Most of my readers already know that firecraft is my passion. Generally speaking, this means learning the properties of fire and it’s creation for the purpose of keeping me warm, cooking my food, and signaling for help. Firecraft in my thinking can also include the study of ignition sources such as lighters. Many lighters can fall into a novelty category where a lighter is constructed within a figurine or scaled to exaggerate it’s size. The lighters that interest me are ones that are unique in their means of ignition. the following are three of my favorites that are in my collection.
The solar cigarette lighter uses a parabolic mirror to direct the sun’s rays to a point of focus where the tip of a cigarette is held in place by a retractable arm or bracket. These lighters are produced in metal or silverized plastic. The cigarette holding arm can be a hinged bracket or a spring mounted wire (as shown in the photo). In lieu of using the lighter as it’s manufactures intended, alternate tinders to start a fire can be lit by moving the bracket to the side while holding the tinder by hand at the point of focus.
The flint-less lighter uses a hair-thin platinum wire or grid of wires to ignite it’s fuel. Platinum wire when exposed to methyl alcohol fumes and other flammable gases creates an exothermic reaction that causes it to glow red-hot thus causing ignition. These lighters can come as a wand for stove burners or lipstick style canisters as shown in the photo. It’s quite a phenomenon to behold. If you acquire either style, you may need to pass the filament through a flame or touch it to a lit cigarette to burn off any residue in order for it to be activated more easily.
The “Shepard’s lighter” or “trench lighter” is a flame-less lighter that uses a charred cotton cord to catch sparks from a flintwheel striker. Where a modern lighter uses lighter fluid with a wick or a nozzle for butane gas, a cotton cord that is charred at the end is similarly positioned to catch the sparks produced when the flintwheel is struck. The result is an ember that is enhanced by blowing on it and then touched to a cigarette. It was used during WWII to light cigarettes without a flame, thus reducing visibility to the enemy when lit.
There are more lighters on my “to-get” list. During WWII Japanese soldiers had a brass fire piston that they used as a lighter. Dunhill made a flint-lock lighter with an actual fire pan for gun powder. There are also battery powered lighters, the most recent model having the appearance of a thumb-drive that is charged via USB port. In the interest if obtaining more specimens for my collection I would enjoy receiving any comments regarding your favorite lighters and how they work.