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While there were other methods of producing a spark employed to achieve ignition, most vintage petrol lighters use flint to accomplish this goal. There is a good deal of confusion surrounding what flint should be used in which lighter and has caused many vintage lighter enthusiasts to ask, “what is the proper flint to use in my vintage petrol lighter?” This article will sort through some of the differences in flint available and help you determine the most appropriate option to use in your petrol lighter.
What Is Flint?
The material that we in the vintage cigarette lighter hobby call “flint” is actually a misnomer. Flint is a naturally occurring form of sedimentary rock that was used throughout history to make tools and start fires because of the hardened nature of its composition. Another form of rock or steel once it was developed, were struck against the flint to achieve a spark.
The cylindrical little pellets that we drop into the tube of our petrol lighters are made from a material called ferrocerium that according to Wikipedia was invented in 1903 by Carl Auer von Welsbach, an alloy comprised mainly of the rare-earth element cerium and iron. This invention has also been known and marketed under the name Auermetal, owing to the gentleman who invented it.
There have been a multitude of various flint brands marketed for use in cigarette lighters over the course of the last one hundred twenty yrs. Some have differences in name only while others may use a slightly different formulation of the alloy, coatings of the individual “flint” pieces or even varying dimensions.
Does Every Lighter Use A Different Flint?
case but the same tact has been taken by Zippo and just about every other brand of lighter that has been marketed since the advent of ferrocerium.
While there has been untold numbers of different brand names of flint over this time, most have been identical in composition and size. Clogged tubes have caused many novice lighter repair enthusiasts to imagine that the lighter in their hand required a different or smaller flint but in the vast majority of cases this just isn’t so.
The 1954 Lighter Repair Manual lists eight different flints and also urges the repairman to use the best grade of flints available. Two of the eight listed are of a bigger diameter than the average of .095 that seems to be standard. A few others were made with the same diameter but different lengths to meet the specific need of a particular lighter design like the Giant or Year Long Flint for some A.S.R. lighters.
There are no flints listed that are smaller in diameter than .095, nor have I ever come across any such flints which leads me to surmise that the vast majority of petrol lighter tubes will readily accept “standard size flints” which the Zippo and Ronson brand flints available new on the market today both fit in this category.
Are All Flints The Same Quality?
I happen to believe that Dunhill Blue flints are a superior product to most others available but they can be difficult to locate and definitely more expensive to purchase as it doesn’t seem they are still being manufactured with the Dunhill company not producing the petrol lighters that employed them since the 1950s or ’60s.
I have had several lighters over the yrs that functioned at a level just below reliable or dependable and the addition of a Dunhill Blue Flint lifted their performance to the point that they were worthy of EDC use. This is the reason that I always recommend Dunhill Blue flints as superior, especially for use in lighters that seem to be functioning correctly but lack a little “umph!” in their spark.
My friend Robert Hollingsworth has brought up a theory that he believes Ronson Redskin flints have oxidized and hardened over time and can actually damage the mechanism of lighters they are used in. I have used the Redskin flints over the yrs but haven’t had a degree of success with them that would cause me to argue too vehemently against Robert’s theory.
The 1954 Repair manual mentions that Thorens lighters were designed to operate with a “harder” flint than the standard formulation but I have never had any problem with Thorens lighters functioning just fine with the use of Zippo, Ronson or even generic modern flints.
Where Can I Buy Flint?
Zippo and Ronson brand flints are available at a variety of smoke shops, grocery and department stores across America. They, along with other brands and also generically marketed flints can be purchased from Amazon and Ebay including new, old stock packages of flint like the Dunhill Blue and Ronson Redskin flints.
I have used the generic flints that are available on Ebay in hundreds of lighters. The diameter and length are close enough if not exactly the same and I generally consider them to be similar quality to the flints that are marketed in Zippo and Ronson dispensers currently.
The Dunhill Red flint are considerably larger in diameter and meant for use in Dunhill butane models so be careful not to purchase these for use in your petrol lighter unless perhaps you are installing it in an old Negbaur lighter which the 1954 Repair Manual noted used a thicker diameter flint or some other oddball lighter that you have discerned is in need of the wider flint.
One Of The Expendable Required Supplies For Most Petrol Lighters
The vast majority of petrol lighters will ignite just fine running a Zippo, Ronson or generic brand flint that is readily available both at local outlets or for online purchase on sites like Amazon and Ebay. If any of these do not function up to par then it may be warranted to try a Dunhill Blue flint in your lighter as they do produce a superior shower of sparks to any other brand, in my experience. New old stock Dunhill Blues are more difficult and expensive to come by though.
There are odd lighters like the Giant, Beattie Jet and Year Long Flint A.S.R. models that were designed for longer flints, though I’ve had good success with most of my Beatties by simply using the standard flints available. There are also some like the Negbaur mechanisms and Dunhill butane models that use wider flints. There are likely other exceptions but the vast majority of lighters will be perfectly suited for current production Zippo and Ronson flints that can be acquired rather easily.
Please leave any comments, questions or suggestions you have about the proper flint to be used in a particular lighter in the section below this article. I would love to hear your insights or personal experience that may overlap or fill in the gaps where my experience is lacking or has been overlooked.
While you are here, please check out our YouTube channel where we regularly publish vintage lighter show & tell and instructional repair demonstration videos. There is a good deal of camaraderie shared there around our common interest of old cigarette lighters and we conduct the regular live stream Vintage Coffee And Lighters Live! to stay in contact with all of you, our friends in the hobby.
Please also feel free to post lighter photos, videos and any other related content to the DependableFlame.com Facebook group. You can post trade proposals to anyone on the page or just show off your favorite lighters in a post. I look forward to seeing you all there!
Until next time…✌️