Thursday, May 25, 2006

Playing With Fire

This text has appeared in several venues before. I doubt not that you will have read it in one of those already. If you read it as attributed to anyone else but me, you have been scammed: Only I can claim to have performed each and every one of these experiements in human auto-incineration and I have some of the scars to prove it.

Lest there be any confusion, each and every one of these entries should be firmly nailed to your own "never do" place and lit 24/7 with halogen lamps.
I offer the following advice culled from my experience in dealing with flammables.

Don't light a cheap cigar, then attach it to the hose of an operating cylinder vacuum cleaner. The cigar burns vigorously, then the hot core whooshes up the hose and sets light to the dust in the bag. Flames shoot out of the motor exhaust and singe the wallpaper. Before you can get to the off switch, much damage is done to the household appliance (not to mention the houshold itself), and the smell never comes out of the carpet.

Don't take a large wine making bottle, fill it with butane gas then tip it over with a flame at the mouth to see what happens, while seated with the bottle on your lap wearing only underpants. The bottle will exhibit similar behaviour to a V1 engine and will sear a two-foot burn down your thigh and calf.

Do not service an electric R/C model car in the same seated/unclothed condition, especially if the car uses open wound nichrome resistors in its speed control, lest you drop the chassis onto your manly thighs and burn them to a crisp on the red-hot resistors.

Do not melt plastic bottles over a bench with a lace curtain valance. The flames from the burning valance are very difficult to quench, and detract from the molten bottle experiment itself.

Do not throw methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) onto a fire from the bottle or can. The flame will strike back and begin to burn quite disconcertingly from the neck of the container. Do not then hurl the container away from you. You will burn down the garden shed.

Do not cram 150 cut-off "strike-anywhere" match heads into a matchbox then set them on fire. Match heads will spray everywhere on a jet of superheated gas, exploding as they hit the cold air and your garments, burning any exposed skin quite deeply.

Do not use "Cement Asbestos" mats to support your work when you solder with a blowlamp. The mat will explode violently and shoot razor-sharp bits of mat and red-hot components into your lap (see comments about experimenting clad only in underwear too).

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which, if any, of these events took place after I left comprehensive school and became an "adult".

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