1. How do I clean the burners on the Aladdin lamps I buy?
What has worked for me on brass burners is a cleaner called "CLR" which can be found in most hardware stores. Take the burner apart and soak the parts in a 1 to 1 mixture of CLR and water. On real dirty burners you may want to leave them soak over night. Use a small brush to scrub them off the next morning and rinse with water. Once clean, dry all the parts with a hand held hair dryer. This heats up the parts and dries the cracks and crevices you can't reach! Now use Brasso (also found at your local hardware store or super market) to polish up the brass. It will look like new when you are done.
2. What about my nickel burners?
Use easy off oven cleaner--the yellow top can. Take the burner apart and spray down the parts with the oven cleaner. Let them set for five or ten minutes and then wash then down with water. (Wear plastic or rubber gloves when working with it!) You may need to repeat this a couple of times, but the burners should clean up nicely. Again when done, use a hand held hair dryer to dry the parts. You can polish the burners up using Silvo--found right beside the Brasso in the hardware store or super market.
3. Funny, a hair dryer can be such a tool in lamp collecting . Try it for burners that are frozen in lamps. Remove the parts of the burner that you can, then take a hand held hair dryer and set it to high heat. Keep it just three or four inches from the burner and heat the burner up good. Turn the base slowly so you heat the burner all the way around. Use a hot pad holder once the burner is hot and see if it will unscrew from the lamp. Don't use a lot of force, it should turn out with normal pressure. If it doesn't let it cool down for a while and then repeat the process. I have never failed to get a frozen burner out of a lamp using this method. One caution---do not do this if the lamp is cold from being outside or with a lamp that has kerosene in it! (Be very careful when working on the glass jointed lamps if using this process.)
4. You will hear people talking about the "Amberina" in the red Aladdin lamps. This refers to that part of a red lamp that appears to be more amber than red--usually most noticeable on the outer most rim of the foot and traveling upward toward the font. The less Amberina and the darker the red color, the more desirable the lamp. The Amberina is best judged with the red lamp sitting on a white surface. Since you may often find them sitting on a dark table or other dark surface, try carrying a white sheet of paper with you. Computer printer paper works very well. Place the lamp on the white paper and you should easily see the degree of Amberina in the foot. The less, the better. This also works well for judging the color of other dark colored lamps such as amber or cobalt.
5. Where can I get small brushes to clean my burners?
Try a music store. Find where the school band rents or buys their instruments. You will find all kinds of brushes made to clean these instruments. They are made to reach into small cracks and crevices and to take a lot of abuse as well. And most of them don't cost a lot either!
6. What does a black light do and where can I get one?
A black light can be used to tell the "old formula" alacite from the new. The old formula will glow a yellowish green color under a black light, while the new formula will not glow at all. You can also use the black light to spot cracks or repairs. Most new glues will glow under a black light, as well as cracks in the glass. The only problem you will have is that most places where you find lamps aren't dark enough for the black light to work properly. You may need to try putting it under a table, or if they will allow you, take it to a closet or restroom where you can turn off the light and use your black light. Some antique malls have black lights available that they may let you use to examine merchandise or they may have them for sale. I have a small one that I purchased at the local "Brass Armadillo Antique Mall" that will easily fit into a purse or belt pack. I also have a larger one that I purchased through "Bass Pro Shops". The larger one was actually cheaper and gives off a lot more light but isn't quite as portable. It can however fit nicely into the trunk of your car and doubles as an emergency light since it has two blacklight tubes and two fluorescent tubes!
7. How do I tell a reproduction lamp from an old lamp?
This question is most often asked in reference to the tall and short Lincoln drape Aladdin lamps, which are the only two lamps reproduced by Aladdin or anyone else. The differences are simple to see if you know where to look. For the short Lincoln drapes, simply look at where the burner screws into the lamp--if there is a raised metal collar, the lamp is new. The tall Lincoln drapes take a little more examining. The key difference is that the old lamps were molded as one piece, while the reproductions were molded in two pieces and glued together. You will be able to see where the bowl is glued to the stem just above the filigree design of the stem. Also note that the mold lines on the stem and the bowl will not line up on the new lamps. If you turn the lamp upside down and look at the pattern on the bottom (commonly referred to as the "crows feet") you will see a pattern of faint lines running across the band containing the crows feet design. (They can be quite faint so you may need a magnifying glass.) The presence of these lines means the lamp is old, the absence means it is new.
8. Ever wonder what you should use to glue Aladdin lamps like the Corinthians, Queens, or Orientals together?
I know I'll get a little heat from this one so lets put it to use. Try a hot glue gun and make sure to use a slow setting glue stick. I know that many people will say this isn't "original", but since it doesn't show, and allows you to take the lamp back apart by simply heating with a hair dryer--I say it's as close as you will get! The slow setting glue will allow you to position the foot and font better before the glue takes hold. It really doesn't matter what they were originally held together with, since you can't get whatever it was today anyway! I would shy away from glues such as epoxy because the fix is pretty permanent. Leave your options open just in case. I know if I ever get clumsy handling a lamp I would like to be able to separate the parts and fix what I broke! I would not recommend this glue for any other fixes on a lamp---just for gluing the base and foot on those lamps that were originally held together by a similar glue!!
9. A word of caution! Often when inspecting or cleaning lamps you will remove the oil fill cap and run your finger in the hole to see if you can feel any glue, or to make sure the glass hasn't been broken---be very careful and especially so on lamps that have recessed oil fills. (Where the oil fill cap screws into threads that are glued down in the lamp. (like the Venetians and Cathedrals.) The recessed metal threads may not cover all the glass and that glass is sharp! It pays to inspect this area for repairs or cracks but do it with a very light pressure to avoid being cut. Yes I found this out the hard way, and more than once--I'm a slow learner!!
10. One of the first things you will want to do when you get your lamp home is to clean it up. If you find a nice painted Orientale ( I know you are smart enough not to use a cleaner that will harm the paint right?) just wash it off in nice warm soapy water so you don't hurt the paint--everybody knows that huh? Well when you do this and your pretty green Orientale suddenly looks like you washed it in milk-- then dries down with a white opaque layer covering all that pretty green-- don't get hysterical. Get a shoe shine brush, and buff that lamp!! I'm not sure whether this phenomenon is due to someone putting auto wax on the lamp, or something in the finish from the factory, but it will buff back to a shine if you keep at it. It happened to me, and after my wife and I got over crying, I decided to try the shoe shine brush just in case it was wax. Sure enough it buffed out looking as good as new, but it was an experience I could have done without!
11. One thing a lot of people don't think about when out looking for Aladdin lamps, is to carry the tools with them that will help them judge their condition. I would suggest getting a belt pack--commonly referred to as a "fanny pack"--which will easily allow you to carry a few simple tools along with you. Invaluable tools are: a black light, a piece of white paper or cloth, a magnifying glass (the ones with a small light built in are great), and a small tape measure. I have also included a small flashlight that has the lens mounted on the end of a flexible cable. I can remove the burner from the lamp, then bend the cable at a 90 degree angle and put the lens inside the oil font. This allows me to backlight the glass bringing out any flaws in the color or glass! Having these tools with you will give you a real advantage in judging the condition of any lamp you might find.
I hoped this will help some of you. Good luck and good hunting!