Vintage Petrol Lighters That Were Built to Last: Thorens Semi-Automatic Single and Double Claw

Thorens Single and Double Claw Lighters, when functioning properly, are a thing of beauty, Vintage Petrol Lighters That Were Built to Last.

Tiny Machines

It is pretty comical, in comparison to most of what is available on the market today, to consider the craft and workmanship that went into the design, function and feel of the Thorens Single and Double Claw Semi-Automatic Petrol Lighters. They are true works of art and ingenuity and I never waste an opportunity to add another Thorens lighter to my Ebay store.

Single Claw Instruction Paper

I don’t want to get on a soapbox, if you like that sort of thing, you can read me on one here. But I will say that if you ever use a Thorens petrol lighter and see the magnificence in the way it works, shame would envelope you at the mere thought of purchasing a plastic lighter ever again. I mean it.

Thorens was responsible for manufacturing some very delicate, precise equipment such as music boxes and stereo turntables. The company is still around today but hasn’t made cigarette lighters since the mid 1960s. Imagine all the detail and precision required to make music boxes and turntables, both relatively impressive feats, and then imagine applying those same qualities to a machine that does something so simple that man has been doing it since the dawn of time.

Single Claw

The Single Claw model was first with production beginning in 1913 and patent dates of February 3, 1914 and November 16, 1920. It was popular from the beginning for its cutout, asymmetrical design.

Thorens Single Claw Semi-Automatic Petrol Lighter

The flint mechanism is remarkably easy to access and, if obstructed by old, degraded or hardened flint, it is usually much more simple to clear than most other vintage petrol lighters. It is sort of a tube, like other lighters but being much shorter and open it is not as prone to moisture getting in and expanding the flint to the extent of causing actual damage. A lone long arm spring holds the flint in place against the file wheel.

The Single Claw pocket lighters had a closed tank fuel system that

Single Claw Bottom View

minimizes evaporation and fill screws generally contained hidden storage for extra flint. The lighter is activated by a spring-loaded button that when screwed all the way in, can not ignite. Screwed out and depressed, the Single Claw mechanism(that’s what it is, a single clawed arm that engages the file wheel when opened and ignites in one clean motion. I have owned several Single Claws and liked them all very much but in my opinion, the Double Claw is superior in every way.

Double Claw

In the late 1920s, the Thorens Double Claw Semi-Automatic Petrol Lighter was introduced and while some lament the loss of the unique cutout look of its predecessor, its robustness in opening suits it all the same. The Double Claw, in general, has a more solid, sturdy feel to it and when tuned right, never fails to light.

As the name points out, the cutout look was not the only change in the design of the Double Claw. Activating the button now engaged a claw arm on each side of the file wheel. The Double Claw lighters that I have owned have been unbelievably dependable and I marveled at the force with which the springs would snap the lighter open and flame appear.

Double Claw Bottom View

Most Thorens lighters were made of chrome plated brass but there were Sterling Silver, Alpaca Silver and Nickel Silver models manufactured as well. Thorens offered lighters with enameled and jeweled finishes, leather, celluloid and other wraps and also silver motif sleeves. Engine turned models in various designs were, and remain, very desirable.

Outliers and Others

There were table models available in a variety of bases including porcelain, metal, wood, onyx and various other stones. Some table models vary slightly in one or perhaps, a couple different ways. Table models are usually fueled from the top and may or may not include actual filler screws as some use a sort of pinched sliding or rotating gate.

There are also some table or desk models that do not include the safety, screw-in activation button, rather the button is static and always able to activate. This makes perfect sense seeing how they’re meant to set on a table or desk and are too big to even fit in most pockets. Very little chance of a table lighter lighting on “accident” and even if it does, it won’t singe or leak fuel in your pocket.

Something else I’d like to mention is I believe both Single and Double Claw models were available in a couple different sizes. In other words, men’s and ladies models. There may have also been another size as I seem to recall seeing a Thorens Single Claw that had one flat end rather than both being rounded. I could be wrong though, that could be the ladies lighter.

What Is Your Favorite Vintage Lighter?

Do you have a favorite vintage petrol lighter that you would be

Thorens Double Claw Semi-Automatic Petrol Lighter

interested in reading more about? Drop me a note at the bottom of the page. I am constantly looking for different lighters to feature in a post. Ideas from readers like you can save me much time and wasted effort.

You can also check out the Lighters tab on the category menu. There are many articles there which you may find helpful if you are interested in vintage petrol lighters that were built to last.

I would also like to point you to join our email list. We have some great ideas for the email list as we get it up and running, so sign up to the right-hand side of the page and stay tuned. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Nickel Silver Table Lighter

And lastly, I’d like to draw your attention to the YouTube videos embedded in this article. These and all other videos featured within an article on originate from our YouTube channel. Thus far, the channel is mostly video documentation that a lighter is in good working order. I am committed to documenting every vintage cigarette lighter that I put back into service. Hit the link above to subscribe to our channel.

Author: Joseph

Be cautious when anyone tells you what you need or have to do...

19 thoughts on “Vintage Petrol Lighters That Were Built to Last: Thorens Semi-Automatic Single and Double Claw”

  1. Hi Joseph,

    This looks like it could be a great present for my brothers 21st. He massively appreciates fine workmanship so I think this would be a good option. Do you know if it is possible/ easy to get these in the UK or imported?

    1. Thank you for the comment, Nate. You ask an excellent question about importing or shipping vintage cigarette lighters into the UK. Shipping or mailing lighters has been made extremely difficult by(probably well-meaning, though frighteningly misinformed) postal organizations around the world. I have heard many stories from collecting colleagues in Europe and specifically England, where lighters found in the Royal Mail were confiscated and destroyed. European postal officials seem to believe the mere presence of flint on a plane is an undue hazard that could bring down an airplane. There is much gray area and uncertainty and for this reason I only ship to confirmed addresses in the United States. It is really unfortunate, as a petrol lighter empty of fuel is no more danger than static electricity. Customs Declarations make it difficult to obfuscate the contents that are actually being mailed as the mailer is making the declaration under penalty of law.

  2. Thanks for sharing the videos. It’s cool to see these vintage items in action. They look like brand new. Great work! I’m curious, what would be the price of Thorens Double Claw Semi-Automatic Petrol Lighter?

    1. Thanks, Ivan. I’m glad you enjoyed the videos. The lighters in both videos had been very well taken care of, so while technically very old, they were also very close to brand new. You should expect to pay a minimum of $100 or so for a functioning Double Claw on Ebay. The lighters in the vids sold in the $200 range. You can read more about how we price our lighters here.

    1. Hello, Jason and thank you for the question. I’ve never had any problem running regular old Zippo flint in my Thorens lighters. I have read that many of these old semi-automatic, file wheel type lighters require harder or square flint but that has never been my experience with a Thorens Single or Double Claw. Either way, you can find links to purchase various flint and other lighter supplies here.

  3. Dear Joseph, my name is Daniel, I want to congratulate you on your website, it is excellent !!! I recently started collecting antique lighters to bencina and I find on this site a lot of very valuable information, keep it up !!! Cheers!!!

    1. Thank you very much, Daniel. I am glad that you are enjoying the website. I will continue to post as many informative articles and videos as I can manage. Please ask if you have questions about any lighters that I have not written an article for, as I have repaired countless more lighters than I’ve managed to write articles for thus far.

  4. Hello,
    I hoped you might have a contact who could tell me what my lighter is worth. I bought it about 20 years ago from an antique store in town and it wasn’t used if you can believe it and I only paid $40.00 Canadian! I did end up using it until the butane ran out and then put it away as I’m not a smoker. It is in almost perfect shape and still has the box and paper! it is a Thorens one claw British Patent No 137508, January 29th, 1920. For some reason there is no T stamped on the bottom of the lighter. It looks like they tried though! If you would like, I could send you pictures. Thanks!

    1. No reply at all? Literally everyone other than I received a reply from you. I really need help with this. I wrote this question years ago and still check to see if you answered.
      I’ve been searching for information and all I got was no reply from you and a German guy on eBay trying to lowball me so he can sell it for way higher.

      1. I am sorry Laura that your other comment was overlooked, I think now I set it aside because the question was confusing. The single Claw doesn’t take butane and I’ve never found a lighter in an antique store that was sold already filled with petrol(it would typically evaporate before being sold). So I am puzzled how you kept using it.
        To your question about the value, a brand new single Claw with the box and papers could easily sell in the $200-$300 neighborhood but I don’t know the exact condition of your lighter having been used. To pinpoint the value of your lighter, you can perform a search of “sold” similar items on Ebay. That is what I or anyone else you ask is going to do to determine a value. The finish, any artwork or embellishments, working condition among many other variables can affect the value. Squeaky wheel gets the grease, please don’t wait three years to get my attention next time!✌️

  5. I am in the UK and have a vintage Thorens table lighter in very poor condition.It is approx 3.5×4.5 inches. Outer casing looks like tortoiseshell but possibly celluloid or plastic.
    Any idea what it might be worth please?

    1. It is very difficult to say without seeing pictures or knowing whether the lighter works but your description of “very poor condition” leads me to believe the lighter’s value may be in its parts. Feel free to email photos and we can proceed from there.✌️

  6. Hi,
    All I want to say is that a single claw Thorens in process of restoration I luckily own brought me here. Man, your website is amazing for vintage lighter lovers like myself! Oh, you’ve got a new susbcriber in you YT channel 😉

    Thank you!

    1. Asier, I am glad that you are here. I created this website precisely for folks like you and me to discover, document and discuss vintage cigarette lighters, ashtrays, tobacciana and other useful mechanisms. I post to the YouTube channel every day during the week, so stay tuned. Please join the conversation here or there or wherever you find me.✌️

    2. I just added a double claw with wind guard to my fledgling collection. I probably overpaid for it (£160) but it sparks joy so is worth it to me. :’) I’ve also been looking into making my own lighters as it is often the mechanisms that fascinate me
      (especially with these beauties) althoughh the history and wear from the past is also enthralling. Brilliant website and info thank you. 🙂

      1. Thank you for the comment, Callum. You can’t possibly have overpaid if you are happy with your purchase and besides a working Single or Double Claw in just about any condition will fetch a hundred dollar bill, so you couldn’t have been too far off. I too harbor ideas of designing my own lighter but unless I can improve upon the work already done by others perhaps I’m better off repairing their handiwork than trying hawk my own.✌️

        1. Anyone interested in buying my Thorens single claw lighter ? Has 2 pat dates on bottom 1914 and 1920. I think it was the exact model that went to Tiffany to have them put their custom touches on it.

          1. Send an email, Tim, with photos and a note explaining how much you’re asking for the lighter and we’ll go from there. I’m looking to buy lighters all day, every day.✌️

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