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Even if you don’t smoke, a lighter comes in almost as handy as a pocket knife — especially with fireworks season upon us!  Manufactured in Pennsylvania since 1932 (and also in Canada more recently), the Zippo lighter is an American icon as well as an indispensable tool.

Street pricing starts around $29 for this flag-emblazoned model.  If you’re looking for something more flashy, Santa Fe Stoneworks — makers of the knife we posted yesterday — offer a version covered in red coral, mother of pearl, and blue lapis inlay for more like $110.  (But that’s a bit pricey for poor bloggers like us.)

Ed. Note: As you’ve probably heard on the Tool Talk podcast, I’ve never smoked, but carried a Zippo for years.  Though it might take you a bit to get there, from caveman-days on there’s not much you can’t accomplish with fire and a good knife.  If you’re new to Zippos, though, just make sure you don’t overfill.  Lighter fluid burns leave a nasty mark on your leg.  (And if you ask me nicely, I’ll show you how to do the flip-light maneuver.)

American Flag Zippo [BuyAmerican]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s this?]


11 Responses to Made in the USA: The Zippo Lighter, An American Legend

  1. TMIB_Seattle says:

    As a tool, Zippo’s return/repair policy is hard to beat. The company will take any Zippo in any condition and repair it for you for free. This is often a simple swap of the lighter’s insides for new parts, but it’s nice to see a company that still offers service like this.

    I smoke a pipe, so I use a “pipe Zippo”. It’s just a standard Zippo, only instead of having the opening in the top of the chimney, a small insert blocks the top off. A hole in the sides of the chimney (about the size of a dime) is used instead. This way you can turn it sideways and use it to light a pipe.

    The blocking insert in the top of the chimney is easily slid out if you need to convert it back to a traditional Zippo (though the holes in the sides still exist).


  2. Blind says:

    neat I’ve never heard of the pipe zippo’s.

    I love zippos but they sadden me because they seem useless outside of smoking cigarettes half of the time. They are generally frowned upon for smoking cigars due to the fuel used and they are fairly useless to light anything when the zippo can’t get under whatever you need to light. A dispossable butane lighter tends to work better most of the time.

    But as far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat zippos for reliability and simplicity. In the amount of time that it takes to get my butane to have a proper flame, I’ve already started the fire with my zippo.

  3. Jason Rehmus says:

    I carry my Zippo everyday. But, I don’t use it for it’s intended use. I re-purposed it for carrying a USB drive. It’s fantastic! I even went the extra mile to make sure it still clicked like it was designed to. It’s not really a Zippo if it doesn’t sound like one.

  4. TMIB_Seattle says:

    Just a quick note in response to “Blind” above:

    I’m a long time cigar smoker myself. I used to stay away from Zippos for cigars for the same reason that you mention and the same reason most folks do- the smell of the fuel can give a bad taste to a cigar.

    That was until a friend showed me how to light a cigar with a Zippo. I now use my Zippo when smoking cigars and don’t have the bad taste. Likewise, this same method of lighting can be used with butane lighters as well and seems to give a better smoke.

    The trick is not to “light” the cigar from the flame source, rather to let it combust in the superheated air above the flame.

    Hold the cigar at about a 45 degree angle (yes, that steep) and puff on it while rotating. Keep it well above the flame, at least an inch above the visible flame, a little higher is probably better.

    Keep puffing and rotating it in the hot air until it will eventually combust on its own. This seems to keep the Zippo flavor from affecting the cigar, plus it seems to light more evenly and not have a charred flavor at the start.

    The other trick I learned that works well with a Zippo or any lighter: about 3/4 of the way through the cigar (sooner on cheap ones) hold the lighter or a match in front of the cigar and blow out through the cigar as though you are trying to blow out the flame. You should get a 2″-3″ flame off the end of the cigar. Continue this for a few seconds then lightly blow out the flame if it does not go out on its own. (note that the Zippo is ideal for this as you can keep the flame on without having to hold a fuel lever down.)

    This process burns off much of the accumulated “tar” and other nasty stuff that causes a cigar to change flavor as you smoke it. This method will allow you to enjoy a cigar all the way down until you can’t hold it anymore. Prior to learning this trick I’d usually stop my cigar just a little past the band since the flavor would turn sour if smoked too long or too fast.

  5. Blind says:


    I was always taught that that was how you are supposed to light a cigar anyhow. The cigar itself should be above the flame and drawing the flame up to it, not inserted into the flame. I’ll toast the end in the flame to blacken it sometimes, but otherwise the flame is well below the cigar and it flares up on it’s own while I puff.

    I’ve also heard that letting your zippo burn for around 30 seconds first before you light the cigar will burn off enough of the fuel and filth that the flavor will be non-existant.

    Never thought about blowing the tar and what not out of a cigar in process of being smoked. I’ll blow it out if I need to relight though. I’ll have to try that. I always blamed the bad flavor on the cigar itself getting too hot (or at least, not cooling enough before reaching my tongue).

  6. FlameDiva says:

    Check out Zippostories.com

    You can read about the different connections people all around the world have with their Zippo lighter. You can leave your own Zippo stories about your favorite lighter or memories of a past ‘flame.

  7. Bugler says:

    It should be noted that a good ol’ plain Zippo still sells for under $10. Beautiful, utilitarian design; made in America; guaranteed forever. I love ’em.

  8. When I was in French Polynesia a month ago for my honeymoon, I ran into a Zippo display at one of the smaller inter-island airports. Of course I immediately thought of TM and snapped a few photos.


    Hinano, which was found on everything from t-shirts to pareos, to this Zippo, is the local Tahitian beer, by the way.

    If you notice, the price on the bottom is 7300 CFP (French Polynesian Francs), which corresponds to approximately $84…

    It’s still nice to know how far certain iconic US goods have made it. Other products I was shocked to see being used widespread over there was WD40 and Tabasco sauce.

  9. ray says:

    i luv my zippo i have 5 of them and just got a new one for xmas

  10. Jaime says:

    this lighter is from Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle.It was Drew Barrymore’s/Dylan’s

  11. These Zippo creations are truly a work of art. It is an illustration of fine craftmanship and elegance. From the second you open the box and have a look at it, you simply won’t be able to look away. These are some of the best looking lighters and they belong in a collection. Make use of disposable lighter if you cigarette smoke. I collect Zippos as a hobby because I don’t have anything better to do. These are my best. It’s worth a couple extra dollars to acquire these outstanding creations.

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