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Other Vintage Household Electrical or Electromechanical Items For discussions about other vintage (over 25 years old) electrical and electromechanical household items. See the sticky thread for details.

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Old 5th Jun 2010, 6:59 pm   #21
McMurdo
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

I have my grandmother's 20 light set from the 50's which for some inexplicable reason are shaped as carnations..very convincing too!
They have the annoying feature of occasionally the wires pulling out of the bases and exposing themselves as there's no gripping method of keeping them in; or sometimes the carnation slipping down to reveal the live lampholder.
The bulbs are all original and have longitudinal filaments.
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 8:50 pm   #22
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

'twas olive cones when I were a lad; later on a set of chinese lanterns was acquired. These were both 12 lamp sets. By the time I was 10 or so it was my job to get them working each year. My fault finding technique was to start at the live end and poke a neon screwdriver into the holder to see when it didn't light, then back one...... as often as not though, the set would wake up as a bulb was screwed back in- must have been loose to start with.

A couple of years later with 12 year old disregard for safety, I added a couple of extra holders (the screw terminal batten mount type that Woolworths sold) in series with the neutral end of each string- we never had a bulb failure after that. Same principle as the 180V transformer mentioned above but not so safety conscious!

I do remember the British made olives had a nice crisp sort of geometric cone shape where the made in Hong Kong cheapies were more rounded and sort of blobbier.
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 9:59 pm   #23
Lucien Nunes
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

To anyone who likes vintage Christmas lights who hasn't discovered the sheer joy of fault finding with a Voltstick (non-contact live-object detector) you don't know what you're missing. If you make sure that the live end is the nearest lampholder to the plug, just slide or tap your way along with the Voltstick until it goes out and there you have the duff lamp. Don't go for the silly ones with an LCD display, you can't read that while reaching through the lower branches of the tree. But the glowing red tip of the stick finds it every time.

Lucien (who does not own a neon screwdriver)
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 10:00 pm   #24
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Quote:
If the filament fails, the full 240V mains appears across the anti-fuse which conducts, effectively shorting out the faulty lamp.
Do you have any more information about how it does this?
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 10:57 pm   #25
Phil G4SPZ
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

As a boy in the late 1950s, my task a couple of weeks before Christmas was to test the lights. Despite being working when they were put away the previous year, almost invariably they didn't work when first tried.

I found the quickest way was to take out each bulb one by one and test it on my 12 volt Tri-ang trains transformer. 12-lamp sets meant that each bulb was rated at 20 volts, but if they were OK they lit up adequately on 12 volts half-wave rectified DC.

I too remember the novelty shaped bulbs. The last I had to do with these was in the 1970s when my wife's grandparents couldn't get their set working, and I managed to make one good set out of two.

The annoying thing about modern tree lights is that there are about 200 different standards of push-fit bulb, none of which are interchangeable, and trying to find spares is fruitless. It is in fact cheaper to buy another complete set of lights and rob it for the bulbs.
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 11:00 pm   #26
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Maybe (?) I'm going crazy, but I seem to remember having a set with fruit shapes. Definately had one that looked like a bunch of grapes. Over time they got replaced with the cone shaped ones. I remeber the Santa ones too, I must get up in the loft and dig them out.
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 11:21 pm   #27
Ian E G7OLT
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by dseymo1 View Post
Do you have any more information about how it does this?
Not in terms of the physics or the actual materials used to make it work, no. The best I can find on the web is the Wikipedia explanation, see:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifuse

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Old 5th Jun 2010, 11:29 pm   #28
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

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Originally Posted by dseymo1 View Post
Do you have any more information about how it does this?
Sounds like a mini 'Metrosil' to me!
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 8:45 am   #29
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Quote:
Sounds like a mini 'Metrosil' to me!
Going by the Wikipedia entry, the principle is rather different, and the effect is permanent. Interesting stuff - I've never knowingly come across antifuses before - although essentially the same technology is apparently used in PROMs.
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 9:18 am   #30
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

The effect doesn't appear to be permanent. For example, you can have a lamp where the filament has parted, the antifuse has operated and the rest of the chain is alight. A light tap on the bulb and the shock causes the ends of the filament to touch and the lamp comes on again.

The antifuse can also fail. I've had bulbs that don't illuminate when part of a chain but when supplied with 20V out of the chain, they work.
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 9:33 am   #31
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Post Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

I still have our lights from fifty or more years ago, they are 20 Volts and have translucent coloured glass so the filaments can be seen.

I have fitted a diode in the mains plug to reduce their power, a small round fullwave rectifier wired as a haflwave fits in the neutral side and the wires soldered on. A 1N1007 would do as well. Then they are only switched on for a short time each year.
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 9:51 am   #32
Mike Phelan
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

We had a set for years, same as Geof's. Think they were from the late Woolworths, and came with a few spare bulbs. Scrapped them two years ago when we ran out of bulbs.

I did discover that a fluorescent glow type starter in series with them made a good flicker effect!
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 12:13 pm   #33
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by geofy View Post
.........I have fitted a diode in the mains plug to reduce their power, a small round fullwave rectifier wired as a haflwave fits in the neutral side and the wires soldered on. A 1N1007 would do as well. Then they are only switched on for a short time each year.
Whilst not wishing to take the thread too far OT, I seem to recall an argument, either somehwere in these forums or elsewhere, against using a diode as mentioned above, to increase bulb life. Something to do with the lamps being run at 25Hz instead of 50Hz I think.

The general concencus of opinion was that either a dimmer switch or a second set of lights (or low wattage light bulb), wired in series with the set was a much preferred method of preserving bulb life, especially with older sets where replacement bulbs were difficult or impossible to obtain.



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Old 6th Jun 2010, 1:06 pm   #34
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Post Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndiiT View Post
Whilst not wishing to take the thread too far OT, I seem to recall an argument, either somehwere in these forums or elsewhere, against using a diode as mentioned above, to increase bulb life. Something to do with the lamps being run at 25Hz instead of 50Hz I think.
I had wondered about this as well, but I have a carried out the mod on another set that are used all through Christmas and they have lasted several years now. And the old ones are only switched on for a limited period. The inertia of the filaments seem to smooth out the 25Hz ripple.

Last edited by Dave Moll; 6th Jun 2010 at 4:11 pm. Reason: quote fixed
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 7:38 pm   #35
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndiiT View Post
Whilst not wishing to take the thread too far OT, I seem to recall an argument, either somehwere in these forums or elsewhere, against using a diode as mentioned above, to increase bulb life. Something to do with the lamps being run at 25Hz instead of 50Hz I think.
Given that an incandescent lamp draws, on cold, around ten times the current that it does on hot, and that the resultant surge - evident upon switching on Xmas lights - is the time when a filament will pop its clogs, I would think that a diode would lessen the chances of the current hitting the lamps when at maximum; acting like a crude 'soft-start' device, as well as limiting the power dissapated by cutting half the cycle away.

It may be worth salvaging the 'zero crossing-point' circuitry from one of those outdoor PIR lamp sensors to preserve one's fairy-lamps.
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Old 6th Jun 2010, 10:15 pm   #36
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

I've fitted an NTC thermistor in one of the mains sets we have. It seems to work as no bulbs have had to be replaced in the last 2 years.

If it works for TVs why shouldn't it work for Christmas lights.

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Old 7th Jun 2010, 2:35 pm   #37
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Brilliant thread this, I thought that I was alone in this field of collecting, here are some of my unusual lamps, enjoy!
Neil
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Old 7th Jun 2010, 6:29 pm   #38
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Wow I've still got my 12 set of Pifco lights which I string up around my workshop window every Christmas. I am on my last set of spares which were bought in Woolworths a few years ago. I have kept them going for so long by using a sliding dimmer switch which I bought from John Lewis, just have to make sure that when you switch them off you reduce the voltage first so preventing that nasty switch on surge.
I think mine date back to the mid 1970's and were bought in Woolworths in Helston.
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Old 7th Jun 2010, 6:47 pm   #39
dave walsh
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

It's never occurred to me to "collect" these lights. Hard to exhibit all the year round unless you have one of those strange Festive obsessions.
Didn't really think of a current limiting device but when sets of 20x12v kept blowing and seemed to run hot [almost designed to fail] I put thirty together in a chain during the mid eighties. They lasted until about three years ago. Circa 9v each seems to be more than enough. Dave
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Old 7th Jun 2010, 8:02 pm   #40
Ian E G7OLT
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Default Re: Vintage Christmas Tree lights

Finally found some pictures from a couple of years ago, sorry about the quality, they were taken with an old mobile 'phone.

8 or 9 (can't remember exactly) sets of 12, running at 180V through an isolating transformer, partly to reduce power and prolong lamp life and partly for safety, as a couple of the strings are from the 1930s and have cotton covered flex.

Ian
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