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Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
Groucho Marx, Spring 93

(continued from page 1)

When you slide your thumb across the roll bar of any lighter, thank Vernon Dunhill, brother of Alfred, who created the first lighters which could be lit one-handed. This horizontal flint mechanism is still found on the Dunhill Unique Lighter, and while it looks old-fashioned, it works very reliably.

All other flint wheels evolved from Vernon Dunhill's original idea, and each mechanism feels different. Be sure it doesn't feel rough to turn, but solid--the friction feedback should be smooth and even throughout the stroke.

Ideally, any lighter can be used ambidextrously. If you're left-handed, be sure of this. Davidoff's newest generation of lighters are easy for southpaws to use because the rollbar stretches the length of the lighter body, and wraps around the edge of the lighter casing so it rolls easily in either hand. Other lighters have a top and bottom side, and most offset the roll bar so that it is only accessible from the top side, which makes them easier for right-handed people to light.

After lighting, your thumb should be safely away from the flame. The flame itself should be accessible, even for the biggest cigars. This seems obvious, but the caps of some less-expensive lighters often stop at ten o'clock, not noon, interfering with an easy light. Some lighter manufacturers avoid this problem by angling the flame away from the lighter cap.

The flame itself should be easily adjustable, as is the case with the Dunhill Rollagas model, which has an adjustment wheel located discreetly away from the flame, but still within easy reach--on the outside, just below the cap hinge.

Flame size should be fat. This enables a cigar smoker to light a cigar evenly. Much like the dual-match technique mentioned above, the S.T. Dupont lighter created for Davidoff has a dual flame and is more reliable than two matches. The Dupont, like many other lighters, cuts off the gas source as the cap is closed, preventing damage to the cap or your hand.

With modern technology, there is a temptation to buy a "gas turbo" lighter. The flames from these are blue and hot and resist blowing out. Ikari and Colibri make very high-tech looking ones, but overall these mechanisms require more maintenance and are best used on a boat or out on the fairway.

Zippos have a well-earned reputation for quality and durability, but they run on oil, which can sour the taste of your cigar. If you're fond of this lighter design, the Country, imported by Consolidated Cigar Corporation, looks like a Zippo but uses gas instead of oil.

Consolidated also offers Rowenta's combination cutter-lighters. These are handy devices which are a lot like Swiss Army knives. The only drawbacks are that the lighter mechanisms must be held down to maintain the flame, and the cutter hole may be too small for larger cigars. In the end, whatever lighting instrument you choose should be more than just pretty--it should light a cigar with grace and ease.

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