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1940 Dietz Comet Molasses Treatment

Started by david@london, April 28, 2020, 09:50:39 AM

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Having read several interesting topics about restoring hurricane lanterns using the molasses process, I was keeping an eye out and found this Dietz Comet with the original clear globe, located near Liverpool.

Seller's description from the sale :

8" height.
Recovered, as seen, from Liverpool home in 1980.
Have only used newspaper to wipe it for fear of causing any damage.
Was hidden under lumps of coal in the coal cellar.
Glass very dirty but not cracked.
Will be carefully packaged for postage.

Using the methods John Teleplay describes, I soaked the lantern for 10 days in a 14 litre bucket of diluted Grandma's molasses (355ml) and, as the water is very hard here in North Suffolk, added a cup of vinegar.
Several sessions with a Brillo pad and the chelating action of the dilute molasses has cleaned the lantern up nicely.
Final stage - a light application of boiled linseed oil (25%) mixed with white spirit (75%) using a clean cotton cloth.
Apparently the early American-made Dietz Comets were produced for the export market.
The air tube on this one is stamped 'S-3-40'  (Syracuse, New York - March- 1940).

Many thanks to John, without whose help this refurb would not have happened.


Nice work! That came out great. Congratulations. John's advice has helped many members with many different issues, he is an invaluable resource here.
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"


Airtube stamps:
Cone pic halfway thru chelation process still shows crud on lantern base:
Drying out:


I promised David I would do this comparison image to show him how small the Comet is in comparison to other lanterns.

Yes, Dietz decided to produced the Comet mainly for export to the Europe and David was very fortunate to find a pre-war tin plated Comet in great physical condition. I think the Comet was 3/8" wick low candle power lantern designed to compete with the Czech lanterns for use where fuel was hard to get and expensive and a bit of light was better than no light at all.

I did not have a Comet so while helping David I bought a factory painted post-war Comet in a 22 bid bidding war on eBay and ended up paying $72 with shipping. I was surprised at the Comet's size when opening the box. And, it seems a good condition Comet is a hard to find item in the US as reflected in that item's bidding war.

David did quite well in finding a nicely priced tin plated Comet and his first try at doing a restoration resulted in an exceptional quality lantern. He did such an excellent job on the Comet that and I am anxious to see how his next lantern project turns out.

As for size, the Comet and Czech lanterns use a 3/8" wick ( about 4 candle power), the Korean a 1/2" wick (about 5 CP) and the Little Wizard a 5/8" wick (about 6 CP). The brighter the flame, the larger the tank needed as in the full sized Dietz Blizzard and No.2 D-Lite lanterns which both use a 7/8" wicks and produce about 10 CP. The Comet is 8.5" tall. The red Korean lantern is 12" tall.

The lanterns from left to right:  Dietz "Comet" -- Czech Republic "864" -- Korean "Hope No. 500" -- Dietz "Little Wizard"


Nice lamp, good to see the hidden detail reappear. Good to see the size comparison pic also, I will be measuring my two up tomorrow to see how they compare.

David, was the Molasses an online purchase or is it available from one of the well known UK stores?

A collector of  'Monochrome Phones with Sepia Tones'   ...and a Duck!
Vintage Phones - 10% man made, 90% Tribble


Thank you Harry and John. The comparison picture does show the neat stature of the Comet next to those other tall guys.

The Kirkman Lantern site mentions that it was adopted by the Boy Scouts for official use.

CJ, I got the Grandma's from Amazon. As that type is proven to work well it seemed sensible to use it.

John, I believe you have tried other molasseses with less effective strap etc?
The best known type in the UK is Tate & Lyle's BS in the vintage tin. Good in cakes but perhaps doesn't chelate Comets & Wizards.


Quote from: david@london on April 29, 2020, 07:16:32 AM
John, I believe you have tried other molasseses with less effective strap etc?
The best known type in the UK is Tate & Lyle's BS in the vintage tin. Good in cakes but perhaps doesn't chelate Comets & Wizards.

Grandma's molasses is made from sugar cane. The juice is extracted from the cane stalk and boiled to concentrate it, promoting sugar crystallization (precipitates out) leaving a thicker, darker colored "juice" which is called first boiling ('A' Molasses) syrup and it has the highest sugar content. The "juice" is boiled a second time to extract more sugar crystals and that results in 'B' Molasses which is darker and has a slightly bitter taste. This is the molasses sold in Grandma's jars.

The syrup is boiled a third time which yields dark, viscous blackstrap molasses ('C' Molasses), known for its robust flavor. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has crystallized and been removed. The caloric content of blackstrap molasses is mostly due to the small remaining sugar content. Since blackstrap molasses has much less sugar than second boiling Grandma's Molasses, that means less of the complex sugars in the syrup that is needed to chelate the metals out of the crud on a lantern's surface turning it to mud easily removed with a Brillo pad while retaining the tin plate patina.

Unlike highly refined sugars, blackstrap contains significant amounts of vitamin B6 and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and manganese with one tablespoon providing up to 20% of the recommended daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap has a significantly more bitter taste than "regular" 2nd boil molasses. It's main uses are for baking, producing ethanol, as an ingredient in cattle feed and as a fertilizer.

So, that's molasses. I tried Brer Rabbit blackstrap molasses once and it did not work. Had to dump the 5 gallons and start again with Grandma's which worked fine. I thought the more "full flavor" molasses would work better but that thinking was before I did the research and discovered why the web site said to use Gramdma's (2nd boiling) molasses for restoration.

That's the sugar cane molasses story (molasses made from beet sugar is much different and not suggested for use, if it can be found).


The above comparison image shows the Comet with respect to similar lanterns made in other countries. Here is an image of the Dietz family showing how small the Comet really is to the full sized lanterns. The Comet has a 3/8" wick, the Wizard a 5/8" and the outside two use 7/8" wicks - note the fuel tank size difference.

The lanterns from left to right:  Dietz "Blizzard" -- Dietz "Comet" -- Dietz "Little Wizard" -- Dietz "No. 2 D-Lite"


Wonder how sorghum molasses would work.  I guess it would be iffy since it actually tastes good as is.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
— Arthur C. Clarke


Quote from: 19and41 on April 30, 2020, 02:07:20 PM
Wonder how sorghum molasses would work.  I guess it would be iffy since it actually tastes good as is.

Good question, never heard of it so did some research to find out the following, and posted here not with the intent to hijack the topic, just add to the molasses discussion part of the topic.

"Sorghum syrup is made from the green juice of the sorghum plant, which is extracted from the crushed stalks and then heated to steam off the excess water leaving the syrup behind. Conversely, molasses is the by-product of processing sugar cane into sugar. Sugar cane is stripped of its leaves and the juice is extracted from the cane by crushing or mashing. The juice is then boiled to concentrate it, which produces crystallization of the sugar."

Sorghum syrup seems just like Maple syrup which is produced in the upper mid-west in spring from Maple trees. The trees are tapped and the watery sap is collected in metal pails for processing the same way Sorghum is processed to create a sweep syrup. Both are heated to reduce water content, to increase the sugars in the juice/sap. They are boiled to reduce water content, not to remove sugars. At some point, the mixture in the pot gets to the syrup viscosity desired and that syrup is bottled. Nothing is lost other than water to make the liquid thicker, to make it into a sweet pour-able syrup.

Molasses is what's left over after the cane sugar crystals are removed, crystallized out by boiling down the solution. It seems the more complex chelating sugars are not removed or destroyed by the first two boilings and those are the chelating chemicals in Grandma's molasses that is needed to restore cruddy metal surfaces.

It might be the chelating sugars still present in the 2nd boil molasses react in the 3rd boil, latch on to or chelate minerals in the boiling pot which gives blackstrap molasses a high mineral content that makes it good as a fertilizer or feed. Chelating minerals is basically turning metal or rock into an organic form which is easily absorbed by plants and animals.

Bottom line, Sorgum or Maple or Corn syrup would not work, do not have the complex sugars found in boiled down sugar cane juices.