Subject: Good old days in Jr. High
Date: 1 Mar 90 10:29:01 GMT

In Junior High School started really really liking science.  I did a
number of more or less safe things (Fuel Cells, rockets, pictures from
balloons, flame throwers, 1,000,000 V Tesla coils, etc) but the most
fun was explosives.  It was really easy to get started.  I just looked
up "gunpowder" in the encyclopedia and it gave different proportions of
saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfer.  I was able to get saltpeter as the
local drugstore as long as my mother came along.  They would say, "Do
you know that he can make explosives with this?", and she would say,
"Yes, he is going to."  I could order the sulfer from a chemical place.
So I could make lots of gunpowder.

I made various small explosives and tried to make fuses by soaking
string in wet gunpowder.  I never really liked these fuses.  If think
the problem was that if I had enough gunpowder on the string to make
sure that it did not go out it would burn rather fast.

A group of us pyros all had lunch passes and would go to one friends
house that was close to school and do things like make hydrogen.  One
time I made match bombs and took them to school to show everyone.  I
thought it was neat that you did not even need gunpowder.  I wanted
more than just my pyro friends to be able to see them so I did them
during lunch just across from school.  When I came back across the
street a yard duty took me to the principle.  The principle slowly
unwound the tape on my one remaining match bomb and told me how these
were so dangerous and not allowed at school, etc, etc.  He talked about
suspension and all.  Then he called my mother.  He explained to her
what I had done.  Then I heard her say, "Let me get this straight, he
light matchbombs off across the street from the school?"  Then the
principle said, "Yes, thats right."  Then my mother said, "So what's
the problem?".  The principles attitude changed at this point and I was
out of there in a minute with no further trouble.

Most explosions went off as planned but not all.  The worst caused me
to stop using what had been my favorite ignition method.  I would put
one tiny strand of wire from a power cord through the gunpowder and
then put 110 V through that to light it.  The strand of wire would be
vaporized (but there were lots more) and the explosive always went off.
One time I was trying out a cannon and was going to use two extension
cords to get far from the garage.  I plugged one cord into the short
cord that was connected to the cannon.  The other cord was wound up and
plugged into itself.  I asked my sister to plug in the other extension
cord and she did not realize that there were two on the ground there
since there was only one end.  She plugged in the visible end and the
cannon went off in my hands.  It was a particularly big charge and my
mother and several neighbors came running outside.  After checking that
we were OK my mother went over and assured the neighbors, "Its OK, its
just Vince."

One fantastic mother, eh?  I did stop with the explosive for awhile
after that one.

I needed a good way of getting long delay fuses.  Where I lived you had
to have a license to buy fuses so I could not buy them.  What I finally
came up with worked really well.  If I dipped a string in wax I could
get fuses that took minutes to burn.  This gave me plenty of time to
get far away before things went boom.  To me, this was the key thing in
safety, get FAR AWAY.  

So fellow pyros, I recommend the string in wax method.  

  -- Vince

PS  Has anyone ever tried the fertilizer and oil method?  
    Always wanted to make a big hole out in Nevada someplace.  :-)