View Full Version : How to function test an old lantern before you buy it

07-14-2015, 05:18 AM
If you're looking for an old Coleman lantern, you can find some really good deals out there. However, if you don't know what you're looking at, you might get one that needs so many repairs that it exceeds the cost of a new one. That's not always a deal breaker, the old lanterns are better than the new stuff they turn out. This is the way I test old lanterns to give me a good idea of the repairs they might need without taking the whole thing apart... Taking things apart at the thrift shop is generally frowned upon by store owners, lol, so this method only goes over what you can check while in the store.


07-14-2015, 10:33 AM
Good video. There is only one deal breaker for me and that's a severally rusted tank. Check that by tapping the tank. Thin metal, caused by rust, will have a much different sound than solid metal. Light rust on the inside is not much of a problem but it does take some work to clean it. I dump about a 1/4 cup of BBs inside and shake the bejesus out of it. The BBs will clean the inside of the tank. They can be difficult to get out because the fuel tube extends slightly inside the tank. You always wind up with one or two BBs that decide to be a pain in the rump and not want to come out but you can get them all.

The only other problem to be aware of are spider webs in the generator tube. This will either completely block the fuel or cause flare ups from fuel dripping into the mantel. Every other piece, part and even labels can be easily found. Pumps and mantels can be picked up at Wally World for next to nothing. All other components can usually be found at OldColemanParts.com. Most of their stuff is new old stock and reasonably priced. Good folks to deal with.

I've rebuilt dozens of Coleman lanterns and an equal number of stoves and heaters. All models and many dating back to the 40s. Just a hobby for me. I've yet to find one that can not be put back into working order. The darn things are bomb proof and will provide great service with very little care. They are the Mosin Nagents of lanterns and stoves.

The one thing to be very careful of in older lanterns are the mantels. Early mantels were made with thorium, which is radioactive and the mantel thread was made from asbestos. Old mantels are usually the first thing I discard...with gloves. Surprisingly, you can still purchase them. They put out a much brighter light with the thorium than modern mantels but it's not worth the risk to me. Mantels today contain Yttrium and burn with a yellow glow instead of white light.

07-16-2015, 09:55 AM
So that is why my new lanterns are never as bright as my old ones were.

The heck with that, I want my uranium and asbestos back!

I can't remember a single instance of anyone dying from exposure to a Coleman lantern unless they caught the tent on fire.

Beats me that I can take apart firearms and build or repair most anything that goes wrong. I can forge a knife from an horseshoe nail, make fire using only the breath of a dragon and tan hides and clothe myself from head to foot. But I have never successfully repaired a Coleman product, either lantern or stove. And I have tried.

Very irritating!

07-16-2015, 11:04 AM
I can't disagree with your thinking. Just know that thorium does exit the lantern when it's burning and those little goobers can wind up in your lungs or on your food. Even worse when you change the old ones out because, as you know, they turn to dust. I'm no chemist but thorium has a half life of something a bit longer than I'll ever live so any of it ingested or inhaled stays in you...forever. And you have to wonder if any of those cancers your friends had were because of thorium mantels. Now you see the light don't you? (get it? see the light? lantern?)

07-16-2015, 02:18 PM
Current Coleman lantern mantles aren't made with thorium, they have non-radioactive yttrium... Although yttrium fumes can be toxic if inhaled, they're not radioactive. American brand mantles are also non-radioactive and are much more durable than Coleman mantles... Oddly enough, American brand mantles are made in India.

If you keep in mind the sequence of operation in the lantern or stove, there's nothing you can't fix on them. I just fixed up two of them. It's a hobby of mine. This video is more just for the novice who has little interest in getting one to fix up, they just want to get a good deal on a lantern that's made better than the new stuff they sell. The main thing is pointing out the difference between things that are meant for the end user to monkey around with (generator, pump, fuel cap gasket, globe) that wear out or break with normal use, and things that you don't really want to mess around with if you don't have to (check valve, packing nuts and gaskets, fuel/air tube).

Like Rick said, the only thing that can't really be fixed is a hole in the fount. There's just not much steel there to work with and if you got one hole, chances are there's more you don't see yet.

07-16-2015, 03:03 PM
It was a good vid and I hope my post didn't distract from it. Here's another Coleman site that may be of interest to you.


As well as:


Coleman in Canada made a few items that were not made here in the U.S. They had a really great, small catalytic heater. I've managed to snare two of them. They work great.

07-16-2015, 03:10 PM
Lol, your post was everything I wanted to say in the video but didn't have time. I'm a member of the coleman collectors forum too. Great group of folks as long as you don't bring up propane... Or "profane" as they call it. I actually don't have a problem with propane, I find it easier to light up when it's cold and if you rent the big bottles and get an adapter, you can refill your one pound propane bottles and not have any waste. The old classics are just a special kind of coooool though.

07-16-2015, 03:28 PM
I have some stoves that I've converted to propane just because I have so many bottles, large and small. I have 4 of the propane lanterns for emergency use. I agree, the oldies hold a special place for me too. I get a lot of satisfaction when I pick up one that has been abused terribly and can bring it back to life. I rebuilt a stove a couple of years back that had been used as a table top charcoal grill. That was a special kind of ugly and probably the worst I've dealt with. Today it works like a new one but it still has a face only a mother could love. I have a lot of military stoves as well. Some were Coleman along some other brands. I have some military lanterns and wouldn't give you a nickle for 10 more. Awful things.

09-01-2015, 09:25 PM
RICK " ... I have a lot of military stoves as well. ... "

Rick -- and Wiggy also if you have one -- I have a M1950 Coleman military stove, U.S. 1982 mfg., that needs a new tank cap gasket and pump cup. I saw on the old Coleman parts site a repair kit for the M1950 pump. I got the old gasket out of the cap but can not figure out how to get the pump cup out of the pump tube. (?????) Do you know how to get the cup out of the tube?

Thank you.


09-02-2015, 12:19 AM

09-02-2015, 01:42 AM
The M1950 is a cool little stove. Here's a link to the instructions in case you don't have them.


I have a couple of them. If I remember correctly one came from Coleman's and one from eBay.

It's not uncommon for the leather cup to stick inside of the tube. Especially if they have been sitting a while. There are several things you can do to free it up. 1. You can grasp the side of the plunger tube with a pair of pliers and gently twist. You don't have to put a lot of pressure on it but you might want to protect the tube with a rag before you grab it with pliers. You'll be able to feel the cap if it is trying to free up. If it isn't stuck too bad that will sometimes break them loose. Too much pressure can tear the cup up as well. 2. Stick the thing in the freezer overnight. The difference between the metal and leather shrinking is sometimes enough to break them loose. 3. If both methods fail then you might pour a small amount of Goof Off or any acetone down the tube and let it sit overnight. Cover the tube opening because acetone with evaporate quickly. Just be certain to clean out any acetone left over. It's flammable.

Since you are getting the rebuild kit even if you tear the cup leather it won't be a big deal. You'll just have to clean the remnants out of the tube. The M1950 is a great stove. Once you get it going store the stove empty of fuel and a drop or two of oil down the pump tube to keep the new leather cup pliant.

If you have a Dremel tool the soft wire brush wheel is the berries for cleaning up the metal parts. It will take the soot and other gunk off right down to clean metal. Buy several because you'll go through them pretty quickly.

Hopefully, you have the spare generator, the wrench and the two piece aluminum storage case. If not, you can pick them up pretty easily. If you want to actually use the storage case for cooking any generic pot holder will work with them. Open Country, MSR and others make them. Just don't squeeze the handles too hard. They will bend the lip of the storage case.

If you need a part you can't find don't forget eBay. Although oldcolemanparts generally has anything you need.

Let us know how it works out or if you need any more help.

09-02-2015, 01:39 PM
Rick, many thanks for that information. I'll give it a shot. I haven't used it in several years but when I did use it out in the woods, it worked very well.

Have to resurrect it now in case I need to use it again.


09-03-2015, 02:32 PM
Rick, if it is not inconvenient, would you please take a look at your M1950 stove and tell me if there is supposed to be a wick in the preheater cup assembly, shown in the diagram on pdf page 2-4, the site you posted? I can't find any wicks listed as parts anywhere for the M1950. It has been so long since I used it I can't remember if there were a wick in the preheater cup or not. I assume a wick for that would be some kind of asbestos material so it wouldn't burn away.(???)

I was given the stove about 25 years ago by a friend who had been in the Army for 20 years. I used it a few times in camp, then put it away in my camp stuff. About six or seven years ago I loaned it to a friend who used it on a hunt. He returned it to me and I just put it away again until a few days ago when I pulled it out to fire it up. If there were a wick in that preheater cup assembly, it isn't there now.

The pump cup works okay although I still can't figure out how to remove the cup from the plunger tube. Seems there is a flare to the top of the barrel pump that prevents the cap from being removed, which would (I guess) allow the plunger tube with attached cup to be removed. (???)

But if the preheater cup assembly requires a wick, I have no idea where to get one.

Thanks for your help.


09-04-2015, 07:17 AM
Yes, the stove does have a wick. The idea is when you first open the valve to light it fuel overflows into the preheat cup. Fewer pumps is better with these. If you give it a couple of pumps you will be just about right. If you give it 7 or 8 pumps the fuel will squirt out making a mess. If you are missing the wick then I would suggest replacing it with fiberglass wick. You can buy that stuff on ebay and I know Lehman's carries it. My guess, and it's only a guess, is the wick is 3/8" in diameter. If you can't find 3/8" then you might use 1/2" and cut it down. If you have the stove apart and have access to the preheat cup you can measure it and be more exact on size. As you know the preheat cup is buried inside and hard to get to unless the stove is disassembled. But I think fiberglass wick would work just as well. I've never replaced the wick but you only need to hold fuel long enough to heat the generator and vaporize the fuel so fiberglass should work. (famous last words). The original is probably asbestos as you said.

As for the pump, I think I misunderstood the problem originally. If you have the pump out of the stove and are trying to access the inner workings like the spring and leather cup then you actually take the large brass cap apart. If you look very closely at the big brass cap there is a small ring just beneath it. Those two unscrew from each other and the actual pump, spring and leather cap will come out of the tube. I thought the leather cup was stuck inside the pump. Sorry if I sent you down the wrong road.

09-04-2015, 01:04 PM
Rick, I really appreciate the information you have posted about the cap and the reference to Lehman's and ebay regarding the wick. I'll definitely check them out. I also will order the M1950 repair kit on the Coleman parts site you listed.

Many thanks.


09-05-2015, 03:36 PM
Cool beans. Did you get the cap apart and get the cup out? Let us know when you get it working. I love an old stove or lantern brought back to life.

09-05-2015, 04:38 PM
Yes, Rick, I got the cap apart. I had to use two hefty Channel Lok pliers as it was TIGHT. Nevertheless, it finally budged and off it came. I'll let you know my progress when the parts arrive. (I don't think I'll loan it to anyone else again. Sometimes people don't take care of other people's equipment, if you know what I mean. :no:)

Thanks again for the help.


09-10-2015, 06:57 PM
Rick, an update.

The parts for the Coleman M1950 stove arrived today from that old Coleman parts supply you posted. I replaced the seals and pump cup, put in some Coleman white gas and fired 'er up. Worked perfectly and boiled two cups of water in about four minutes. Good to go to make some coffee and beef soup in the high country during coming elk season. :thumbs_up:

Thanks again for your help.


09-11-2015, 12:34 AM
Hot dang! Congratulations. Glad to help. Did you have any luck on the wicking? It should work great without it right now. The temps are good and it won't take much to vaporize the fuel. Once you get in the high country and colder temps it might be a bit harder to heat the generator and vaporize the fuel. That's not a stove you can carry in your pocket to keep warm. :whistling:

09-11-2015, 12:53 PM
Rick, I forgot to add that I found the wick in the very bottom of the primer cup, so it worked perfectly.

Yeah, a back packing stove it isn't but anymore when I go to the mountains it's in my pickup, or on horses.

Thanks again.


09-11-2015, 01:05 PM
Well that worked out perfect. Cool beans.

09-04-2016, 10:02 AM
I hate to resurrect such an old thread but....just got my first M1950 (1966 manufacture) a few weeks back and love it. I had to replace the pump cup leather but as far as I can tell, the gaskets are original or were replaced by a previous owner. They are still pliant and functional. I have replacements but I'd rather not use them until they are really needed. The entire complement of replacemant parts was in the pump handle, though the rubber and the packing are a might worse for wear after 50 years. When I got it, it didn't look like it had been used in years and when it had it was used hard. It runs great though and I perc my coffee almost daily with it.
Some of the 'stovie' forums recommend just changing out the gaskets on a regular basis to avoid leaks and runaway stoves. You guys that have had them and used them for years, what is your experience? I hate to fix something that ain't broke, like spell check, it usually causes more trouble than it fixes.

As an FYI, I've gotten good mileage from it with kerosene though it prefers white gas. Anyone tried other fuels in it....results?

09-04-2016, 03:59 PM
They are indeed bomb proof. If it works, I wouldn't touch it. There were a lot of the 1950s that hit the market about 10 years ago +/-. They are a great, reliable stove. Any parts you need you can pick up on ebay or oldcolemanparts.com. I've even seen the containers/pots on ebay.

As for fuel, you can use unleaded gas in them. White gas is unleaded gas without the additives.