Always-on cigar lighter?

  1. Hi,
    I am not an electrical-engineer, but a hobbyist/tinkerer... I want to create an electric cigar-lighter that can be "always-on" and was hoping that someone here could answer some questions.

    The lighter needs to work in a car cigarette-lighter socket; i.e. 12V DC with 10-15 amps max available. From what I have been able to find on the Net, it appears that due to the "always-on" requirement, the element would have to be a ceramics type. My question is, can a 150-watt ceramics heating element get hot enough (around 300 deg-F I suppose) to light a cigar (when touched to surface of element)? (The element needs to reach the desired temp within 1-2 minutes, and not be much bigger than a standard car cigarette-lighter.)

    All replies are greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Why would you want to wasted all that power? Just use an instant-on Zippo lighter instead.
  4. Thanks for the reply berkeman. Please, just humor me... it may be a hair-brained idea but has aroused my interest/curiosity enough that i would like to see it through. Thanks for any help.
  5. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    Please clarify a point for me. Do you really need it to be always hot, or just to be instantly hot? The latter is understandable, while I don't quite see the point of the former.
  6. always. Otherwise, a standard car cig-lighter would serve the purpose. The device is for a friend's cigar-lounge; many of his customers prefer to light up using the car cig-lighter; probably the most practical option is to have a bank of these available in the lounge, but he and I were thinking that it would be cooler to have a lighter that is always-on, has outer-surface-cool-to-the-touch and is about the size/shape of the larger half of an egg.

    I have seen on the net mushroom-shaped ceramic heat bulbs that may serve the purpose; I am going to buy one (150-watt) and see if it's surface temp gets hot enough to light a cigar.

    Still, does anyone believe that the materials to make the device proposed above are readily available? I've scoured the net and haven't found any ceramic heating elements with the form-factor I'm looking for. This is probably a stupid question, but can a DIY'er "mold" a ceramic heating element himself?
  7. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,556
    Gold Member

    What makes you think 300F would set anything alight? Surely, 451F is a safe minimum?

    What if the device simply auto-ignited when they stuck their cigar in it? Like an embedded Bic lighter wired up to a motion-sensor at the opening of the gadget?

    BTW, one of the problems with lighting cigs from an element (as I know from experience) is that the tobacco tends to get stuck to the element and leave some of itself behind, making a mess and not lighting your smoke. I'm sure smokers would much prefer flame to element.
  8. You're right; 300F is too cold.

    That's an interesting idea with the embedded lighter, but it seems to be way out of my know-how to execute.

    The tobacco getting stuck on the element is a pain, but interestingly some smokers (according to my friend) still prefer the element to the flame. Nonetheless, the ease-of-cleaning-off-stuck-material needs to be considered when selecting the element.
  9. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    How about...
    Just use a regular automotive lighter. Have the coil Teflon treated, and leave it permanently connected via a flexible wire to a 12 VDC power supply. The knobs from those lighters screw off, so you could mount it in a simple insulated case. The element might burn out after a while, but you can get new ones for free at any scrap yard.
  10. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    There was a story on the news tonight about Zippo having to hire Chinese investigators to root out counterfeits of their products, and having to lay off over 100 people (15% of their work force) because of the loss of sales to the counterfeits. Buy some Zippos and silver-solder them to chains attached to the bar, tables, etc so they won't walk off. I haven't smoked for years, but no lighter "walks and talks" like a Zippo.
  11. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    I never thought of this until now, but I can understand the preference for non-Zippo ignition. The Ex-From-Hell wouldn't use my Zippo because it imparted an unburned hydrocarbon taste to her smokes. Butane lighters, however, don't have that side effect. Being a tasteless pig, I've never noticed a problem myself. :biggrin:
  12. Back in the day at some the finer gin joints there would be a brandy sniffer glass with dyed paraffin and wick that was kept lit. Sure was handy for the cigarette or cigar and added an ambiance in the darkened room. The owner would simply heat and make a new one when necessary.
  13. Thanks for the replies folks. We'll go with a bank of car cig-lighters for now.
  14. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,556
    Gold Member

    The parts would be readily available at an electronics surplus store.

    I was more concerned for the smoker's experience. About the fact that elements tend to take the 'heater'* with it, and the smoker holding an unlit cigarette with some tabaccy missing from the tip.

    *'heater' is smoker-speak for the lit portion of the tobacco, which tends to separate from the cig fairly easily - particularly when touched by something else - much to the smoker's chagrin.
  15. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    I thought that you were a fellow Canuk. :tongue:
    I've never heard that term for it. Anyplace I've lived, it's been called a 'cherry'. :confused:
  16. I can't see why this technically cant be done. Soldering irons run at 700 degrees all day, although they will burn tips out eventually if this is done. Now to make one is another story. I figure that a regular car lighter would burn out quickly if left hot all the time. I have a feeling that due to the simple fact that a hot piece of wire becomes weak over time, this always hot lighter would become quite large, ie soldering iron in size.
  17. You are 100% correct ve7lyd. In my youth I worked at a gas station. Sometimes if the lighter "kick out mechanics" (my term) failed to work then it would simply burn out and I would sell another for $2. Pretty high when gas was 33 cents a gallon. Then again the electrial designers may have designed the coil to burn out if left on too long so it didn't start a fire. In fact I think there was an internal fuse in the heating element that was heat activated and not current.

    So the thing to do for this situation (will be expensive with a car lighter), would be to bypass the fuse. Then I think that cigar residue would build up on the coil rendering it useless. I still like the brandy sniffer idea. Or else install a automotive cigarette lighter at each table that has the pop out mechanism. Then be prepared to buy cases of them. Since you are in a business then I would sell them to the customer at a small mark up. If they are rich enough to smoke fat cigars then they can pony up to buy a new heating element.
    Last edited: May 12, 2007
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thead via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?