Cigars 101

5 Things You Need To Know About… Cigar Lighters

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Believe it or not, lighters came along less than 20 years after the advent of the match. There were earlier attempts made from converted flintlock pistols, but it was German chemist, Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner who prototyped the earliest standalone lighter in 1825He named his device the Feuerzeug (often nicknamed, Döbereiner’s Lamp). It used chemical reactions to create hydrogen for the flame. A portable bomb of sorts – but popular in its day. Within three years, Döbereiner had sold more than 20,000 of ‘em 

5 things about cigar lighters pic of Dobereiner's Lamp

Döbereiner’s Lamp would probably be mistaken for an old hurricane lantern. Let’s just say it’s not gonna fit in your Herfador.

Lighters have become much more pocket friendly over the years, but the process of how they work is largely unchanged. Get a fuel source, contain it, and add some engineering and science to find a reliable means of igniting it. 
 
The thing is, as simple and elegant in design as most of today’s lighters are, there are vast differences between them…both in what they’re designed to do and their price tags. And then there’s the learning curve aspect, too. We might not be walking around with highly volatile explosives inside a giant lamp anymore, but there’s still confusion out there on how to care for a modern lighter properly. And it’s a lot easier to do than you might think. 

xikar allume lighter inferno by oliva cigars and lighter
 
In this ‘5 Things You Need To Know…’ guide, we’re going to walk you through finding a good lighter at any price point, using the right fuel, maintenance tips, and more. Let’s get started. 

 

5 things about cigar lighters thing 1 - expensive cigar lighters
Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better 

We’ve all had it beaten into our brains from an early age. “You get what you pay for.” But sometimes, too good to be true, isn’t. And if you look around just about anywhere, you’ll find it in every industry. Cars, food, clothes, CIGARS…there’s plenty of good out there that doesn’t break the bank.  

Take the Vertigo Cyclone, for example. $7 (at press time) gets you a triple torch jet lighter that will last you many years. And if you lose it, you won’t care, because what’s $7? 
 
If a $7 lighter works perfectly, why do some sell for hundreds or more? The answer: brand names and eye candy. It’s the same reason you spend $15 for a graphic tee at Wal-Mart, and $500 on one from Gucci.  

Top performing lighters are found in every price bracket, so all you need to ask yourself is, do I want something that looks good, performs well, or both?” 

My advice: only pony up the Benjamins when aesthetics are just as important as function. There are plenty of high-roller lighters that will burn a hole in your pocket, but their flames are the same as any other.  

 

5 things about cigar lighters thing 2 - use better butane

Not All Butane Is Created Equal 

Cigar lighters come in three primary types: 
 
1. Piezo-Spark Butane (Typical Torch and Soft Flame Cigar Lighters) 
2. Zippo-style Wick  
3. Disposable Sparkwheel (Bics, gas station lighters, etc.) 

5 things about cigar lighters 3 different types of lighters

We can immediately toss #3 off the list. You’re not going to refill a disposable lighter. 

Zippos and their knock-off brethren use a combination of Sparkwheels, flints, packing cotton, felt, and a wick. You basically pour the fluid into the cotton and it absorbs, soaking the wick in the process. When it comes time to refill your lighter, you’ve got many choices. You could put virtually any combustible fluid in there, but I’d only recommend using Zippo’s brand, or something like Ronson that’s made for those style lighters. 
 
5 things about cigar lighters Vector Thunderbird Zippo torch lighter insert at Famous Smoke Shop

Pro Tip: Pop a Thunderbird insert into your favorite Zippo case and turn it into a modern-day torch lighter without ruining it. Wanna go back to the old way? Simply take it out and put the old Zippo insert back in and change anytime. No assembly, no fuss! 
 
Take that same fluid and put it in a modern-day butane lighter, and you’re in for some real trouble – up to and including certain death of your torch. Some say it’s because Ronson and Zippo fluids are “dirty” but that’s not quite true. They’re just filtered less. Those impurities found in Ronson and Zippo fluid would clog the narrow fuel lines of modern lighters, and over time, block it off all together. Zippos don’t have fuel lines, so they don’t require processed butane. 
 
When it comes to today’s piezo-style lighters (piezo is basically a spark generated from striking a small quartz crystal), there’re lots of butane options out there, some more questionable than others. Famous only carries reputable brands from companies like XikarLotus, and Vector. Each has a formula that undergoes multiple distillations and won’t block up those fuel lines we talked about. 

 

5 things about cigar lighters thing 3 - how to bleed how to fuel cigar lighter

You’ve Got To Bleed and Fuel Your Lighter The Right Way 

Bleeding and fueling your lighter are like takeoff and landing in an airliner: it’s where things are most likely to go wrong. Years ago, before I was a cigar junkie, I bought a jet torch lighter from a gas station. It worked like a champ for a few days and eventually ran out of gas. I picked up some butane and filled it – or so I thoughtIt worked for one or two lights and then it went dead again. I repeated the process and got the same results. I chucked it in the trashcan, muttering “what a piece of shit” under my breath. But the truth is, it was all my fault. I never bled the lighter. I wish I could go back and grab that thing from the garbage, armed with what I know now. I wonder how long it would have lasted. 

How To Bleed Your Lighter: 

Every time you light up, your torch burns a little butane. That butane is replaced by compressed air as it burns, and that means when your lighter is empty, it really isn’t. You’ve gotta get that air out.  

If you don’t have a bleeder tool, you can get this Xikar multi-tool, or you can use something from around the house like an eyeglass screwdriver or even an unfolded paper clip or toothpick…anything thin and sturdy enough to keep constant pressure. Place your tool into the valve opening (usually on the bottom) and completely evacuate the fuel tank. It’ll sound like air coming out of a tire, and it’s usually cold, especially if there’s still some butane left. I like to shake the lighter a little as I do it, because I find it gets a little more out. Continue this until you stop hearing the hiss, and you know you’re done. 

How To Fuel Your Lighter:

First, turn your lighter upside down. Place the butane can’s nozzle into the valve and press down with some force. This will ensure you have a good seal, which keeps butane from leaking out everywhere. Hold it down for a few seconds, or until you see that it’s full in the fuel window.  
 
And then – this part is important – bleed it again. Not all the way, but just a short hit from your bleeding tool. But why, you ask? When we fill lighters, the seal isn’t perfect. Air can still make its way inside, and this way you’ll ensure most of it’s been removed from the lighter’s fuel tank. If you have a clear view fuel tank, you’ll see that it will fill up all the way after doing so, and that means you’ll get more lights before you need to fill it again. 
 
Former CEO of Xikar, Kurt Van Keppel made a thorough tutorial on how to accomplish both bleeding and fueling, so check that out if you prefer a visual guide.  

 

5 things about cigar lighters thing 4 - are soft flame lighters better

Soft Flame Lighters Are Better Than You Think 

There’s no steeper learning curve for cigar smokers than patience. It’s a pastime that shouldn’t be rushedAnd that’s what gives soft flame lighters an incredible advantage. They burn cooler, slower, and generally give a more even toast and light to your cigar. 
 
Truth be told, you don’t have to spend a lot on one. You could literally buy a Bic for a couple of bucks at the store and it’ll last you a few weeks. If you’ve ever been to Cuba, Nicaragua, or any other cigar-bearing nation, you’ll see that’s all the old master blenders use. Smokers at the very least should be starting with soft flames. There’s less risk of damaging the cigar’s wrapper, and they’re less fuel-hungry. And it really doesn’t take much to turn a beautiful cigar wrapper into a charred, gross mess. 

5 things about cigar lighters - charred connecticut shade wrapper
Torch lighters can seriously destroy your smoke, just like this pre-Castro Cuban ruined by the head muckity-muck of a high-brow cigar mag…

Pro Tip: Get yourself a reasonably priced soft flame pipe lighter. I know, I know. It’s meant for a pipe, but that bit of extension will help with ergonomics, and moves your hand out of the way so you can see just how close the flame is to the cigar. Because remember…whether you’re using a soft flame or a torch, you never want the flame to touch the cigar directly. 

5 things about cigar lighters vertigo governor soft flame pipe lighter at Famous Smoke Shop

I like this Vertigo Governor because the flame comes out of the side, but it doesn’t have so drastic a footprint that it would feel awkward in your pocket. And that bonus tamping tool on the opposite side of the flame wheel adjustment – you can use that to bleed the lighter when it’s empty. 

 

5 things about cigar lighters thing 5 - it's good to have more than one lighter

You’ll Need More Than One Lighter In Your Arsenal 

I challenge all but the most occasional smokers to fire up everything they smoke with a single lighter. Sure, it can be done, but some lighters work better for different-sized cigars. 

Let’s say you bought a shiny new quad-flame torch. That’s going to make quick work of your big-ring smokes. But when it comes time to light a corona – or a cigarillo – it’s like using a .50cal to take out a mouse. It’ll light it all right, but will there be anything left? Me, I’d just rather pull out something smaller like a single torch. 

This lesson cuts both ways. Imagine trying to light a 70-ring with a single torch. It’s gonna take a while, and it’s gonna get hot. Too hot for your pocket right away. 

And then there’s the convenience issue. Made it all the way out to the lounge and forgot your lighter? Not if you keep a spare inside your travel humidor. I try to keep one near the kitchen door to my deck, one in my car (except in the summer), and a Bic always in my pocket. I rotate what is where based on what I plan to smoke. I also like to take two with me when I go out, because if one runs out of butane, I have a backup without having to find a store. 

22 Comments
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Sean
2 years ago

I’ve been using a traditional Zippo case with a single flame Zippo butane insert. There are good third party brands out there and Zippo introduced their own last year. I also have a nice Colibri flint ignited soft flame that I used for a while. I like the soft flame but I find it can be unruly if there’s a breeze or even a decent ventilation system indoors, that’s why the Zippo butane insert is handy. The Colibri was about $70, that aesthetic factor, it is a handsome black matte lighter. For that matter, by the time I bought a vintage brass case and the butane insert I had about $50 into the Zippo. Bought it on-site at the factory store in Bradford, PA. Lastly, Ronson is a Zippo brand and has been for going on a decade.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean

Sean, thanks for the info on Ronson, actually didn’t know that. I think I remember hearing about the genuine Zippo inserts, but it’s something we don’t carry, so that’s why it isn’t included. Thanks for reading and have a good one!

Howard
2 years ago

Have 3 different lighter and always rotate their use.When going out or traveling always carry box matches as insurance.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Howard

That’s the way, Howard! Thanks for reading!

Larry Castleberry
2 years ago

Good info. Especially about bleeding the lighter after filling. I knew to bleed it before, but now I will bleed it after filling as well.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago

Larry, glad you found this tip helpful! Had a buddy show it to me once and never looked back!

Ron Britten
2 years ago

I have been using a Colbiri triple flame an old girlfriend gave me 20 years ago… works great. Every time I light up a fine cigar I think of her… wonder what ever happened to her… !

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Ron Britten

Ron, thanks for reading! I’ve found that, aside from the occasional lemon here and there, that any lighter that’s taken care of tends to last well beyond our expectations. Hopefully you two will cross paths again.

Mike Klink
2 years ago

The Vertigo Governor is good for both cigars and pipes. I carry a black one in my pipe box when I’m on the road in the big truck.. Zippo just came out with the insert and case together. You can choose single torch, double torch, or rechargeable electric. I got and prefer the double jet flame. It can handle some bigger rings with the torch set high, but it’ll run you our of gas quicker. Upside, you can do your best “Sheriff Buford T. Justice ” case snap just like in ‘Smokey and the Bandit!”

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Klink

Thanks for reading, Mike! I’ll have to check out that new Zippo. Glad you found the Governor just as useful.

Dirk Diggler
2 years ago

There is a soft flame insert for a zippo. I have that and the single torch. Can’t take the torch when I fly but can take the soft flame. I also have about 6 vertigo triple flame torches stashed around the house along w a case of scripto disposals (bics suck). Finally a nice IM Corona lighter.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Dirk Diggler

I’d love to get a soft flame insert. It makes it feel more like a Zippo that way. Thanks for the info and I’ll check it out when I can.

Angel
2 years ago

Good tid bits to know, especially bleeding the lighter. Now, I would need to bleed mine to death once I get home and then resurrect it so it can work at it’s peak.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Angel

Angel, glad you found this helpful! I’d say about 90 percent of the time, lighter issues are fixed with a good bleed. Best of luck and have a good one!

Herfin Bigdog
2 years ago

Jared,

What are your thoughts about periodically blowing out the orifice where the flame comes out of the torch? I use canned compressed air…the type used to clean electronic components to give each lighter a few 1-2 second bursts of air to clear out any ash or other particles that may be clogging the jet.

I use the compressed air every second or third time I bleed and refill my lighters. I call it a CABJ,,,compressed air blow job. Sometimes I will perform the CABJ when my lighter is not igniting, but there is clearly fuel in the chamber. It usually helps, and the lighter will ignite.

Thank You for your thoughts.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Herfin Bigdog

Haha, digging the official name.

I’ve seen people use compressed air and the nozzle of the butane can (do that at your own risk) to purge debris from the burners. I’ve just never had a need to do it yet, believe it or not. Sound advice, though. Thanks!

Daniel Villavicencio
1 year ago

One HUGE problem I’ve been having is that not all lighters works everywhere. I’m from Ecuador I live in the mountains around 2900msnm (9500 ft), soft lighters works fine, however single flame or two flame doesn’t work in this altitude, I’ve always have to buy triple o quad flame torch lighter in order to work.

Jared Gulick
1 year ago

Daniel, thanks for commenting this. We have some high-altitude lighters available at Famous like the one you’ll find here: https://www.famous-smoke.com/xikar-cirro-high-altitude-single-jet-black?pid=46555

Hope this helps!

Daniel Villavicencio
1 year ago

“torch lighters can seriously destroy your smoke, just like this pre-Castro Cuban ruined by the head muckity-muck of a high-brow cigar mag…” I saw the interview and I was like this =O too, saying OMG what the heck is he doing…. LOL

Jared Gulick
1 year ago

Daniel, it was painful to watch!

Jeff
4 months ago

When you “bleed” a lighter you aren’t releasing compressed air, you’re releasing butane gas. Air is magnitudes of times more difficult to compress than butane. When you use up the liquid butane, it isn’t replaced by air, it isn’t replaced by anything. Your tank is still full of butane. But the butane is now all in its gas state because the pressure is no longer high enough to turn the gas into a liquid.

But the bleeding technique does work and here’s why. It cools the tank. The pressure in the can of butane has to be higher than the pressure in the lighter to refill. At equal temperatures both can and lighter are at equal pressure. But you’ve probably been holding the lighter or had it in your pocket, warming it up, increasing the pressure, while the can was just on a shelf. So when you bleed the tank, notice how the tank gets colder? That lowers the pressure. Now the refill can is a higher pressure than the cold lighter tank and refueling can begin.

You can accomplish the same thing by putting the lighter in the fridge for 15 minutes, or by warming the refill can. But the former is obviously safer.

As for the “bleeding it again” idea, that’s only necessary if you overfilled the tank. Never fill past 80%. If you have a clear viewing window into the tank its easy. If not, theres some guesswork involved, but try and stop refueling BEFORE liquid starts spraying everywhere.

Last edited 4 months ago by Jeff
Jared Gulick
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Jeff,

Thanks for reading and the great explanation. We recommend bleeding because regardless of the air/butane composition left in the tank, it won’t burn and it needs to be released. I don’t believe cooling the lighter will remedy that because if it were the case, we’d be emptying our lighters any time we used them outside in the winter. I think it’s an excellent topic for an upcoming edition of Fan Mail and worthy of an experiment.

Jared Gulick

Jared Gulick

Features Editor, Jared Gulick, is a Certified Tobacconist, nerd of all things science, musician and serial abuser of the Oxford comma. He made his way to the Famous Smoke Shop retail store in 2018 and joined the Advisors when it was discovered that he could locate the shift key. Prior to his work in the cigar industry, he was a recording studio engineer, songwriter, and a journalism major at Northampton Community College.

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