I was walking through one of those antique malls a few weeks ago, looking around for old stoves and lanterns when I came across a tall beast of a lantern. I picked it up and was surprised. It was and Aida. I thought to myself, “What is an Aida?”. It appeared to be complete, but it had some unusual knobs and fittings which were unfamiliar to me. So, I put it back down, snapped a photo and went home to do some research.
Aida was a brand since the early 1900’s and became its own company in the late 1920’s. The lantern was German-made and produced in various forms by various companies from the late 1920s up through the late 1970s. A history page provides more details about the company, some of its patents and products.
I went back the next day and purchased the lantern after another short inspection. That night I read further information about the lantern and decided that given the nature of the design with its four rubber seals and gaskets that I wouldn’t even bother to light it until I had a chance to fettle it properly.
I did a complete tear-down, which is fairly simple, and upon removing the internal parts was taken by surprise at the shiny, black, paint-like finish on the parts. Is this what happens with kerosene lanterns and stoves? After disassembly, but before placing the parts in the ultrasonic cleaner, I scraped the black film off of the parts and gave them a light scrub with a brass brush.
I used two screwdrivers to take apart the check valve. The parts inside looked familiar. This lantern uses a spring, cup and gasket nearly identical to the M-1950 stove and is also a similar type as that used in the M-1942 stove. It looks like this part of the Mountain Stove wasn’t Bestor Robinson’s design. Go figure…..
The torch/pre-heater also uses a rubber gasket which sits at the end of the ‘tumbler’.
The torch cleaned up well on the outside surface, however I was not sure about putting excessive torque on the pickup tube to remove the screen at the end. I also wasn’t sure how dirty it was inside but thought it might be okay. There are two air holes and one fuel jet which should be cleaned with the appropriate size wire.
The Aida generator/on-off valve/ pickup tube is quite stout. It too uses a rubber gasket for the on/off control which is called the foot valve.
Once again I was reminded of the M-1950 valve which is nearly identical in operation. Since the Aida runs on kerosene it probably couldn’t make much use of the M-1950’s F/A mixing tube. It’s just a straight shot for the kerosene.
The interior of the tank was so filthy it was disturbing. I added denatured alcohol and soaked it for three day and it still didn’t come clean, so I added BB’s, shook it, and completed the job. Initially, I removed the BB’s with a telescoping magnet, but this proved painfully slow. Even though the tank is brass, the sludge had some sort of metal shavings in it which covered the magnet making it difficult to hold the BB’s. Eventually, I shook them all out and rinsed two more times.
According to the documents I read the 1960’s Aida lanterns are dated. Mine appears to have been made in the third week of January, in 1965 on the third day of that week. The numbering goes: WWYD. Apparently, the tumbler design on my lantern (this is the valve lever on the torch/pre-heater) was patented in 1954 and used until the new design of 1964. Since mine is a 1965, I assume that Aida was still using up old inventory when my lantern was made.
The Aida lantern uses three lead gaskets/washers. One is on the check valve which gets installed inside the pump tube, one on the torch and one on the generator/valve assembly.
After cleaning everything except the one part I couldn’t remove I reassembled everything, added a mantle and burned it in preparation of the first firing.
I added some kerosene and lit the torch. Fortunately, I watched a video first, because I would not have expected the flame and noise. WOW!
Unlike the white gas/naptha/Coleman Fuel lanterns, kerosene lanterns need to be pre-heated for 45 to 90 seconds. If you don’t do this, you’ll have kerosene running everywhere. They also require a lot of pressure . . . a lot. I’m sure I cycled the pump at least 100 times to get the pressure gauge to the red line.
That night I performed a little comparison of the Aida Express 1500, 500 candle power lantern to my 1939 Coleman 242B single-mantle lantern and to my 1939 220B dual-mantle lantern. The Aida is definitely bright.
This was an interesting project and different-yet-similar to other gas pressure appliances (GPAs). If you decide to restore one of these lanterns be sure to replace all of the rubber seals and replace the lead gaskets, too. The parts are cheap and worth your time for safety’s sake.
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