This page contains a Carbide Lamps FAQ. If you think something should be added to this page please let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will add it!!

Q1. I have just found a carbide lamp - Where do I purchase Calcium Carbide from?

Answer:- Calcium Carbide is used in the production of Acetylene gas, as it is in Carbide Lamps. In general you can usually purchase large quantities from companies such as Air Liquide or anyone who manufactures Acetylene. Caving clubs around the world used to use carbide lamps for caving and generally had a supply of carbide. However, they generally no longer use carbide for lighting thanks to LED lighting.

The latest seller (21/08/2007) of Calcium Carbide in the USA is Ray-Vin Bullseye Black Calcium Carbide, who are offering 10 oz. packages of small pea grain Grade Calcium Carbide for US$15.95/each DELIVERED. The purchase price includes Ground Shipping (2-4 weeks) via USPS Parcel Post. They can only ship Calcium Carbide to addresses in the United States (P.O. Boxes okay).

Karst Sports (as at 24/04/2016) are shipping 10lb containers of carbide in the USA for US$104.95.

You can also purchase carbide rock online from Lehman's for US$80 for a case of five 2 lb cans. You can purchase 2lb cans directly from the store for US$12.85. (Many thanks to Bill Smith who provided the number of cans per case and the individual tin information - Oct 2008).

Alternatively if you are in the USA suggest you go to the Home page of the National Speleological Society and there you will find a search engine to locate details of your local caving club grotto. Contact them and see if they can help.

If you are in Europe then try the Links file to Caving Clubs in the UK and Europe.

If you are in Australia then try the Australian Speleological Federation web site and talk with members of a caving club near you who MAY be able to advise where carbide rock can still be purchased.


Q2. How do I make the carbide lamp work?

Answer:- This depends greatly on the model of lamp but as a generalisation you place water in the top tank (usually), place calcium carbide rock in small (<1cm diameter) to medium (<3cm diameter) pieces in the bottom chamber. Fill the carbide chamber only about 3/4 full with rock - it does expand when water is added. Before adding the water to the top chamber ensure that the rubber seal (usually) that seals the carbide chamber is present and not perished. Ensure also that the Jet where the gas is lit is clear by using a fine wire "pricker" to clear it. It may be necessary to remove the jet and clear it.

Then add the water to the top chamber and adjust the water flow to low. Shake the lamp to get the gas generation going and then light the stream of gas that should be coming from the jet (try feeling the stream of gas with your hand/finger before lighting) with a match. Suggest this is done outside with a hose handy - just in case - see below!!

NOTE WELL:- If the lamp has holes in it or the seals are not working then when you light it it may "burst into flames" - be ready to blow them out or use the hose suggested above!! EVEN WORSE is if the gas cannot escape from the lamp at ALL it is POSSIBLE that the lamp may explode. The author of this FAQ takes no responsibilites for persons injured by exploding lamps or injuries sustained when attempting to light carbide lamps!!


Q3. Where do I buy new carbide lamps?

In the USA they are no longer manufactured but you can pick them up in working condition from Antique Malls. In England they can still be purchased new!! Premier lamps are still being made by Caving Supplies.

If you want to purchase one or more lamps then contact:-

Premier carbide caplamps (plus their own manufactured carbide headset and remote generator)...

Caving Supplies,
19 London Road,
Derbyshire, UK

Tel (44)-(0)1298 71707

OR purchase directly at Caving Supplies
Other good sites to find and purchase lamps are:- The Guys Dropper Shop or The Lamp Tramp mining collectables web site (these look to be the same place - just different names)

Parts and accessories can also be purchased from Inner Mountain Outfitters online.

Lamp parts are also available from Bob and Bob in the USA. Check out the spare parts from the link (Carbide Lamp Parts) on the home page

Another source of lamps is J.K. Dey and Sons in India. They will manufacture you a lamp to your own specifications!!

In the USA J.K. Dey and Sons lamps can also be purchased online from Lehman's Just search for carbide lamp to locate them. They also sell carbide rock for US$80 for a case of five 2 lb cans. You can purchase 2lb cans directly from the store for US$12.85. (Many thanks to Bill Smith who provided the number of cans per case and the individual tin information - Oct 2008).

Q4. Where do I get MORE information on carbide lamps?

The book American Miners' Carbide Lamps by Gregg S. Clemmer is an excellent source of information for those wanting to know more information about the lamps that they have found. Note that this book is only about American carbide lamps but if that's what you are looking for it is great. It can be easily purchased by going to the NSS Bookstore page:- National Speleological Society Bookstore - General Page - Lighting Section. A short synopsis of the book is: "This book not only covers the history of carbide lamps but also includes collector tips, appendices listing patents, based on chronology, technology, design, and rarity."


Q5. Where can I buy carbide lamps and/or How much are lamps worth??

If you are looking for second hand (old) carbide lamp then I suggest that you try going to the site:-
or (for Australia/New Zealand)

Both of these sites have a number of carbide lamps for sale on a regular basis. Here you can see what others are bidding for different models of carbide lamp and it gives you an idea of what each model is worth. You will certainly find whatever lamp you are looking for on ebay but it may be expensive if it is a rare lamp!!

Once you have established prices for lamps you may want to go looking in your local area. Certainly the majority of lamps that I have purchased have come from Antique shops in Australia and the USA. In the USA they also have Antique Malls which are also a good source of carbide lamps.

If you are looking for new lamps then check out Question 3 above.


Q6. Where does carbide rock come from?

Carbide rock is manfactured it is not mined!! The manufacturing process is well described in the article at:-

Carbide Manufacturing Process Hope this helps!


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