Author Topic: Carbide lamps  (Read 1592 times)

Offline tracyclimber

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Carbide lamps
« on: April 29, 2018, 11:09:26 pm »
Hello. I do a lot of spelunking and often use carbide.  I think I have a problem with knowing how much water to flow - the flame often goes out and the water is run out.  Is there a guide as to how much to use, or some way of knowing  how to get the best results?  Should I leave the screw open a little, should it be almost shut to start etc.?
Thank, Tracy

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2018, 06:51:03 am »
Carbide largely ceased being used by cavers pretty much with the end of the last century (the technology was cutting edge back in the 50s), LED technology put an end to it having a competitive edge in most situations. It is generally frowned upon now on conservation grounds :-)

Offline Fulk

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2018, 08:45:16 am »
Hi Tracy, I think you’ve put your finger on two of the basic problems with carbide lamps – they’re a damn nuisance and they keep going out. To the best of my knowledge, there is no guide to their correct use. In British caves, running out of water is rarely a problem, but from your use of the word ‘spelunking’ I’d guess you’re caving Stateside. Well, if you really like caving on carbide, then fine, it’s your prerogative . . . you’ll just have to learn as you go along how to regulate the damn thing, but if I were you I’d buy a modern LED headlamp – I imagine you could pick a good one up for $50–60. Good luck, Fulk.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2018, 09:31:49 am »
There are a number of different designs of carbide lights but there are two basic categories of designs. One type uses gravity to feed the water and the other type uses gas pressure to feed the water. Many users have found the pressurised design to be less easy to control and have converted them to gravity feed.

When the design is right you simply need to open the water valve and the light works perfectly without any adjustment. I have had a carbide light run for 12 hours without touching it apart from adding water. You should not have to adjust the water valve, you just open it and leave it. The water supply should self-regulate. When the carbide needs wetting, the gas pressure drops and allows a drip of water through. The gas pressure then increases to the point at which it holds the water back and it holds it back until the pressure drops again.

If you get the light to run like that then it will run for a long time at its most efficient and will use the minimum of carbide. If you're not moving about much the light works better if you give a few knocks every now and then to shake up the carbide. When you first start it up it will take a few minutes to settle down, fill with gas and get to the right pressure. Keep the water topped up.

Common causes of problems are leaks, too little water in the reservoir and too large a jet. Carbide lights are often sold with a jet that is too big. Petzl lights always used to be supplied with a 21 litre jet but run much better with a 14 litre jet.

There are many more carbide lights used by vintage vehicles than by cavers these days and that is where to go for spare parts especially jets.


Offline crickleymal

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2018, 09:42:57 am »
I used to use a Premier caplamp back in the day. It wasn't self regulating by any means. From what I recall I used to adjust it to no more than 1 drop per second and on that rate it would run for 2 - 4 hours. The flame at the fromt would be about 1.5 cm long.

Of course nowadays we have to consider the environmental impact. Carbide's ok if you have a container to dump the used stuff in but even then it's banned in some (all?) SSSIs. Personally I really don't see why anyone would bother with the messy stuff nowadays.
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Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2018, 11:41:34 am »
Tracy asked a question about how to run a carbide light and since they "do a lot of spelunking" I don't expect they need telling about conservation or about LED lights.

Carbide lights are great.

Actually they were cutting edge well over a hundred years ago. The one in the photo below is capable of lighting the road well enough for zooming along country lanes in top gear at night. In the 1920s they gave a better light than the electric lights that were in use for vehicles.


Offline crickleymal

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2018, 12:39:35 pm »
Tracy asked a question about how to run a carbide light and since they "do a lot of spelunking" I don't expect they need telling about conservation or about LED lights.

And I tried to answer her question.
Malc
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Vintage and classic or just plain Jurassic:
all words to describe me.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2018, 12:55:58 pm »
Tracy asked a question about how to run a carbide light and since they "do a lot of spelunking" I don't expect they need telling about conservation or about LED lights.

And I tried to answer her question.

You did indeed and you gave some information about caplamps.

Caplamps are small and so only run for a short time. They are more like a toy and OK for short term use. Even bicycle lights are about twice as big. A larger light will run much better with less attention. There used to be very large carbide lighting systems with a central generator and pipes running round a building.

Online Wayland Smith

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2018, 03:03:38 pm »
In the 1920s they gave a better light than the electric lights that were in use for vehicles.

A glow-worm in a jam jar gave better light than Joe Lucas (prince of darkness) 6V lighting!  ;D ;D

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2018, 04:55:12 pm »
In the 1920s they gave a better light than the electric lights that were in use for vehicles.

A glow-worm in a jam jar gave better light than Joe Lucas (prince of darkness) 6V lighting!  ;D ;D

The excellent carbide light in the photo is a Lucas King of the Road which was what their reputation was based on. The term Prince of Darkness goes back a long way and was probably coined by people who were incompetent at using carbide lights. From making carbide lights they went on to making electrical lighting systems and Joseph Lucas grew to be one of the biggest suppliers of auto electrical equipment in the World which speaks for itself.

Offline droid

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2018, 09:20:28 pm »
McDonalds are one of the biggest burger suppliers in the World, which speaks for itself.... ::)
No longer 'Exceptionally antagonistic' 'Deliberately inflammatory'

Offline tamarmole

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2018, 09:47:06 pm »
Open the drip valve partway to moisten the carbide.  Leave it for a couple of minutes , cup a hand over jet and spark it up.  Adjust valve to give you the flame size you want.  It might take a few minutes for the lamp to settle down.  It's not instant, you need patience.

You also need to make sure that you clean and check the lamp before each use.  Make sure that the jet is clear using a pricker.  Always check the O ring to make sure it is in good order (not perished or split).  Don't leave spent carbide in the generator between uses. 

If you run the lamp too high you can soot up the jet so make sure that you have a pricker.

Make sure that you are using the right size lumps of carbide, small for a cap lamp, medium sized for a separate generator. 

You can usually extend burn time if you bang the generator against a rock (carbide tends to gunge up in the generator).

Don't put spent carbide in a sealed container such as an ammo box.

Dispose of spent carbide responsibly.

Offline tracyclimber

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2019, 08:14:25 pm »
Thanks to all those who replied.  I've only just logged back on, so a bit late in replying...
I used the word spelunking as I like the sound of it...I'm  a Cornish maid and only sometimes use carbide and then only in old mines.  I do have a variety of modern LED lamps.
I was just trying to understand how to make best use of my carbide.  As  I explore old mines, it is sometimes nice to view them as an old miner might have with carbide or candles, which I also use.

Offline Ian Ball

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2019, 08:52:42 pm »
Candles!  Retro

Offline ZombieCake

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2019, 09:53:02 pm »
I've used candles caving to look for witch marks, sheds a nice light and helps see shadow marks where modern lights can just blast everything out. 
Carbide gives wonderful light at a very low colour temperature.  Don't overfill the carbide chamber as it expands a bit and if over full and over wet will squirt up the outlet pipe and clog things up, and/ or force water and gas out the vent, which is interesting. I used to fill about 1/3 to half full if my brain is working OK (people with beards can advise further). Keep the water drip low-ish to start with and adjust accordingly.  You want a steady firm flame without too much soot and fluttering.  Once set and adjusted after a few minutes it should settle down nicely.
Also turn off the water and let it burn out completely and cool down before packing away as you are burning acetylene, and it won't play well in a confined grot bag.  There is usually plenty of faffing around time while this happens.  Clean stuff out afterwards as the residue is pretty corrosive.  Oh and never leave carbide in a cave.

Offline Fulk

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2019, 10:54:24 pm »
Quote
I was just trying to understand how to make best use of my carbide.  As  I explore old mines, it is sometimes nice to view them as an old miner might have with carbide or candles, which I also use.

Well, I 'get' where you're coming from (I think) . . . . nevertheless, this is a bit like me saying "I've got to go into town tomorrow, guess I'll harness up the old dobbin and hitch it up to the cart".

Offline dbrock

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2019, 08:37:34 am »
It would help to know which model of lamp you are using.  For instance, a Fisma generator works much better if you fill the top third of the carbide chamber with an open weave plastic circular pan scourer .  Dispose of spent carbide responsibly.

Offline Graigwen

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Re: Carbide lamps
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2019, 10:18:15 am »
Open the drip valve partway to moisten the carbide.  Leave it for a couple of minutes , cup a hand over jet and spark it up. 

When the acetylene trapped inside your cupped hand explodes it is harmless but impressive as flame shoots out in the gaps between your fingers.

However, make sure you remove your hand immediately or you will get a nasty burn from the flame you have just lit!

.