Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Burning Fluids

What type of burning fluids are your characters putting in their lamps. This tidbit is something that might not have occurred to you. We tend to think oil for lamps but that was not the only burnable fluid available to our 19th Century ancestors or characters.

BURNING FLUID.—Best In Use— Alcohol, of 98 per cent 9 pts.; good camphene 1 qt., or in these proportions. Shake briskly, and it will at once become clear, when without the shaking it would take from 6 to 7 qts. of alcohol to cut the camphene, while with the least it is the best.
These proportions make the best burning fluid which can be combined. Many put in camphor gum, alum, &c., the first to improve its burning qualities, the last to prevent explosion, but they are perfectly useless for either, from the fact that campnor adds to the smoking properties, and nothing can prevent the gas arising from any fluid that will burn, from explosion, if the fire gets to it when it is confined. The only safety is in filling lamps in day-time, or far from fire or lights; and also to have lamps which are perfect in their construction, so that no gas may leak out along the tube, or at the top of the lamp; then let who will say he can sell you a recipe for non-explosive gas or fluid, you may set him down at once for a humbug, ignoramus, or knave. Yet you may set fire to this fluid, and if not confined it will not explode, but will continue to burn until all is consumed. Families cannot make fluid any cheaper than to buy it, as the profit charged on the alcohol is usually more than tkat charged on fluid; but they will have a better article by this recipe than they can buy, unless it is made from the same, and it is best for any one, even the retailer, only to make small quantities at a time, and get the freshest camphene possible. When made in large quantities, even a barrel, unless sold out very soon, the last part is not as good as the first, owing to the separation of the camphene from the alcohol, unless frequently shaken, whilst being retailed out.
Source: Dr Chase's Recipes ©1866

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