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Zippo during World War II

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

During the World War II, Zippo manufactured lighters using a secondary grade steel, as the grade one steel and brass were all used for war machines and equipment.

This secondary grade steel has a problem. It corrodes and rusts easily due to its readiness to react with water and oxygen in the air. On top of that, it is impossible to plate steel with chrome or nickel.

To solve this issue, Zippo coated the lighters with a layer of thick black paint and baked them thoroughly, forming a wrinkly surface, known to us now as black crackle finish.

Black crackles produced in 1942 and 1943-1945 have distinctive difference. 1942 crackles have 4 barrel hinges, and unmarked 14 hole chimney inserts, while 1943-1945 crackles have 3 barrel hinges, and Pat. 2032695 marked 14 hole chimney inserts. Not only that, 1942 crackles have flat bottoms, while 1943-1945 crackles have rounded ones. Both have horizontal flintwheels and humped cam spring.

The tradition from WWI of decorating lighters with coins and engravings continued on the Zippo in WWII. After the war, decoration pins were then added onto black crackles upon request by soldiers. These pins were sent to Zippo along with the black crackles for them to process.

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