Unsafe and insane.Or so in retrospect it seems…
By Art Chantry ( email@example.com):
Unsafe and insane. When I was a kid about 14/15, I was a pyro. I never burned down anything (i wasn’t an arsonist). But, me and my best friend made fireworks, bombs, aerial displays, depth charges, etc. we got really good at it, too.
We explored making our own gunpowder (kingsford bbq brickettes were our carbon source of choice) and even figured out how to make contact explosives out of store bought pharmaceuticals. We also worked with commercial black powder, underwater fuse, ground magnesium and matchheads ripped off hundreds and hundreds of matchbooks. we even figured out how to make grenades out of those old metal screwtop cans of Draino.
To be honest, the bulk of our “efforts” were simple pipe bombs. I’m still stunned we still have our fingers and our eyesight. Our methods were so crude that it’s a miracle we didn’t blow ourselves up. We figured out how to make decent gunpowder out of primitive raw materials and then proceeded to pour it into lengths of electrical conduit (it was what was laying around) and then POUND down the ends and fold them over with a HAMMER! To make things worse, we then would use an iron nail to pop a hole in the side and shove in some underwater fuse we bought from the back pages of a Popular Mechanics! talk about stupid! I still shudder when I think about it.
However, my special forte was regular ‘safe and sane’ fireworks – fountains, skyrockets, whistlers, pinwheels, stuff like that. I could really make a great fountain display! my crowning effort was a small cone I named ‘mt. vesuvius’ (boring). but, I had figured out how different varieties of metal shavings added to the mix would produce different colors of sparks and fire. For instance, copper made green oval-shaped sparks. Iron made bright white ‘sparkly’ sparks, and so on.
I would make layers of materials to creates a series of displays from the single little cone. I’d even add things like layers of road flare powder to create a red hot burn and then a layer of small “lady finger” firecrackers that would fly up in the air and explode above your head. to top it all off, this thing went on for over 15 minutes! it ended with three cherry bombs at the bottom, erupting in a huge explosion.
I had tossed in some pea-gravel at the bottom as well. nothing like a little shrapnel to excite the kiddies, eh? when we set it off, it blew out all the windows in my friends house. my friend’s dad was a local renown architect and this was a ‘dream house’ he had spent his lifetime building by hand. It as an award-winning beauty.
After we set off these fireworks (at midnite on new year’s eve, 1970), it blew out all the windows in his dream house. I still rem
r my friend’s dad sitting alone in the dark for an hour after we had finished. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. We cowered in the house and waited for the axe to fall. Finally, my friend told me that I’d better go home. Well, let’s just say I didn’t get to hang much with my friend after that little show.
The final blow was after my friend and I had spent an entire week making the “primo” batch. we’d finally figured out the perfect gunpowder formula and we had made a huge mixing bowl filled to the brim with totally righteous boomstuff. A little later, my pal had a couple of girls up in his bedroom and wanted to show off some of this stuff. Typical dumb boy/child stuff.
He placed a little gunpowder in a bowl (all on top of the custom built-in-the-room desk in his amazing bedroom on the top floor of his dad’s dream house). He tossed a match in it and WHOOSH! up in smoke. but a couple of sparks popped into the big mixing bowl and KABOOM!!!! that went up, too. I guess everybody in that room ended up with black faces like something from a cartoon.
The gunpowder was reduced a large lump of molten sulpher (it looked like lava) and it immediately burned right through that custom built architectural teak desk. it hit the hardwood floor (with the heating system built under it) and burned through that as well. then it went through his sister’s bedroom on the second floor and then kept going downward, like meltdown in Chernobyl. It finally came to rest on the ground floor when it fell through the ceiling of the master bathroom and hit the tile floor, where it sizzled happily and slowly cooled off.
Of course, my friend’s mom was in the shower at the time. isn’t that always the way?
So, that was that., I never really got to hang out with my friend after that. somehow, I got all the blame and to this day the whole family avoids me. such is life.
This image is of some old school sparkler packaging. There even a few of the old wire sparklers shown. In the olden days of yore, the kiddie fireworks – the stuff we let the tiny little tykes play with because they were so safe – was the ignoble and ever-so boring sparkler. It was considered silly next to the skyrockets and cherry bombs and Texas busters and roman candles the big kids got to play with.
I still remember setting my siblings clothes on fire with them (by accident! honest!) I remember the terrible string-like burns I got on my bare feet from stepping on the glowing hot wires after the sparklers had expired (they littered the ground). I also remember figuring out how to make a hand grenade out of a box of sparklers and some duct tape. You tossed it an ran like hell – because all those wire handles came flying out like dagger missile shrapnel. very nasty.
The book next to to that beautiful old is a Popular Mechanics publication from 1935. It was published at the very peak of the depression and was directed at starving entreprenuers looking for some way to make a few bucks working with what was laying around the house. It has “1059 ways to start a profitable business” inside. note: not 1060. not 1058. but fully 1059 ways!
Aside from being a really astonishing little book, it has a beautiful cover design – classic American work form that period. Please notice that this was what American design really looked like – not Art Deco or European modernism. Our history of this stuff is skewed dramatically toward the wrong reality. but, that’s another story.
The reason I show this book, is that it’s full of actual formulas and recipes to make all sorts of interesting stuff. – soap, shellac, disinfectants, hand lotions, gold plating, water proofing, all sorts of amazing things. and most all of it can be whipped up in your kitchen using very plain simple materials available readily.
It also include a small paragraph for the formula to make ‘sparklers’. It’s an incredibly simple concoction that can be made in your kitchen (provided you don’t use an open flame!!) yes, anybody can make sparklers! even you! even me! think about that for a second…
Where’s homeland security when we need them! let’s stop the sparkler bandits before they start!