Can a lighter be considered art or even technology? Why do I like the Zippo lighter? Does the drawbacks of a Zippo make it a better lighter?
The Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in 1932 by George G. Blaisdell. The first Zippo lighters hit the stores in 1933. It was very popular with the military. The lighter’s design and materials has not changed, except during war time when materials were scarce.
The Zippo’s sturdy construction and ability to work in harsh weather made it very popular with campers and hikers. This was also a trait the military liked.
I think the Zippo lighter is more than functional, it has an artistic, timeless quality. It has an iconic shape, but more then that, it has an iconic sound. The sound of a Zippo opening, being lit, and then closing is immediately recognizable all over the world.
When you combine the shape, the sturdy metal feel in your hand along with the unique sounds it makes, mixed with the smell of the lighter fluid, you have a complete visceral experience.
It goes beyond just art and experience. It is almost timeless. Every part of the Zippo lighter can be replaced. It can be passed down from generation to generation and still remain functional.
I like to think of it as The Lighter of Theseus.
Because of all of these attributes the Zippo Lighter is more than just a lighter to me. Its a tool, an object of art, and a touch-stone to the past.
I have two myself, even though I don’t smoke. Along with a good knife having a working lighter is a must have.
It is true that a Zippo will run out of fuel after 2 weeks, sometimes maybe 3. This is because the lighter fuel will evaporate.
Other manufacturers make a Butane fueled insert. This eliminates the fuel from evaporating over time. The Butane insert looks and works the same as the original with the wind guard and the flint.
I guess the Butane insert is an improvement over the lighter fluid version. But it removes a bit of the charm I think. Part of it’s charm is maintaining the lighter.
Things that are easy and simple sometimes lack something. It takes effort to keep the lighter filled and the wick and flint in good working order. Gratification can come from simple tasks that connect you to the world around you.
This idea is carried over to my preference of Linux over Mac or PC. I like working on a computer. Some people just want it to be an appliance. I prefer to get my hands dirty from time to time.
Putting effort into keeping your computer or your lighter in proper working order is good for you, and your soul.