Ever stayed the night in one of those high country weekenders with no electricity, no gas and no running water? If not, I recommend you take time out and do it. Not only does staying off the grid help you appreciate everyday luxuries, you can keep the cabin lit by kerosene lamps. The old gems belt out a strong white light and make a hissing sound that'll stay with you - bringing back sweet memories of a simpler time in the cabin with the open fire roaring.
Over the years I've used various kerosene lamps, mostly cheap camp lanterns, but I'd break the glass too often. This all changed when I came across a strange kerosene pressure lamp (a Tilley) at a yard sale in small northeast Victoria town called Tallangatta. It was from a deceased estate sale and a score at 10 bucks.
Unlike a flat wick kero lamp, pressure lamps work on a more complex system. Before you go out and buy one there are a few things to know.
First you need to ensure there are no leaks. A lamp that has been idle in a garage for decades may have seized rubber seals and gaskets. Pressure lamps work on a system of pumping air into liquid to form a gas, and when pumped at high pressure you will see fuel leaks immediately. These should be fixed by a professional at a local hardware store, lamp shop or antique lighting specialist. Even though kerosene isn't as volatile as mentholated spirits it's still a flammable liquid.
The second thing: don't fill the fuel tank/reservoir up completely. Keep it half full, which will assist the process of converting liquid to gas. If it's a secondhand lamp it's always a good idea to pop a little bit of kerosene into the dry tank, swirl it around and discard the liquid to get rid any gunk or sediment that's accumulated over the years.
Before you strike a match, check the mantle. If there are any tears replace it straight away. When installing a new mantle it's important to source the right size and type. The internet is a great resource for this. There are plenty of us weird lamp people online to help you, and all sorts of tutorials.
Once you've filled the tank halfway, checked for leaks, checked the mantle and cleared the tank of gunk it's time to fill the heater reservoir with metho to burn and preheat the gas generator. The generator needs to be preheated to convert the liquid into gas. Light the metho and let it burn out, then seal the pump and prime with a few pumps, the mantle should begin to glow. Then you'll hear that hissing sound. Gold.
Allow a minute of burn time then pump it 40 - 60 times, depending on your model. Pump each hour as required.
Now your weekender cabin is lit and your personal retreat has that warm white glow that's been keeping people out of the dark for a few hundred years now.
Enjoy the beauty of these lamps, but remember safety first. Just like a sharp pocketknife these things can hurt you if you don't respect them. They generate a lot of heat (don't touch the top of the lamps when lit). For more details visit a local lamp shop, or head online to experts such as Oil Lamps Australia.
Rohan Anderson is the man behind Whole Larder Love, an online portal to an offline sowing, growing, reaping, hunting and cooking world.