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Old 12th Feb 2018, 11:16 am   #101
dseymo1
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Default Re: Weird experiments as a beginner in this hobby

I burnt large holes in my bedroom carpet when using car batteries.
'Been there, done that' with the unballasted mains neon, too!
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 11:55 am   #102
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I was permitted to play with electricity in my bedroom (I think I had more old radios than toys) but was expressly forbidden from bringing a car battery into the house.
Strangely I was also forbidden bringing car batteries in but when I was milling rocket fuel (potassium nitrate + sugar), they didn't say a thing
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 12:07 pm   #103
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I'm beginning to think I must have lived a sheltered life (although my mother says I was quite a horror when young), as I can't recall getting up to mischief.

Then again, we were always on the move, up to three times in one year, so probably spent more time packing and unpacking than anything else.

Only thing I can remember is after we moved to New Zealand, being given a chemistry set one Christmas and making the obligatory rotten egg gas.

What I did with that though remains clouded in the past.

I did like to take things apart to find out how they worked though (whether they got put back together is another thing).
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 12:49 pm   #104
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Alongside the usual activities with bits of old radios and TV sets there was the chemistry lab both at home and in school. My bedroom doubled as the home lab and I recall managing to strip all the paint off the window sill with ammonia. The smell took days to dissipate.
And then there was the whole range of explosive experiments ranging from homemade bangers (traditional gunpowder with various additives for colour), weedkiller and sugar in a punctured empty aerosol can buried in the ground - drop in a lit match and run away!
The school chemistry teacher (minus one finger which he attributed to nitrogen tri-iodide) always encouraged experimentation and introduced us to silver acetalyde. Similar to tri-iodide but easier to make and store if kept damp. Managed to blow a hole in my school blazer jacket pocket when a small amount wrapped in filter paper must have dried out! Had a bruise on my hip for a week from the from the blast!
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 12:49 pm   #105
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I'm beginning to think I must have lived a sheltered life
You've completely ruined my mental image of all Australian kids being extras in "The Terrific Adventures of the Terrible Ten", and using their SCR-536's to conspire with their friends to evade the wrath of their parents and teachers.
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 12:51 pm   #106
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If i found out a system worked i then tried to miniaturise it, with variable amounts of success. One of the successful ones used a combination of a two-wire flashbulb (marketed as sylvania flip-flash, which gave you 10 bulbs per packet) and an alkaline PP3. Zinc chloride PP3's weren't always beefy enough, and magicubes had only one contact, and i couldn't figure out how to trigger them. With the addition of swan vestas and a (classified) timer these units could (had i thought) have allowed me a diversionary tactic while the real business of hoarding anything dirty, dangerous or generally verboten in my bedroom, with it's numerous priest-holes and secret compartments, went on. Never grew up!
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 1:17 pm   #107
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If I may be allowed to go slightly off at a tangent.

I was convinced the days were long past since a British TV channel would dare to show a real DIY programme instead of the watered down "Home makeovers" where the most radical thing they show is covering an old settee with a "throw".

That was before I discovered "DIY le Donnie" on BBC Alba!

Take a look at his show on the BBC iPlayer, there is more than a little "Reg Prescott" to him, but it's also a breath of fresh air.

Perhaps Highland crofters have yet to acquire the Claims Management culture that pervades the more Southern regions.
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Old 12th Feb 2018, 2:16 pm   #108
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We had one rather nasty teacher who used to shout, scream and throw things. He taught bullying more than he taught his assigned subject. Inevitably, he was nicknamed after a certain dictator. He was the boss of one particular club and kept a big year planner pinned to their noticeboard in the main corridor. WE kept a few bits of filter paper marinated in ammonium sulphide pinned behind it. No-one hung about reading their notices...

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Old 12th Feb 2018, 3:19 pm   #109
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I did like to take things apart to find out how they worked though (whether they got put back together is another thing).
Still do!
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 1:44 am   #110
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I suppose my first experiment was with my late Grandfather's portable wind-up gramophone that I was given to play with after dad had mended its broken spring. I took the deck out of the case to investigate and saw its centrifugal flying balls speed governor. I though that disconnecting it would make it run faster. In fact, with nothing to control the spring force there was a puff of smoke and small pieces of flying brass as the steel worm gear disintegrated the brass gear it meshed with, so that was the end of that.

I had a similar experience as others with mains and a neon bulb. It must have been a small mains voltage "Osglim" bulb that had been used in a BC socket wired in parallel with the 15A kitchen power point. It had become detached from its base and I tried connecting the two lead-in wires emerging from the glass directly to the mains (via some twin flex and a BC adaptor in the light socket: no wall sockets in the bedrooms), not appreciating the fact that there would have been a dropper resistor in the lamp base. Flash and the lights went out. Dad didn't seemed concerned at what I had done, just replaced the fuse. As I was showing an interest in electricity, he built a box to house an old mains transformer that I think had come from an early 1950's TV. It had lots of secondary windings, several 6.3V ones with different current ratings, a 4V winding , and a 400-0-400 HT winding. I did try to see it I could weld tinplate using the full 800V of the HT windings, using a 4mm banana plug with an exposed clamping screw mid-way along the insulating sleeve, but it was only good for writing on metal ( I was very careful!).

Of more practical use, I did use what I suppose must have been a small copper oxide rectifier stack (about " high by " diameter) salvaged from an old radio or TV in my Dublo train set, connected across an isolating rail at the end of a hidden siding so that the engine would stop automatically when it passed the isolating rail, but could be reversed out again. Not my invention, it was a hint in the "Railway Modeller".

Like boys of my generation, we went through the explosives stage at school. In the early 1960's any schoolboy who was studying chemistry worth his salt knew about explosives, and you could buy Flowers of Sulphur and Sodium Chlorate from the local Oil shop, and grind up the rods from old U2s for the Carbon. Our enthusiasm came to an end when one lad made up some of that Iodide stuff and found it fun to put a small amount on the sliding brass inkwell covers of our desks and hit it with a small toffee hammer. It made a lovely atom bomb-like mushroom cloud of smoke. Unfortunately the small tube of it that he had in his hand exploded unexpectedly and he was lucky not to lose his hand. I can understand how the SAS stun grenades work: I have no recollection of hearing an explosion, I just suddenly went completely deaf with loud whistling in my ears, and I was diagonally opposite him about as far away as you could be. Very disorienting, and it took an hour before I could hear again. It was just treated as a schoolboy prank in those days.


Much more dramatic experiments were possible in Edwardian days. Via a review of it I found some years ago in a facsimile edition of "The Model Engineer" for 1904, (see attached PDF) I tracked down an on-line copy of "Radium and other Radioactive elements" , a text book jointly written by Leonard Levy when only 18. Interestingly, a Google search no longer finds it, but it is still available as a free PDF download from the University of California on-line library here:

https://archive.org/details/radiumotherradio00levyrich
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File Type: pdf mod eng 1904 .pdf (403.9 KB, 22 views)

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Old 13th Feb 2018, 3:47 am   #111
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I'm beginning to think I must have lived a sheltered life
You've completely ruined my mental image of all Australian kids being extras in "The Terrific Adventures of the Terrible Ten", and using their SCR-536's to conspire with their friends to evade the wrath of their parents and teachers.
I can restore that image Graham, I didn't get to Australia until I was 17 and by then it was girls and cars that occupied most of my spare time (think Alvin Purple ).
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 4:01 am   #112
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I am seriously worried about communicating with some people on this forum now, arsonists, bombers, psychopaths, you are frightening.
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 8:33 am   #113
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Dunno, Sam. I'm more worried by the sort of people who didn't have a mischievous phase in their childhoods. It shows a dangerous lack of curiosity and the missed opportunity for some fundamental learning. Character forming!

So Terry skipped the age group at which small kangaroos stop by to share the human content status of local wells. But he comes over as a well-adjusted person, so the H2S and dismantling phase must have been OK.

I had a fearsome reputation as a dismantler of everything. What scared the adults was I put them back together and they worked. What really, really scared them was that this included things which didn't work before.

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Old 13th Feb 2018, 8:38 am   #114
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I regret David that you may be speaking about most of the last two generations, I would not want to do a survival trial or the real thing with anyone under 50.
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 10:39 am   #115
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I am seriously worried about communicating with some people on this forum ...
I shouldn't worry, Sam. Though sometimes there's an overlap between the experiments and curiosity of childhood and the world of gainful employment.

It may be quite a long overlap...
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 11:29 am   #116
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Yes indeed.

Also we have to consider that the risks that were taken are also a natural selection method and the attitude towards those risks defines you. For example, we had some shotgun cartridges which were pinched from one of the local farmers who had left a box of them on his wall. When someone said "lets chuck these on a fire and see what happens", I went home very quickly.

Gainful employment is difficult without a thumb on your dominant hand. I still have both of mine. Can't say the same for my peer.
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 11:58 am   #117
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I had a fearsome reputation as a dismantler of everything. What scared the adults was I put them back together and they worked. What really, really scared them was that this included things which didn't work before.

David

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Old 13th Feb 2018, 1:24 pm   #118
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Well, if it's any consolation, I did build my first valve transmitter at age 14.

2m AM, 15 watts and the all important 350v ht line.

Got one mighty boot off it when I went to adjust the PA stage - metal cased mike in one hand and bare-handed went to adjust one of the beehive output trimmers I thought was grounded on the adjustable part (it was, but I hadn't counted on all that RF floating around).

Mike went in one direction, the Tx another and me diagonally away from both (it survived by the way).
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 2:31 pm   #119
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I've played with chemistry, too - nitrogen tri-iodide is interesting stuff. I read that a single alpha particle is enough to trigger decomposition. But I've only made fractions of a gram - I value my hearing! I did have the sense (just), make a small amount of any explosive mixture first, assess it, before larger quantities.

Moving on from chemistry (the link to 'this hobby' in the thread title is rather tenuous after all), I played with electroplating copper in primary school. Batteries, bulbs, small motors and buzzers were great fun. I had a large electric bell which had a hold-off latch which held the contacts apart, so zero power. But an auxiliary contact bypassed the main to energise the electromagnets, pulling the armature and releasing the latch, after which normal operation commenced. I connected this to my clockwork alarm clock, so that when the alarm went off, the rotating wind-up key touched a carefully-positioned wire, triggering the bell. It was great!

I had a small electronics kit given to me (Denshi), with several resistors, a few capacitors, two transistors, all in plug-in modules which fitted into a baseboard. There was a booklet with 30 projects to make, different radio circuits (I found the reflex circuit the best).

I had my first mains radio given to me when I was 11, by a priest at chatechism class. It was a Ferguson 208U, 3-band, AC/DC. I learned a lot from this and I had much fun. I also took chances I didn't really know about - fitting an extension speaker socket was one of the first things I did, good job the insulation in the output transformer didn't let me down, especially when I used this to feed my father's tape recorder!

The Denshi-kit had a wireless microphone circuit, which I made, this was one of the few which didn't work particularly well. I tried earthing the circuit, using a mains plug's earth pin pushed straight into the socket, which gave a small improvement. I did wonder if coupling to the Ferguson would be improved with a direct connection, so touched the wireless microphone aerial lead to the Ferguson chassis... BANG!! Molten copper shot from the Denshi kit RF coil, out went the Ferguson's light, chastened me... How to learn about live chassis sets plugged in the 'wrong way round!' The Ferguson needed only a replacement panel light (the bypass thermistor was blown to smithereens but that didn't matter), but the Denshi Kit transistors never works again.

And so, through the years, some mains shocks along the way (but never any TV EHT, to this day), the obligatory exploding electrolytics, the firework detonators, the sparks from car ignition coils, the amplifiers designed and built from old TV components, through to a working life in electronics right through to lunchtime today! Now back to the 'Day Job,' which is to debug a 200V piezo transducer drive system!
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Old 13th Feb 2018, 3:35 pm   #120
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I had one of those Denshi kits. Marvellous fun. I also blew up the transistors although not in a very exciting way. Actually the first electrolytic I blew up was in one of them. It popped the little block out of the board!
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