Introduction: Make a Trench Lighter

Trench lighters have been around since WW1. Solders would sometimes make their own out of used ammunition shells and whatever else that they had around them. I was lucky enough to have a bunch of tools at my disposal; I have no idea how a solder managed to make one of these sitting in a muddy trench with virtually no tools.

The lighter uses zippo lighter fuel as an accelerate and works in pretty much the same way. It also utilizes an old Bic lighter and some copper and brass tubing. I made a few different types until I found the one that I was really happy with. The hardest part is to decide what type of cap you are going to use for the wick. For my first couple I made a small cap out of brass tubing which worked fine. The only problem is they can become loose and could easily be lost. I then added a chain to one which ensured it at least wouldn’t be lost if it fell off. In my latest version, I added a dome nut which is more secure and screws into place.

There are some tricky sections to make in this trench lighter. if you are a novice at soldering, then I would probably brush up on my skills before I attempted to make one. However, if you are willing to take the plunge, then hopefully this ible’ will be of some benefit.

Music in the YouTube clip is by DJ RHH.

So without further ado – let’s get cracking

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Parts:

1. Old lighter x 2. Try and make it the larger kind as the sparkwheel is larger and so is the flint.

2. 2 x 15mm copper caps. Hardware store or eBay. Cheaper from the hardware store

3. 12.7mm (1/2") copper tube. You can find this in the plumbing section at your hardware store. This tube will fit inside the 15mm caps

4. 4mm brass or copper tube. Hobby shop or eBay . If you are using a small Bic lighter sparkwheel and spring, you can probably use 3mm tube

5. Brass strip. Hobby shop. Don't get it too thick or you will never be able to bend it. Same goes with too thin! This is used as a bracket for the sparkwheel

6. Brass rectangular tube.

7. 2 x small screws. The screw needs to be slightly smaller than the small brass tube (4mm). These are used to hold the spring into place

8. Domed nut (M5) - Hardware store or eBay

9. Bolt M5 - Hardware Store or eBay

Tools:

1. Pliers. Needle nose, small and large ones. Just use whatever you have

2. Blow torch. I used a mini one and a larger one to solder the larger copper piping together.

3. Solder

4. Dremel (always comes in handy)

5. Grinder

6. Files

7. Drill

8. Metal Polish

Step 2: Pull Apart Your Lighter

Steps:

1. First remove the metal guard.

2. Next, carefully remove the sparkwheel making sure that the spring doesn't fly off.

3. Put aside the sparkwheel, flint and spring

Step 3: Making the Sparkwheel Section - Tube for Spring

Steps:

1. Put the spring next to the tube. You will want to cut the tube the same length as the spring.

2. Cut the tube. I used a dremel with a cutting wheel

3. File the end and make it smooth. Also, de-burr the inside. You can see in the last image that once the flint is in the tube there is about 10-15mm of the spring sticking out. The more pressure you have the spring under, the more spark you'll get. However, it will mean that putting the screw in place to hold the spring will mean it is under pressure and could make the job hard.

Step 4: Making the Sparkwheel Section - Bracket for Sparkwheel

This can be a little tricky. You want to make the bracket so the spark wheel fits correctly.

Steps:

1. Make a 90 degree bend in the copper strip.

2. Next, grab the spark wheel and use this to work out where to make the next bend. You want to have it so when bent into a "U" shape, the 2 pins on the spark wheel rest on the copper strip.

3. Cut and trim the bracket and lastly, round off the edges. I used a sanding drum on my dremel but you could also use a file.

5. Next drill a hole into the bottom of the bracket. Mark the centre and make a hole. The hole should be the same size as the tube for the spring. You want this fit to be as tight as possible so start with a drill bit slightly smaller than the tube and work your way up.

Step 5: Making the Sparkwheel Section - Soldering and Adding Sparkwheel

Steps:

1. Push the bracket onto the tube for the spring. Only have a small section of the tube sticking through the bracket.

2. Next, secure in a vice and add some flux to where the two parts meet

3. With a mini blow torch, heat up the section and add some solder to the joint.

4. Lastly, you need to place a screw into the bottom of the tube to hold the spring and flint into place. As brass is soft, all you need to do is to screw it into the tube with some force. Un-screw and screw it into the tube until it's flush with the tube.

1. Use the spark wheel to determine where you need to add the first hole. Once the first hole is drilled you can use this to determine where the second needs to go. If the holes aren't lined-up correctly, you can adjust the arms on the bracket with a pair of pliers to get the holes even

2. Carefully drill the first hole. The drill piece you use should be the same size as the pins on the spark wheel. The hole can be off-centre so if it isn't in the middle don't fret.

3. Drill the other hole and remove any burrs.

4. Here's what you need to do to get the wheel into the bracket:

- Put the wheel on top of the arms of the bracket.

- Push down on the wheel and try and push it into the bracket. If you can't, bend one of the bracket arms slightly and push the sparkwheel into place.

- Once in the bracket, line-up the pins on the wheel to the holes in the bracket. If you had to bend one of the bracket arms, then use some pliers or a vice to straighten and secure the wheel into place.

- Test to make sure that it spins freely

Step 6: Making the Sparkwheel Section - Adding the Sparkwheel, Flint and Spring

Adding the Sparkwheel to the Bracket

In the images below I added the sparkwheel first to the bracket. It's actually easier to solder on the tube first.

1. Use the spark wheel to determine where you need to add the first hole. Once the first hole is drilled you can use this to determine where the second needs to go. If the holes aren't lined-up correctly, you can adjust the arms on the bracket with a pair of pliers to get the holes even

2. Carefully drill the first hole. The drill piece you use should be the same size as the pins on the spark wheel. The hole can be off-centre so if it isn't in the middle don't fret.

3. Drill the other hole and remove any burrs.

4. Here's what you need to do to get the wheel into the bracket:

- Put the wheel on top of the arms of the bracket.

- Push down on the wheel and try and push it into the bracket. If you can't, bend one of the bracket arms slightly and push the sparkwheel into place.

- Once in the bracket, line-up the pins on the wheel to the holes in the bracket. If you had to bend one of the bracket arms, then use some pliers or a vice to straighten and secure the wheel into place. - Test to make sure that it spins freely

Fitting the Flint, Spring and Screw

1. Put the flint into the tube first. I used 2 pieces of flint as the tube is quite long.

2. Next, stretch the spring a little and put into the tube

3. Lastly, put the screw into the bottom of the tube and with a screwdriver, force it into the tube. Keep on un-screwing and screwing it in until it is flush. If you can’t get it flush, leave it where it is and try again once you have attached the sparkwheel to the chamber

Step 7: Making the Fuel Chamber Section - Cutting the Chamber to Size

Steps

1. Place the copper tube into a vice to hold it steady.

2. Next, work out how long you want your lighter. How long you make it will determine how much fuel you will be able to have inside. Remember though the longer you have it, the longer the sparkwheel tube will need to be. Mine one is aprox 50mm long.

3. Cut the tube, file off the ends and remove any burrs

Step 8: Making the Fuel Chamber Section - Wick Holder

I have made a few different versions of the wick section. It’s a quite important part and you need to be able to cap it so the fuel doesn’t dry out. You can see in some of the images below, I initially went for a piece of tube slightly larger than the wick holder which slipped over it. I soldered a small piece of brass on top to form a cap. This works fine and you could just do this is you wanted to. However, I wanted to have a screw on version so this ible’ will take you through how I did that

Steps:

1. First, you need to make the wick holder. To do this you will need to drill a hole through the middle of a small bolt. It took me a few goes before I was happy with the result as I’m sure it will for you too. You can buy nut-serts which already have a thread on the outside and are hollow. I made mine though.

2. Place the screw into a vice and carefully start to drill into the top of it

3. Take your time and remove any bits of metal that come away from the bolt so the drill bit isn’t impeded.

4. You will need to drill about 10-15mm deep. Once you are happy with the depth, you then need to cut the section off the screw

5. I just used a dremel to cut away the section I wanted

6. Next, drill a hole into one of the 15mm caps. Make sure that this is off centre as per the images. The hole should be the same size as the wick holder section you just drilled.

7. Screw the wick holder into the hole and have 3-5mm sticking out the top. You don’t want too much as the wick will hit the top of the dome.

8. Lastly, screw on the dome nut to make sure everything fits ok

Step 9: Making the Fuel Chamber Section - Soldering

Once you have the wick holder secured into the brass cap, you next have to solder a small tube to the inside. The reason why you do is is to enable the fuel chamber to be secured to the bottom cap. It's probably the most difficult part as you need to solder the tube to the inside of the top of the cap. I had to try 3 times before the solder took and the tube became secure. At the same time you also solder the top cap to the actual chamber.

Steps:

1. The tube that you need to solder to the inside of the cap needs to be about 15mm longer than the actual chamber section. You'll cut the extra length off later. The extra length helps you to ensure the tube is straight inside the chamber when you go to solder. Cut the tube to length.

2. Next, grab some solder and wrap this around the bottom of the tube. You need a fair bit as this is will need to secure the tube to the cap. Add a generous amount of flux as well.

3. As you will need to solder the top cap as well, as some flux to the inside of the cap too.

4. Next drill a hole into the bottom cap. This will need to be off centre as the tube won't be directly in the middle due to the wick holder.

5. Place the cap onto the end of the chamber with the tube sticking out the end of it. This is why you have the extra length for.

6. Use a blow torch to heat up the chamber and cap to melt the solder. Keep the heat on for some time to ensure the solder melts and the tube attaches to the chamber. If it doesn't work the first time, add some more solder and try again until it secures it in place. Also add some solder around the cap to secure it to the chamber.

7. Trim the tube flush with the chamber.

8. Lastly, you need to place a screw into the bottom of the tube to hold the cap in place. As brass is soft, all you need to do is to screw it into the tube with some force. Un-screw and screw it into the tube until it's flush with the cap.

Step 10: Attaching the Sparkwheel to the Chamber

To attach the sparkwheel to the body of the chamber, you need to modify come brass channel. You could possibly just solder the sparkwheel section to the top cap but it would make it a little hard to remove the bottom one when re-fueling.

Steps:

1. Grab a length of the brass channel and place it into a vice.

2. Next start grinding the top section to turn it into "C" channel. This will become the bracket that will be between the sparkwheel and the chamber.

3. File down to make it even and remove the burrs. Cut to size

4. Add some flux to the flat section of the bracket and place it on top of the chamber. Do the same to the sparkwheel tube and place this onto the "C" section of the bracket.

5. Secure the lighter in a vice and with a mini blow torch, heat-up the area. Add some solder to the joins. This is quite a tricky process as it's hard to line-up the sparkwheel, bracket and chamber just right. Take your time and ensure that everything is straight before you solder.

6. Lastly, give everything a good polish

Step 11: Adding the Wick, Cotton and Fuel

Now that you have your lighter built, it's time to add the wick, cotton and fuel.

Steps:

1. Thread the wick through the wick holder. Leave a little at the top.

2. Next, pull off small pieces of cotton, roll them up, and push them into the chamber. It's important that the cotton is spread evenly through the chamber so make sure you also put it around the tube in the inside.

3. As you are putting the cotton in, try and weave the wick through the cotton. This will ensure that the wick will absorb the fuel better.

4. I also added a little bit of felt to the bottom as this is similar to what you will find inside a zippo. It will help keep the cotton in place.

5. Lastly, add some zippo fuel and attach the cap to the bottom of the chamber.

Spin the sparkwheel and light the wick. Congrats - you have just made your own lighter!

Step 12: What I Would Do Dfferently

Actually there isn't much I would change on this version. You can see a couple of the others I made, one with the sparkwheel tube actually inside the chamber (makes it easier to secure it together), and another similar to the one in this ible'.

I would have liked to have included a wind breaker that the traditional trench lighter uses but this was just too hard to do, not impossible though. The wind breaker on the traditional trench lighter also has a cap for the wick so this would solve the issue of having to come up with a way to cover the wick.

Comments

author
jw58479 (author)2017-08-06

Absolutely love these homemade lighters. Have to make one. They look like they would last forever. Great job !!!

author
lonesoulsurfer (author)jw584792017-08-06

Cheers,
I was just saying in another comment that I'm going to re-build this one. I have a better design in mind which will make it a lot easier to build.

author
Jaden7551 (author)2017-06-12

You should try making a trench lighter with a 30-06 bullet shell!!...that would be cool!!!...plus i have a bunch lying around, and that would be a cool project.

author
lonesoulsurfer (author)Jaden75512017-06-13

good idea! - I think I might

author
THEMONEY (author)2017-04-05

You are the boss of clarity! Just so very well done. I salute you sir!

author
Svevlad (author)2017-02-28

Hello everyone.

I have been on Instructables for quite a while but this is my first comment. I would like to thank lonesoulsurfer for an amazing instructable. Not only that I am interested in the topic but he has done in in very detailed and useful way.
Another thing is about using "Trench Art" as a therm. As a long-time cigarette lighter collector I am afraid I have to react. Firstly, this kind of lighter must not be called a Trench Art. The therm is strictly connected to the Great War period. There is still a huge discussion among collectors about if it should be used for items from the WWII. However, nothing made after the 1940's should not be named as a Trench Art piece. That being said, I would dare to call this kind of item "Trench Art style cigarette lighter".

Secondly, there is no proof that genuine Trench Art items were made in the trenches. Although the soldiers were trained for many different situations there is no way anyone would work on an item while bullets fly over their heads and grenades fall around them. Not to mention it is impossible to do any kind of metal work without at least basic tools. Genuine Trench Art lighters and other items were definitely made during the WWI in military base workshops by more or less skillful people or by local craftsmen. Many soldiers wanted to bring some kind of souvenir back home and these seemed to be great for the purpose.

And thirdly, a little advice to lonesoulsurfer: try to position the flint a bit lower and a bit closer to the wick. That should make the striking more effective.

Once again big thank you for the instructable and keep up with great work!

author
imreprobate (author)Svevlad2017-03-06

Not limited to the World Wars, the history of trench art spans conflicts from the Napoleonic Wars
to the present day. Although the practice flourished during World War
I, the term 'trench art' is also used to describe souvenirs manufactured
by service personnel during World War II. Some items manufactured by
soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians during earlier conflicts have
been retrospectively described as trench art.

author
Svevlad (author)imreprobate2017-03-06

Thank you for the reply.
The therm "Trench Art" should strictly be used for the unique items made during the WWI aka the "Trench War". Therefore it should not be used for items made during other periods. When you say Trench Art in the collecting world people would know you are talking about WWI. It's like when you say Baroque or Art Deco - it is a personal noun and should be written with capital letters - it means you are talking about specific period of time including the look of the items.

author
imreprobate (author)Svevlad2017-03-10

Trenches were not unique to the "WW1" venue. They figured prominently in the bit of idiocy but there have instances of Trench Warfare since man has been conducting it's self-extermination.

Any art made by said participants, supporters, detractors and by-standers is said to be Trench Art simply because it is catchy. It does not signify it had been made whilst cowering in some extended pit during the early 1900's. Nor does the time-frame it was created, pigeon-hole it to a specific tag.

WW1 is notable for the tragically horrendous deaths the time-period's unethical leaders sanctioned. Not for the art.

The Wiki definition (and by no means, the only one...):

Trench art is any decorative item made by
soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians where the manufacture is
directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. ((Note the absence of a date or set of dates.))

Again, Trench art does NOT signify something made during the first world war. It only explains the provenance of why a particular piece of art came to be created -- why a bullet shell was turned into jewelry, a cannon ball was re-purposed into a door-stop or, as is my own artistic life, why artillery shells became lamps and ashtrays(5' brass shells from the ship I was on during the viet conflict...).

I may be old but I'm not that old, so when I sold those pieces, the art director at the studio labeled them, "Trench Art circa 1970". Not from WW1 as erroneously insisted upon.

author
bobneumann (author)2017-03-01

Everyone knows how to make a trench lighter: Take some more dirt out of it!

:-0

author

boom boom!

author
kschmidt2 (author)2017-03-03

How long does it keep the fluid in it if you just leave it for a while full? Only reason I don't use a zippo is because they evaporate all the fluid out in a day.

author
lonesoulsurfer (author)kschmidt22017-03-06

I don't have any real issues with evaporation. The dome bolt I use for the wick seems to work a treat

author
kschmidt2 (author)kschmidt22017-03-03

I'm going to try and make one out of a bullet shell if I can, because that'd be awesome.

author
ace66756 (author)2017-02-28

I only want to add a concern to Punkinlaunchers comment and that is if copper gets to hot it can put off toxic fimes, and the amout produced depends on how hot along with the time heated. So use with care and what it was designed for. I haved always laughed at the potheads that made pipes with copper.

author
ace66756 (author)ace667562017-02-28

Also i forgot a very beautiful project, i will definitely have to add this to my list.
PS your name is on the drill.

author
lonesoulsurfer (author)ace667562017-03-06

Actually the drill I found down the tip and already had the name on it. Amazing what people are willing to throw away really.

author
hanelyp (author)ace667562017-03-04

The fuel would all boil off before this lighter got anywhere near hot enough to produce copper fumes.

author
Kat_Master (author)2017-03-06

This is an amazing -ible. You have earned my vote!

author

thanks for the vote :)

author
TheGunNut44 (author)2017-03-01

This is so cool, i'll have to make one.

author
YS Creations (author)2017-02-28

Great project with a really fancy looking end result. Love it.

One question though in regards to the solder, is it the standard solder you would use for electronics? Or a special type of solder for bonding different metals?


Definitely want to give this one a crack. Got my vote!

author

Cheers. It's just normal everyday solder. I use flux in paste form to ensure a good connection.

author

Probably plumbing solder. Its a bit thicker, and doesntusually have the flux core.

author
JasbatDrummer (author)2017-02-28

To answer your question, I know people in the military who can literally repair and make about ANYTHING with tools, and a lot without what we call "proper tools". Soldiers are trained 24/7 to take insane care of their equipment; putting it in pieces and back up working in a sort amount of time; cleaning it like you were going to wear it at prom; repair stuff on the go, in a chaotic, dangerous environment. They do carry multitools, knives, survival kits, axes, etc
Fire-launchers I guess can solder things, and solderers have smaller torches on them on the field, I guess too.

author
JeffM15 (author)2017-02-28

Super kool. Thanks for sharing.

author
punkinlauncher (author)2017-02-27

does the body get hot, the reason I ask is it is all metal.

author

If I leave it burning for a couple of minutes the top cap and sparkwheel does get hot. If you are just using it for normal amounts of time, then there isn't any issue with heat.

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Bio: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.
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