The Oldham Lamp (Wheat Battery) is a lamp used traditionally in the Mining industry.
Although the lamps are still made under Oldham Hawker Branding, since the decline of mining in the United Kingdom, a flood of lamps has entered the market, usually being used as door stops.
They were, and are popular amongst cavers and mine explorers, however, in these two groups there is a love them / hate them relationship. They are however an extremely durable lamp, which if maintained properly will give years of satisfaction.
The Lead Acid battery for this lamp can be bought new from Hawker, however, what appears to be a dead battery can also be brought back to life.
The first thing to know is what type of battery one has. To keep matters simple, we will work on appearance. The only lamp battery one should consider second hand will be almost clear in design (Tinted) and you should be able to see "Through" the lamp, past the internal bits. Preferably the condition of the "Insides" would be good, that is to say not too many loose bits, and inbetween the 2 carbon looking plates (Lead plates) the structure should not have decomposed.
The Second Hand battery has usually dried out, this is not the end of the world.
CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN / NO RESPONSIBILITY WILL BE TAKEN HERE!
The dried out battery can be revived by simply injecting battery acid from a 12v car battery (Naffed one, preferably flat). Then Charged for 24 hours. Leave for one hour, switch on until light is expired, top up with Cooled deionised water (Boiled water for example) and this process of charging, switching on, topping up with water continued for a week.
You will notice the 'burn time' increase.
As the battery charges, you will notice a little bubbling both visually and audiably. This should not be in excess. If you are using an automatically controlled charger, it may declare itself charged within a few hours, which is false. If you are unable to overide this (The automatic charger usually sets a maintenance charge) then find someone who can.
Be aware that the battery may need topping up prior to each charge. It should not be topped up during, or after charge. If evaporation has occured during charge, it may be topped up, and placed back on charge. Automatic chargers are great for this task.
The lamp head and cable should be in good condition, and should this have come from a pit, you will probably notice to remove the bezzle requires the scratching out of wax, and a triangular tool. A flat point screwdriver and some patience in using the force can gently release this screw to gain access to the bulb mounting. The metal battery mounting has a raised locking mechanism that holds the 'lid' in place. this also may be wax filled, and requires a 2 pronged driver to remove the locking screw. A pair of tweezers make a fine tool for this task.
Often lamps used by cavers have the head lock pin removed, and the battery clamp screw filed to accomodate a regular screwdriver.
Finally, be aware that light underground is a useful comodoty. To have a battery that will die mid use is totally useless. Some decent TLC to a otherwise dead battery can revive a dual cell that was last used in 80's. If the cells condition appears to be totally naffed, then there are other ways to revive it with care, and one should expect an ever increasing ammount of burn time. It is possible to gain 11 hours of light from something that starts giving a few hours, but to attain, and maintain that take patience, and some weeks.
I hope this has been useful, if I can help in anyway, please dont be afraid to ask!
Oldham Miners Lamp (with Wheat Battery)
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7 October 2010
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