.  What has been removed can now be seen on the anodes.  To remove stubborn paint, lightly scour with a scrub sponge or Brillo pad.
  13. Lower the ax head back into the water and turn on the battery charger again.  Repeat the process and check again in another 24 hours.
  14. Once most of the crud is cleaned, pour the water out and refill the container with fresh water and soda ash.  Scrub the bolts clean of the crud with a Brillo pad and replace in the container.  Reattach the wire to the ax head, making sure it covers a different spot on the head than before. Lower the ax head back into the container and repeat the process one last time to make sure everything is really clean.
  15. Remove the ax head from the container and immediately dry it with a towel, followed by an application of light machine oil to prevent the formation of rust.


You should end up with a perfectly clean, paint free and rust free ax head, with the patina of the old steel intact.

If the head is badly pitted, significantly marred, has not been properly ground or requires re-profiling, the work to be done will remove much if not all of the patina so don’t worry about trying to preserve it.  Don’t sharpen the ax at this point as you do not want to be working on a sharp ax if you can help it.  In the case of a painted head, start by sanding it off using 80-grit wet or dry abrasive sheet for fast removal.  I like to start with paper backed abrasive sheets because you can put more pressure behind the stroke.   What can’t be sanded off with the paper can be removed with a 60-grit foam sheet as foam conforms to the surface of the steel better than paper.  Continue to sand the head with progressively finer grits of foam sheet to remove the marks made by the previous sanding, up through 100-grit abrasive.  This sounds tedious but it goes fast.  Then rub the head down with a light coat of oil to remove all of the sanding dust and wipe everything dry.

The next post will cover re-profiling the head and convexing the bit.

Coleman 242c Pressure Lantern Made in 1948

I’ve always wanted a Coleman 242 series “Junior” lantern.  These were the small-sized, single-mantle lanterns produced by Coleman beginning in 1933 (Model 242) through 1970 or so (242E).  Of these, I am most attracted to the early models, 242 through the 242C lanterns with the nickel plated founts (fuel tanks).  After WWII, the 242C lanterns were also produced with painted tanks, which I do not care for at all.

I found this Model 242C lantern (manufactured March, 1948) at a garage sale last week and paid one dollar ($1.00) for it!!!  What a find!

Being that the lantern is now 65 years old, I did not immediately try to light it.  First, the insides needed a good cleaning as fuel that had been left in the tank had turned to varnish.  To begin the process, I ran a few ounces of Berryman’s B-12 Chemtool through the system under pressure, followed by the same amount of lacquer thinner, swished around the tank and left for an overnight soak.  Deep in the bowels of the tank, Coleman pressure lanterns (and stoves) are fitted with a “check valve”.  This valve employs a small ball bearing that works to create a vacuum inside the pump housing on the up-stroke of the pump.  This causes air to enter the pump housing to fill the vacuum.  On the down-stroke, this air forces the ball bearing forward, allowing the air to enter and pressurize the tank.  If the check valve fails while the tank is pressurized and the mantle is burning, air is released back up the pump housing instead of fuel – a great safety feature.  Often, old fuel that has turned to varnish “gums up” the little ball bearing making the check valve inoperable.  In my experience, a long soak in lacquer thinner has always worked to free a gummed up check valve.  After the thinner was drained, the tank was filled with the same amount of new, clean white gas.  This was swished around, drained, emptied and the tank refilled and the process repeated until water-clear fuel was observed coming from the tank.

Next, for safety’s sake, I installed a new valve packing and fuel cap gasket.   The packing prevents fuel from leaking at the on/of valve and of course, the gasket seals the fuel cap.  If these seals fail, you could have a serious fire on or in your hands!  Remember the “O” ring failure on the Challenger Space Shuttle?  After installing the seal and valve packing, the stove was filled with fresh Coleman fuel (white gas) to which one ounce of the Berryman’s B-12 had been added.  Then I fired the thing up.   The photos are from this first ignition.  The $1.00 lantern works like a charm!

Close-up of fount. The inscription reads “The Sunshine of the Night – Coleman“.

The little beauty did not require much external cleaning up.  The nickel plating still looks decent and the porcelain vent (the dark green part) is not too nicked up.  All in all, a great, functional lantern for a very, very low price.   Now, I just need to build a small cabin to light with it!