Coleman gas clothes iron
Does anybody remember these? They were an iron for ironing clothes before electricity became available in a lot of rural communities. The ones I remember had a blue ball about 2 1/2 or 3" in diameter that you filled with naptha gas, and a built in pump to pressurize the ball with air. Then you lit it just like a Coleman camp stove, and after the initial flames had settled down to a nice even hiss, the internal burner heated the sole plate and it was great to iron clothes with. I would like to get one of those balls for a fuel tank for my Odds and Ends hit and miss engine. If anybody has one, let me know please. Childhood memorys of my aunt Betty ironing clothes prompted this story I wrote a few years ago, titled "Aunt Bettys Iron".
“Aunt Betty’s Iron”
The part of Ontario that I grew up in had no Hydro electric power until I was about 10 years old, and then when it did come through, a lot of people couldn't afford it until I was about 15 years old.
This lead to a lot of strange and wonderful memories of when I was a kid. One of the more awe inspiring memories is of my aunt Betty's Naptha gas powered clothes iron. (And yes, she was married to the ill fated Uncle Jimmy who put the Naptha in grandpa's oilcan).
Now I'm sure that not too many of you knew that there was such a thing as a Naptha powered clothes iron.
It kinda looked like an electric clothes iron, but it had a round blue globe about 3" diameter on one end. This globe had a screw on lid and a pressure pump just like a gas lantern.
The procedure to use this thing was to fill the globe with Naptha gas, pump up the internal pressure, then light it with a kitchen match and let it preheat.--And that was the fun part. My aunt Betty was deathly afraid of the damn thing, because when you lit it, blue flames would shoot in all directions, totally enveloping the iron and the hand of whoever lit it, and it would hiss like a ruptured dragon until the burners inside the iron heated up---then it would settle into a rather contented hiss and you would be ready to iron the days washing with it.
She would make my uncle take it outside to light it and get it warmed up to operating temperature. My uncle knew no fear!! (Hell, he even used Naptha in his Zippo cigarette lighter, because it was cheaper than lighter fluid.).
I always loved it if I happened to be at Grandpa's house on ironing day. My uncle never worked too steady---it interfered with his whiskey drinking and fiddle playing too much. As a consequence, him and my aunt lived in a little house on a piece of my grandpa's land.
He wasn't big on working, but he was great with all of us various nephews and nieces, and could be depended on for some great pyrotechnic displays!!!
Just yesterday I was at a friends house and saw one on his shelf.
I had never seen one before so he took it out and showed it off.
My grandmother had solid cast iron ones that sat on the kitchen stove until hot.
I remember she had some " do's and don'ts" about how to clean them,similar to her rules about cast iron skillets.
I also remember when she got the first refrigerator. It seemed like it was three stories tall.
She never did trust it. All meat got baked or boiled.
Hmmmm... never saw one so I had to google it....
Terry Marsh has some links on his "Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps, Stoves, and Irons" site:
Edited cuz I updated the site.
Last edited by dp; 03-23-2013 at 06:51 PM.
I collect Coleman stuff, mostly lanterns, but I have a couple of the irons. Some had the unplated and painted tank you describe, most common iron seems to be the blue one with chrome tank like the above post. There are also red, green, and later on black irons. They almost always have the burned spot on the wood handle, sometimes even on an iron that looks virtually mint. I can imagine the lady of the house getting one of these new gadgets to replace the old sad irons she simply heated on the wood burning kitchen range. A little raw fuel collects while she's trying to light it and WOOF, gas flames 2 feet tall. I get a mental picture of her new Coleman iron sailing out the window into the back yard trailing flames like a shot up Kamikaze plane.
The sad irons worked well, but on a hot summers day in July at 90 degrees F not many wives wanted to start a fire in the kitchen stove to heat them up. However, when I was a kid we found a new way to use the sad irons. We were recycling back in 1951 and didn't even know it!!! I grew up in semi northern Ontario in a little one, two, three room house with damned little insulation and -30 degrees F temperatures for weeks at a time. The bedroom was so cold that a glass of water left on the bedside stand (an upholstered orange crate) would freeze solid overnight when the fire in the wood boxstove died down. Mom used to warm the sad iron on the stove after supper, wrap it in a towel at bedtime, and I would use it to keep my feet warm until I fell asleep.---Of course this was abandoned after I got big enough to care for a house dog. A dog stays warm ALL NIGHT!!! It wasn't just the Australians who had "Three Dog Nights".---Brian
Brian, have you ever tried any metal spinning on your lathe? That shape looks like it would be a good one to try it on.
By the way, it also looks an awful lot like the copper ball float in my toilet.
Gary---No, I've never tried metal spinning in my lathe. I do a lot of design work for a company that does huge CNC spinning lathes, but not my little lathe here at home. Its a new skill set that I don't want to have to learn right now, and the headstock bearings in my lathe wouldn't like it too much.
Last edited by brian Rupnow; 03-14-2013 at 07:37 PM.
Don't have one of those irons or the ball, but have seen them, but i sure enjoy reading those stories Brian, i can really relate to most of it, having "been there done that" as they say.
Sasquatch---You and I are twin sons of different mothers!!!