Once you have gotten your hands on a carbide lamp, you are going to need spare parts (that is unless you have intentions of sitting the lamp on your shelf and using it as a conversation piece). You will also need a few other accessories, such as tip cleaners and a bracket. This page will help you locate all of these.
Parts may be even harder to come by than a good lamp. Depending on which type of lamp you have, the spare parts you need may not even be available. Rocksports Emporium is a caving vendor that carries a varied assortment of lamp parts and accessories. Inner Mountain Outfitters has an array of parts for Premier lamps and Mike Lites. Bob & Bob has a similar variety for Premier lamps and bits and pieces for other caplamps and handlamps. If you have a Premier lamp you can find all the parts you need between the two dealers. In addition, Bob & Bob has separate listings for Justrite and Autolite parts. Premier parts will appear in these listings simply to demonstrate which parts are interchangeable with other lamps. For example, one may buy Premier strikers, gaskets, felts, and reflectors and put them on a Premier or Autolite. Some Premier Parts also have a relatively good fit in Guy's Dropper lamps. The bottoms, for example may fit many Guy's Dropper models. However, what is not shown in any catalogue is that there are some parts that can be made to fit other lamps with minor modifications. Premier tips can fit Autolites, Guy's Dropper, or Justrites.
You will also need more than just lamp parts. You will also need a bracket and a tip cleaner. Brackets can be found at Bob & Bob and Inner Mountain Outfitters. It is most likely that you will order a lamp bracket that will accept a flat or blade style hook. Before attempting to mount the bracket on your helmet, you should make a photocopy of the back end of the bracket. This will allow you to see where the screw holes are in relation to your helmet. Cut out the photocopy of the bracket and tape it to your helmet and heat a small nail with a gas stove, candle, or butane lighter. Drive the nail through the paper and melt holes into your helmet. Make sure that the holes are exactly placed on the holes of the photocopy. Be especially careful that you do not melt part of your suspension. It may also be a good idea to place washers between the helmet and the screw. This will help distribute the pressure of the screw making it less likely to stress and crack the holes.
Tip cleaners come in two different types: the wire brush and the tip reamer. Wire brushes have a number of wires surrounded by a metal sleeve which can be pulled back to expose the wires. To clean the tip, take one wire and push it into the tip. The wire brush tip cleaner can also be used to brush any mud or debris off of the front of the tip. Tip reamers are tapered devices somewhat resembling a large needle. After many uses they have been known to greatly widen the orifice of a tip. The wire brush tip cleaners are available at Bob & Bob and Inner Mountain Outfitters, where tip reamers are only available through Bob & Bob.
Finding original tips in good condition can often be a challenge. Older tips are becoming scarce. This is mostly because when tips are cleaned the tip cleaner enlarges the orifice slightly. As tips age, the orifice becomes so large that it needs to be replaced. Currently, there are only three tips that are in production: Mike Lite, MINEX, and Premier. The MINEX tip is threaded, and will only fit the threaded gas tube of a MINEX lamp. In the absence of better alternatives, some cavers have been able to modify Premier tips to fit other lamps. However, Mike Lite tips have the advantage of being designed so that cavers can use them in any lamp without any modification. In order to use Mike Lite tips in the MINEX, you will need to modify the gas tube of the lamp by scraping off or wearing down the threads.
Should Mike Lite tips become scarce again, you can modify Premier tips to fit other lamps. In order to fit a Premier tip into a Justrite, you will need to file off part of the tip! The Premier's gas tube has a much more gentle taper than that of the Justrite. Therefore, the tips are longer, and follow that gentle taper. The taper of the gas tube of a Justrite is at a much greater angle. By filing off 1/16 (one sixteenth) of an inch from a Premier tip, it should have a decent fit in a Justrite lamp. Similar modifications can be made for Guy's dropper and Autolite lamps. It is very important that you file the tip evenly. If the tip is slanted or angled at all, then it will wobble in the gas tube. After filing make sure the fit is snug.
The tips for a Premier should fit fairly well inside the aforementioned lamps. However, some cavers find it necessary to add a little bit of extra "spackle" instead of using the modifications. This involves taking a little bit of toothpaste and lining the outside edge of the tip. Be careful that none of the toothpaste blocks the tip's hole. If done properly, the toothpaste should create a lining between the gas tube and the tip. This should seal any possible leaks. Furthermore, once you fire up your lamp, the toothpaste will cook and become solid. The long-term cumulative effect of this is unknown to the author of this page.
In addition to buying spare parts, you can also make parts of your own. Why bother buying what you probably already have around the house? The three easiest things to reproduce are flints, springs, and felts. You can also make gaskets, but they tend to be a bit more labor intensive. When you make or alter parts, make sure that you test them at home. If tips are filed at an angle or if gaskets are not made well enough, you could be left in the dark. Gaskets particularly can vigorously flame if not made well.
Flints and springs are easily obtained inside any lighter. After you have already expended the butane of a lighter, carefully remove the spark wheel. Depending on your care, a spring and piece of flint will either ease its way out or quickly eject from the lighter. The flint will fit easily inside your striker. The spring, however, must be sized according to the amount of tension needed to produce a spark in your striker. A spring that is too long will create too much tension, and this will not allow you to strike easily (especially if your spark-wheel is starting to smooth a bit). Use too little tension, and you will get no spark at all. If you do not have an original spring to begin with, then try experimenting with various lengths. You will probably find that springs around 1/2 (one half) inch will work best. However, this depends on the gage of the spring. Also, it is easy to stretch a spring out a bit if you cut it too short. You can also adjust the tension on the spring and flint with how tight/loose you tighten the cap nut on the striker.
Felts can be easily replaced if you have an original from which to work. It is as easy as taking a felt-tip pen and tracing an outline of a felt onto a piece of open-cell foam, piece of wool, or Scotch-Bright pad. Doing this has two advantages. It will save you the trouble of ordering from a catalogue, and it will help you out if you ever (and you will) get your felt wet. A wet felt will cause the lamp to function poorly. However, a foam pad can be wrung out, and a Scotch-Bright pad can be removed and "flicked" dry. Scotch-Bright scouring pads are probably the most easily obtainable. Using wool does have the advantage of being a superior filter. Wool removes more impurities from the acetylene, and keeps the tip from getting clogged as easily. Wool, however, is not as easily dried.
It is also possible to make your own gaskets. It will not be as simple as felts and striker parts, but it may help if you are hard up for a professionally made gasket. The process is as simple as getting an automotive inner tube and using a pair of scissors to cut out a gasket of the appropriate size. Note that this may not be of the same quality of gaskets sold by caving vendors, but they should be adequate.
It is likely that you can make more sturdy gaskets from materials found in a warehouse type hardware store (such as Lowe's, Home Depot, HQ, etc.). Look in the plumbing section for rubber packing pads. They can be found in six-inch by six-inch squares that are about 1/8 (one eighth) of an inch thick. Use heavy scissors or a razor blade to cut a gasket of the appropriate size.
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