Author Topic: How times have changed...  (Read 1960 times)

Offline grahams

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Re: How times have changed...
« Reply #25 on: January 16, 2020, 03:42:40 pm »
In the old covered market in Bradford in the 60s you could buy 2 oz tubs of various nitrates including barium, strontium and potassium along with many other compounds. The stall had hundreds of these tubs which were appropriately colour coded with a bit of info about each compound.

Our local chemist used to sell nitric and sulphuric acids in 'bring your own' bottles and would reluctantly provide potassium nitrate 'safely' wrapped in a paper bag. When the supply of potassium nitrate ran out we discovered that reacting nitric acid with cream of tartar (potassium tartrate) would yield instant gunpowder when carefully dried. The pharmacist used to wonder why we were always buying iodine crystals and ammonia solution - obviously he hadn't read a Boys Own annual.

These days Amazon sells tree stump remover and flash cotton so all is not lost - if you're into that sort of thing.
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Offline blackshiver

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Re: How times have changed...
« Reply #26 on: January 16, 2020, 05:44:36 pm »
I was happily making rocket propellants in the shed back in the early 1970's and got to the point where I needed concentrated acids which (as a 14 year old) the local chemist would not sell to me.

I used to help the chemistry teacher at school set up experiments over lunchtime, so I asked if it would be possible to............

After school that day I was called to his office and thought "here we go" the heads going to be there and its going to be painful.

I can see it in my minds eye even now. Opened the door, walked up to his big oak desk, sir takes his reading glasses off pushes a box full of sawdust towards me and there they were. Half a pint each of conc Nitric, Hydrochloric, Sulphuric and conc Ammonia all nicely fuming through the (loose) glass stoppers.

I did say thanks! and then put the box on the handlebars of my bike and cycled home (one handed) to the Little Green Shed at the bottom of the garden.

How times have changed.

Postcript, about a year later "Sir" also took me to see "somebody" to explain what I was doing in The Shed. I didn't know at the time but this was the head of R+D for ICI who immediately offered me a  job working for him as soon as I left school (I was sixteen).

I have a lifetime of well paid and interesting chemistry to thank "Sir" for and met him in a cafe a couple of years back - he also said "how times have changed".
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Offline pwhole

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Re: How times have changed...
« Reply #27 on: January 16, 2020, 06:08:18 pm »
I once accidentally dropped a one-quart bottle of formaldehyde out of my cheap rucksack in the local hippy healthfood store. The floor was simple rustic wooden floorboards and the bottle landed on the corner of the base and bounced - whereupon I caught it, and swiftly put it back in my rucksack before leaving rather quickly. I didn't go back for years.

Offline nickwilliams

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Re: How times have changed...
« Reply #28 on: January 16, 2020, 06:17:55 pm »
My mate and I made nitrogen tri-iodide when we should have been doing something else in an O-level chemistry class one day. We managed to drop some on the floor and got a mighty bollocking from the chemistry master when he trod on it. The effect of the bollocking was somewhat diminished by the same teacher admitting to one of our parents in a parents evening a couple of weeks later that he was actually quite impressed since he'd never been able to get it to go off whenever he had tried to make it.
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Offline Graigwen

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Re: How times have changed...
« Reply #29 on: Today at 10:28:30 am »
You would probably be locked up for what we used to make in the late sixties. I remember making picric acid and the satisfying bang it made when mixed with lead oxide and struck with a hammer. ...

Dave

Picric acid! I am impressed. We made what we called guncotton (nitrocellulose), but as we did not have access to concentrated nitric acid the process was only partial and the product was of more use as a fast fuse than an explosive.

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Offline Graigwen

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Re: How times have changed...
« Reply #30 on: Today at 10:40:44 am »
....

Got as far as a home made ammonium nitrate - nitro mix, but the home made dets from shotgun primers would not make it go off.



It is not long since commercial ammonium nitrate was freely and cheaply available. I suppose it would be easy to make ANFO by dissolving it in fuel oil to make a handy liquid explosive, widely used in the mining industry as a pattern of holes can be filled from a tanker. The problem controlling the availability of ammonium nitrate is that it is so useful as a fertiliser, with nitrogen available in two forms.

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