How to Make a Gas Lantern

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Gas lanterns have been around for roughly a century, and over the years, this lightweight, portable device has been friend to many an outdoorsman -- campers, hunters, cabin dwellers and more. Gas lanterns output bright, efficient light, and are usually wind- and rain-proof. Present-day versions emit far more light than earlier ones, as they work on the principle of 'incandescence,' i.e., light generated by heat. Here's how to make a (propane) gas lantern.

Things You'll Need

  • Ventilator hood with ball nut
  • Fount
  • Transparent glass (or metal mesh type) globe
  • Bail
  • Mantles
  • Collar assembly with control knob
  • Fuel bottle (propane filled)
  • Lantern base

Getting It All Together

  • Procuring raw materialsSelect high-grade malleable steel to make all metal components. This is to avoid parts (e.g., the ventilator hood and fount) cracking under the pressure of a deep press. Use brass alloys of varied heat-resistant grades to fabricate parts for the fuel delivery system. For smaller parts (e.g., bail, collar, pressure and ignition system), choose other steel alloys. For the stand-alone lantern base and control knobs, you may procure rubber or molded plastic.For the globes, choose either a metal mesh or heat-resistant, Borosilicate glass (preferably of the popular ‘Pyrex’ brand).Select mantles of silk or rayon mesh which are chemically treated.

  • Designing the lanternWhile the earlier traditional, lanterns are still popular with some users, utility, convenience and shape are the main objectives of today's design engineers. You must consider lantern weight as it relates to portability; this is important to climbers and campers. For other standard applications, engineers use higher steel grades. Mantles have also undergone changes in shape, size and material.

  • Fabricating steel partsStart by melting iron ore with coke in a furnace to obtain molten steel. Once the steel cools, pass it between high pressure rollers to form sheets. These sheets can now be moved to the parts fabrication unit.Utilize the appropriate metal presses to shape the different parts of the lantern from the steel sheets. You may require multi-step, manual operation to move the steel from press to press, as the shaping process is not entirely mechanized.

  • Color enameling the partsYou may use the popular yet expensive ‘e-dip’ process to give your lantern the colors you’ve chosen. Clean all steel parts thoroughly and then place them on a conveyor belt. Subject each part to an electrical charge, as this will determine thickness of paint after the dipping process, and result in an even coating.Bake-dry each part after applying primer, paint and the topcoat dips. An inexpensive alternative is to enamel the steel parts using an automatic paint sprayer – a process wherein static electricity draws paint to the part while minimizing airborne toxins and overspray.

  • Extruding plastic partsYou may provide the specifications for the smaller plastic parts (viz., buttons and knobs) for extruding by outside suppliers. Such suppliers are equipped with modern injection-molding machines.

  • Molding the globesPour molten Borosilicate glass into a six-mould, multi-cavity horizontal wheel. Then blow compressed air into the moulds and start spinning the wheel. Keep the glass to cool after the edges are fired automatically. You will now have your globe shapes.

  • Producing the mantlesStitch a ‘sock’ (mantle) of either silk or synthetic fibers, using sewing machinery. Then hang the semi-finished mantles for automated chemical dip.

  • Assembling the lanternFirst gather all the small parts and fit them, where relevant, into the larger systems. Now screw the pre-assembled parts (viz., fuel and pressure systems) to the fount. Mount the collar, then attach the globe, ventilator and bail (using screws and nuts) to complete the assembly, and you’ll have your finished gas lantern.

Tips & Warnings

  • • Carry out visual and mechanical inspections at every stage to ensure durability – a consistent demand of most buyers.
  • • Add useful features (e.g., metal cages) for globes, or non-slip rubber for lantern base.
  • • Use ‘Yttrium’ for mantles instead of ‘Thorium,’ as the latter is slightly radioactive in nature.
  • • Wear gloves and a mask for your protection

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