I bought a 1925 Coleman Quicklite lamp earlier this year. It needs a shade and a pump. So, I searched for a pump, and found someone selling two, but they came with an old Coleman iron. The irons use a shorter pump so I knew that wasn’t right for the iron and it was a decent price so I bought them. I never thought much about buying an iron, because unlike stoves and lanterns I didn’t see much point to owning one, but now that I owned one, I figured I might as well see how it works and maybe fettle it to working condition.
The Coleman Model #4 iron was made from 1929 to 1932 according to the ICCC (International Coleman Collector’s Club) website. These were intended for use in rural areas where people were lacking electricity. Once electricity came about they were no longer used and ended up in storage on farms and such and therefore many of them are quite rusty. When it comes to rust my Model #4 didn’t disappoint. The bottom of the sole was especially rusty and pitted as was the top plate and I don’t think it’d be a good idea to iron any shirts with it. That being said, I like to take things apart and see what makes them burn, so onward!
I completely disassembled the iron getting stuck at removing the fount from the valve assembly. The iron was likely dropped a few times, which not only dented it but also mashed the bottom causing it to leak fuel. The fount is nickel-plated brass and so are the fittings. The brass fitting were a problem because it doesn’t take much force with a wrench before the fitting’s hex surfaces become rounded. Heat and patience paid off, but at a bit of a price. Apparently, the fount fitting is soldered inside the tank and heating it with a propane torch melted the solder which came falling out in blobs. Well, I needed to re-solder it anyway, so hopefully no harm done.
The first thing I did once I got the fount removed was to remove as much of the mashed area on the bottom using a wooden dowel, sliding it through the filler opening, reinstalling the valve until just snug, standing it on end and applying downwards force on the fount. The fount was basically flat on the bottom when it should be round and was the reason I couldn’t get a wrench on the fitting to remove it properly.
Once mostly straightened, or rounded, I would be able to put a wrench on the fitting during re-installation, plus I think it just looks better. Using some flux, a butane torch and some solder, I re-soldered the fitting.
I reinstalled the valve assembly without the fuel/air tube, added some denatured alcohol and added the cap. Then, I added some pressure using the lamp pump and let it sit for a couple of hours checking for leaks. It all looked good, so I moved on to other clean-up work.
There is a brass mesh screen on the fuel and air tube which acts a filter. It was deteriorated, so I replaced it using some brass mesh from a Coleman 520 vaporizer trimmed to fit. It’s actually soldered in place at the point where the two ends overlap.
Before I completed the reassembly of the F/A tube I used a piece of an old steel guitar string to ensure the fuel orifice was not clogged. Fuel flows through the tiny hole, mixing with air from the tank by way of the long brass tube which sits above the fuel in the fount. The purpose of the fitting with the brass mesh is to ensure that nothing clogs this hole.
I reassembled the valve parts and prepared them for reinstalling in the fount.
Earlier in the cleanup and prior to pressure testing, I replaced the fuel cap gasket. The old one was dried out and cracked and wasn’t going to seal. Fortunately, the gasket size is the same as the one used on other Coleman lanterns of that era which used the small gasket. My 1937 Coleman 243A lantern uses the same gasket, as does my 1939 242B lantern. The fuel cap is actually a cap, gasket, check valve and air stem. This design is used on other appliances which use an external pump, for example older lanterns and lamps.
The generator’s tip cleaner threads into the valve stem and the generator tube is held in place with a steel jamb nut. One thing I noted is that the Model #4A has Coleman stamped into the fount. This Model #4 fount has no markings.
When fully assembled, the fount, valve assembly and the generator are meant to be removed as a unit. One way to test for fuel flow is to remove the assembly after it’s been pressurized and open the valve. The Model #4A instructions (link provided later) instructs the user to do this if necessary.
Next, I removed as much rust as I could off of the sole, and various other steel parts, including screws. To do this I used muriatic acid (concrete cleaner), a wire brush, a respirator and some chemical gloves. It’ll never be like new, unless I had the surfaces re-plated, but given the amount rust I was satisfied with the results.
The burner is a pretty interesting design. If you haven’t seen one before it will look kinda odd. There are slots to heat the sole, of course, but also slots to heat the generator.
I reassembled the upper half of the iron so I could test it out and still see what was going on after I put a match to it. Plus, once in the iron there wasn’t a good way to take a photograph. I added fuel, then pressurized it, and clamped it in a bench vise. I wasn’t sure about the fuel level or how much pressure to use, but eventually looked up the 4A instructions available on the Old Coleman Parts website.
With everything set and no leaks, I opened the valve and put flame to fuel. It sputtered and went out many times, and several times it flared up and even dripped fuel, but eventually I got it burning well and let it do so for 10-15 minutes. I wasn’t sure if I had too much pressure or too little, and I didn’t know if I had too much fuel either. At one point I drained some fuel, just in case.
Satisfied that it was working well, I completely drained the fuel and completed re-assembly.
I still need to find a close match of the cool blue color to repaint the handle, but it is otherwise complete and ready to go.
No . . . I don’t plan to do any ironing with it, just in case you’re wondering.
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