With our mass-produced butane lighters and matches made in the billions, fire is never more than a flick of the finger away these days. But starting a fire 200 years ago? That’s a different story.
One method we’d never heard of was Döbereiner’s lamp, an 1823 invention by German chemist Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner. At first glance, the device seems a little sketchy, what with a tank of sulfuric acid and a piece of zinc to create a stream of hydrogen gas ignited by a platinum catalyst. But as [Marb’s Lab] shows with the recreation in the video below, while it’s not exactly as pocket-friendly as a Zippo, the device actually has some inherent safety features.
[Marb]’s version is built mainly from laboratory glassware, with a beaker of dilute sulfuric acid — “Add acid to water, like you ought-er!” — bathing a chunk of zinc on a fixed support. An inverted glass funnel acts as a gas collector, which feeds the hydrogen gas to a nozzle through a pinch valve. The hydrogen gas never mixes with oxygen — that would be bad — and the production of gas stops once the gas displaces the sulfuric acid below the level of the zinc pellet. It’s a clever self-limiting feature that probably contributed to the commercial success of the invention back in the day.
To produce a flame, Döbereiner originally used a platinum sponge, which catalyzed the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air; the heat produced by the reaction was enough to ignite the mixture and produce an open flame. [Marb] couldn’t come up with enough of the precious metal, so instead harvested the catalyst from a lighter fluid-fueled hand warmer. The catalyst wasn’t quite enough to generate an open flame, but it glowed pretty brightly, and would be more than enough to start a fire.
[Ank Creative] seems to have wasted no parts of the lighters, and even saved themselves a bit of trouble by using curved scraps to make the wheel wells. After installing the windshield, we certainly didn’t expect them to saw the thing in half, but how else are they going to put in the little seats and the steering column when the gull-wing doors aren’t real?
This build is all about unbelievable craftsmanship and deft but daring use of hand tools. Although this totally qualifies as an open source how-to video, you’d have to be quite the sorcerer to pull this one off. Zoom past the break (if you haven’t already) and check out this amazing build.
Disposable lighters are dirt cheap, but they get the job done and you can always see how much gas is left in the tank. On the other hand, a refillable lighter is just that, and if you build it yourself, you can make it actuate like a cap gun.
For most of us, a lighter is a cheap $2 plastic tool that serves a purpose, and little more. Some of us may go so far as to have a nice Zippo, or perhaps a windproof lighter for better outdoor performance. But if you’re a machinist, you could consider whipping yourself up something special, like this build by [W&M Levsha].
There’s plenty to love here for those who love making chips. The body is crafted out of brass and copper, soldered together by blowtorch. The lighter works by an unusual mechanism. The fluid tank is stuffed with cotton wool and filled with lighter fluid, which feeds a wick, which by itself, is fairly ordinary. However, ignition is via a spring-loaded aluminium hammer, which fires off a paper cap, igniting the wick. The flame can then be extinguished by blowing it out.
It’s a lighter that’s sure to be a conversation piece, though we wonder how welcome it’s cracking report will be at a quiet, reserved cigar bar. The mechanism may have more consumables than a typical lighter, but that’s the price paid to be truly unique. There are other creative designs out there too, like this lighter which uses a platinum catalyst for ignition. Video after the break.
There’s no project that dives into existential quandaries more than a useless machine, as they can truly illustrate the futility of existence by turning themselves off once they have been powered on. Typically this is done with a simple switch, but for something that can truly put the lights out, and then re-illuminate them, [James]’s latest project is a useless machine that performs this exercise with a candle.
The project consists of two arms mounted on a set of gears. One arm has a lighter on it, and the other has a snuffer mounted to a servo motor. As the gears rotate, the lighter gets closer to the candle wick and lights it, then the entire assembly rotates back so the snuffer can extinguish the flame. Everything is built around an Arduino Nano, a motor driver powering a Pitman gear motor, and a set of Hall effect sensors which provide position data back to the microcontroller.
If you’re in the mood for a little existential angst in your own home, [James] has made the project files available on his GitHub page. We always appreciate a useless machine around here, especially a unique design like this one, and one which could easily make one recognize the futility of lighting a candle at all.
If you think [Dubious Engineering]’s moniker is just a name, have a look at the pretty terrible soldering iron hacked out of a lighter in the video below. No one is suggesting this is a good idea but in an emergency, maybe it would come in handy. We liked the use of a chopstick and the formation of a heat exchanger with the copper wire coil. It was a mild disappointment that you had to drill out the chopstick, but we think you could have figured out a different method with a little thought.
The use of duct tape, of course, lends it instant hacker credibility. We suppose this might be useful not just after the robot uprising, but if you had to make a few quick solder joints far away from power and you don’t have a battery-operated iron.
What do you get when you combine an arc cigarette lighter and some scrap glass and metal? [NightHawkInLight] created a simple plasma cutter project along with some hot glue and a few simple tools.
If you aren’t a smoker, an arc lighter uses a high voltage spark to light the cigarette. He essentially cannibalizes it for use as a power supply. Any similar high-voltage power supply should work just as well. He also uses the same cigarette lighter power supply for an arc pen, that we covered earlier.
[Dino] found something pretty cool at Walmart. It’s a USB Lighter; basically a car cigarette lighter that’s powered by a battery and charged via USB. A few bucks will buy you a battery, charge controller, and USB plug that will deliver over 2 amps at 3.7 Volts.
Speaking of battery chargers, here’s something from [Thomas]. He works in a hospital, and the IV pumps have a terrible charging circuit. After a few dozen chargers, they’ll give a battery error on the screen. They’re not bad, only unbalanced. [Thomas] made a simple rig with a Tenergy battery charger to rebalance the packs. No link, but here’s a pic. It beats paying $34 for a new battery pack.
Retroreflective spraypaint. Volvo has developed something called Lifepaint. It’s for bicycles and bicycle riders. Apparently, it’s clear when you spray it on, but if you shine a light on it – from a car’s headlight – it will reflect back. Any cool ideas here?