Thursday 11 February 2010

Flame and fumes

Vapalux Bialladin

Quite a while back for some unknown reason I purchased a couple of paraffin pressure lanterns; well the seller wanted to get rid of them and I made a ridiculous offer which, to my surprise was accepted. One turned out to be a fairly modern vapalux and the other was an ancient bialladin in very poor condition. Both where put away in the back of the cupboard as something to be worked on at a later date. Recently I dug them out and began some work on them. The old bialladin has had new washers fitted and a replacement hood but I am a tad hesitant in actually lighting it. The vapalux looks almost new and after checking the washers, testing for pressure in the tank, I fitted a new mantle. To be honest, I rather think the person who sold it had little idea of how these beasts actually work. Finding nothing outwardly wrong with it apart from a broken mantle, which I replaced there was only one option, actually firing it up. A quick trip to the local diy shop, unfortunately I could only buy paraffin in 4litre containers, some meths and I was ready. Lighting these pressure lanterns does involve a certain procedure; firstly, the new mantle has to be set fire to; a nice bit of smoke and scorched sort of smell wafted around the flat, next came the priming, air release valve open, meths poured in to priming cup and lit, leave well alone until almost all flame has gone, screw shut air valve and a few tentative pumps, splutter, splutter, more flame, a bit of smoke, some fumes and the lamp purred into life. After that it was case of bringing it up to full pressure and seeing what would happen, the lamp ran excellently, chucking out loads of light and heat and that slightly pungent odour that the lanterns give off. Whew! when I get up courage the ancient lamp will be worked on too, doing these sort of things on the draining board is possibly not the best way however, I have little option.


  1. Lol, pictures as requested

  2. These things used to be the method of lighting in Black Sail Hut - very cosy and, yes, a certain parfum de parafin....
    Mind, there were fourteen of us in a cardboard box in them days....
    We may well have to return to this method if the power companies carry on incrementally like wot they've been doing.

  3. You were lucky...only fourteen....AND in a cardboard box. Hrmph.

    That's the trouble today. Folk have no idea how 'ard it was when we was young.

    Thanks for the nice piccies Dawn!


  4. When I was about 14 we relied on those lanterns to light the static caravan we were living in, while my parents renovated the old farmhouse they'd bought to the point of being habitable. At one stage I knew how to do all that mantle fitting myself. Would be afraid of cocking it all up now.

  5. Ooh - there's a coincidence.

    I have just liberated my father's old Tilley lamp from his garden shed - it needs a new mantle and a good check over - brings back happy memories from the family's camping holidays at Watchet!

  6. Fourteen in a CARDBOARD BOX? Luxury! Now listen. In my day we wore thin black plimsolls in the hills, feasted on a bag of crisps for dinner, lunch, and breakfast, kept warm with a few sheets of newspaper under the cardigan grandma had knitted for us, and we slept under a sheet of paper IF WE WERE LUCKY before returning home in the dark to start the 5 am milk round.