Taking a break from all the DIY-heavy home improvement projects, I found this rusted out Zippo lighter at a flea market.
I've always been a fan of Zippos, their style (and that unique sound) is incredibly iconic, so I figured I'd have a crack at restoring it.
Plus I still have a bunch of spares left over from the trench lighter project I did a while back.
Before starting, I did some research to try and put a date on the lighter, just in case it was something super-rare.
The first thing to so is to check the stamp at the bottom of the case:
According to the table provided by Zippo themselves, based on the logo type and the patent number, this lighter was manufactured in the 1937-1950 date range.
Depending on the source, the chimney having 8 holes per side dates it as being from late 1946 or 1947 onward.
The diagonal-cut flint wheel puts it also at 1946 onward.
Finally, the hinge (again, depending on the source), puts it at either 1948 or 49 onward
So between all that, it looks most likely that this lighter was produced between 1948-1950.
It's pretty cool to know the lighter has some history to it, but it doesn't make it a massively rare artefact.
Removing the rust
The rust on one side in particular was quite thick. To remove it I started with a small rotary tool wire wheel, then moved to some high-grit sanding discs, before some wet and dry sanding by hand to even out some scratches, finally finishing up with a number of passes with the buffing wheel and polishing compound.
As much as I am trying to preserve the original chromed finish, it was clear even before starting that it had worn through in places - I was merely trying to not make it any worse.
However with that lot done, although it's not exactly 'showroom' quality, the lighter has it's shine back, but retains a lot of it's characterful aging which suits it's age.
Flints & Wicks
The obvious thing to note is that it's not functional. To start with, there was no flint to make a spark. Thankfully the flint spring was still there, so adding one of my spares was all it took to get it sparking again.
The wick had been worn down to nearly nothing as well. I thought that I would likely need to replace it, so had a spare to hand, but it appears as though there was still plenty of wick remaining to pull through. It's quite possibly that the previous owner just never knew to do this - or had lost the flint before it was an issue.
Then all that was left was to add fuel, and: