Antique flashlight restoration advice?

The Shadow

Newly Enlightened
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
175
Location
Standing right beside you...
Today I bought my first antique flashlight, an Eveready 2642, off eBay. Looks like this one:
http://www.flashlightmuseum.com/flashlight_view.cfm?item_number=EV00077

Hopefully I'll get it this week and see what kind of shape it's in. The seller didn't know if it worked (not a good sign) and said it needed a cleaning. Considering I got it for $4.99, I'm not complaining.

Now I need some help - anyone have any helpful tips on cleaning and/or repairing old lights? Are there any tips or warnings you could give me now before I start? For example, I'll probably disassemble all I can then clean everything individually. If it's all gunked up I'll probably spray WD-40 all over the metal parts. How about the glass and reflector - what's the best way to clean these up? Or that advanced slide/pushbutton switch?

Any advice/warnings/recommendations are appreciated!
 

willrx

Enlightened
Joined
Jan 27, 2007
Messages
772
Location
Atlanta, Ga
Glass advice: Soapy water and brand new razor blade to take off gunk and rust on surface.

Reflector: Rinse gently with mild soap and water and air dry or very gently blot (no rubbing) with absorbent towel or kleenex.

Have fun.
 

bones_708

Enlightened
Joined
Oct 25, 2006
Messages
207
Location
Texas
Bet on a new spring. You can get a mag spring from anyplace that sells maglite parts and mod it to fit. I have found that is the #1 issue with vintage lights. The corrosion is such that you can't get any current and even if you clean it up so you can there is a good chance if it was stored with batts that the spring won't "push" hard enough to to keep a constant connection. I call it the shaky light syndrome. Where you keep shacking the light to get it to work:sigh:
 

cy

Flashaholic
Joined
Dec 20, 2003
Messages
8,182
Location
USA
I'd drop a 3D maglite Luxeon module and use std 3x D alk or if you really plan on using it a lot. 3x D NMH cells. but std 3 D alk will run next to forever
 

The Shadow

Newly Enlightened
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
175
Location
Standing right beside you...
It's beautiful! It's all dirty and doesn't work - just what I wanted.

It has a small crack along a few of the threads at the bottom, and the tailcap is pushed in a bit. It also needs a bulb. But it looks like it'll clean up nice! Everything fits together snug and there are no stripped threads. The switch is tight and appears to work fine (I tested it with a meter). It's a combination pushbutton/slide switch. The pushbutton gives the "momentary on" feature. At first I though the switch was stuck until I realized that the button must be pushed to move the switch. I guess it prevents accidental activations. The lens really looks like a lens, in that it is two pieces of glass! That was unexpected.

Bones_708 - Good call on the spring. That'll get replaced immediately.

There's a light green discoloration along the inside of the tube and tailcap. I think it might be from a battery leak? I need to clean it up in the tailcap, as the spring needs to make good electrical contact here. Anyone know if that's old battery residue and the best way to clean it? I'm considering just using a wire brush.

This is my first vintage flashlight and I'm anxious to get it restored. I'll stick with an incan bulb to keep it original. Thanks for all the responses! I've got to get some pics posted...
 

Reid

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Jun 5, 2007
Messages
78
Congrats! I've got one like that, inasmuch as the body is identical--it's even in the same condition as the museum's example.

Mine is a 2D with a small head and a condenser (aspheric) lens typical of the period. It works OK, but today's D cells seem to be a bit longer than the old timers' cells, so the cap needs to be unscrewed a bit.

About "restoration". It's hard to resist refinishing things to look more nearly like new. Yet, when we scrub off all the signs of age, say, repaint the brass barrel of this particular light (see the museum picture), the barrel will LOOK repainted, but the brightwork will still have its patina.

Patina, mismatched (new barrel paint, but imperfect nickel plate) is sort of sad looking.

Now, many old lights are to be restored, prettied up, just as the new owner prefers. But bear in mind, that someday these relics will be more highly prized in "good original condition" (moreso prized by the advanced collectors), than if they have been partially restored, or had parts swapped in.

In the world of "real" antiques and collecting, untouched original condition is often termed "unmolested condition".

That said, if your new purchase does not light, it is likely to be only due to old battery leakage. Clean what you need to clean, where you can reach, by mechanical means, sure.

But what of the internal contacts? Hard to reach those!
Well, a tarnish remover, chemical, simple, safe: Household ammonia, cut with an equal measure of water.
Pour it through, into the switch area, work the switch many times to wipe through the tarnish. If it's all "et up" by verdigris, then no good, maybe. But to renew the conductivity of a non-conductive tarnished brass surface, ammonia cleans that off.

Follow the ammonia cleaner with a cold water flush, dip in boiling hot water, rinse and blow dry, and bake in the sun or a very low oven to drive out the final moisture. Then "seal" the contacts with a time-stable lube like a silicone grease. Don't employ silicone until AFTER any planned repainting;
fisheyes will result in the new paint, almost surely. It's very difficult to remove all traces of silicones;
they soak right into the micro-fissures of metal.


Ammonia will, however, begin to soften and ultimately remove some kinds of old paint. Unlikely in your light's case: it's probably going to bear remnants of nitrocellulose lacquer. The other black paint of that era, for metal, was japan black.
I can make a separate article about japan black. I'm the only guy I know who has still-living experience with that finishing system (Model T Fords used it).

Watchmakers use ammoniated cleaning solutions to clean parts and brighten brass. If we soak nasty brass in ammoniated water, eventually the result is a matte, frosted finish looking more white, than coppery, because copper gradually leaches out.

General caution: Ammoniated cleaners are not the thing to use (including Simichrome polish, same reason) on "sick" brass; brass where age is causing cracks. There are effects on zinc/copper alloys from ammonia that can (or may not!) cause further damage to the micro-corroded alloy.

But, since we've cleaned millions of brass clocks with ammoniated cleaners, and had nary a problem, this caution I throw out is more for the worst-case scenario.
For instance, I wouldn't use Brasso (ammoniated) on thin sheet brass of say, an antique phonograph's horn, on the off-chance that the amine corrosion process might get started.

----PS:

The World's BEST garage-sale-find CLEANER is....


(I'll tell you guys in another post. I expect handshakes and free frashrights in return, because you will be amAzeD!)

Plus, your wife will love you and be forced to admit you are a genius after all.

The world's best household cleaner... you may have it in stock already, but not know what it's really for...

heh! True!

PPS: Don't souse any of these things with WD40. It won't do much good, and ultimately, gums.
WD40 secrets revealed: 75 percent low-odor mineral spirits, 25 percent low viscosity, clarified mineral oil. That's it. The oil is not stablized, the solvent evaporates, leaving a nice oil film, which in time oxidizes (dries, like paint) to form a gummy varnish film. A new application of WD40 then will dissolve that film, to some extent.

"My" SuPeR cleaner mentioned above is more the way to go! Heh! And no, I won't make a dime off any of you. It's not my product, but--I've used it for cleaning junk for thirty years---and it makes dogs look like The President himself (sorry, I'm not being fair to dogs today, ha ha).
 
Last edited:

The Shadow

Newly Enlightened
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
175
Location
Standing right beside you...
Reid - Totally agree with you about "restoration." I'm not planning on painting over any of this light's wear spots - they give it character as a well-used 70+ year-old light. I'd like to clean it up as much as possible, polish the metal, and replace the bulb (with the same type if possible).

I've cleaned it using diluted Simple Green, a toothbrush, cotton wadding polish, and WD-40. I already WD-40'ed the switch!:awman:

I didn't know about the ammonia, but I think I'll give it a try now. Your "world's best" mystery cleaner also has me intrigued. :popcorn:

As for that green residue, I've scraped off as much as I could in the tailcap so I can get a decent connection to the spring. I'd love to know an easier way to remove that. Maybe the super-mystery cleaner...:whistle:
 

Reid

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Jun 5, 2007
Messages
78
WD40, at worst, in time will make an invisible film of a sort of varnish. That's how it tends to protect iron from re-rusting.

The mystery cleaner is not going to remove corrosion, sorry!

Didn't you guess what it is yet, anybody?

It is.....
GOJO "white creme hand cleaner"
(or any other brand of identical nature--not pumiced, not "orange action")

-----

GOJO is soft, white soap. Soap is an emulsifier.
There's a lot of water in soft soap. Water is a solvent.
GOJO's third ingredient is a small percentage of low-odor mineral spirits.


Cleaning things in general: A paper towel or cloth or brush charged with GOJO. Apply to almost any surface.
Smear it around, wipe it off. No need to rinse with water, not really.


What results: The three cleaners in GOJO work in tandem, together, to lift almost any sort of removable soil.

The grime of ages comes right off. You may need to let the GOJO sit on the surface for a short while, though.

The soap-aspect of the stuff leaves the surface with a nice, slick gloss.

GOJO cleans grubby wall switch plates, latex paint (then rinse with water to keep a flat finish "flat" looking; test first)

GOJO and 4/0 (finest) steel wool will greatly improve the appearance of checked, antique varnish surfaces.

WOODWORK, finished or not, cleans up with GOJO.
Grimy butcherblock, for instance: GOJO, liberally applied and smooshed around with the brush, and wiped off, and repeat the process, sucks filth right out of the pores of the wood, and leaves it looking like waxed wood.

Bikes, chains, greasy parts of any machine: GOJO.

It's a nearly universal cleaner. It's the best laundry-stain pre-treater for oily stains. It's also

safe for hands. Funny, that's the only thing that hand cleaner is promoted for, when in fact, the old soft soap
(your great great grandparents knew of it) is, today, the safest, most natural, most amazing cleaner of any in the household arsenal.

Costs locally: one dollar per one pound tub.
Available at the local auto parts stores.

ALSO SOLD online as Kotton Klenser
(google that, and check the price if you want to laugh at suckers--I use to buy that product until I got my suspicions up, and realized it is nothing else but soft soap)

Caveat: This is not good for scrub-cleaning aluminium, say, with a 3M green abrasive pad. Why? Well, the soap does make a waterproof grease of the aluminum your pad scrubs off! That "soap film" we all know about, is the tendency of soap to also make water-insoluble compounds with some things.

The slickness of a GOJO cleaned surface also owes in part to the mineral spirits content of the cleaner. That will evaporate. The soap stays behind and is a lubricant of sorts, and as like a wax, the soap imparts a gloss to shiny surfaces, and a glow to matte surfaces.

Driving wood screws is much easier if rubbed on soap, or dipped in GOJO.

Find something really filthy in the garage, get a medium bristle brush of the sort we used to call a radiator brush,
and with GOJO and five minutes easy work, make that junk look about like new, just as clean as new.

Also favorited: microfiber cloths. Local auto parts store (Advance, etc) may carry them in bundled packs, very cheap and very good and infinitely reusable by washing.
Microfiber cloths are no bunk. They hold more water than terrycloth, and have far less tendency to scratch fine surfaces. Funny, because they are of a nylon-type synthetic, and when dry, feel awful on the skin, like plastic fabric. But, man, do they clean!

Brushes, GOJO (white creme only!), a pack of microfiber cloths, all available at the auto parts store around the corner.

OH--do you have any brushed finish stainless steel in the kitchen? Any fingerprinting hassles with it? Greasy sink?
Guess what is the slickest remedy? GOJO, of course!
Also pulls the stains from marble, cleans granite, brightens just about everything--kitchen cabinets' finishes, RANGE HOODS (you'll find the work is a joy--no hassles!)

TELL your mates "Honey, let's try this out, you know, if it's good for hands, then it's probably safe to try it elsewhere. I just bet this will clean almost anything"

That way you get the credit for "my" discoveries, because, hell, I have no interest in your wives.

So, go to town! Ha ha! GOJO

:twothumbs

(am a walking advert today)

http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cach....htm+kotton+Kleanser&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us
Back when I contributed to Eric Reiss' fine book, I was still using Kotton Klenser.
Today, nah, no more KK here.
GOJO is the same thing, at one fifth to one tenth the price.

PS:
Because it is biodegradable, once opened, a container will begin to yellow with time.
And when a long-disused, opened container really starts to "go off", throw it out; not safe for your hands; the soup is bacterial, a culture for cuticle-infecting bugs.
 
Last edited:

sysadmn

Enlightened
Joined
Feb 12, 2007
Messages
583
Location
Between keyboard and chair, in the US Midwest.
Great cleaning advice!

FWIW, the purists' first rule in collecting is "Don't do anything that can't be undone". In restoration, the more original, the better - you're trying to return it to original condition, not recondition it to original condition. If you don't want to do restoration, that's fine too - just know the difference.

Here's a good pointer, from a camera guy: http://www.historiccamera.com/restore.html
 

thunderlight

Enlightened
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Messages
295
Location
Phoenix, AZ
Additional Ideas:

I have a couple of those Nite-Ize LED Pr bulbs for Mag C/D flashlights. I use them to test old PR bulb flashlights when I get them inititally or when I am fiddling with them to make them work. These bulbs work with 2 to 6 cell flashlights. If I use an old flashlight for an extended period of time I use some form of rechargables to avoid any future battery damage. [Usually, I just leave them on the shelf without batteries once I get them working.]

Based on my experience, I have never seen any damage due to an old bulb unless it's stuck or something like that. So from what I gather, you can leave an old bulb in the light even if it is no longer working. I would definitely toss a bulb that is cracked. I tend to toss old non-working bulbs if they are standard PR or screw-base bulbs. [I've never come across an old flashlight that uses any other type of bulb and I probably wouldn't want to obtain such a flashlight in any case.] If you wish to save the old bulb, just wrap it and attach a note or Post-It indicating the corresponding flashlight. [Too much CSI or No your collection will never be as big as the Flashlight Museum. :whistle:] Note that you can get
screw-base bulbs at ACE hardware, Frys Electronics, and elsewhere.

Don't forget to silicon grease an old flashlight as appropriate as you would with a current flashlight.

Sometimes I will cannibalize a new cheapo flashlight such as the cheapest Eveready flashlights in order to get new parts, particularly springs, or plastic lenses. Sometimes these are practically give-aways at flea markets, thrift stores, etc.

BTW, if you get into collecting big time, you can use old wine racks to display your collection. Congratulations, collecting old flashlights is lots of fun and if you're careful, not very expensive.
 

Latest posts

Top