Full Chisel Blog

September 18, 2013

Spirit Torch or Alcohol Lamp

Filed under: Alchemy,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:46 am

I use an alcohol lamp all the time and while I was adding some ethanol to my lamp with a pipette I accidentally sucked some straight grain alcohol into my mouth, twice.  Can’t do that with denatured nor would I dare.

I learned this trick from ‘Conversations on Chemistry’, 1822, an interesting book written by a woman who first apologized for knowing so much and saying her knowledge was just recently acquired.

This is your alcohol lamp on alcohol, and is combusting.


spirit torch1

This is your alcohol lamp on alcohol with platinum wire, and is incandescent.

spirit torch2

This makes it difficult to blow out and the glowing wire reignites the wick.  The wire is also hotter than the open flame, although I had no instrument for measuring that amount of heat.

When I first made the platinum wire ‘spring’ I dropped it on the floor, being platinum and being a spring, it took me 20 minutes on my hands and knees to find it; I now keep it in a small corked glass test tube.



  1. Could you elaborate on this? I’d like to know more about this platinum lamp.

    Did you just buy the wire online? And bend it around a dowel? Is there still a wick to help transport the alcohol? You’re using ethanol or methanol?

    Thanks for sharing. I’m fascinated.

    Comment by mwh — September 22, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

  2. And how do you light it? Just as usual?

    Comment by mwh — September 22, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

  3. mwh,
    I bought the platinum wire from a local jeweler supply house and paid the spot market price. Yes it was bent around a wooden dowel the same size as the wick tube on the lamp. The wick is still up like in the first photograph. I use ethanol only as methanol is nasty stuff to use or breathe. It lights in the normal manner.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — September 23, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  4. Thank you.

    Comment by mwh — September 23, 2013 @ 9:00 am

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