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Information - FAQ acetylene (Carbide) gas lamps.

Discussion in 'Carbide Lamps' started by dweeb, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. dweeb

    dweeb Super Moderator
    Staff Member Moderator

    Oct 20, 2005
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    Our parisian friends have taught us that acetylene lamps are a great way to light your way underground. They offer a soft, warm glow which cannot be achieved with LED or bulb lighting. Many carbide lamps are a thing of beauty in themselves, and so are a pleasure to have and use.

    The aim of this thread is to offer information on running and maintaining a carbide lamp to the novice. I hope more people in the future will start using these great lamps.

    The basic theory of how a carbide lamp works is very simple. 'Carbide' or calcium carbide is a rock, which can be obtained from caving shops etc. When the rock is dissolved in water, it creates acetylene gas. The lamp is gas tight, so the gas builds up pressure and forces it through a "jet", which is a ceramic plug with a set hole. The hole releases a set quantity of gas, measured in LPM (Litres per Min).

    The water dropped on the carbide is decided by the water regulator, which is a small sprung loaded needle valve. The more water dropped onto the carbide, the larger amount of acetylene is created, and the larger and brighter the flame.

    A mind numbingly simple drawing of the components of an 'ARRAS' carbide lamp.


    A carbide lamp must be gas and water tight. If the reservoir is leaking, you will not be able to get a set flow of water, and hence will not be able to control the size of the flame. The same applies to the carbide holder. If the seal is broken, or there is a pin hole in the base of the lamp, the gas will escape and will not make the pressure needed to force the gas out of the jet.

    The rubber seals are often perished on old lamps. These can be replaced easily with a rubber 'O' ring, or a seal from a 'kilner' preserve jar.

    Another problem we were faced with was replacing the ceramic jets. Petzel make new jets, but these do not fit into the old brass 'beaks'. A new beak must be made, to fit the thread of the old lamp. If anyone ever comes into contact with this problem, I can supply petzel converter to fit old lamps.

    A circle of gauze or an old scouring pad placed over the supply of carbide can help en even distribution of water over the carbide, and help for a nice even flame.

    I hope this information can be of use. If anyone has more info, or questions feel free to use this thread!

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Carbide lamps are not suitable for coal mines, and other mines where explosive gas may be present. If in doubt, do not use it! Obviously a carbide lamp will be classed as contraband in such a mine.

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    #1 dweeb, Apr 13, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2010

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