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What to do with the Grandkids

old man emu

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School holidays are here again, along with lock downs. So it's going to be tough to keep the little dears occupied while your own kids are both having kid-free time at work.


Here's a couple of things you can make with the grandkids to amuse them, and pay back your kids for dumping theirs on you.


1. Magician's Flash Paper.

All you need is some nitric acid and cotton.


2. Gunpowder.

Using stuff you can get at Bunnings.

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Hey! That's great! - and next week, we can go onto making pipe bombs and hand grenades, just to have some increased level of explosive fun - with the odd missing hand and head, of course!! :cheezy grin:


Not to forget the added excitement, when a Police Bearcat and the local TRG, SOG or SPG team, also pay you a visit at 2:00AM!!

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Yes, who can forget the fun of cracker night! Terrified and burnt dogs and cats, burns and injuries galore, plenty of brush fires (I mean to say, holding cracker night at the start of Summer, has to be the biggest brain-dead idea out) - and all to celebrate some evil, twisted old bastard, who wanted to blow another countrys Parliament and MP's off the face of the Earth? Makes about as much sense as holding an explosive annual celebration for the Oklahoma Bomber.

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It was probably about early Dec 1963, and I was a typical 2nd year high school, 14 yr old brainless juvenile, along with a pack of similar brainless schoolmates.

Exams had ended for the year, and we were cooped up in a high school classroom for a week or so, supposedly occupying ourselves usefully until the school term ended.

But of course, we were full of juvenile hormones and high jinks, which mostly involved trying to figure out how to get girls to get their clothes off, and anything else that involved mischief.


There were two ratbag brothers in the class (which was about 52 kids at the time, the classes were huge back then) - the Williams brothers, Peter and John. They were leaders in any class ratbaggery.

So, while we were sitting in class, bored witless, John Williams suggested someone go into nearby Midland (W.A.), acquire some big firecrackers, and we could pull them apart and then repack the gunpowder into a suitable container, and make a big skyrocket!


The "suitable container" was soon provided by John - a used, empty Sparklets CO2 soda syphon bulb. I'm guessing the shape of the bulb gave him ideas about a rocket. We were living in the "Rocket & Space Age"!

So, a big pile of "penny bangers" were acquired (after a quick whip-around with the hat produced the necessary money), and we proceeded to dismantle the penny bangers behind raised school desk lids.


Once we acquired a suitable pile of gunpowder, we carefully filled the Soda Syphon bulb to the top, and inserted a length of wooden stick (I cannot remember where the stick came from).

A fuse was made and attached to the "rocket", and at lunchtime, a gang of us (about 5 or 6 of us) trooped down to the steeply-sloping Swan River bank, below the school, and just a little upstream of it.


This spot upstream from the school comprised a flat area with a jetty, a small public toilet, and a small recreation area (it's a small park today). John Williams volunteered to set up and light the rocket.

He acquired a small, empty Coca-Cola bottle and inserted the wooden stick with the loaded and primed soda syphon bulb attached, into the bottle - lit the fuse, and raced behind the brick toilet, where we were all watching and hiding.


We watched in anticipation of a huge skywards rocket launch - but to our horror, there was just one almighty, hand-grenade-sized explosion, which rattled all the windows in the school, 400 or 500 metres away!!

We raced over to the river bank where the bottle had been - but in its place was a wheelbarrow-sized indentation in the sloping clay riverbank face - and not a trace of the bottle or rocket or the soda syphon bulb, to be found!!


We hightailed it back up the school, where we were greeted with inquiries (mostly from the girls), as to, "what was that huge, BANG!?". We played dumb, we didn't know anything about any huge BANG?

We shat ourselves all afternoon, expecting a call over the school loudspeakers, for interviews at the headmasters office - but nothing happened!

No teachers said anything - so we gradually relaxed as the afternoon wore on, and it was time to go home! I was sure glad when we got out of school, and I hightailed to the train home, in record time!


The next day the realisation sunk in as to just what kind of danger we put ourselves in. People have blown themselves up, playing with home-made explosives, and lost eyes, fingers and hands - even in recent months.

You don't play with this stuff, despite all the dumb American videos showing people playing with explosives galore - even launching anvils with explosives!!


Talk about Darwin Award stuff, I wonder how many Americans are walking wounded from home experimentation with explosives, with no training?

I can recall finding an Americans website in the early days of the 'net, where he had huge warnings about making pipe bombs for fun, with gory body damage photos, and big warnings in large red print.

A common trap for these rank amateurs was not realising, that when they screwed a threaded cap on these home-made bombs, the friction on any gunpowder spilt in the threads would set it off, with disastrous results.

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Growing up in a coally city (Newcastle) there were sticks of gelignite, Cordite, Detonators fused and electric everywhere from the mines and the army. Everyone knew someone who worked in these places, but we pretty much knew how to handle them. Most injuries were from electrocution with house wiring and substations or shark attack. We lived in the surf. Nev

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We poms tried making gunpowder, when cracker night was taken away from us.

Miserable sods !.

We children found it easier to make NitroGlycerine, after all its just sulphuric acid fullmate of mercury, and nitric acid.

Just keep cold when mixing, easy in pome winter, October 5. Minus 5 degrees with 3 foot of snow, & NO DAM BONFIRE.

We didn,t have refrigeration in them days.


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That's probably why the caring Aussie governments made it almost impossible to obtain nitric acid. Much to my chagrin. However it was easy to obtain small amounts of sulphur and potassium nitrate to make gunpowder. This was handy for making skyrockets, stink bombs, and flash bombs, depending on what was added to the mix. For detonators, we easily spent our meagre pocket money on potassium chlorate. Those were really risky, but nobody came to grief. Most of these products are now rightfully tightly controlled. Fortunately although adventurous, we were mostly fairly careful, none of us got hurt by our wayward youthful experiments. Except for my cousin who lost his eyebrows and some hair when he was careless.

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As an earthmoving contractor from the mid-60's to the mid-90's, with a regular need to blast rock in dams, or blow out huge mill stumps that couldn't be shifted with a dozer, I got pretty familiar with explosives.

But I always took exceptional care when handling them. Not so, so many others, who just treated them carelessly. The brother worked for a bloke named Ted Garland in the late 1950's, Ted was as casual as they come.


Ted started off after WW2 with a big old Fowler traction engine, pulling big trees down with its steam winch. Then he progressed to an International bulldozer, then Allis-Chalmers bulldozers.

One of the early jobs he got, was clearing a big powerline easement through the heavy timber of the Hills above Perth - the Darling Range. He had to blow up a lot of really big Jarrah mill stumps, some of them would be 3.5M-4M across.

Ted would carry a sugar bag full of gelignite sticks on the dozer, and carry the matches, the detonators and the fuse - all in the same bag!! - against all proper explosives training - which Ted never had, anyway.


So one day, he has to blow a big stump, which was near some big flattish granite rocks - so he blows the stump, checks the results and climbs back on the dozer.

He proceeds to doze out the remains of the stump, then drives the dozer further on, drives over the flat granite rocks on the way, and then further up the easement, clearing more trees.


He gets to another big mill stump, realises he has to blow it - but, he can't find the sugar bag with the gelly, dets and fuse in it? So he realises he probably left it back at the last mill stump, so he gets off and walks back to find it.

"Ahhh! - there it is! Sitting on that big flat area of rock! Hang on - I just drove the dozer over that flat area of rock, and those tracks run right over where the bag is!!"


He gets to the sugar bag, and finds that he drove the dozer, RIGHT OVER THE TOP OF THE SUGAR BAG - without setting off any of the dets, the gelly, or the fuse!!

What had happened was, the track grousers (the ribs on the track shoes) had come down each side of the gelly sticks, the detonator box, and the fuse, without actually touching them!!


Talk about LUCK!! The stupid bugger would've ended up just as an industrial fatality statistic, if the grousers had squashed either the gelly or the dets!! The dozer would have been turned over by the blast, if the sticks had gone off.

But that was Teds luck, all through life. He joined the RAAF during the War, learnt to fly Avro Ansons and Tiger Moths, never had a prang. Went through WW2 without a scratch.


Crushed his right hand with a dozer blade in the late 1950's when he stuck it under the blade to hold a bent D-shackle that he wanted straightened - and told the operator to drop the blade on it, while he held the D-shackle!

The docs repaired his hand to a useable state, in an era when plastic surgery was virtually unheard of. He ended up with only one working index finger, a "made-up" thumb, and half a third finger.

But the doc told him he would get him a working hand that would hold a pen, so he could sign cheques! - probably because the Doc wanted him to sign a cheque to him!


And in the final washup, old Ted lived to just 19 days short of 99 years of age, and only died last December! Here's his interesting life story.



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When I was in my mid twenties, late 1970's, I was managing my first farm property. Green as, know it all, punk! We were fencing across some pretty rock ground, very hard going! It was suggested to me, we could blow the post holes. Off I goes to the local hardware store (Mudgee). Yes they could supply me with "sticks' of explosive, detonators & cord but first I had to go round to the cop shop and get a permit. No problemo! Back to hardware with permit in hand and little "how to blow things up" booklet. Purchase box of explosives (about the size of two shoe boxes), very smaller box of detonators and a role of ignition cord. On the trip home I was TERRIFIED. Box of explosives was confined to back of ute, chord & detonators rode with me in the cab (might have been better the other way around).


It took a little while, much nervous sweat and many craters later, to develop some skill at just loosening the rocky ground enough to have something to pack back around the fence post.


It was all very exciting and no one got injured - probably more by good luck than anything else.


It still amazes me today, that I could obtain an explosives permit without any training or references of any kind and go out an blow things up - very different world.

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we would fire a stope face every second day, in a cycle of drill, blast, scrape out, rock bolt. To charge the face I would make up 30 primers of fuses with geli, put them down the front of my shirt about ten at a time, and push them in the holes with a tamping stick. Top holes had to be done after climbing a ladder. Then tamp in the main charges from a box of geli, wire up and end the shift. It was the way everyone did it. Wouldn’t pass risk assessment today.

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