A little over a year ago, I quit smoking. At this same time, I also quit carrying a lighter. It just seemed the right thing to do since I didn’t need to light a cigarette every 45-60 minutes. But I have, on rather frequent occasion, missed carrying a lighter. My need for nicotine is firmly in my past now, but my need for fire never will be.
Like most people who spent 65% or more of their life smoking, I owned several Zippos. I started as a kid, 16 I think, sneaking into the local big box store while cutting class, and buying one at the jewelry counter. They were behind the glass to keep delinquents like me from swiping them. For a cost of 20$ in the early 90’s, I had mine. The next day in the boy’s bathroom at the end of the long hall, that distinctive “click-clink” sound was heard. Everybody knew I had one, and everybody wanted to use it.
That sound is iconic, instantly identified. Like a pump shotgun being racked, there is no mistaking it. And in the boy’s room, it was followed by the scent of zippo fluid chased by Marlboro Light. I had joined the classiest of hoodlums in my little vocational wing of the high school.
So, fast forward twenty-odd years, and I found myself wanting a Zippo. I don’t miss the tobacco anymore, but I often need to burn threads, light fires, melt and taper paracord, light candles, or even use one as light when the hurricane knocks out the power and I gotta take a leak. We have several lighters around the house for these tasks, but a little plastic lighter doesn’t feel like a tool. And I do have a bottle-type blowtorch lighter that can ignite even wet kindling. But it is only a tool. The Zippo, it has soul.
The soul comes from the 1930’s, surviving until today. A couple of quick history bits came along the way. In 1941, all of the lighters made by Zippo were sold to the US Government for military procreation to provide the troops with the best quality lighter made. Not bad for a company that had mass produced its first lighters just seven years prior. The single-handed operation and reliability, even in wind, ensured the veterans would take their lighters home, and that’s all you needed to do back then to ensure an 80-year following.
The other major event for Zippo, in my mind, was the acquisition of Ronson. Ronson was a competing brand that made lighters and lighter fluid and similar products. Millions of Zippos over the years had functioned perfectly using Ronsonol lighter fluid. While they are not the same thing (different blends of similar fuels) they are interchangeable, leading to totally mixable. I only say this based on my own non-scientific decades of doing exactly that in my own lighters.
Also, you can use a Zippo to ignite a spritz of hair spray, deodorant, or other combustible liquid applied to the wick, should you be out of fuel. And any residue left by the non-standard fuel, will usually clean easily with… you guessed it, lighter fluid. If not, you can replace the wick for a very fair price from any drug store.
So here we have my new Zippo. I wanted to show off my favorite Zippo trick, but there are no mosquitoes to be found right now. But you can take a Zippo and heat up the lid with the flame, then touch it to a mosquito bite, and it will kill the itch. You can do the same trick with a spoon and really hot water, but it’s nowhere near as cool.
For more information on the history of the Zippo Click Here
Zippo offers an all-in-one package, that can be stored safely for emergencies. It includes a basic lighter, a can of lighter fluid, and a package of replacement flints. Perfect to get you started carrying a Zippo, or to store in case you need one in an emergency down the road.
You may have noticed only two images in this post. That is because the Zippo does but two things. Be closed and safe, or open and flamey. Images of course were taken by and remain the property of the author. If you plan to steal my intellectual property, please let me know.
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