Author Topic: Fire sale  (Read 6341 times)

Offline sshire

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Fire sale
« on: May 10, 2015, 08:25:36 PM »
Sometimes, when you've done something many times without incident, you may not be as alert to a dangerous situation as you should be.

This past weekend at Rough and Tumble, I was getting ready to fire up the Rider-Ericsson. The burner is fueled by small camping canisters of Iso-butane which screw into the valve. A few threads before the canister is seated, there is always a small spray of gas. Never an issue. Except...when Fred (who was next to me at the table) has his Stirling's running with a small propane burner under each.
Quite exciting as the spray of Iso-butane ignited, creating a large fireball and, since it hadn't fully seated on the valve, continued to spray.
Fred, ever cool, grabbed two extinguishers from his box and we had the fire extinguished very quickly. The whole thing couldn't have taken 5 seconds, but scared the hell out of me.
No one was injured. No engines were harmed. Of course, every one of our engines was covered in the white powder from the extinguishers.
Someone mentioned that the powder is a corrosive, so all of the engines got a hit of compressed air outside and a washing down.
The next day I saw where I had missed some of the powder on the Liney RV-1. The brass had taken on a lovely, spotted brown patina. It polished off this morning easily.

My new procedure for connecting the tank is to do it outdoors. Then, bring it in to the engine.

Lesson learned.
Best,
Stan

Offline Heffalump

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2015, 09:13:46 PM »
Glad no harm came Stan - that's the drawback of familiarity.

Offline sshire

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2015, 09:17:07 PM »
A character building experience
Best,
Stan

Online Tennessee Whiskey

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2015, 10:58:01 PM »
Vern, my God, you should know gas and fire should only be presented to each other in a controlled environment  :facepalm:. I knew a chap that back in the 70s would expell a Bic lighter into his mouth and light it off as he exhaled,  he also amazed a bunch of teenie boppers with starting fluid and a Bic. Ah, the stupidity of the era. Thank goodness Smokey the Fred was a good boy scout  ;) :ThumbsUp:

Cletus

Offline sshire

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2015, 11:22:06 PM »
Cletus
I now know 2 new things:
1. Isobutane is heavier than air.
2. It slides quite a distance along the table looking for something to create mayhem.
Vern
Best,
Stan

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2015, 11:34:01 PM »
As long as you learn something, you can always write it off to continued education  :naughty:

Cletus

Offline b.lindsey

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2015, 11:55:20 PM »
Sure glad it wasn't more serious Stan. Fred gets the merit badge for fire safety. Good thing he had the extinguisher handy...a good lesson for all of us.

Bill

Offline AussieJimG

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2015, 12:40:00 AM »
Sounds spectacular. I am glad nobody (and no engines) were hurt.

We should take a lesson from Fred and always have a fire extinguisher (actually several for different classes of fire) handy in the workshop. And they need to be kept in date too.

Jim

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2015, 04:12:53 PM »
At the first show at which I ever exhibited, I ran my Poppin far longer than I ever had before; there was an army of children mesmerized by the sight and sound of the engine. 

Unfortunately, I had never put a breather hole in the cap of the small alcohol lamp I had built for the engine.  As the brass burner heated the alcohol inside evaporated fast enough to build up pressure and expel liquid alcohol out the wick hole faster than the flame could consume it.

Picture a pool of burning alcohol (with an almost invisible flame) spreading over the paper tablecloth on the exhibit table.  Fortunately, I noticed a display card magically crisping its edges and understood what was happening.  Thankfully, we managed to extinguish the fire safely before anything was harmed but the loss of "face" will persist forever.

Since then, I make it a point to run each new alcohol burner through a long-term test in a steel pan before it's cleared for public use.
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Offline sshire

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2015, 05:35:49 PM »
Marv
Another valuable one to remember.
Remembering "know thine enemy", I've spent a few hours learning about monoammonium phosphate (the powder in ABC extinguishers) and isobutane.
One of the exhibitors said that CO2 would have been better since I wouldn't have the brass-corrosive powder to clean up. He was incorrect. CO2 is not effective in extinguishing isobutane, propane, etc. fires.
We do spend a great deal of time around "heavy machinery", chemicals, metals and sharp things and they can be a help or can cause serious issues. We must know as much as possible about these things and be prepared for all eventualities.
Interesting side note. When the ball of flame appeared, accompanied by Fred and I frantically pulling safety pins and unleashing the extinguishers, the guys exhibiting across the aisle didn't move. They almost immediately resumed their conversations. I guess they've seen it all.
Best,
Stan

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2015, 06:28:06 PM »
I've often thought of starting a thread entitled something like ...

Weird safety issues that would never occur to you.

as a catch-all for all those tidbits we pick up along the way.  My "put a vent hole in your alcohol lamp filler cap" would probably qualify.  Another would be ensuring that welding currents do not accidentally pass through a rattle can of paint.  [Read about that one on HSM, IMS.]

Trouble is, threads like that always degenerate into repositories for war stories ensuring that the folks who need to read it get bored and skip it.
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Offline tvoght

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2015, 07:03:47 PM »
I hope this doesn't qualify as a war story but expands on what Marv has already said about vent holes on alcohol lamps.

The lamp for my Stirling was an aluminum tank with an aluminum lid. I provided vent holes in the lid.

I ran the engine a lot in my shop. My habit was to set it up on the milling machine bed and let it run as I piddled around. The background beat is satisfying and calming.

I had noticed when I took it to the small show at Zanesville Ohio, that the lamp seemed unusually temperamental, and near the end of the show I did have a very small fire incident that I was sure no one had noticed and which I quickly covered up.

While preparing for NAMES, I brought the engine into the house and set it up on a wood surface. Without fail, within a minute or two of running, the flame at the wick would suddenly increase in intensity by 3-4 times, with flames also emerging from the vent holes. I was very puzzled. In hours of running in the shop, the burner had been well behaved and predictable, and yet in the house gave this odd inexplicable behavior.

After I thought a good long while, the answer came to me. In the shop, I had been operating on the Bridgeport table which carried heat away from the aluminum tank. On the wood surface, the tank would quickly come up to the boiling temperature of methanol, which is when things went to blazes.

I made a new lamp using a glass container with aluminum lid. The lid gets quite hot, but the glass remains near room temperature. The lamp did not embarrass me at NAMES.

--Tim

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2015, 07:47:54 PM »
I hope this doesn't qualify as a war story but expands on what Marv has already said about vent holes on alcohol lamps.

No worries, Tim.

War stories sound like this...

Back May of 1915, right after the Titanic sank, I was working at the old Dumbwaiter Company, which used to be United Fruit Pies, on the peninsula by the waterworks and my buddy, Xavier, from Venezuela, who used to... well, you get the picture.

Your post neatly outlines the conditions leading up to the event and succinctly describes the cause so future readers can understand what happened without having to read your biography in the process.
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Offline sshire

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2015, 09:16:28 PM »
Come on , Marv. Don't leave us hanging. The rest of the story?
Best,
Stan

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2015, 10:08:43 PM »
Come on , Marv. Don't leave us hanging. The rest of the story?

It involves a redneck girl, an alligator and a shotgun wedding out behind the still.  Ask Cletus; he'll be able to fill you in.
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Offline zeeprogrammer

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2015, 10:18:19 PM »
Long story short...Xavier got the girl.
The rest of the story doesn't matter.
Carl (aka Zee) Will sometimes respond to 'hey' but never 'hey you'.
"To work. To work."
Zee-Another Thread Trasher.

Online Tennessee Whiskey

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2015, 11:45:03 PM »
He darn sure did , and her pappy's gator wound up as a pair of shoes and a belt for the wedding that was stiched up by feller that he met on Ellis Island,  Bianchi I think was his name.  Her pappy told old Xavier,  let's see if you can roll with this old boy like you did with my daughter.  Well, when old Xavier kicked the gator's butt, Pappy kinda took a liken to the old boy and I think they went on to start Johnston and Murphy  :shrug:?

Cletus

I know one of the great-great nieces owns a quaint little oyster bar on the Isle of Palm  8)

Offline Ian S C

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2015, 01:33:06 PM »
I use meths burners for some of my hot air engines, and I too found out about having to put in a vent hole, but that too has it's trap, if the tank on the burner gets too hot, the vapor comes out the vent and ignites with a quite impressive flame.
Ian S C

Offline Brian Rupnow

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Re: Fire sale
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2015, 11:50:21 PM »
Never choke an i.c. engine  running Naptha gas when trying to start it, then pull the sparkplug and lay it on the block while turning the engine over to check for spark. It is amazing how exciting it gets, and how quickly!!! Thank God for handy fire extinguishers.----Brian