I think I have finally cracked it.
I have found a pipe-lighter that I like and that works.
The lighters that I have tried over the years –
The first one is your common or garden disposable lighter. Electric spark and refillable gas. It's cheap and dirty and lasts for several refills before the spark gives up the ghost.
The next along is also a disposable. It's a Ronson and is also electric spark and refillable gas. It lasts a hell of a lot longer and the one in the photograph is a few years old. It has become too erratic though.
The next one along is a Vector. It's a lovely lighter – very solid and quite heavy. It comes with its own pipe tools too which is damned handy. It's electric spark and refillable gas and would be my favourite but for one thing – the fucking thing is erratic. It started off brilliantly but now for the life of me I can't get anything more than a glimmer of a flame out of it. Most of the time when I strike it I just get a flash of gas and nothing else. Sometimes it lights but you'd swear the tank was nearly empty as the flame is so low. I have dismantled it and cleaned it thoroughly and for some strange reason it works quite well when the casing is removed, but as soon as I reassemble it, it goes all sulky on me. I know I'm entitled to a repair but it means posting it to the States and I couldn't be arsed.
Then there's the Zippo. Now we are into the realm of flint ignition and liquid fuel. This lad is very reliable but has a few drawbacks as far as I am concerned. The first is that the liquid fuel gives off a taste which I could do without. Also I have to refill it a lot [once a day or so] which is a pain and also rather messy. The main drawback though is it gives off a massive flame and I have to be bloody careful not to burn my face off. I suppose I could trim the wick or something? I am not a Zippo expert.
Finally there is my latest acquisition – the Peterson. In my researches I kept coming across the Corona "OldBoy" which seemed to be the consensus of most as the best. It was damned expensive though and not readily available here. But then I found the Peterson Pipe Lighter which is based on the OldBoy but is reckoned to be sturdier. It is also cheaper and available here in Ireland. I bought it.
I have been using it a little while now and I love it. It is very sturdy and quite heavy for its size and just has a feeling of solidity. It's flint ignition [more reliable than electronic] and gas driven. The flame is cool and easily adjustable and is nicely angled for pipe lighting. It lights first time every time. The only [trivial] drawbacks I can find so far are that it doesn't have the built in tools of the Vector and that opening the lid releases the gas so potentially I could forget to close the lid and lose all the gas.
One way or another I hope my quest is over.