I Fixed Up My Dad’s Old Lighter. Here’s What I Learned.

Mister Lichtenstein
4 min readDec 18, 2022
My dad’s lighter, shortly after I fixed it up in my workshop.

I called an old friend the other day. We hadn’t spoken in months. I didn’t call for any particular reason, other than that I missed talking to him. I missed the sound of his voice, even over the phone. Sure, we’re both magicians and any conversation I have with a magician is sort of work, but mostly I was calling because I felt sentimental. On the face of it, this has nothing to do with my dad’s lighter, but it does. I’ll explain.

Before I was born, my dad worked for Dunhill, a staffing company. By the time I existed, he had his own headhunting firm and Dunhill was in the rear view mirror. My folks both smoked cigarettes until they decided to have me. Once they started trying for me, my mom stopped smoking and my dad compromised by switching to cigars he’d smoke on their balcony. He quit sometime in the late 1980s.

My father passed away in 2018. One of the items I found among his things was his old Zippo lighter. It was of a much older vintage than the current stock of Zippos, with slightly different hinges and lighting mechanism. The inner cartridge was done for. The spring that held the flint in place was nackered and I couldn’t replace that with one from a modern Zippo. Even the cotton stuffing was rotting away. However, it was a gift from his old employer. It had the contact info for the company on it, including the phone number, sans area code, which was normal for the time since all of New York City would have been 212 at the time. It spoke of a specific time and place that no longer exists: the Madmen era.

When I moved to California, I decided to clean up the lighter and get it working. Since I don’t smoke cigarettes, I knew I wouldn’t be using it very often, so a regular Zippo wasn’t going to be very practical. I decided instead to swap the innards of the lighter for a new product Zippo makes: an insert that uses butane to make a soft flame, rather than using Ronsonol. Regular lighter fluid evaporates when not used, so a regular Zippo dries out if you don’t use it every day. Not very useful for me. Now the lighter isn’t just usable, it’s practical.

This is the butane insert, before putting it into the lighter.