Magnesium flash powder

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Marcus, Aug 2, 2007.

  1. Marcus

    Marcus Member

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    Hi,

    I have recently purchased from ebay an Ensign magnesium flash, and would like to use it, but would need to buy magnesium etc....

    Does anybody know who might supply these flash powders, & where I might be able to buy them.

    I am interested only in small amounts to use occaisionally.

    Thanks,

    Marcus
     
  2. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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  3. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Don't tell Homeland Security.

    Most people simply simulate flash power. The stuff is dangerous. Why do you think they invented flash bulbs?
     
  4. Terence

    Terence Member

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    When I looked into it several years ago, possesion and storage of anything beyond a pretty small amount required an permit for explosives storage and use. I'm guessing U.K. laws are even stricter than in the U.S.
     
  5. Kino

    Kino Member

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    You are getting into an area whereby you will attract MUCH undesired attention from 'official sources', if you know what I mean!

    Reminds me of a story about how a fire inspector walked into the shop of Bell and Howell in the 1910's in Chicago and found a room full of machinists, busily milling out 2709 bodies and magazines from big blocks of magnesium; all about hip-deep in shavings. He shut them down instantly...

    Very shortly thereafter, the design was changed to aluminum.

    Needless to say, the magnesium 2709 bodied motion picture camera is a very rare beast...

    God, was that a Grandpa Simpson story or what?
     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a recipe - but I also have a degree in chemistry, and used to have a demolition certificate (it's expired, not rescinded).

    I wouldn't get anywhere near the stuff, nor will I give out the recipe. I'm sure you could find it on the net, but all you'll get from me is this: Please don't.
     
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Is there something safer available which does the same thing? I used to use some sort of flash powder for theatrical effects but this was twenty years ago and I can't remember what it was (if I ever knew).


    Steve.
     
  8. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Ah, yes, the good old stage flash powder. I'm pretty sure it's identical. I once worked briefly as a lighting tech, and the ASM wouldn't let me set the flash-boxes myself (it was in panto in the late 60s). Unfortunately he didn't know how to set them (I did): he thought that if one turn of fuse wire was good, several turns would be better. Nor would he let me fire them: he kept control of those switches.

    After the show, when only 2 out of 6 had fired, he went and poked the first of the unfired ones with a screwdriver. He wasn't badly hurt, but he was a bit short on eyebrows and the hair at the front of his head was frizzy and smelled funny.

    Much as I am aware of the dangers of the stuff, I have made it (not in almost 40 years -- around the same time I learned how to make napalm and thermite), and I can't help feeling that like many things of that kind, it's not all that dangerous as long as you remember that if you get it wrong, it's VERY dangerous: a bit like firearms. Our ancestors lived with a lot of things that would be regarded as horrifyingly dangerous today, such as flash powder and for that matter simple gas-taps: we had those when I was a boy. Yes, there were accidents, but there was not the wholesale slaughter that you might expect from reading modern-day warnings.

    Addition: a reminder from the Focal Encyclopedia 1965:

    Commercial flash powders are supplied in double containers. One holds the magnesium powder, the other, the igniting compound...
     
  9. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Sounds like poking a sleeping bear with a pointy stick.
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    You had switches? What a luxury!

    We had two nails with a bit of 5 amp fuse wire wrapped between them, wired up to a round pin 15 amp plug. The flash powder was poured over the fuse wire. On cue, you pushed the plug into the socket and off it went. I don't recall any ever failing.

    This was twenty years ago in pantomimes with lots of children on the stage. I don't think we would get away with it now!


    Steve.
     
  11. DBP

    DBP Member

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    How about flash paper, which is still available commercially for magicians? The light won't be as intense, but with modern film it won't need to be.
     
  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Steve,

    This is turning into a Monty Python sketch:

    "You 'ad switches? When I were a lad..."

    Your point is fully taken otherwise. But the ASM used so many turns of fuse wire that it wouldn't blow. 'Two cultures'.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  13. CRhymer

    CRhymer Subscriber

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    Hats off gentlemen!

    http://www.theatrefx.com/store/commerce.cgi

    Photo A&B Flash Powder
    (Photographers Flash Powder)

    Creates a flash of bright light and a puff of smoke. Makes less smoke than White A&B and burns faster.

    Specifications
    Expect 8 - 10 shots per ounce.

    Cheers,
    Clarence

    I have not actually used this.
     
  14. OPTheory

    OPTheory Member

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    Pyrotechnics used to be a hobby of mine some time ago. I'm not sure what kind of flash powder was used by the old photographers however I can tell you this...

    The standard "flash powder" in pyrotechnics is a 70/30 mix of KClO4 (potassium perchlorate) and very fine aluminum powder. I would highly recommend you DO NOT use this for photographic purposes since it burns so fast that the air around a burning pile sometimes confines the flame enough that it actually "explodes". This is the exact stuff they used in real M-80's.

    Probably a slower burning flash powder using a less powerful oxidizer such as potassium nitrate would be good. I had good fun burning piles of this stuff. It would burn instantly with a "whoosh" and you'd have that spot in your eyes for a good while as if you've just stared at the sun. There's a lot of variations on the mixture but it could be anywhere from a 50/50 to a 70/30 mixture of KNO3 (potassium nitrate) and aluminum or magnesium powder. You can alter how fast it burns with the ratio of oxidizer to fuel and how fine the metallic powder is.

    In the pyro world it was recommended that if you're mixing KNO3 with Mg, you coat the Mg powder in linseed oil and if you're mixing it with Al then you mix in about 1% boric acid (commonly used to kill cockroaches) to stabilize the metallic powders. But this was only for long-term storage purposes so if you planned on using the mixture shortly after making it--you probably don't need to worry about it.

    You can get all of these chemicals by the pound at online pyro stores such as www.discountpyro.com or www.skylighter.com.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2007
  15. AgX

    AgX Member

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    On that site one is shown a plastic bottle to contain flashpowder, which though having a thread is stopped with a cork. Makes me think...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2007
  16. Marcus

    Marcus Member

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    WOW!! Gordon Bennet!!!!! I only asked a simple question.......

    Thanks for all your replies. I will follow up a few of the leads shortly, they look kind of interesting.

    I didn't realise just what a wealth of information you all have, as well as a sense of well-being & safety for other APUG users. I am aware potential dangers & thanks for all your concern.

    I certainly don't want to get labelled as a bomb maker!!

    All I trying to do is enjoy my photography and exploring some of the older methods used in days of yore.

    Has anybody actually tried using flash powder at all? I'd be interested if any of you have.

    Thanks again,

    Marcus


    PS How do I get (magicians) flash paper??
     
  17. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    If you click on the site CRhymer mentions, go to flash powder and scroll down, there is some photographic flash powder for sale.


    Steve.
     
  18. JPD

    JPD Member

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    I experimented with Mg + KNO3 flashpowder in the early 1990's. I got burning magnesium particles in my face, and had to buy new eyeglasses. :smile:
     
  19. richard ide

    richard ide Member

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    "I experimented with Mg + KNO3 flashpowder in the early 1990's. I got burning magnesium particles in my face, and had to buy new eyeglasses."

    What a coincidence!:surprised: The haircut looked cheap too.
     
  20. Marcus

    Marcus Member

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    Thanks again guys, something for me to follow up now.

    Marcus