© Tsekyi Thür

How to Distinguish between Kosmos and Flame Disc Burners?

This question, which sounds very banal at first glance, will nevertheless occupy us because many flame disc burners (or lamps with their flame disc burners) are offered where the associated flame disc is missing and the burner initially looks like a Kosmos burner. As I mentioned above, the flame discs are not firmly fixed in the burner's wick tube, but loosely inserted, and in the course of time they have unfortunately often been lost. But the dealers, even the reputable antique shops and even the auction houses are not even in a position to notice this loss due to lack of expertise. The layman then buys a supposedly complete and functioning lamp without suspecting that the essential component of the burner for producing a good, bright flame is missing.

The question formulated above is therefore justified if you have received a burner without a flame disc and are pondering whether this burner is a Kosmos burner or perhaps a flame disc burner after all, but which is now unfortunately missing the flame disc. Here I try to show clearly comprehensible distinguishing features between the Kosmos and flame disc burners in order to make it easier to identify the burner type and thus to answer the question whether a flame disc belongs to the burner or not.

The basket and gallery are very similar in both burner types. They give no clue as to the type of burner. The wick knob does not show any significant differences either. The deflector, on the other hand, can be very different.


The Deflector of the Burner

The wick tube of a Kosmos burner consists of two tubes that are inserted into each other and taper slightly towards the top. This part of the wick tube protrudes upwards from the gallery by approx. 2-3 cm without having any accompanying parts. The gallery has an additional, short tube inside, partly with holes or slits. This additional tube, which in the case of Kosmos burners encloses approximately the lower to middle part of the wick tube, is called a deflector, as its sole purpose is to direct the air flowing upwards (= external air supply) somewhat stronger to the flame. 

The deflector of the Kosmos burners is dimensioned in such a way that it just encloses the lower half of the wick tube. You can hardly see this deflector if you only look at the burner from the side. You only see the actual wick tube, which protrudes upwards. In addition, the Kosmos deflector itself is provided with holes and slits so that the air flowing in can hardly gain any significant bending in the direction of the flame.

The deflector of the flame disc burners often has a shape that is pulled upwards. It is always very clearly visible on large, 20-line burners: In many cases, it almost completely encloses the wick tube, leaving only a small part of it still exposed. Since the wall of the deflector has no holes, the entire external air supply that enters the burner from the outside and rises up the flame is directed very closely to the flame. Often the deflector is even considerably higher than the wick tube and noticeably rounded inwards at its upper end. In this shape, the deflector even directs the air quite specifically into the interior of the flame to ensure the best possible contact with the oxygen in the air.

In the next photo, I have tried to schematically visualise different types of deflectors and their influence on the external air supply. The red lines indicate the deflector of the burner.


Deflectors of Kosmos and flame disc burners (Top row: Schematics with the air flows - Bottom row: Photos of exemplary burners)
From left: 14''' Kosmos burner by Wild & Wessel
14''' Kosmos burner by Wilhelm Egloff
15''' Präsident burner by R. Ditmar (flame disc burner)
20''' Prometheus burner by Stobwasser (flame disc burner)


The deflector is of course much wider than the wick tube. This results in a visual distinguishing feature: the middle part of the burner, visibly protruding upwards from the gallery, is much wider and more bulky in the large flame disc burners than is the case with Kosmos burners. This visual distinction succeeds in many dealer photos if the upper part of the burner is visible in the photos.

The visual perception of the deflector size is somewhat more complicated with 15-line flame disc burners. There are burners for which the above applies well. However, there are also burners with a deflector that is not clearly visible at the top, which makes them resemble Kosmos burners when viewed directly from the side. In these cases, the deflector height fails as a distinguishing feature. But even in these cases, one can see that the deflector of the flame disc burner does not have holes and slits, as is usual with Kosmos burners. In many cases, even the upper end of the deflector is clearly bent inwards. This makes it possible to distinguish clearly between such burners and Kosmos burners, but unfortunately often after purchase, when the burner can be picked up and inspected.

CONCLUSION: In the case of burners that have a considerably wider middle section (this is the deflector) around the fire tube, and are therefore not usual Kosmos burners, one must immediately remember that a flame disc belongs to it. If the flame disc does not exist, the burner is not complete.

Exceptions prove the rule: the round burner from Silber Light Co. does indeed have a wide deflector projecting over the wick tube, the top of which is curved inwards, although this burner does not use a flame disc (see Other Burners). Such exceptions, however, appear extremely rarely on the market. In the ten years I have been collecting, this Silber burner has only appeared twice on eBay, one of which I bought at auction.


Deciding Whether the Flame Disc is Missing

The deflector is firmly connected to the gallery and basket. If you remove the basket together with the gallery and deflector from a flame disc burner whose wick is simply driven by internal gearwheels, all that remains is the wick tube including the wick knob, which from the outside does not differ from a conventional wick tube of a Kosmos burner, and the easy visual classification described above no longer applies. Only in the case of flame disc burners, whose wick drive functions by means of an additional tube with an integrated rack, is there a very clear distinction from Kosmos burners, in which this type of wick drive was never practised.

The thread dimensions of the 14''' Kosmos and 15''' flame disc burners are generally identical; this means that you can easily replace the basket of a flame disc burner of this size with the basket of a Kosmos burner of the same size. Now this combination visually looks like a Kosmos burner, although the wick tube comes from a flame disc burner. Unfortunately, this is often done to create a "complete-looking" burner from parts of completely different burners that match in size. Then it is really quite difficult to distinguish between them. If you have old catalogues, you can read off the correct allocation in the catalogue from the burner logo on the wick wheel. Of course, the question now arises whether a burner composed of, for example, the wick tube of a flame disc burner and the basket + gallery of a Kosmos burner would not burn well. The reverse case, namely the combination of a Kosmos wick tube with the basket + gallery + deflector of a flame disc burner, also occurs. I have done some experiments in this respect and therefore I can confirm that in both cases such incorrectly combined burners work well in themselves as soon as you put a Kosmos chimney on them, because in both cases you have created a quasi Kosmos-type burner without a flame disc. But what is the value of a lamp whose burner is not authentically complete, but only an arbitrary combination of completely different burners?

In the next photo, I have taken a wick tube from each of 14''' Kosmos and 15''' flame disc burners with the baskets of the other type of burner. At first glance, both results look like regular Kosmos burners, but they are not at all.


Incorrect combinations of Kosmos and flame disc burners
From left: The naked wick tube of 14‘‘‘ Kosmos burner by Fr. Hoffmann (ULUM)
The same wick tube combined with the basket of 15''' Volks burner by Carl Holy (flame disc burner)
The naked wick tube from 15''' Titus burner (flame disc burner by Wetzschewald & Wilmes, here without the flame disc)
The same wick tube (without the flame disc) combined with the basket of 14''' Kosmos burner by Gaudard

If you have any doubts as to whether the 14 or 15 line burner you have bought might be a flame disc burner after all, in many cases you have a good way of distinguishing it from the Kosmos burners: the inner tube of the wick tube of a flame disc burner has a bulging inside at the appropriate height, on which the flame disc (of the type: hat on sieve tube) sits, because otherwise it would sink further into the tube. The normal Kosmos wick tubes, which are operated without a flame disc, do not have this thickening. However, this aid is only useful with flame discs of the type mentioned above. However, since the majority of 15 line flame disc burners have exactly this type of flame disc, a look into the wick tube is usually a very good aid to decision-making.

Some older 15 or 16 line flame disc burners have a simple flame disc on thin pin or tube. In this case, there is no bead-like thickening in the wick tube, but there is a narrow extra tube inside the wick tube to attach the pin flame disc. This also provides a good decision-making aid. Unfortunately, this narrow tube can bear a striking resemblance to the extra air tube of the so-called Reform Kosmos burner (see The Kosmos Burner). However, since the typical small air openings on the wick knob ring of a flame disc burner are missing (apart from a few exceptions such as the later marketed white-light burners), a distinction is possible here.


Distinguishing features to decide whether a flame disc belongs to the burner
From left: The bulge in the wick tube for a flame disc of the hat-on-sieve-tube type.
The cylindrical wick tube of a burner is typical for a flame disc burner with wick drive via a rack from below.
The narrow tube in the wick tube of a Reform Kosmos burner, whose wick knob ring is provided with air openings.


When you finally realise that the flame disc on the burner you bought is missing, the question immediately arises as to whether you can buy the missing flame disc on a regular basis. To be honest, the answer is no. Every flame disc burner has a flame disc with a different shape and dimension, specially developed for the burner in question; and finding exactly this one missing type is an extreme stroke of luck. The Gaudard* company in France still makes 15 line flame disc burners with the typical "hat-on-sieve-tube" type, and you can buy replacement flame discs for these burners; but they only fit these burners. They cannot replace the flame discs of other burners with different dimensions at all.

*Note by Ara Kebapcioglu: Gaudard produces and markets several Kosmos burners and 15''' or 20''' Matador-type flame disc burners. However, it is very peculiar that both flame disc burners have the same wick tube of the 14-line Kosmos burner. The only difference is the size of the baskets, so that the corresponding 15''' and 20''' Matador chimneys can be used. On the other hand, the flame discs and even the wick widths are identical in both flame disc burners. This means that you are operating a burner that is labelled "20-line" with the wick tube, flame disc and wick width of a 15-line burner, which is actually not permissible. Therefore, beware of buying the 20''' flame disc burner from Gaudard.


Wrong Flame Disc

One must additionally describe here the case that also often occurs: resourceful dealers sometimes replace the missing flame disc of a burner with a flame disc of another burner that happens to be present and is almost identical in dimensions. Then the burner looks complete at first glance. Only a good expert can recognise that the flame disc does not belong to the original burner. For the layman it is almost impossible to tell. In many cases this can work satisfactorily from a burning point of view, especially since almost all imitators of the Matador burner by Ehrich & Graetz have designed almost identical burners, at least hardly distinguishable in dimensions, which also have almost identical flame disks. The foreign flame disc can perform its service satisfactorily in such cases; however, the value of the burner is still somewhat diminished because an essential original part of it is missing.

Replacing an old-fashioned flame disc that only carries a more or less wide, flat disc on a thin pin is much more difficult, as the shape and dimensions of such flame discs were varied much more often and to a greater extent. Here, every burner manufacturer had his own ideas about how the flame disc of the burner had to look in order to produce an optimal flame. The diameter of the flame disc and its distance from the upper edge of the wick tube were different in each case. Without a thorough knowledge of the burner (e.g. from old catalogues where such burners are illustrated) a reasonable replacement of the missing flame disc is not possible. It may be possible to have such simply constructed flame discs turned from brass, provided you know the original dimensions of the missing flame disc. This is only possible if you know another collector who happens to own the burner with the original flame disc.

For the sake of completeness, I will tell you about another wrong combination: I have sometimes seen burner offers on eBay that resembled a regular flame disc burner, but were themselves quite normal Kosmos burners. A Kosmos burner had been fitted with a flame disc of the type hat-on-sieve-tube, probably on the assumption that a flame disc always belongs to a burner...

Wrong Combinations from Different Burners

Now we come to a very vexed topic that inexperienced collectors are not really aware of. It is not the question of whether a burner has a flame disc or not, but whether the basket and the wick tube of a recently acquired burner actually belong together as original parts. Above, I described the particular mistake of combining parts of burners belonging to different burner types (i.e. Kosmos and flame disc burners) to form a "new" burner. However, the wrong combinations happen even more frequently within the same burner type. This type of wrong combination occurs very often with the Kosmos burners, but is also present with the later flame disc burners.

Since the thread dimensions of burners were standardised quite early, it is very possible to "marry" the basket of a burner from company X with the wick tube of another company Y, provided they have the same thread size. And this is unfortunately very often practised to replace the defective part of one burner with a matching, intact part of another burner, even though they are not from the same manufacturer at all. For example, many lamps I bought on eBay had a Kosmos wick tube from a German manufacturer and a basket from the French producer Gaudard. These burners look innocuous to a layman, as they supposedly have everything that belongs to a proper burner, and yet they are incorrectly assembled and have to be replaced if you do not tolerate such false combinations in your collection.

The problem now is to decide whether the basket and wick tube are actually original parts of the burner, or whether there is actually a wrong combination. This decision is much more difficult than the decision with the flame disc discussed above. There are no clearly definable distinguishing features. In the case of wick tubes, it is relatively easy to assign them to a specific manufacturer because of the manufacturer's logo on the wick wheel. Only with meaningless logos such as "Kosmos Brenner" or "Rund Brenner" you don’t know exactly who the manufacturer is. But these are only exceptions. The situation with baskets is fundamentally different, because burner baskets bear neither a logo nor any other indication of their producer. The only thing that helps here is the meticulous, systematic collection of pattern and design features that can be assigned to a decided manufacturer. For example, burner baskets made by Gaudard or SI (Societé Industrielle d'Articles d'Éclairage), both in France, can be excellently identified because their slot patterns are very typical and only used by these producers. The situation is similar with some other burners, such as Fledermaus permanent burners by Stübgen or Jupiter burners by R. Ditmar.

But with the majority of baskets from other manufacturers, one notices a real lack of design imagination. An unusually large number of baskets from different manufacturers have identical punching patterns! Here it becomes extremely difficult and even almost impossible to match a basket with such a punching pattern, which was used by very many burner manufacturers, to a specific manufacturer, even to a specific burner exactly.

Comment by Ara Kebapcioglu: In times of very high demand for kerosene/paraffin lamps, some burner manufacturers asked friendly companies to help them with burner baskets so that they could deliver the orders on time after all. So they combined their wick tubes with the baskets of other manufacturers. Accordingly, there were sometimes burners that were combinations of parts from different manufacturers from the very beginning.

If you now think that this difficulty only occurs with Kosmos burners, you are mistaken. The baskets of the Matador burners by Ehrich & Graetz and their imitators are so similar that even here a clear distinction is very difficult or even impossible.

It is now a philosophical question whether it is legitimate to allow a supposedly wrong combination to stand together when there are hardly any visible or detectable differences. There is another philosophical answer to this: it depends on the collector's level of knowledge and requirements.

In these ten years, I may have replaced 150-200 burners (unfortunately, I have not kept precise records) that were either irreparably defective, incomplete or simply incorrectly combined. If I have the certainty or even the suspicion that the parts of a burner do not belong together originally, then I try everything to replace this burner with a burner whose original condition I am sure of. In my case, the additional cost is worth it, because see above: it all depends on the personal requirements...

In the next photos, I have put together 6 baskets each of Kosmos burners and flame disc burners, both taken from the side and diagonally from above. Side photos show the basket and gallery patterns clearly. The photos taken slanted are more to sharpen the eye for the deflectors.

Maybe in the future I will try to collect as many burner photos as possible with their basket and gallery patterns, wick tubes and deflectors, flame discs and wick knob logos and publish them here on this website. However, this is still pie in the sky...


Baskets and galleries of some flame disc burners
(top row with side view, bottom row with diagonal view from above)
From left: 16‘‘‘ Salvator burner, Ehrich & Graetz
15‘‘‘ Titus burner, Wetzchewald & Wilmes
15‘‘‘ Präsident burner, R. Ditmar


Baskets and galleries of some flame disc burners
(top row with side view, bottom row with diagonal view from above)
From left: 16‘‘‘ Odin burner, Carl Holy
15‘‘‘ Flachdocht-Sonnenbrenner, Gebr. Brünner (not the one of Ditmar!)
15‘‘‘ Matador burner, Ehrich & Graetz


Baskets and galleries of some Kosmos burners
(top row with side view, bottom row with diagonal view from above)
From left: 14‘‘‘ Kosmos burner, Wild & Wessel
14‘‘‘ Kosmos burner, Hugo Schneider
14‘‘‘ Fledermaus permanent burner, Stübgen


Baskets and galleries of some Kosmos burners
(top row with side view, bottom row with diagonal view from above)
From left: 14‘‘‘ Kosmos burner, Gaudard
10‘‘‘ Kosmos burner, Societé Industrielle
15‘‘‘ Jupiter burner, R. Ditmar