You’ve been hunkered down in your basement for the last 4 months. All your supplies and rations are either used up or rotten and all you have left is a Molotov cocktail you’ve been saving for this very moment. Up above you can hear the incessant banging of the zombies who haven’t had a feed in weeks and can smell the sweet meat behind the door. You reach for your lighter, spin the spark wheel - nothing happens! It’s then that you realize that it’s finally happened, that one thing which always seems to “just work” has run out of gas…
So what do you do? The only thing you can do, make a lighter out of parts you have lying around the house.
A friend recently showed me a lighter he had made out of a permanent marker, some rope and methylated spirits. I thought it was a great idea and decided to made my own version. It’s quite simple and if you don’t have the exact same materials lying around, you can always improvise (see last step 11)
I made this with no power tools (Zombies... remember) to show that it is possible to do without them. However, it's a lot easier to make one with a dremel.
This can be as simple as just a permanent marker case and some rope in it, or you can go all out and polish it up like I did.
Step 1: Parts and Tools
1. Permanent Marker - eBay Newsagent
2. Cotton Rope - eBay
3. Methylated spirits- Hardware store. So it seems that methylated spirits is called many different names. In the US it's called denatured alcohol (be careful of denatured alcohol though as it has Methanol in it which can be very dangerous) , methyl hydrate, or fonduefuel. In Europe, it may be called spirits. check out this link to find out more. You can also use lighter fluid (Naphtha in the US) if you have it as well.
4. Used Lighter
5. Washer (optional)
6. Small, round magnet (optional)
1. Small saw (or Dremel which is a lot easier)
3. Epoxy glue
5. Metal Polisher
Step 2: Moding the Lighter - Removing the Excess Plastic
The only thing that you will need from the lighter is the spark wheel flint and spring section. The rest you will need to cut away
1. First you need to release any gas that may be in the lighter. I simply just pull off the gas release trigger (fork). You should now hear any left-over gas escaping. Tip the lighter up-side-down so it escapes quicker
Once all of the gas is removed, it’s time to start removing the excess plastic. As mentioned earlier, you can also just use a dremel to get the job done quickly. I used a small saw to show you how you can do it with just hand tools.
2. Start by cutting off the end of the lighter. This way you will be able to see inside and work out where to make the next cuts
3. Next, make 2 cuts at the top of the lighter as shown in the images below
4. Lastly, cut away the sides. You will now be left with pretty much just the spark wheel and flint sections
Step 3: Moding the Lighter - Refining
The next step is to file away any excess plastic and smooth out any jagged edges
1. With a small file, remove any excess plastic bits that are not needed. You want to reduce the flint section down to the bare minimum.
2. The spring that pushes the flit upwards is inside a plastic tube that is joined to the arms that hold the spark wheel in place. Reduce this as much as possible. Again, you can just use files to do this.
That’s it for the flint section. Test and make sure that the spark wheel still does what it’s supposed to.
Step 4: Pulling the Marker Apart
1. First un-screw the top of the marker from the body
2. Next, you will need to remove the ink section. Just use a pair of pliers to remove
3. Lastly, you need to take out the nib section in the top of the marker. Again, just use a pair of pliers to pull this out
Step 5: Moding the Marker
You can either go all out here and remove the paint from the marker and polish it up, or just leave as is.
1. Cut off the top section of the marker top. The parts were the nib comes through.
2. Next file down any rough sections
3. Keep the lid as you will need to use this a little later on (and also mod)
Step 6: Adding the Flint to the Marker
So now that you have modded the top of the marker, you can now fit the flint / spark wheel into it.
1. Push the spring section of the flint / spark wheel into the hole that you made at the top of the marker. If it doesn’t sit flush, remove and file away any rough sections.
2. Once you have the flint / spark wheel the way you want it, you will need to add some epoxy to keep it in place and also make it air tight. Carefully add the epoxy to the inside until it completely covers the hole where the spring section of the flint / spark wheel is.
3. Leave to dry
Step 7: Adding the Rope
1. I decided to wrap my rope in wire. This gives it a little more rigidity but again you don’t have to do this.
2. Next cut the rope to size
3. Place the rope into the marker. Trim off any excess rope. It should just be poking out of the top of the marker like the image below. Too much and the flame will be too high.
Step 8: Polishing
This isn't a necessary step but it definitely gives the lighter a great finish. I know that I said that you don't need power tools and I have done this by hand, but using a drill is so much easier.
1. To secure the marker to the drill I used a piece of dowel, pushed it though the marker and secured it with some tape.
2. Next turn on the drill and with some sandpaper remove the paint on the marker.
3. Once the paint has been removed, next it's time to polish. I used some metal polish and a cloth and just turned the drill down low. It doesn't take long to get a really great, polished finish.
Step 9: Final Step - Adding the Lid and Base
So now you will have a working, homemade lighter. You can just leave it as is if you want or do this final step which I think finishes it off nicely. Obviously if your pressed for time and need to get a lighter made quickly, then just skip this step.
This final step mods the lid so you can put it back on top of the marker. I also
1. Grab a drill piece (yes you will need a power tool for this part) that is just small than the opening of the lid.
2. Drill out the inside of the lid and push the drill bit right through it.
3. Keep on drilling and removing more of the insides until you have smoothed them out
4. Place back onto the marker. If you find that it doesn’t fit, you might have to remove a little more on the flint / spark wheel. Just round off the edges and you’ll find that the lid goes back on. It might not go down fully, but it will lock into place.
5. Lastly, to offer some stability, I added a washer and small round magnet to the bottom. The magnet helps it to stay upright on metal surfaces. Rough and scratch-up the bottom of the marker and washer
6. Superglue into place.
8. You could also use a rubber stopper like the ones you see on chairs. Just add it to the end of the marker and maybe include a couple washers for weight or even a magnet.
Step 10: Fill With Fuel
My choice of fuel is methylated spirits. Although as the next step goes through some alternatives that you can use, you really can't go past methylated spirits.
1. Remove the rope from the marker
2. Fill the marker with methylated spirits so it reaches the top of the marker
3. Push the rope back into the marker. You will spill some but just take your time and slowly lower the rope into the marker
4. Use the flint to light up the wick
5. If the flame is too high, blow it out and either push the wick in further or trim, There should be just a small amount of wick sticking out of the top
Step 11: Experiment
I like to use Methylated spirits as they burn very clean and don’t leave any sooty residue. You can however use a lot of different fuels to make your candle work. I would use an accelerate like petrol or thinners as these are highly combustible. However diesel might be ok.
Mineral Turpentine - This works ok but it has a lot of oil in it so produces black smoke
Perfume – As perfume is alcohol based it works very well. Plus added bonus, it smells good!
Rubbing Alcohol – Works just as well as mentholated spirits.
Hand Sanitiser - This has about 72% ethyl alcohol so burns very cleanly. It's a little thick though and doesn't absorb into the wick great. It does work though.
Obviously anything cotton should work ok. The rope that I used is called cotton sash cord. It’s used to seal up windows and can be purchased at any hardware store. Also, I think natural fibre rope should work ok too.
Here are a few others that I tried
Cotton wool - absorbs the fuel very well and will also burn just as good as a wick. You can just replace the top layer once if it gets too burnt.
Nylon rope - Don't use this. It works but it's basically plastic.
Bandages - Actually these worked really well. Definitely a good substitute.
Wool – I made a wick by tying a bunch of pieces of wool together and then wrapped wire around it to give it strength
Cotton T shirt - Cut into strands and stuffed inside the marker. Again not ideal but did the trick
Step 12: Final Thoughts
I'm really happy with the way the lighter works. The wicks don't burn (unless you run out of fuel) and you get about 2 hours of flame out of one fill.
It's definitely a good idea to add a base. It does however made it a little less portable, especially if you want to keep it in your pocket. A better solution would be to use a rubber stopper like you use on a chair leg. Add a couple of washers for weight and maybe a magnet and I think this would be quite stable.
Also, instead of moding the flint from the lighter, you could make one of these.(see the first image) and add it to the top of the pen. It would give it a cleaner finish and would also make changing the flint easier