I am Rer, i have been enjoying Petromaxes for i think, more than 10 years, before that i had got a couple of Anchor lamps and learned the beginning of how to keep a Petromax in order from them. This forum Has been a God-Send for me improving my techniques.....I had known Tilley lamps since i was young, they are a different animal however. I assume though that if One bought a Petromax from the Altena/Hamburg or the Berlin production, from the 1920's to the 1970's and had taken the lamp out of the box, that would work without issue for 2-5 years, just like a Tilley or like one of the modern Pelam Petromaxes which works straight out of the box. For most of the time period i mention, i imagine that a Petromax which developed issues would be taken to an Ironmonger or someone to fix.
I have noticed thoroughly that the skill levels(!!) required to keep a Petromax in order divide mainly into two categories :-(1) Modern Petromax which is needing seals replaced or otherwise adjusting.(2) "Old" Petromax which is in need of love and attention.
I have just finished a thorough overhaul---(mostly according to Bommel's instruction which is available on this forum) of a Petromax 828 350c.p. from Altena 1961which i have owned for about a decade, anyhow the lamp had issues...i had to use the needle too often, the lamp had a problem with backlighting (mischrohrgluehen) the last while and the rapid starter was less and less reliable...anyhow i decided to do more or less Bommels full overhaul...
The results are that the lantern burns fantastic! There were a couple of issues on the way to this point though and a couple of ..."discoveries" i wish to mention!
One was that, while i was replacing the control wheel and eccentric, that i tightened the thing too hard (as they say on the German language Part of this forum.."Nach Ab kommt Zu" luckily i had a spare modern control/eccentric thus i was able to complete the service and have the lantern running again.
I have noticed a couple of novice errors which i wish to mention...i associate the "lightback" (mischrohrgluehen) with pressure loss, whether from a leak in the tank or from an insufficiently tightened seal (or coke in the vapouriser/poor adjustment of the control-rod/pricker needle length).
I notice also that the tank inside must be scrupulously clean! I feel that this contributed to my rapid-starter issue. My rapid-starter is now, after steeping in Lye and Citric acid solution working well! (i rinsed after this about 2 gallons (10l) of water through the tank, till i had no more dust in the rinse water!)
I notice that the coke build-up in my vapouriser had caused me having to use the pricker often and , I imagine contributed to the lightback issue too.
I also notice that the pricker needle absolutely must not stick out more than 1/32" or so....definitely less than 1mm for the lamps proper operation...due to the journey i took getting to this point, straightening control rod, straightening vapouriser and so on and thinking , "ach that'll do"...every time i melted the needle eventually and the lantern did not burn optimally. The images below shew the results....(also the sheared "excenternipple")