February, the month of Candlemas and Imbolc, is traditionally associated with bringing light into the home, so this month’s review is for a lantern.
A combination of an inconveniently dark hall corner and a desire to reduce both my electric bill and the toxic trash of disposable batteries, led me to try out a crank lantern. For my first attempt, I went with the Whetstone 12 LED Camping Crank Lantern, $15.00 at Home Depot, with built-in crank handle, three brightness settings, a carry-handle with movable hanging hook, a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time — no, wait, that’s another product. But it does have a compass.
To use the lantern, you crank the handle at a good clip to charge the internal battery and then press the power button. Easy. The comes-with product literature suggests that a minute’s cranking will grant up to 20 minutes of light, but I have to assume they mean continuous light at the highest setting. I use the lamp frequently but only briefly, and I found I got a full three months worth of use on a single charge. An issue with crank lanterns and flashlights is that their internal batteries will eventually be unable to hold a charge, but so far I have had no trouble with the Whetstone 12 LED. Surprising when I consider it is one of the cheaper, weaker models among many widely available options.
Crank lights and appliances are a convenient way to enjoy the electrical life without an outlet. Also known as dynamo or Faraday devices — each device containing within it a miniature electrical dynamo to generate the needed electricity — they operate on the Field Theory discovered by Michael Faraday in the 1820s, which gives the added thrill of holding classic science in your hand. Learn more about it from the enthusiastic folks at HandCrankFlashlight.com.
They are often not recommended for emergency preparedness kits due to the issue of aging batteries, which could make the crank device unreliable if stored unused for long periods. However, for regular household use in that dark corner, large closet, creepy end of the cellar, or unwired porch, my little Whetstone suits very well indeed. I am pleased enough with it to plan further experiments in off-grid household appliances in the interest of lowering my utility usage.
Summary: Whetstone 12 LED Camping Crank Lantern
Upside: Inexpensive. Easy to use. Requires no outlet or disposable batteries. Gets the job done.
Downside: Cheaply made — a second lamp right out of the package required a couple of dabs of Gorilla glue on the frame. LED lights are long-lived but give harsh, blue light that’s rough on the eyes; I am considering a paper shade. The compass is a useless frippery, placed on the top of the lamp where it is either obscured by the carry-handle or cast in shadow by the light below it, but I find I don’t need it in the hallway.
If you use it a lot, give it a crank daily. If you use it less often, as I do, a maintenance crank once a month or every couple of weeks should be enough to keep it happy.
You can find the Whetstone 12 LED Camping Crank Lantern and many other models of crank/dynamo lights and radios at Home Depot and other major retailers of hardware and outdoor gear.