TeriAnn's Guide to Aladdin Mantle Lamps

Contents  >  How to burn an Aladdin Lamp

 
 
 

 

Burning your Aladdin lamp

 

The art of burning a mantle lamp is one of those common skills that most everyone learned as a kid growing up in unelectrified rural America. Unfortunately for those who grew up in electrified America the skill is not completely obvious and ignorance of proper techniques can quickly lead to frustration.  A lot of newer Aladdin lamps get put up for sale by frustrated owners who tried to burn the lamp at full brightness right away and ran into problems.

Burning a mantle lamp is easier to understand when you know how the lamp gives off light.  Unlike conventional wick lamps the purpose of the flame is not to give off light.  It is to heat the mantle to around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit which causes the mantle to glow. The burner is designed to mix air and fuel to the correct ratio that creates a hot blue flame.  The wick is designed to flow fuel evenly and to burn with an even blue flame.  The long Aladdin chimney helps draw the hot exhaust air out so that the right amount of fresh air comes into the burner to maintain the hot blue flame.

For the sake of this description I'm assuming that you have a clean complete lamp in good condition and that you have a fresh or known good wick installed.

Here is the instruction booklet for the model 23A burner.  It is probably the best and easiest to understand of the bunch. It can cover all of the Aladdin lamps, but most particularly all the side draft lamps from model 12 and newer.

Instruction booklets for Aladdin Lamps:

Other Aladdin instructions:

 

Kerosene:

You should only burn high quality clear K-1 kerosene.  The less expensive K-2 kerosene has a higher sulphur content that creates a hard deposit on the burning surface of the wick and shortens the wick life.  Low sulphur K-1 burns without creating an odour.  Scented and coloured kerosene clogs a wick so that it no longer flows evenly.  A partially clogged wick creates an uneven flame that prevents the mantle from burning properly. A clogged wick that will not burn correctly often looks just the same as a good condition used wick.  The air burner's airflow to the wick is calbrated for high quality K-1 kerosene.  Using another product will create an unbalanced air to fuel ratio.  Same goes with using a clogged or partially clogged wick.

Purchase kerosene either in sealed containers or from a source that is pumped directly out a drum normally kept inside and sealed.  Moisture can collect in kerosene stored in vented containers.  Once in your lamp, water collects at the bottom of the lamp and in the wick where it creates an uneven flame.    If purchasing K-1 kerosene from an open barrel, sniff the opening.  Avoid kerosene with  moderate to strong odours.  A strong odour indicates the kerosene has become contaminated or partially evaporated.

Aladdin kerosene lamps were designed to be burned daily and provide long trouble free service with regular maintenance.  These days, most people only burn lamps occasionally or only during the winter season.  Kerosene left in a standing lamp will go bad and clog the wick.  The more volatile components of kerosene will evaporate leaving a smelly sludge behind that gets embedded in the wick.  If you plan to go a while without burning the lamp, remove the burner, pour out the kerosene and let the wick dry in the open air before reassembling the lamp.  Then add new kerosene at least 2 hours before trying to light the lamp.

 

Wick:

 

An Aladdin wick is designed to be burned every evening for over a year before requiring replacement.  If it is allowed to sit in evaporating kerosene over time or if the wrong grade of kerosene is used the wick life will be reduced considerably. Use the correct kerosene and replace the wick when it starts to burn unevenly after maintenance.

Always strive to keep the burning tip of the wick looking like new.  It should be a smooth tapered tip with no loose threads, jagged edges or carbon particles.  The wick should be cleaned with a wick cleaner every time the lamp is filled.  I prefer the current plastic wick cleaners to the older versions.  It is easy to use and does a better job than many of the earlier cleaners.  The purpose of the cleaning is to knock off any deposits made by burning the lamp before they build up and 'cement' themselves to the tip of the wick. 

Kerosene should be added to a lamp that has a dry wick at least 2 hours before lighting the wick.  Do not let a lamp burn dry.  This is very hard on the wick and will shorten its service life.

Aladdin model 11 wick instructions cover
Click to download instruction in pdf form. Also works for late model 9, & model 10 lamps

 

 

Cleaning the wick:

Remove the flame spreader (generator) and raise the wick to about 1/4 inch above the outer wick tube. Place the cleaner over the wick with the barrel inside the wick. Gently turn the cleaner a couple times in the clockwise direction only. Use very little downward pressure.  You do not want to cut into the wick nor do anything that will rough up the top burning surface.  A rough wick tip creates flame spikes that cause yellow sooty flames on the mantle surface.  After cleaning the wick, lower it to about 1/8th of an inch above the outer wick tube then replace the flame spreader making sure that it is properly seated. Aladdin wick cleaning

 

 

Mantle:

A new mantle is coated with a flammable substance that provides strength to the mantle while it is being transported. Both Lox-On and Kone Kap mantles secure  to the gallery by two locking tabs.  When installing a mantle carefully follow the directions on the box and make sure that both tabs are engaged.  The mantle will not burn correctly if only one of the tabs is attached and it takes several hours for the metal to cool down enough to properly reattach the mantle.

Here is a tip provided by Jim Race:
"Just because a mantle is brand new out of the box, doesn't mean it's ready to work. With the mantle installed on the lamp, but before it is flashed off, you should check for center alignment, by looking straight down through the hole in the top of the mantle, to see if it centers on the center hole of the flame spreader. If adjustment is needed, you can carefully bend the two legs of the support. This is an "eyeball" measurement, which can be made more accurate, with the chimney in place (when sighting down through). This simple adjustment will give you a more uniform incandescence of the mantle and maybe extend it's life. " This can also explain why some mantles burn brighter on one side than on the other and break into a yellow sooty flame on the bright side when you attempt to get the dim side to burn bright.

Once the mantle is installed in the gallery, the coating should be burned off with a match or propane lighter.  Take care not to actually touch the mantle with the match. Never touch a mantle anyplace except the frame. Even if the protective coating has not been burned off.  Doing so will leave an oil spot that will cause additional heat and early mantle failure.

Once the protective covering is burned off, the mantle becomes very fragile and can be destroyed by tilting or jarring the lamp.  Handle a lamp with a mantle gently and don't tilt it. The gallery, mantle and chimney get handled as a single unit to protect the fragile mantle.

New mantles should be stored in a dry location. Storage in a damp humid area will make the mantle more fragile and usually leads to shortened mantle life.

 

The Chimney:

When installing a new chimney on a gallery make sure it stands square and that Lox-On bottom threads are not distorted.  Lox-On galleries manufactured in China during most of the 1990's are poor quality.  Many sit at an angle or have poorly made threads.  The newer chimneys are of much higher quality as are the older ones.  The poor quality Chinese chimneys I have personally come across came in brown boxes with black print.

Aladdin Lox-On chimney box
All the chimneys I have come across that had poorly formed bases have all come in this style box. I'm not saying they are all bad I'm just suggesting that you look closely and test fit it on a gallery before purchase.

Brass and glass expand at a different rate and a tight chimney can crack under use.  Sometimes the Lox-On gallery mounting tabs need to be bent slightly to achieve a fit with a chimney.  A little loose is good, a tight fit is asking for a crack. This is not an issue with heelless chimney galleries as the fingers move with the glass expansion.

Sometimes the fingers on heelless chimney galleries (models 1-11, some #23 & 23A) get spread out too far to get a good clamp on the chimney.  A way to safely bring them closer together is to wrap your thumb and longest finger around as many gallery fingers as you can and gently squeeze to bring the gallery fingers towards the centre.  Repeat until you have gone all the way around the gallery & test fit the chimney.  You want a firm fit.  Repeat the squeeze as needed.  Using tools to bend individual gallery finger inwards can cause a finger to break off or crack.  Gently does it.

 

Lighting the lamp:

Remove the shade if fitted. Remove the gallery, chimney and mantle as one assembly. Adjust the wick until it sticks out of the outer wick tube by about 1/8th inch.  Light the wick without physically touching the match to the wick.  Wait until the flame has spread completely around the wick and is burning evenly.  Gently replace the gallery, making sure that it is down and locked into place.  If it is not, the air flow will be wrong and you will not achieve a proper even blue flame.  The gallery gets too hot to touch fairly quickly.  Remember easy does it to keep from jarring the mantle.

Once the gallery is fitted over the burning wick, adjust the wick until about half the mantle is glowing and sit back for a while.  The lamp needs to reach its operating temperature before turning it up.

As the burner heats up the airflow increases. As the kerosene heats up it gets wicked up faster.  All this means that the mantle will get brighter by itself as the lamp and kerosene heats up.  Turn the wick up high before the lamp temperature equalizes and the flame will continue to get higher on its own until a yellow sooty flame bursts out on the outer edge of the mantle.  You should let side draft lamps sit for at least 15 minutes, then adjust it until the mantle is about 3/4 glowing.  For a centre draft lamp weight about half an hour.  With the flame turned up the lamp will get hotter and the kerosene warmer.  Over time the mantle will creep up to full bright.  Most people get into trouble by turning the mantle up to full bright too early then not watching it closely.

 

Extinguishing the lamp

Turn the wick down low then blow across the top of the chimney.  Do not blow down into the lamp.

 

Other things you need to know

  • The Aladdin lamp requires a lot of air to burn properly.  This means it can use up oxygen in a closed up room.  Any lamp or burning appliance that draws air from inside a room should never be used in a closed room.  Make sure that there is a source of fresh air into the room.  If you are burning a lamp in a closed room and see the light starting to dim, open a door or crack open a window to get some fresh air coming into the room.
     
  • A centre draft lamp should be sitting on a relatively smooth surface. It draws air up through the holes around the base and a shaggy surface can partially obstruct the air flow and prevent the lamp from burning properly.
     
  • Mantle lamps are susceptible to breezes.  They interrupt the metered air flow to the mantle and cause uneven burning.  Mantle lamps should be burned in a breeze free location.
     
  • Mantle lamps create a lot of heat which streams up through the top of the chimney.  You should have at least 3 feet from the chimney top and the ceiling.  Hanging lamps should always be used with a smoke bell to break up the flow of heat.
     
  • The warmer the air being drawn into the lamp the higher the wick flame burns. The heat given off by a burning mantle lamp can increase the temperature of a room.  It is equivalent to having   2000+ BTU heater running in the room. If the flame burns too high a yellow sooty flame will start on the surface of the mantle.
     
  • When filling a lamp, both the lamp and kerosene should be at or close to the surrounding air temperature. This is to prevent water vapour condensing inside the lamp bowl during the fill and adding water to the kerosene.  Also cold kerosene added to a room temperature Model A or B glass lamp can cause it to crack.
     
  • Besides blocking drafts the chimney also pulls hot exhaust air out the top, which in turn draws fresh air into the burner.   The length of the standard chimney is correct for between sea level and about 3000 feet elevation.  Lamps burning at an elevation higher than 3000 feet should use either the longer high altitude chimney or the brass chimney extender that fits to the top of the standard chimney.
     
  • This should go without saying, never ever use gas or other fuels in a kerosene lamp and never try to add fuel to a lamp while it is burning.

 

How to recover from having a yellow sooty flame deposit carbon all over a mantle

Runaway lamps happen to all of us once and a while. When the wick flame gets too close to the mantle a yellow sooty flame erupts on the mantle's outer surface.  This flame deposits soot on the mantle surface, blackens the inside of the chimney and spreads soot within the room.

All you need to do is turn down the wick until the mantle glow is reduced to between one third and one half. The flame will slowly burn the soot deposit off the mantle without damage.  Never burn the lamp with the flame too low cause the mantle to glow.  The flow of air is reduced and the metal burner can overheat. 

After the lamp is extinguished and is cool, remove the chimney, being careful not to touch the mantle then wipe out the inside of the chimney. Remove the gallery and clean the wick with the wick cleaner.  Visually examine the flame spreader to make sure it is clean and there is no build up around the holes.  Reassemble and the lamp should be as good as before the flame up.

 

Also, from Aladdin:  Helpful hints for using your Aladdin lamp (1944, .pdf file)

 

 

 

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