A Dragon and a Lighter

A zippo lighter and a knock-off case

I found this lighter among a bunch of stuff on my counter, and I knew I’d had a history with it, but I couldn’t remember anything about it. For whatever reason, I immediately wanted to repair it, and get it burning again. During this process, not only did I uncover old memories, but I learned a whole lot of new stuff about it.

First and foremost, the bottom of the beautiful dragon case has MADE IN CHINA stamped across it. So, from the get-go, I assumed that the entire lighter was a knock-off. It was still worth repairing, and so that’s what I was going to do.

A tin of Zippo lighter fluid

As far as the problems with the lighter, I know I’d fiddled with the wick, and sure enough, it was pulled apart and splayed all over the flame’s chamber. After watching a bunch of lighter restorations on Odd Tinkering, I figured I would have to replace the wick and refill the fluid, and then give it another shot. After a suggestion from Honal in my stream‘s chat, I managed to pull up the wick and trim off the mangled bit, rather than replacing the whole thing..

I took the lighter completely apart, which led me to discover that there were two flints sitting in the spring, rather than one. The second one, upon release from its prison, shot off to forever reside between my floor boards. Goodbye, secondary flint. I barely knew ye.

At this point I was able to pull the wick up pretty easily, and clip the top off with craft clippers. I was also able to buy some lighter fluid from Marcus Market nearby. I put it all together, and it worked again! It lit in the first couple of spins of the wheel, and stayed lit, even in the wind!

Dragon zippo lighter with lit cigar resting on it

Next came the real test – lighting a cigar. It singed the edge evenly, and lit the tip of the cigar evenly and quickly. It’s a good lighter, and it works!

As I was taking some photos, I discovered that there was some etching on the lighter itself. It was the manufacturer stamping from Zippo! While the case is definitely a knockoff, the lighter itself was genuine. Now I had even more questions about the lighter’s history, and how it had come to be in its present state, and how it had managed to come into my life.

About a week later, I re-learned why I’d been trying to fix this lighter in the first place, which had ended with me mangling the wick. It wouldn’t light. It acted like it was completely out of fluid. I must have thought that either the fluid was being prevented from being brought upward, or that the wick wasn’t close enough to the spark wheel to light.

So, with the patience of middle age (ha!) and access to the internet, I googled how long I should expect lighter fluid to last in a Zippo. The consensus seems to be anywhere between one week and one month, depending on regularity of use. The more often the lighter is used, the longer the fluid lasts.

The lighter hadn’t been broken. I had used it rarely, even then, so the fluid was just evaporating away. My expectations that it would last longer was the actual problem, not the wick. Well, now I have a beautiful working wind-proof lighter, part Zippo, part knock-off, AND the knowledge to take proper care of it.

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