Russian Spirit Lamp

Discussion in 'Other Countries' started by Doug Eisemann, Jun 17, 2020.

  1. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Hello Folks.
    It has been far too long since I've been active and posting anything on CCS, but during my too-frequent eBay searches during pandemic lockdown, I came across something that had been on my radar for years, but I never actually expected to find.
    I thought it would be worthwhile putting in the "other countries" gallery, as, even though it came from England, I am unsure of the maker, or actual country of origin.
    This stove is generally referred to as a "Russian Spirit Lamp", and usually was featured as a source of heat for laboratory applications. However, numerous mid-19th century sources clearly indicate that the Russian spirit lamp was also used for camping and the like, including in Edward Whymper's The Ascent of the Matterhorn, where it is featured prominently in the preface.
    My example is fairly small, but made of quite thick brass, with a turned brass lower potion, making it quite heavy.
    It would have originally been equipped with a small lid or cover, which also doubled as a measure for the alcohol. One measure would be poured into the ring-shaped outer chamber through the fill tube running through the handle. This tube was then closed with a cork (which formed a natural pressure relief valve!)
    A similar measure of alcohol was then poured in the bottom of the main chamber and lighted.
    The flame would heat the alcohol in the outer chamber, vaporizing it, and forcing it with some pressure through the jet. This would apparently result in quite a powerful upward blast of flame, suitable for heating water quickly, or carrying out any operation that needed short duration, intense heat.
    I have drawn a rather poor cutaway diagram which should clear up my equally poor description. In any case, the principle is quite simple, and very similar to the well-known alcohol burning "Eolipyle" type blowlamp, only vertically oriented.
    So there you have it, an interesting, early form of portable liquid-fueled pressure stove that had some popularity for outdoor cooking before the Primus style stove took the world by storm!
    Would love to know if anyone else has one of these, as this is the first I have seen in person.
    Cheers,
    Doug E.

    R0024937.JPG R0024938.JPG R0024939.JPG R0024940.JPG R0024941.JPG R0024936.JPG
     
  2. Tony Press

    Tony Press Australia Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Messages:
    6,848
    Location:
    Stinkpot Bay, Howden, Tasmania, Australia
    Thanks, Doug. That is a very interesting lamp. I like your illustration, too.

    Cheers

    Tony
     
  3. gieorgijewski

    gieorgijewski Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2013
    Messages:
    2,379
  4. presscall

    presscall United Kingdom SotM Winner SotY Winner Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,875
    @Doug Eisemann
    Thanks Doug for posting this one. Interesting indeed.

    A question: how is the base joint made? Lapped/folded and soldered, or brazed?

    I wonder if you’ll be attemting a firing?

    John
     
  5. ArchMc

    ArchMc Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2004
    Messages:
    3,072
    Location:
    Mojave Desert, California
    Years ago, @DAVE GIBSON (I think!!) introduced me to a delightful book called "Canoeing in Kanuckia", by "The Commodore and The Cook", and published in 1878. The book describes canoe trips taken by a group of friends, using all the most modern equipment, including a "Russian stove". There's a very amusing account of their first use of this stove in the field (with it sitting on the forward deck of one of the boats, if I recall). I thought I had posted that in "Stoves in Literature" back then, but I can't locate it now.

    ....Arch

    Edit: Crossed with @presscall 's post. Based on the description in the book, if you do fire it, STAND BACK!
     
  6. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Thanks everyone for the comments!
    I especially appreciate the references to the "Russian spirit lamp" in other accounts and literature, as I was having trouble finding them again, save for my copy of Whymper's book, which I did not think to photograph the page featuring the stove initially.

    To answer John's questions, It is actually a bit difficult to determine exactly how the lamp is constructed. Clearly the base portion is a separate, heavy brass turning, presumably brazed or hard soldered on to the annular spirit reservoir. The annular reservoir itself is made of quite heavy sheet brass, with separate ring-shaped top and bottom, edges rolled over, and presumably also hard-soldered or brazed.
    I am still debating whether or not to fire the lamp, I am tempted to do so, but it will certainly be outdoors, with a fire extinguisher at the ready should anything go wrong. I would hate to burst the lamp or set fire to the well-preserved wood handle!

    Also debating whether I should leave it in as-found condition, or get it looking more presentable. It appears to have been lacquered originally, but is now quite heavily oxidized.
    Cheers,
    Doug
     
  7. presscall

    presscall United Kingdom SotM Winner SotY Winner Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,875
    @Doug Eisemann
    Thanks for the reply Doug.
    Regarding a firing, ensuring there’s no blockage in the pipe feeding the jet should prevent any pops or bangs. You’ve pointed out that the filler pipe acts as a pressure release too - provided that’s not blocked either. Stopping it up with a cork, if there’s a firing would ensure vapourised fuel doesn’t escape (and ignite) there, while still offering a measure of over-pressure release insurance.

    Exciting!

    John
     
  8. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Thank you, John!
    Indeed, I think with the proper pre-operation checks and and general precautions, there is minimal risk of destruction of the lamp, or property damage/personal injury!
    I will probably attempt a test-fire before cleaning up the lamp, and not actually attempt to cook or boil anything, at least to start.
    I will be sure to photo and perhaps video document the proceedings, as it is very likely to be the first time a Russian spirit lamp has been fired in at least 100 years.


    Cheers,
    Doug
     
  9. presscall

    presscall United Kingdom SotM Winner SotY Winner Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,875
    That would be grand Doug.
     
  10. Marc

    Marc Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2015
    Messages:
    4,851
    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Great little device! Looking forward to flame shots, safely of course.

    Might actually help with social distancing. "I'd like to visit Doug more often, but since he insists on making tea with his Russian spirit lamp, I have to let my eyebrows grow back in between visits!"

    Edit: I work with Russians. They'd be mightily amused at the idea of cooking over something that the rest of the world considers potentially explosive. "You think is bomb?! Hah, in Russia, small children make tea over such things!"
     
  11. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Good Point! I never thought of that. I don't think people will think twice about keeping at LEAST 6 feet away with this thing ablaze! I may also consider keeping at least 6 feet away from the stove while its operating. :lol:

    Come to think of it, I also wonder what the real origin of this style of stove/lamp/burner is. One would naturally assume it actually originated in Russia, but given the 19th century for giving things "exotic" names, perhaps "Russia" was used to give it just a bit of class or intrigue.

    Cheers,
    Doug
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2020
  12. gieorgijewski

    gieorgijewski Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2013
    Messages:
    2,379
    question:
    How much Rusia is in "Russian Lamp"...
    IMO - not much.
    except:
    RL - is compact alc. burner from XIX c.
    - for Russia that time, typical are wood, wood coal cookers/ heaters

    fuel possibility determine type of stove

    1 because alc. must be destilated - need heat/energy/fuel to be created
    2 fuel must be stored and transported
    3 if "RL" exist - must be destinated to use in area where - other fuels are diffficults

    from above in XIX c. context words of true:
    use area - from moderate/ minimal "civilised" area - to the "no easy fuel" area
    with "any" transport.
    above - gives result - arctic hunters i.e. seal or whales
    base ship - and a few "patrol" ships - was typical
    or
    fur dealer
    Russians Do That
    alc. was/is part of their history
    ----------------
    at that moment i need stoped.

    nothing else - with Russia

    design - construction is typical for second half XIX c. or XX c.- well done, mass production
    seems to be - not Russian - but higher technical area, conected with above territory or tasks.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
  13. ArchMc

    ArchMc Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2004
    Messages:
    3,072
    Location:
    Mojave Desert, California
    I decided to re-add it to "Stoves in Literature", so here is the group's first firing.

    I've been looking for one of these ever since.

    ....Arch
     
  14. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Just a quick update and a tease,
    I actually did a test fire of the Russian lamp yesterday evening, just as a practice run....no photos yet as I wanted to have all concentration on how things were going, to avert disaster just in case!

    Good news is, it worked! Quite well, I must say, and far less dramatic and well-mannered than some of the historical accounts might suggest.
    I did use very sparing amounts of fuel in both chambers of the lamp, as I do not have the "official" measuring lid and did not want to end up with a geyser of flaming liquid alcohol.

    I pared down a small cork I had lying around to fit in the fill tube, which worked, but it started seeping as the pressure rose and alcohol vapors started soaking into it. Must find a better solution, perhaps a small rubber or silicone stopper of the correct diameter.

    I also think a video with audio will be necessary to capture the full effect, but I haven't a clue how to work Youtube, and I imagine videos can't be uploaded here.
    Hopefully I will get things sorted within a week or two and have something to show!

    Cheers,
    Doug E.
     
  15. presscall

    presscall United Kingdom SotM Winner SotY Winner Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    9,875
    Well done Doug!
    I had to study your schematic drawing again, since I’d overlooked the fact that the fuel reservoir doesn’t discharge through a passage into the base chamber. Of course not, or there’d be no pressurisation.

    So the purpose of loading fuel in the base is solely to provide a priming burn for the enclosed reservoir.

    John
     
  16. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Indeed, the fuel in the base is there to initially preheat the pressurized chamber, and then to sustain the flame from the jet, which without a "pilot" flame would blow itself out. Works in the same principal as the classic double-chamber alcohol blowlamp, such as the Valtock in the UK, and Lenk over here in the US, except there are no wicks employed.

    Doug E.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2020
  17. Marc

    Marc Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2015
    Messages:
    4,851
    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Great news, Doug. Even better that everyone kept their eyebrows.

    If we can figure out how to get a large file to me, I'd be happy to put the video on YouTube. It's probably easier to do than you think, though.
     
  18. ToJlbkoY4ycb Russian Federation

    Offline
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2019
    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Rus
    Greetings guys !.
    An interesting Doug Eisemann showed the stove. I have not met such yet.
    I also have in my collection an alcohol stove made in Russia. This is a very rare stove. Made in the late 19th century.

    image.thumb.jpg.6ee6ea0bde82961246dd30b0ebe0ab11.jpg image.thumb.jpg.8bc0e48c492096b02670f554128f2eba.jpg image.thumb.jpg.609be12a96c1df3c7c35cba7e91b55b7.jpg image.thumb.jpg.557880a7483d16dc5743c77d5b0c4697.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2020
  19. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    That is a really lovely stove with beautiful nickel plating and a good, compact design. Over the years, my love for these small, simple alcohol stoves that seemed quite in vogue at the turn of the (last) century, has grown quite a bit. Not overly powerful but ultimately reliable, quiet and reasonably efficient for simple cooking tasks. Not to mention, some were downright elegant!

    On another note, I have not forgotten about getting some photos or footage of my Russian spirit lamp in action, just things have been quite busy for the past 2 weeks. I intended to celebrate July 4th by firing it up again last night, but other projects got in the way. Will try again tonight!
    As for Marc's offer to help with a possible video upload, I may take you up on that depending on if I am able to manage a large video file. I am really terrible with technology. If it does not involve vacuum tubes or high voltage, I am lost!

    Cheers,
    Doug E.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2020
  20. Doug Eisemann

    Doug Eisemann Subscriber

    Offline
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Hello Folks,
    Just a follow up here on a warm and humid 5th of July evening. Until I have the video thing sorted, I thought I would share a few flame shots of the Russian spirit lamp that I captured as it was beginning to get a bit dusk. Unfortunately, it was still a bit too light for the alcohol flame to show up very well, and I really do need a video to get the full effect of the way the flame acts and the noise the lamp makes. It does indeed have a nice, fierce roar when in full burn!

    R0024947.JPG .. Soon after starting, a bit of vapor starting to burn at the jet.



    R0024949.JPG .. Really getting going. The flame averaged 6 to 8" high.

    Some more views, excuse the ugly metal plant stand the stove is sitting on and the less than spectacular photography overall.

    R0024955.JPG
    R0024956.JPG
    R0024957.JPG

    Some things of note: The lamp was very difficult to light and stay lit until the brass body warmed up a bit, even in the 85 degree F weather. In addition, the flame from the outer alcohol pool in the base was quite unstable and fluttery, making the blast from the jet tend to sporadically blow itself out, then relight.
    I think a circular fibreglass wick or other means of stabilizing and facilitating the outer alcohol flame would do wonders.
    That said, it performed quite well and produced an intensely hot flame. No doubt it could do cooking duties outdoors with adequate wind protection, or carry out any number of laboratory heating operations.
    Also note the non-period-correct high temp. silicone rubber stopper I used in place of the cork. Works brilliantly, but looks out of place sadly.

    So there you have it, probably the first time a Russian spirit lamp has been captured in action on "film", at least in 100 or so years.

    Cheers,
    Doug E.