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  1. #1
    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    Nitrate Film Combustion Test

    I have recently obtained a huge cache of 1930/40 Eastman Kodak Company Nitrate Film. I have had it lectured into me about how extremely flammable this film is and how this film is able to self ignite. well curiosity got the better of me and so i took a square cm and tried to light it with an ember stick. it didn't ignite, Disappointment. So I took another square cm and this time applied raw flame it took a fraction of a second and the material ignited briefly in a lemon yellow and then the flame produced by the film went out leaving nothing but a brittle ash. so i took 4 inches of the film and lit one end of it on a gauze. the film only burnt about 3 inches before self extinguishing. Disappointment.

    I conducted one final test by rolling 30cm (1foot) of the film and tying it with a wire. I then lit this roll of the film. the result was stunning it lit really well burning at a good speed in a bright yellow until all the film was consumed.

    But it has led me to ask questions. It took me exposing the film to a naked flame to get it to ignite, and it didn't burn with explosive force like say a balloon full of hydrogen does, it wasn't a flame as vicious as say that of magnesium ribbon when you burn it. is the whole fear of this film type simply a film library driven fear when you have hundreds of reels sitting in a room?

    These reports I read of the film self igniting is it possible its just one reel every couple of million? like human spontaneous combustion?

    has anyone else here actually experimented with the combustibility of this material?
    "Its my profession to hijack time" ~ Stephen Frizza.

  2. #2

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    No, I don't think it's one in a million. Ask some film conservators and they can tell you some horror stories. I've spoken to one at NY MoMA, which has a very extensive library of historic films. The problem is real. Chances are you don't have what you think you have.
    Frank Schifano

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    I'd heard that the gassing of the stored film in large amounts in a hot room was a real problem.

    mike c.

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    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    i am about to scan the least graphic segment of the film i can find to show the rebate stating it as kodak NITRATE film
    "Its my profession to hijack time" ~ Stephen Frizza.

  5. #5
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    Steve;

    The biggest danger, as you saw, is in the rolled up film. Second, once started burning, water will not extinguish it and this is the biggie! It keeps on going.

    PE

  6. #6
    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    Thanks pe I thought this was the case that rolled up it was a danger. but unrolled when u light one end it didnt seem a drama.
    "Its my profession to hijack time" ~ Stephen Frizza.

  7. #7

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    stephen

    i have done the same test with collodion, it burned white and hot
    and fast, just like it is "supposed to."
    not sure if have heard of the cleveland clinic or the fire that was there
    but in 1929 a light bulb's heat and xray film ( non safety film ) started a
    huge fire and a lot of people died.

    http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=490

    be careful with your tests ...

  8. #8

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    I am wondering if your "Nitrate" in the rebate is a print through from the negative? This is movie film correct? The tests you conducted indicate that the film you have is not Nitrate, but "slow burning stock" or Safety film.
    Nitrate will ignite easily and self-burn quickly if in good condition. Deteriorated nitrate even easier. Oh I see once you tried burning a small roll, it burned well. You probably have Nitrate. But..the Nitrate in the rebate can also be a print through from a camera negative if this is movie film. The key fact to know is that Nitrate based film stocks are unstable, and do deteriorate, and in the deteriorated state can be more dangerous.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Frizza View Post
    i am about to scan the least graphic segment of the film i can find to show the rebate stating it as kodak NITRATE film
    If it's a positive print, might it be a nitrate negative printed onto safety stock, and the edge printing has come through from the original neg?

    I had a few inches of old worthless nitrate film a while back, and it burned very quickly and brightly, quite different to present-day film.

  10. #10
    Stephen Frizza's Avatar
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    There is no segment on the films indicating it as saftey films. This film only has Kodak Nitrate printed on the rebate and occasionally some numbers.

    The EKC rusted Tins have kodak labels for Kodak nitrate film on them and film enclosed says Kodak Nitrate Film on the rebate. I have scanned a sample of thew film. This is the least graphic segment on the film i could find. i have 7 tins of these films all about 25cm across.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails nitrate.jpg  
    "Its my profession to hijack time" ~ Stephen Frizza.

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