Originally Posted by email@example.com
When I attended junior college in the 60s our welding shop had a big acetylene generator. It was a steel tank full of water into which was dumped carbide powder, metered in on an as-needed rate. All the torches ran off a manifold connected to the tank. Only problem with that setup was necessity to constantly chip out the calcium scale that precipitated from the conversion chemistry.
Anybody have one of those old toy carbide cannons?
Back in the hills where I grew up Carbide was still sold by the "bag" at rural stores, it was bought by hunters for night lights and also was still used by coal miners for carbide lamps up until about the mid 60s (it was illegal in the mines by then but still used anyway). I still remember the big blue Union Carbide drums it was kept stored in until it was dipped out, weighed and then dumped into a paper bag in whatever amount was purchased, we then transferred it to glass jars since it would turn to useless dust in a couple of days if left in the bag. As kids we would buy it a "nickels" worth at a time for use in our carbide lamps we used when camping but truth being most of it was used in home-made cannons. We would take a piece of old pipe with a cap on one end and a small hole drilled near the capped end, a few lumps of carbide (it won't work if it has been reduced to dust) and a dash of water then drop whatever projectile we had into the open end and then light the gas escaping from the hole-BOOM!
We got really creative in our demolition efforts blowing up hollow trees, ground hog burrows, etc and it's a real wonder we didn't hurt or kill someone, was a lot of fun at the time however.