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Ragnar's Guide
to Home and
Recreational Use
of
High Explosives
Ragnar Benson
PALADIN PRESS
BOULDER,COLORADO
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Bruth oIlhe Drascm: Homeb
Bull'. Eye: Croasbowl by Rl
Fire, Flub, and Fury: The. Ore
GU/If\IIlnlnl ror Fun and Proli
Hard..co..e Po.c:hina
Homc:lJI&Ck C4: A Reclpe ror Surv.val
Homemade Launthe,,: ConJIru;ling the UJumatc: Hobby Weapon
Live Offlhe UOO In Ihe aty and Country
Mlnt..-ppi",
Modem Wuporu: C.chin&: A Down-1O-Eanh Approach
10 BeatinJIhe Gun Gf1Ib
The MOIl D'!lJerous Gtme; Adv.nced ... ppinl Toc:hnique5
Raarw', BIS Book of Homentlde We.pons:
Bwldinllnd Xupin, Your Arsc/l.lJ5e<:ure
Rai!W"" Ten 'flue 'rtIJ'I ... And. Few OlheR T1IaI Are Dlmn Good, Too
Survival Poaehlna
SlII'Viv.lisl'l M«iiclne 01«1
TIle Survival Reltell
Swhchblldc: The Ace or Blades
RagnaT's Guide to JlomI! and
Re.crt.alwl1.(Jl Use. 0/ High Explosives
by Ragnar Benson
Copyright © 1988 by Ragnar Benson
ISBN 0-87364-478-6
Prinled in the United Stales of America
Published by Paladin Press, a division of
Paladin Enterprises, Inc. , P.O. Bolt 1307,
Boulder, Colorado 80306, USA.
(303)443-7250
Direct inquiries andlor orders 10 the above address.
All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, no
portion of this book may be reproduced in any form
without the express written pennission of the publisher.
Neilher the author nor the publisher assumes
any responsibility for the use or misuse of
information contained in this book.
Illustrations by Bill Border
Warning
The procedures discussed in this book and the resulting
end product are extremely dangerous. Whenever dealing
with high explosives, special precautions should be
followed in accordance with industry standards for
experimentation and production of high explosives. Failure
to strictly follow such industry standards may result in
harm to life or limb.
Therefore, the author and publisher disclaim any
liability from any damages or injuries of any type that a
reader or user of infonnarion contained within this book
may encounter from the use of said infonnation.
'"
Contents
Introduction 1
Chapler J
Historic Perspective of High Explosives 7
Chapter 2
Obtaining Dynamite and Other Explosives 13
Chapter 3
Storage and General Safety 23
Chapter 4
Basic Procedures 29
Chapter 5
Doing the Work 51
Chapter 6
Ammonium Nitrate 79
Chapler 7
Sugar Chlorate Powder 85
Chapter 8
Improvised Detonating Caps 93
Chapter 9
Improvised Explosives 101
Chapter 10
Recreational Use of Explosives 109
v
Introduction
The summer I was thirteen I went to work as a roust-
about for the local contract blaster. Like so many small,
rural communities at the time, ours had the requisite resi-
dent powder monkey. My job was to lift and haul the things
the old gent no longer could nor wanted to lift or hau1.
Even in those pre-OSHA (Occupational Safety and
Health Administration) days, the job was probably a bit
more risky than those with which most thirteen-year-alds
get involved. Our first piece of work: was taking out some
green stumps in the woodlot where the new church was
going to be built.
My folks figured that since this was "church work," it
couldn't come to naught. The fact that the powder monkey
for whom I labored was an elder in the church made it even
better.
Our ftrst piece of church work just about wiped out our
old '38 Chevy powder wagon. The incident
could have been predicted but it wasn't, principally because
I was inexperienced and my employer was tight as a turtle
shell.
We used a long-haft, dirt auger to bore
down under the stumps. The hot, sticky June days in Iowa
made this the most disagreeable part of being a powder
monkey. Sweat rolled off our brows in rivulets.
Once the bore hole was properly excavated down under
the stump, we used an old rake handle to slide a capped
I
I
stick down to the bottom of the auger hole.
The charge was known as the bore-hole or sprung-hole
charge. With it, we produced a chamber under the stump
large enough to accommcx:late enough powder to throw the
stump out on the ground. A single stick of 4O-percent
powder in the black, sticky. Iowa loam soil produced just
the right sized hole into which to slide the main charge.
One only learns this from experience.
Forty-percent dynamite throws more than it cracks or
blasts. The exploding charge thumps rather than booms,
even when six or eight half-pound sticks are detonated to-
gether. A boom signals excessive wasted powder, accord-
ing to my powder-mOnkey mentor.
We frred the single charge by backing up the '38 Chev
near the stump and using drop wires to electrically fire the
cap from the truck's bauery. It was a good enough system,
since we always knew how well the battery was charged
and the six-volt battery was safely sufficient for a single
blasting cap (or even two or three caps if called upon).
The problems started when my mentor insisted on
buying electrical caps with four-foot rather than six-foot
leads, because they were a penny or two cheaper. He paid
me twenty-five cents per hour. Obviously those pennies
could really add up, especially when we did not invest in
connecting wires, as was true in this case.
Sometimes the four-foot leads-which are no longer
offered commercially-worked just fme. Sometimes, how-
ever, the blast chewed a bite of three or four inches off OUf
drop wires.
As a result, the drop wires got shorter and we had LO
back the flatbed Chev closer and closer to the blast site.
One of the problems faced by aU blasters is plugging or
stemming the charge hole. In this particular case, the charge
hole was quite large because the small green piss-elm
stump had not adequately contained the first bore-hole
charge. We thought we solved the problem by rolling a
huge rock over the carefully tamped bore hole. It took two
of us with pikes just to roll that massive piece of granite to
where we wanted it.
The powder monkey carefully backed the truck near the
2
set He climbed out and propped open the heavy, bonnet-
type hood with the steel rod provided by the maker.
Finnly gripping the drop lines, he crawled in under the
hood to the location of the battery. The engine on that old
truck was as huge as the hood covering it. He touched the
wires to the battery.
At detonation, the charge thumped nicely, but that's all
that went well
The massive stone slowly rose into the air as if some
giant hand had tossed it. After rotating once, it flew the
fifteen or twenty feet back-landing squarely on the rear
three feet of the flatbed.
Again, as if some ghostly hand had intervened, the front
of the truck rose up off the ground four feet or more. When
the truck slammed back down, the hood thundered down
mercilessly on my diminutive employer, who ended up
trapped between engine and bonnet hood of his self-
propelJed dynamite detonator.
The man lived through the episode. Now in his nineties,
he still remembers the incident.
The good news, as he told it, was that the big old stone
that we were going to have to break with a mud-cap charge
was conveniently loaded all in one piece, saving the price
of the powder. caps, and fuze and the work loading it
Some glitches notwithstanding, being assistant powder
monkey was a good job, lasting most of the summer. As a
result of that experience, I have always had lots of powder
around, as well as the expertise necessary to make it go off
-usually when I wanted it to.
One day. when I was fifteen, good old Charlie Betten
stopped by to tell me that a big flock of crows had become
accustomed to sleeping in an old gnarled oak in the bayou
by his river-bottom field. Charlie was wondering if the
stories were true about stringing dynamite in a crow
roosting tree and firing it off at night when the crows were
all sleeping.
Being one who is always anxious to prove or disprove
almost any good theory regarding explosives, I threw a case
of dynamite and a roll of primer cord in good old Charlie's
pickup truck. Primer cord is nylon rope-looking stuff that
3
'"
explodes.
We motored back to the bayou and spent the day
working in the hot sun until the big old oak looked like a
Christmas tree. It was crisscrossed round and round with
primer cord, to which we attached randomly placed sticks
of Mr. Du Pont's finest
By evening we were out of dynamite, primer cord, and
energy-and we could hear the crows coming.
They squawked and hollered by the thousands 'til it was
pitch dark. When they finally settled down, Charlie looked
at me and ] at him. By some now-forgotten, prearranged
signal, we knew their time had come.
Not wanting to repeat my mentor's trick, I gingerly
touched the ends of the two drop wires to the battery in
Charlie's pickup. Even from our safe position three hun-
dred yards away, the noise was deafening. It was worse for
the crows.
At first light we were back in the bayou. We found out
firsthand thal the stories about dynamite and crows are
absolutely true.
Not a leaf remained on the mighty oak, and only a few
stragglers hung on some hapless elms that were so unfortu-
nate as to have been standing nearby.
I don't know if any crows survived. If they did, they
certainly were deaf. A huge number, as evidenced by the
bodies scattered around the bayou, didn't make it through
the blitz. We collected almost seven bushel baskets of the
pesky critters.
Good old Charlie griped about having to dump the mess
but later he was laudatory about the crop of mallards he got
next spring without so many molesting crows around to
bother Lbe nests.
1 don't immediately recall at which age we found out
about using dynamite to fish with. The method was surely
the most effective we youngsters knew about
One time my brother and I got tired of Grandma griping
about not having any fresh fish in the house. It was the
middle of one of those god-awful Midwestern winters that
only people who have endured one can really appreciate.
We gathered up our gear anyway.
4
Back on the river, my brother and I chopped four small
holes in the ten-inch ice. They were about thiny feet apart
over a good fishing hole. On each stick we tied a rock with
baler twine. We left about six inches of twine between the
dynamite and the rock so the dynamite-which tends to
float-could stand off the river bottom and have more
concussion effect.
Brother started out lighting fuzes at one end of the
string of holes and I at the other. The situation became
ominous when Brother got one. two, and three going while
[ was still trying to light number four.
1 finally got number four going. Desperately [ threw the
lighted charge at the hole. It missed and went skittering
across the ice toward Brother, who calmly picked it up,
carried it to the appropriate hole, and dropped it in.
As he did, number one went off, showering us with ice
chips and freezing water. Desperately. Brother ran for
shore. But it was not to be. Two and three went off, crack-
ing the whole slab covering the fishing hole. Brother's
weight tilted the slab so he was now trying to run uphill on
the ice. which was threatening to dump him back on top of
charge number four.
Just when things looked darkest, number four went off,
throwing Brother ass-over-appetite into the shallow water.
Fortunately he was able to walk through the smoking,
roiled water to shore.
We gathered a couple of gunnysacks full of carp and
suckers, which made Grandma smile. Later in life, when
mortar rounds were dropping around him. Brother said he
didn't mind a bit. "Just like fishing back on the farm," he
always said.
As kids, most of our fish-gathering efforts weren't so
fortuitous. Many of the Midwestern ponds we shot were
crammed full of stunted, two-inch bluegills that were at
least ninety-seven years old. We blasted pond after pond
and got nothing but pound after unusable pound of those
tiny blue gills.
At times, the situation was interesting. Old Man Terrel,
for instance, had a large, deep pond hidden way back
behind his north eighty that he swore housed dozens of
5
lunker largemouth bass.
One night., a bunch of us kids snuck back and tried to
shoot the old curmudgeon's pond. We had to sneak in
because of his shotgun, allegedly loaded with rock salt. We
used primer cord with several charges hung on it, similar to
the crow setup. To get the charge in the correct place in the
pond, one brave lad stripped down and swam the line right
down the middle of the water. There was really no risk
from the explosives; the lad was brave because the
mosquitoes were so bad. Everything was set up perfectly,
except we had a misfire. No explosion and subsequenLly no
fish. The explosives were too deep in the water to retrieve
and recap. The whole episode was a dud.
Misfires have only happened to me three times during
my long and fruitful life of handling explosives. Any
misfire is tough, but this one was especially bad because we
had invested so much time and work sneaking into Old
Man Terrel's place. To this day, we stiU don't know if there
are any bass back there.
Coon hunting with dynamite is certainly another sport
that isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
One night, we ran a coon into a den dug under a big old
walnut tree. I let the hounds dig for thirty minutes, but they
couldn't get to the critter. They did, however, excavate
enough of a hole that we were able to slip seventeen sticks
of dynamite in and touch 'em off.
The blast reduced the coon to possession as well as
reducing the hide from three dollars to fifty cents in value.
It also threw all the dirt away from the tree roots. In the
twilight, it looked like the poor old walnut was trying 10 do
an impersonation of a huge spider.
After a lifetime of handling explosives, I have con-
cluded that modem people are missing a lot of fun-not to
mention the adrenalin rush from all the excitement -if they
haven't experienced this pastime. This book is dedicated to
those hardy souls who want to go back to a time when the
use of explosives, and dynamite in particular, was a domes-
tic necessity-not to mention a source of pleasure and
recreation. The book will tell you how it was done.
6
r
Chapter 1
A Historic Perspective
of High Explosives
The American Civil War had been over for only two
years in 1867 when an otherwise obscure Swedish chemist
discovered that mixing capricious, powerful, and dan-
gerously unstable nitroglycerin oil with inert, otherwise
innocuous, diatomaceous earth produced a reasonably
stable material of immense benefit to mankind. The world
named the stuff dynamite.
A highly unpredictable substance, nitroglycerin had
been around since its discovery by Ascanio Sobrero, a
ho-hum Italian chemistry professor who, in 1846, treated
common glycerin with nitric acid. To produce an explosive,
the challenges were to make the explosive substance pure
enough so as not to self-detonate on the shelf and to stabi-
lize it to the point that the explosive could be transported
safely to the work site, where it could be detonated on
command.
Because of its vastly superior explosive qualities
vis-a.-vis black powder, heroic attempts were made to use
raw nitroglycerin oil for mining and, to a limited extent, for
various uses during the American Civil War. The sub-
stance, however, had a maddening habit of going off pre-
maturely without immediate, apparent cause other than a
Slight wanning of the weather, and of being so sluggish at
temperatures under 55° Fahrenheit that it could not be
detonated under any circumstances.
Alfred Nobel's fortuitous mixture, in addition to
numerous tangential dlscovenes he a1so made 10 the field of
explosives engineering, Jed to the technological shifts that,
7
in economic terms, were of equal importance to the power
loom, iron plow, or even the steam engine. In an economy
that increasingly eschews the use of dynamite, a surprising
fifty million pounds were used in the United States as late
as 1985.
At this point, a good definition is in order. AU chemica1
explosives are divided into two classes, high and low. Low
explosives include black blasting powder of various types,
chlorate powder, and other similar products that burn rather
than detonate. Low explosives are seldom used to do
commercial blasting.
High explosives decompose with high reaction rates
having significant pressures. Conversion from solid to
gaseous state is almost instantaneous. As a result, their
shattering force is great. High explosives are used when-
ever large amounts of force are required. Dynamite is the
best, most common example of a high explosive.
Without the shocking, tearing effect that is at least
twenty times as great as that of dynamite's weak sister
(black powder), societies and cultures cannot build roads,
bore tunnels, extract minerals from deep in the earth, clear
harbors, build railroad beds, or even perfonn such mundane
tasks as laying sewer lines, digging foundation trenches, or
excavating holes for outhouses.
Eight ounces of high-tech dynamite stores the potential
of about six-hundred thousand foot-pounds of energy.
Properly harnessed and directed, that is enough to throw a
ten-pound projectile eleven miles, or represents the total
muzzle energy of two hundred 30-06 rounds fired simul-
taneously.
There is a modem tendency to dismiss the productive
use of dynamite as unimportant in our sociely. Viewed in
some perspectives, this assumption is understandable.
Substitutes such as ammonium nitrate and others have
taken over much of the market for commercial, dynamite-
type explosives. In another regard, the older high explo-
sives have been dwarfed into obscurity by thei.r super-
powerful nuclear relati ... es. The Hiroshima bomb, for
instance, contained in a cylinder tcn feet long by IhOe more
than two feet in diameter the explosive equivalcnt of a
8
single stick of dynamite twelve yards in diameter and one
hundred yards long.
A relatively small five-megaton nuclear weapon has the
explosive equivalent of a fifty-story building covering a
city block and crammed full of dynamite.
With competition like this, it is lillie wonder Americans
forget about the role dynamite plays in ou.r economy. Yet it
is still true today that explosives use acts as a lagging
indicator of economic activity. When the economy is
buoyant, mines are busy, roads are being built, and airfields
leveled. Explosives consumption is up. When the economy
is in the doldrums, the line on the graph plotting consump-
tion of powder angles sharply down.
By 1875, Alfred Nobel perfected the principle of initial
ignition, wherein he used a small, protected charge of easily
degraded black powder to detonate a more stable main
charge comprised of high explosives. We use the concept
e ~ e r y time we set up a cap and fuze to produce a detonating
sltck. The concept is revolutionary in its significance but
was completely unknown before Nobel's time. He actually
pioneered the concept of initial ignition before he devel-
oped dynamite!
Early explosives engineers even thought in terms of
rigging up a mechanical hammer with which to detonate a
primary charge. Like many simplistic technological jumps,
the discovery of initial ignition tends to be lost in history.
Alfred Nobel made millions in his lifetime supplying
good, reliable explosives to the world's economies. He was
popularly pilloried as a "merchant of death," but contempo-
rary records indicate that little use of dynamite was made in
a military context.
Perhaps in response to the adverse P.R. , Nobel funded
the now widely recognized Nobel Peace Prize. Few realize
the source and background of the prize that rewards out-
s.tanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine,
hterature, and fraternity between nations. Ironically, Nobel
predicted that high explosives would eventually make wars
so costly that wars would cease to occur. Technological
advances in the field of high explosives in the late 1800s
had a high price. Alfred's older brother was killed April 12,
9
1888, in an explosion at their dynamite factory at Helen-
borg, a few kilometers from Stockholm, Sweden.
The blast was the second death-dealing event in the
Nobel family history. In September 1864, Nobel lost his
younger brother Emil when his nitroglycerin factory went
up, taking four employees and the young man with it.
Under pressure from the Stockholm city fathers, Nobel
moved his factory onto a raft that he floated on a nearby
lake.
The explosion was the first of many worldwide.
Nitroglycerin factories are known to have blown up in
Panama, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. This did
not seem to deter a rapidly industrializing wor1d thai saw
these explosives as a good answer to reaching low-grade
ore deJX>Sits deep underground and for ripping rock with
which to surface carriage and railroad rights-of-way.
Managers of existing nitroglycerin factories that did not
detonate prematurely quickly saw the value of the new
Nobel process. By mixing nitroglycerin oil with commonly
available diatomaceous earth, they found it absorbed three
times its own weight of the hostile liquid. Only the most
detennined blow, or a most intense heat, could detonate the
new form of high explosive.
Factory owners quickly added dynamite-processing
lines on to their nitroglycerin factories. By 1873, there were
at least thirteen major producers throughout the world,
ranging from Japan to Finland.
Problems with the end product persisted, however.
Watery sets tended to kill the early nitro dynamite by
driving the oil out of the diatomaceous earth. Also, the
product froze solid at 55° Fahrenheit and was extremely
difficult to detonate.
The water problem was solved by judicious use of
additives and by better use of cartridge wrappers. Modem
dynamite is wrapped with a double layer of heavy bag
paper impregnated with materials that keep water out and
which assist with the overall detonation.
Ammonium nitrate, among others, was blended into the
formula to give the cartridges an almost waterproof quality
that is still in use today.
10
The problem of nitroglycerin's high freezing point was
never really overcome. The solution that eventually
emerged involved mixing ethylene glycol dinitrate, an
antifreeze compound that is mOlecularly similar to pure
nitroglycerin oil, with pure nitro. The result was a mixture
that was much more usable at low temperatures.
There is no dynamite today that is pure nitroglycerin.
Other compounds, such as calcium carbonate and nitrocel-
lulose, were added to increase dynamite'S stabiJity as well
as lower its freezing point.
Dynamite became so safe and so well accepted that
virtually every rural hardware shop had at least a few
sticks, a box. of caps, and some fuze in its inventory.
Fann-supply stores sold it by the piece to those who were
too poverty-stricken to buy more than that for which they
had an immediate need.
The fin;( year Nobel sold dynamite, he peddled about
twenty-two thousand pounds of the stuff. The price was
$1.75 per pound. On a relative productivity scale, it was
much cheaper than black powder, so marketing the product
was not a particularly difficult chore.
By the 19505 and '60s, annual consumption of dyna-
mite in the United States alone was hovering around the
one-billion-pound mark. The price had fallen to ten cents
per pound or, if one bought in ftfty-pound case lots, the
price was four dollars total.
The Romans knew how to build roads and, to an ex.tent,
how to surface them with an asphalt-like material. It took
Nobel and his invention, however, to produce cement
(dynamite was necessary to blast huge stones out of the
earth in small enough pieces to crush to make the cement).
At the time, the United States was starting in on the largest
road-building program ever to be undertaken in human
history.
During the fifties and sixties, this country was evolving
out of being a rural society. It was during this time that
America learned to be afraid of explosives. That fear has
been translated into vendor regUlations and restrictions that
have raised the price of powder dramatically.
Modern explosives cost about one dollar per pound or
II
fifty cents per stick. Unfortunately. there is no longer a
single-stick price. Fifty-pound cases run a minimum of futy
dollars!
To some e x t e n ~ dynamite is priced on the basis of
grade and strength. The strength of straight nitro dynamite
(of which there is virtually none remaining today) is
evaluated by its explosive oil content. For example. if the
dynamite contains 40 percent explosive oil by weight. it is
said to be "40-percent dynamite." Mixtures are graded by
tests that establish their strength as compared to an imagi-
nary benchmark of straight dynamite.
Grades run from the relatively tame 20-percent sluff on
up to 8S-percent dynamite. known as Hy-Drive. Hy-Drive
is used to detonate blasting agents such as ammonium
nitrate.
Lower-strength powder in the 4O-percent range is used
to push and throw. as in removing stumps and rocks from
the earth. The plan with this material is to keep the object
being shot intact so it can be hauled away after it is tom
loose from its mooring. Finishing the work with as small a
crater as possible is another advantage of lower-strength
powder.
Higher-strength 6O-percent and 70-percent grades are
used to shatter rock into pocket-sized pieces and to reor-
ganize ice jams.
Some very high grades of dynamite are used to blast
channels in wet marshes because these grades will
propagate. meaning that. set in a row. one charge will set
off another on down the line by hydraulic shock.
It does not take a huge amount of experience to learn
what strength is proper for a given application.
In the final analysis. doing the work was what Alfred
Nobel had in mind when he first perfected his blasting
systems. With them. a single individual can dig a disposal
pit or dry well in otherwise impenetrable ground. set posts.
remove large boulders. redirect creeks. cut drainage ditches.
unclog duck ponds, or blow up bad guys, as well as per-
fonn a host of othelWise impossible chores of immense
benefit to mankind.
12
r
Chapter 2
Obtaining Dynamite
and Other Explosives
Purchasing commercial high explosives is either so
ridiculously easy it is almost criminal. or has become so
tough that the restrictions are strangling the economy. One
or the other of these statements is true. depending on whom
one talks to.
Pressure for more stringent laws covering commercial
explosives generally comes from within the industry. As a
general rule. those who now have the right to use them
seem in favor of a pennit system to limit the number of
other users with which they will have to compete in the
marketplace.
Federal rules and regUlations ex.ist pertaining to storage
and transport of explosives between states, but as long as
there is no blatant misuse. the feds generally relegate the
day-to-day regulation of explosives to the states. Some
states have virtually no laws concerning explosives; others
regulate them tightly. As a general rule. agricu1tura1 states
stay oul of the explosives-control business.
Between states. the cleavage is generally between those
east of the Mississippi and those west. until one gets out to
Oregon. Oregon and California are no longer western
states. Politically. socially. and economically one is going
east again when one gets that far west
Pennsylvania is a good example of an eastern slate with
stringent-many would say punitive-regulations.
Everyone who hand1es explosives in Pennsylvania must
be Hcensed by the stale. The blaster himself must be
certified and always prepared to present his special registra-
13
tion number when doing any explosives work. The cer-
tification requirement is so restrictive that small coal
mining and pit operations and construe the statutes
as undue harassment
Licenses are very tough to get An extremely com-
prehensive training course including questions on proce-
dures, techniques, safety, storage, and federal and state
regulations is mandatory for those wanting to use ex·
piosives. The course is culminated by a rigorous four·hour
exam.
On the other end of the spectrum, Montana is fairly
typical of western states that take a fairly laid-back attitude
regarding explosives, if they even have an officia1 attitude
at all. They have a licensing requirement on the books, but
it effectively excepts loggers, and small pit
The only class of users who must attend classes
and receive a state user's license are conn-actors.
In most states, it is wise to claim you are a farmer when
applying to purchase high explosives. At a minimum, the
potential fanner must be twenty-one years of age, as well as
sufficiently literate to fill out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms Form #5400.4. Fonn 5400.4 asks !.he usual
questions about sex, age. weight, place of birth, and social
security number. If one applies to buy in the name of a
corporation, an employee identification number will be
requested.
After this, the customer must check off a few obligatory
boxes regarding his status as a felon, substance abuser, etc.,
that will be recognizable to anyone who has purchased a
firearm. A copy of the form is included on pages 19 and 20.
There are also questions regarding the type of magazine
the powder monkey will use, date of intended use, and
place of use. Selections under the heading of intended use
of the explosive materials include coal mining. other
mining or quarrying, agriculture. construction, road build·
ing, oil-well drilling, seismographic research, flI'Cworks
display. and specified other.
Sellers and their employees vary greatly from state to
state and from business to business. Nevertheless, !.he buyer
will have to give the impression that he knows what he is
14
doing. A buyer who appears flaky to the dynamite-store
clerk will probably walk away empty-handed. As a general
rule, it is best to claim a specific agricultural use for all the
explosives (i.e., the user intends to use everything up this
day and the next shooting stumps, rocks, or whatever).
Completing the form takes at most ten minutes, if all
goes well. As far as I can determine, the seller retains the
forms in a permanent record similar 10 those coUected by
gun dealers.
Even in relatively relaxed states. the seHer may make an
issue out of the customer's means of hauling the explosive.
The days of pulling up and throwing a case or two of
powder in the back of a pickup appear to be gone forever in
most places.
One can still use a pickup, but be prepared to face a
seller who may check to see if the vehicle is properly
licensed and insured. contains an approved storage
magazine, and carries fire extinguishers, spare fuses, and
road-hazard markers on board, as well as a proper Depart-
ment of Transportation warning sign. Often these signs can
be purchased from the explosives dealer.
Caps should nol, as a practical matter, be transported in
the same vehicle, even if the seller forgets to check and will
permit it The only possible exception that I allow for
myself is if I purchase only a few caps and have a special
wooden box that will fit in the cab of the truck well away
from the powder carried in the back of the bed.
Some wiIJ also ask for evidence that the buyer
has planned out a route to his destination that does not go
through heavily populated areas. Sellers will at times make
an issue of the transport arrangements when they would
otherwise not like to sell to that particular customer-the
next guy who comes into the shop might be a long-lime
regular customer who will simply take the cases of dyna-
mite off a pile, put them in the truck, and drive away.
Theoretically, the seller can demand that the truck be
fairly new or, if not new, in perfect working condition. He
can aJso specify that powder be hauled in a proper wooden
box. In all cases, the tailgate closure must be operating
properly.
15
The pickup magazine box generaUy must be of solid
wood built out of two-by-fours. It must be anchored to the
pickup, having a solid lOp with leather hinges in good
working condition.
Many places require that a fire-resistant tarp also be tied
down over the load.
It is impossible to predict rapidly changing nuances of
state and federal laws penaining to explosives. The best bel
for the new purchaser is to study up on the subject of high
explosives, dress up like a gentleman farmer, and then go to
the nearest dealer to make inquiry as to what exactly will be
required.
Fewer explosives dealers exist today than at virtually
any time since the founding of our nalion. If one includes
detlagrates (such as black powder) as explosives, this is
cenainly true. Yet, as pointed oul earlier, our economy
depends on the ready accessibility of explosives more than
most people realize. Dealers are around; the Irick is to find
them. Obviously they are not going to advertise warehouse
specials in the Sunday paper.
For starters, check under "explosives" in all the regional
yellow pages that you can reasonably lay your hands on. In
mining, logging, and farming communities, something will
tum up with surprising speed.
If that fails, talk to contractors; road builders; large farm
owners; oil drill-rig, heavy-equipment, or quarry operators;
or any other possible consumers of explosives in your area.
At times it was a chore but, in spile of all the moving
around I have done, I have always found someplace to buy
powder. At times it was from a powder monkey, other
times a heavy-equipment operator, and others a large,
wholesale peddler.
I have even known people who had road crews leave
cases of powder and primers for them in trade for the cases
of whiskey left for them. It is important to exercise some
determination, originality, and diligence in the search for
commercial explosives. It may even be necessary to have
someone from an adjoining state come over and purchase
the goods for you.
Regulation of the use, and especially the criminal
16
misuse. of explosives falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI
and BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms).
They roughly split the duties but cooperation between the
two agencies is said to be strained and "reserved" at best.
According to the present split in priorities, the FBI will
investigate incidents involving explosives on national forest
land. on federal property such as military bases, and in post
offices. BATF takes everything else.
Du.ring a typical year, BATF looks at about two thou-
sand incidents involving "misuse" of explosives. Some of
these are thefts of explosives. Of the approximately twenty
tons of filched dynamite taken each year, most is said not to
be recovered.
The FBI looks at about half this many cases in a given
year. A large number of the illegal . uses investigated
involve the loss of life. These total about two hundred
Americans per annum.
Each agency runs its own explosives training program.
The FBI Hazardous Devices School is in Huntsville, Ala-
bama. BA TF has its Bomb Investigation Techniques Center
at Glynco, Georgia. Very few people know that these
centers exist or what exactly is taught at them.
.Casual users of explosives are best advised to go out of
their way not to attract the attention and scrutiny of either
group. One way of doing this is to use blasting agents such
as ammonium nitrate fertilizer whenever possible rather
than the traditional commercial dynamite. Another way is
to stay away from home brews.
Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is easily available from a
multitude of agricultural supply houses scattered in every
comer of the United States. One need do little more than
call farm and feed stores in rural agricultural regions to
locate an abundance of dealers selling ammonium nitrate.
No obligatory form muSt be signed, no record is kept,
and there are no transportation problems or requirements.
The weak link is the fact that blasting agents such as
ammonium nitrate are not particularly cap-sensitive. Also,
they only really work in relatively large sets of twenty-five
pounds or more. These are fine as frog hair for making
duck ponds, but not so fine (or stumping, fishing, rock
17
removal, or Fourth of July activities.
Since blasting agents require dynamite to get tbem
going, it's back to the commercial dealer for caps, fuze. and
powder, as well as the Acbilles' beel of (onns and regula-
tions bandIed by doubtful store derks.
Tbe alternative is to make caps and fuze plus some
booster explosives at home. I have done this, but have
always found it safer and more convenient to buy the stuff
commercially. Of course, I don' t live in a restrictive eastern
state. either.
18
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22
Chapter 3
Storage and General Safety
Several basic categories of folly contribute to perhaps
95 percent of the problems one can encounter with ex-
plosives .
The first and foremost are people problems. Anyone
who has been around high explosives any length of time
has incredible stories to tell-about the powder monkey
who crimps the caps with his teeth, carries a stick of
dynamite in his truck jockey-box to impress his girlfriend,
hammers the caps into the primer stick with a convenient
rock, or runs off and leaves a misfire located in a well-
traveled place.
] even knew one fellow who tied his cases of powder
shut with four-foot lengths of primer cord. A popular
writer, commenting about high explosives, said he saw
another fellow using a piece of primer cord for a belt.
Primer cord is plastic rope-like matcrial that is very explo-
sive and very powerful. It was used more extensively in the
past to fire multiple charges when electric caps were not
available or were difficult to obtain. Primer cord can be
very destructive.
Obviously, these are not the kind of borderline dumb
events that usually allow the powder monkey to get by.
They are plain, old-fashioned, death-dealing stupidity.
Borderline procedures include such things as canying caps
in a shirt pocket or evcn in the same load with the powder,
using metal pliers rather than a capping tool to crimp caps,
using an old, untested battery to fire electric charges,
neglecting to cut a fresh end on a fuze. or not standing clear
23
of the work zone when the shot goes. The powder monkey
who finds he occasionally has to do these things will
usually get by. The guy who crimps caps with his teeth or
runs right up to a misfrre when it didn't detonate will have
his day of reckoning rather quickly.
Even OSHA, which issues scores of citations each year
for improper storage and transport of explosives, has come
to the conclusion that most explosives problems arc people
problems. It is people who cause them by not paying strict
heed to rather simple, direct cautions. It's a variation of the
plaintive cry of the gun owners-explosives don't cause
accidents, people cause accidents!
When I was a younger powder monkey I had an em-
ployer who loved to hear the charges thump. 1l0Id him that
a nice whoomp indicated a properly sized charge. but he
insisted that as long as he was paying for the powder, I
should use enough to make the results spectacular.
It was a typical Midwestern morning. Our shirts were
shamefuUy sweated through, although we had done very
little work. The long-handled bore-hole auger shaved out
the sticky black soil in coarse ribbons, if one could just stay
motivated enough to power the thing. I frred the stemming
charge to produce a nice powder chamber under the large
box elder stump on wbich we labored.
Normally, 1 would have slid five slicks of dynamite into
the little cavern under the still-fibrous, woody green stump.
My client, however, liked the fireworks. I put in the five.
He urged me to slip in five more so that we wouldn't "tear
up" his tractor "pulling the pieces out of the ground." .
I followed his instructions, stemmed the hole With the
solid, damp earth, lit the fuze, and at a fast walk retreated to
his pickup truck parked broadside to the charge about one
hundred yards away.
As usual. the fuze took longer than one would suppose
to bum down to the cap. At the blast, the stump disappeared
in a cloud of smoke and rubble. A large chunk of root shot
out like a bullet on a virtual level line toward the truck. We
were beh.ind the truck and needed to do nothing more than
duck down. The chunk passed not a foot over the bed of the
truck, landing perhaps sixty feet behind us.
24
Our biggest problem was a pair of severely bumped
heads incurred when ducking simultaneously.
Statistically, the most frequent cause of real, act-of-God
accidents while handling explosives is inappropriate and
insufficient precautions against what people in the industry
call"throw rock."
Throw rock is a broad tenn for the pieces the explosion
throws out of the set. Simply put, if you are too close to the
blast site when it goes, chunks will fallon your head. The
overcharged box elder and my client, the fireworks lover,
are the best example in my personal experience.
Knowing how far back to stand from a blast site is, to a
great extent, a matter of experience. I started my children
out with explosives by allowing them to shoot single sticks
on the bare ground. After they mastered that, we blasted
large ant nests and snowbanks, again with nothing more
than single sticks. I let them come along and sit in the open
jeep when I was really blasting something significant so
that they could see fmthand how destructive dynamite
could be. [f they so much as set one foot outside the jeep, J
took them home immediately. Like everyone else, they
enjoyed the show. They were extremely careful not to break
the rules.
There are, of course, the great long lists of do's and
don'ts involved with using powder. Before getting to those,
however. there is one other broad category of folly of
which neophyte blasters must be aware.
By their very nature, blasting caps are much more
sensitive and dangerous than the powder itself. t always
carry only enough caps for the immediate job. I carry them
securely fastened in a small Styrofoam box inside a cheap
Styrofoam cooler. Don't allow the caps to rattle around
and, for God's sake, if there are more than one or two caps
that cannot be widely separated from the powder in the
back of the truck, carry the two in separate vehicles.
Don't ever carry caps in your pockel Treat the caps as
you would an easily detonated M-80 firecracker. They may
not be quite that powerful, but respect them at least to that
extent.
As part of the demonstrations I do for people, I have
25
dropped dynamite caps (both electric and fuzed) on the
concrete floor from shoulder height. As a precaution, I wear
high boots, heavy pants, and stout goggles, and always
attempt the demonstrations out on the patio, where a low
wall also offers protection. So far I have never had a cap
detonate. Even so, 1 always treat them as though the
slightest shock or warming will touch them off.
After using common sense, planning smart to avoid
throw rock, and treating caps with respect, the following
cautions apply. I have kept dynamite 'til it was ten years
old without undue problems. [watched it closely, however,
always ready to take action if necessary. As a general rule,
explosives store poorly. Unlike people, they do not get
weak and feeble with age. Use them up regularly. Don't
keep explosives around for long periods of time unless you
are skilled enough to know the signs of deterioration. If
explosives are to be stored, follow state, federal, and
industry standards for storage.
As a younger man, I kept our powder in the pump
house located about ten feet from the bedroom window.
This could have been an unsmart procedure, but as a
general rule, fresh commercial powder is not particularly
cantankerous.
Ideally, storage areas should be stout, secure buildings
located away from inhabited buildings, bridges, heavily
used roads, or areas where lightning might strike. These
buildings should have good roofs and sound floors, and be
dry and well ventilated. No metal tools should be stored
with the powder. Gasoline and other petroleum products
must be kept away from powder. If stray bullets might be a
problem, take that into consideration. Dooni should be tight
and lockable and the structure generally rodent-proof.
I keep my caps in a small, detached barn and the
powder up the mountain about three hundred yards in a
small, cement-floored cellar dug into the hillside. Federal
and state laws require that 1 put out warning signs, but that
is simply asking for trouble in my opinion.
Always use nonsparking or nonmetal tools around
explosives when placing charges. I have always used old,
wooden shovel handles, being careful never to bring the
26
metal auger near the JX)wder.
Keep boxes and cartons in good repair, and don't allow
the cartridges to get scattered around.
Don't use any explosives or caps that have been soaked
with water, no matter how well they seem to have dried.
Be cautious regarding the preparation of primers. More
about this in a later chapter.
Stand apart from the powder and any watchers when
preparing the primer cartridge.
Be certain of all bore holes. Know where the cartridges
are being loaded. Don't load in or near sites that could
contain old, unexploded cartridges.
Keep explosives away from the working area until the
moment they are loaded.
Don't tamp, pressure, or pound any dynamite-espe-
cially material cut from the cartridge that is placed loose in
the blast hole.
Primer cord, fuze, and cap wires should not be kinked
or injured.
When fuing electrical caps, use the correct amount of
electrical current, test the circuits, and quit if an electrical
storm comes up. Even miners selting explosives deep
underground do something else until an electrical storm
blows past.
Be sure all electrical connections are clean, bright, and
electrically and mechanically secure.
Keep the power source well away from the blasting
circuit until the moment of firing. Keep all wires shunted
(tied together).
Attach caps to detonating cord in an approved manner
and do so last, just before the detonation sequence is
commenced.
When lighting mUltiple cap and fuze sets, cut a length
of fuze half the length of the shortest fuze in the group, cap
it, and light it first. When that cap explodes, all lighters
must immediately leave the blasting area.
Never light a fuze while holding the charge in your
hand.
Never place any capped charge or fuze under pressure.
Make sure soil covers the dynamite so that no sparks
27
from the burning fuze fall on an exposed cartridge.
When a misflre would be an absolute disaster, use the
more certain and often less troublesome electric caps.
Keep clear of a blast area until the smoke and fumes are
well dissipated.
Post guards to be sure no one inadvertently moves OOlO
the blast site.
Old dynamite can be burned as a means of disposal.
Simply lay the stocks on the ground, douse them with
kerosene, and light them. I have never had a detonation
following this procedure, but you should always assume
one could occur. When burning dynamite, it is best to plan
for the worst and bum in a remote area.
Most of all, use caution and common sense. lf the
blaster does not allow himself to be complacent, the entire
procedure is certainly safer than many other things we
commonly do every day.
28
Chapter 4
Basic Procedures
Detonating dynamite is relatively simple. Getting it to
go off at the time and place one desires is a matter of
straightforward training combined with a modest amount of
self-discipline. •
Capping a dynamite cartridge is the first, most basic
skill that the would-be blaster must acquire.
Before proceeding, users who have never examined
dynamite before should open the end of a cartridge for a
firsthand look. They will find that the tan to tan-grey
mixture looks like old Chewing gum. The white prills
(spherical pellets), if included in the mixture, should be
round and firm. Mushy, distorted prills are a sign of old,
going-out-of-condition powder. Don't buy this kind if you
can help it. If you have it already, use it up. If the cartridges
are weeping or leaking, carefuUy dispose of them by
burning.
Cartridges come in a great variety of sizes and shapes.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand they
will be half-pound sticks that are about one-and-a-quarter
inches in diameter by eight inches long. I have occasionally
used some twelve-inch long sticks and some
canisters, but only a handful of times in forty years of
blasting. The three-pound canisters were special orders that
I lined up for dealing with an especially dreary stump-
removal project.
Approximately thirty-five fresh oak stumps dotted the
middle of a fifty-acre field. We had cut out the logs the
previous winter. Some of the logs were forty inches on the
29
butt end, which gives the reader some idea of the size of the
stumps. All the logs were cut into one-inch boards. Any
limbs bigger than three inches were stacked up by the
stove. Other than the stumps, we were ready to fann the
ground.
Usually a blaster would use a hand auger to dig down
under the stumps, fire a springing charge, and then blast the
stumps out with a heavy main charge. Because the stumps
were so large and green, it was a tough project. The sandy,
dry soil and the incredibly hot, muggy weather added
immeasurably to our grief. It took immense wiIJpower just
to go out to the humidity-sodden work site, where the last
fresh breeze had blown months ago.
Lightening the work load became a priority item. The
plan we worked out did the job very nicely. By connecting
a rotating six-foot length of cold, rolled-round steel stock to
the drawbar of our D-8 Cat, we fashioned a punch that took
the place of the auger. One drum of the machine's winch
raised and lowered the bar, producing a very workable,
power-punching dynamite tool.
By lowering the pitch of the punch to a 45° angle, we
were able to back up the Cat onto the bar and drive it down
under the stump. The hole it produced was just right for the
three-pound canisters. We routinely pushed four or five of
the cylinders of 4()..percent powder down the hole with our
rake handle and let ' em rip.
When we had eight or ten sets batched up, we lit them
all en masse. The little dozer operator who just returned
from a government-sponsored hunting trip in Korea jumped
two feet every time a charge thumped. A couple of times
the blasts were so close together that he didn't get to touch
the ground between thumps.
Unlike regular cartridges, the three-pound canisters
were packed in what appeared to be common cardboard
tubes. Dynamite cartridges are wrapped in tough, deep-
brown paper. The slick paperlike material of regular
half-pound charges is specially treated so that it will enter
into the detonation. The paper ends and the seam along the
cartridge are sealed with wax. Dynamite cartridges are
compact and tough. As many miners can attest, they will
30
withstand a fair amount of rough handling bordering on
abuse.
Powder users will commonly encounter two types of
detonating caps. Electrical caps are easily distinguished by
their two red-and-white or green-and-yellow wire leads.
The cap itself will be a natural aluminum color. It will have
a watertight rubber plug securing the wire leads to the cap
body.
The 2 lI4-inch x 3/8-inch caps are marked "Dangerous
Blasting Cap Explosive" on the body. Several different
styles of electrical caps are available, providing for a time
lapse between ruing and actual detonation. These are used
in mining and quarrying to allow multi-charge sets to be set
off in proper sequence. Standard industry codes for these
caps are as follows:
Delay Period
(code)
o
1
2
3
4
5
6
8
9
\0
Time in Seconds
to Actual Detonation
0.008
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
4.0
4.5
5.0
Delay-action electrical caps are manufactured by
putting a delay element with a closely controlled burn time
between the ignition element and the primer charge. The
primer ultimately deteriorates the cap. Standard delay caps
are designed to fire at intervals of from one-half to five
seconds after they are elcctricatly "set off."
Codes used to designate the type of cap one is dealing
with are fastened to the lead wires. These range from 0
(virtually instantaneous detonation) to 10 (five seconds).
The delay caps are used in a way that the outside charge
31
l
blows first, relieving the outside waH so that the inner
charges will then in sequence crack the material being
blasted free in the correct direction.
As a general rule, the hobby blaster will use only the
instantaneous varieties of electric blasting caps. The only
exception might occur if one buys supplies from a quarry
operator or other secondary source.
Caps used with fuze were, in times past, most common
because they were generally less expensive and less cum-
bersome to use than their electrical counterparts. Lately I
have had trouble buying fuze and caps in anything but very
limited quantities, due-in part, vendors tell me-to a
government drive to make these easier-to-use explosives
more difficult to obtain. .
Fuze caps are thin, hollow aluminum cylinders one-
and-one-half inches long and about one-quarter inch in
diameter. Fuze caps are much smaller than electrical caps,
even excluding the wire leads.
Unlike regular dynamite (which burns without incident
for a minute or two when torched), the mixture that fills the
cap up to about two-fifths of its capacity is fire-sensiti ve.
When the fuze bums to it, an explosion about the intensity
of a healthy firecracker results.
Fuze comes in white, red, and black colors depending
on the whim of the maker. The feel is stiff and slick. Coils
can be from four to nine inches in diameter, with lengths
from fifty to one hundred feet. The fuze core bums with a
hissing, spitting, smoking flame. Surrounding the core is a
sticky, tar-like layer that is, in tum, covered with a wrap-
ping of light thread that is lightly painted.
It doesn' t happen easily, but the fuze should be pro-
tected from kinking. Old timers sometimes knot the fuze
around the dynamite to hold the cap in place. This proce-
dure is a definite no-no if one wants to avoid adrenalin-
inducing rushes while cleaning up messy misfires.
The correct procedure when attaching a cap to the fuze
is to always trim about one-half inch from the end of the
coU of fuze. Do Ihis to expose a clean, fresh, right-angle cut
to the cap.
The cut can be done with a knife but is best accom-
32
plished with a nonsparking made
specifically for this purpose. Dynanute combmatton tools
are made by Diamond Tool and others, and are available
for about $8 from dynamite distributoni-usually without
filling out forms.
One handle of the tool is a punch and the other is a
screwdriver, which is useful when connecting drop wires to
a power box. The tool is principally useful when crimping
the cap to the fuze and for cutting fuze.
Crimping can be done with common gas-pipe pliers but
-like many, many things in life-is best done with the
correct instrument.
Knife cutting distorts the fuze a bit, especially on a hot
day when the tar-like fuze is more pliable.
Insert the fresh-cut fuze end fIrmly into the cap. I
perform this part of the sequence weU away from the box of
cartridges. although J have never had a cap go off prema-
turely.
Crimp the thin aluminum skirt of the cap securely onto
the fuze. Considering that the fuze will bum at the rate of
one foot per minute, that no fuze should ever be less than a
foot in length, and that the extra time the extra fuze pro-
vides is always worth the price, cut a proper length off the
roU of fuze.
Always be very cautious about the springy fuze snap-
ping the cap around into a rock or other hard object and
detonating it.
Using a one-quarter-inch wooden stick as the pick, or
the dynamite tool, push a diagonal hole down through a
dynamite cartridge. starting about one-third of the way
down the stick.
Be cautious not to run the hole through both sides of the
cartridge. Some blasters run the hole in from the end but I
have always run the hole in the side. There is no reason for
preferring the side-pick system other than this is how [ was
originally taught.
Insert the cap on the fuze snugly into the hole in the
punched cartridge. I use a precut eight-i.nch length of baler
twine to tie the capped fuze securely 10 place. Place the
knot over the pick hole to protect it a bit.
33
This package constitutes the cap charge.
It is much easier to Light fuze if it is sliced back about
an inch, exposing the inner powder lTain. Otherwise, the tar
coating may burn with a weak, yellow flame for a minute or
two before the fuze itself sputters to life, giving the
neophyte apoplexy in the process.
Electrical caps are inserted. into cartridges much the
same way fuzed caps are installed. In the case of electrical
caps, the leads can be knotted around the cartridge to hold
the cap in place without compromising safety.
caps .are most practical when multiple charges
are shot. It poSSible to shoot a number of charges simul-
taneously usmg match cap and fuze with detonating cord
but if the charges are very far apart the cost
prohibitive. '
The first time I used. det-cord was to take out a number
of six- to ten-inch .hawthorne trees. A covering of long,
very sharp thorns virtually precluded cutting them with a
saw.
I tightly wrapped three winds of del-cord around the
trunks two feet above ground level, slipped a fuze cap
between the trunk of the tree and the det cord and shot
them individually. In spite of a seemingly minim'al amount
of exposure, I pinched up my hands and arms doing even
this much work around those damn trees.
. Detonating cord looks like heavy, poly-plastic clothes-
hne. It is fairly flexible, coming in ten-inch, one-thou sand-
foot reels. The explosive component of det-cord is ex-
tremely fast and powerful. It will take an eight-inch green
tree and splinter the trunk through to the core.
I had all the trees lying over in an hour.
. The principal use of det-cord, other than placing it in
ditches and holes the enemy might use during an ambush is
to multiple match and fuze charges together. The
matenal runs forty cents per foot, precluding one from
getting too carried away with this use.
To obtain more or less simultaneous detonations, you
can a turn of around each cartridge in a set
runnmg from the mam charge that was capped convention-
ally to the side charges.
34
Match- and fuze-capped charges are fairly reliable in
about ten feet of water. When going deeper or using
electrical caps, 1 place the capped charge in a thin plastic
bag. The water pressure will collapse the bag, which helps
seal out harmful moisture.
Besides the combination tool and a pocket knife, the
blaster will need a long-handled shovel. The wooden
handle is good for poking the cartridges down the bore
hole, especially the first charge (called the spring or
springing charge), which is used to create the main powder
chamber under the stump or rock.
I have marked my shovel handle with pieces of tape
spaced every eight inches to quickly indicate how many
charges can be placed in the hole. Some blasters use a
separate tamping stick. I don't find this necessary.
When I was a young man, we often saw dynamite
augers being sold at farm auctions. After a few years, they
all disappeared - I suspect into the hands of antique col-
lectors. To make do, we purchased some of the many
one-and-one-half-inch-diameter wood augers that bam
carpenters used. By welding a five-foot-Iong, three-
eighths-inch steel rod to them, we had a reasonably good
dynamite drill. Now even the large-diameter bore carpenter
bits are tough to find. An auger with flights rather than a
flat-spoon cutting edge is needed to pull the dirt out of the
hole. New or used, these tools are virtually unfindable.
By whatever means, a good bore-hole auger is invalu-
able when doing serious work with commercial explosives.
The flights must be wide enough to pull out small stones,
the cutting edge sharp enough to cut small roots, the handle
long enough to reach under the designated Object and the
turning handle long enough to torque the rig through
common obstructions.
Powder monkeys shooting mostly electrical caps will
also need an ohmmeter to read the resistance in the electri-
cal sets, a minimum of 250 feet of drop wire and up to 500
feet for heavier charges, such as that used for blasting duck
ponds or drainage ditches.
After learning to make blasts with cap and fuze that
allow the user to retreat as far as his legs and discretion take
35
him, the user will also learn how to make sets that merely
whoomp and do not throw rock and debris allover the state.
Having learned to contain the blast by using the correct
type and amount of powder, the blaster can feel more
confident regarding the use of the shorter 250-foot drop
WIres.
Drop lines should be heavily insulated, l4-gauge wire.
The ohmmeter can be a simple instrument purchased from
Radio Shack.
I have never used a blasting machine. Instead, [ relied
on a lantern battery for single charges and truck batteries
for multiples under five caps. [ try to limit my electrical sets
to five charges. Casual dynamite users will seldom be
called on to make sets larger than could be handled by five
caps.
Larger sets, in my opinion, defeat the safety argument
in favor of electrical caps -i.e., when they are touched off,
they either go or don't go. With match and fuze there is
always a question until the moment of detonation. Some-
times detonation takes what seems like forever between
lighting the fuze, the retreat, and the whoomp.
Electrical blasting is not a mysterious process. It does,
however, require a knowledge of the most basic laws of
electricity .
Electric cu.rrent flowing through a conductor such as a
wire is comparable to water moving through a pipe. Volt-
age is the pressure of the water (electricity). Rate of flow
through the wire is measured in amperes. In a pipe, it is
gallons-per-minute.
The diameter of a wire influences the rate of flow of
electricity much the same as the diameter of a pipe influ-
ences the rate of water flow. The cross section of either (or
lack tbereof) opposes the flow or creates resistance.
The three factors-voltage, current, and resistance-are
related in a formula known as Ohm's Law. Ohm's Law is
probably the most basic piece of electrical physics.
Every schoolboy learns the formula at one time or
another:
PressurelResistance = Rate of Flow
36
or
Volts/Ohms = Amperes
These terms relate to the three elements of an electrical
blasting circuit, inc1uding the electrical cap itself, the
source of energy, and the drop wires that carry the electrical
current.
The electrical blasting cap transfonns electrical energy
into heat, which starts an explosive force strong enough to
detonate the main charge.
Like a filament in a light bulb, the electrical charge
heats a bridge wire embedded in a flash compound. The
flash compound detonates an intermediate charge in the cap
that is actually the primer. This small but powerful charge
has enough strength to detonate the dynamite cartridge.
It takes an extremely short time for the electricity to
heat enough to flash the compound. This time can vary,
depending on the amount of electrical energy going (0 the
cap. To a point, increasing the current lessens the ir-
regularities among caps.
A minimum current of 0.3 to 0.4 amps will fire a
commercial electrical cap, but safety and consistency
dictate that a charge of 0.6 to 0.8 amps be used. Cautious
blasters usually figure on a minimum of 1.5 amps of direct
current (batteries) and at least 3.0 amps of 6O-cycle al-
ternating current from a waH socket or a portable generator.
Power sources for a shot can be delivered by blasting
machines, commercial power lines, motor-driven
ators, and storclge and dry-cell batteries.
Most blasting machines, including the old
push boxes used in the movies, are portable electric genera-
tors designed to have high voltages. Newer blasting ma-
chines are sometimes the condenser-discharge type. Some
machines that are more than adequate for ten simultaneous
shots can be carried in one hand. They are discharged by a
quick twist of the wrist
Because of the high cost, I have never purchased a
blasting machine. When hooked up in series or used while
37
the engine is running, standard 12-volt truck batteries will
usually fire more charges than I have the energy to install in
one set.
For safety's sake, every charge set in a day should be
fired that day. Do not allow a charge to stand overnight or
even leave the site for lunch or a break.
No blasti ng should be attempted with vehicle batteries
that are not fully charged or that show signs of any
deterioration or weakness. The engine should be on fast
idle when the shot is made to ensure that enough amperage
is available.
Three types of wire are used in the blasting circuits:
Leg wires are the thin, insulated wires that run from the
cap itself. They range in length fram six ta fifty feet. It is
important ta know the resistance of these caps, including
the leg wires, so that accurate calculations can be made
regarding the adequacy of one's power supply.
Resistance of Copper Wire Electrical Blasting Caps
Length of
Leg Wires
(feet)
6
8
10
16
20
24
30
40
50
Average
Resistance
(ohms)
1.53
1.66
1.72
1.91
2.04
2.17
2.00
2.20
2.40
Resistance can be extrapolated from six to twenty fect
and from twenty-four to fifty feet. At twenty fect, the wire
size in caps jumps from 22 gauge to 20 gauge. The heavier
wires are needed for lower resistances over longer dis-
tances.
38
Connecting wires are those insulated wires run through
the shot region that may be tom up at detonation. They are
usually 20 gauge, ultimately connecting to the drop wires
from the caps.
Drop wires are those that connect the basic set to the
power source. If at all possible, these wires should be
l4-gauge copper.
One must know the resistance of connecting and drop
wires to calculate how many caps can be fired from a given
power source. Use the following chart, along with an
ohmmeter.
Gauge
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
20
22
Ohms pcr 1,000 ft.
of drop wire
0.248
0.395
0.628
0.999
1.59
2.52
4.02
6.38
10.15
16. 14
There are three types of circuits commonly used: single
series, series in parallel, and parallel. Many times, the
nature of the shot will dictate the type of circuit that must
be used.
A single series is illustrated on page 41.
If there were fifty electrica1 caps rather than the six
shown, the blaster would compute the circuit as follows:
50 electric caps with 20-ft. leg wires:::
50 x 2.04 = 102.0 ohms
Resistance of lOO-ft. No. 20 connecting wire = 1.0 ohm
Resistance of 250-ft. No. 14 drop wire .. . 5 ohm
39
Total Resistance of Circuit = L03.5 Ohms
If the current were supplied by a 2 2 0 ~ v o l t AC gener-
ator, the current supplied would be:
220 volts/103.5 ohms ~ 2.12 amps.
This is not enough power supply to power the necessary
3.0 amps of alternating current per cap that is considered a
safe standard. To be entirely safe, the blaster would have to
cut the set down to fifty charges. These readings can be
verified by using the ohmmeter.
For example, fifty caps have a resistance of 51.75
ohms.
220 volts/51.75 ohms ~ 4.25 ohms
A partial solution -if a larger set must be used, or if one
is working with a smaller power source such as a vehicle
battery-is to connect the caps in a parallel circuit. An
example of a parallel circuit is shown on page 42.
The resistance in this case is only Ihe resistance of each
cap. Using a paraUel circuit or a parallel-series circuit, a
huge number of caps can be fired. Some sets containing
more than onc thousand caps are made using a variation of
a parallel series.
Parallel Series Circuit Example
200-ft. No. 20 connecting wire = 1.0 ohm
4 caps in parallel series = 8.12 ohms
250-ft. No. 14 drop wire = .5 ohms
Total ~ 9.62 ohms
12 vol15/9.62 ohms ~ 1.24 amps
40
CONNECTING WIRES
(ONLY INCLUDED
IF BLAST WILL
HIT DROP WIRES)
LEG rES ___ -------.!!
mDROpWlRES

i
ELECTRIC CAPS
Single·series circuit.
41
..
'"
..
w
""
"
~
"
[
Q.
ri
c
...
f;;
Q
~
'"
'"
""
"
~
!!.
t<.

~
"
~
if
Q.
~
" E.
,..
,
(')
~
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:<
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r
tn
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EXAMPLE:
2oo·FT. NO. 20 CONNECl1NG WIRE _ 1.0 OHM
I CAP IN PARALLEL _ 2.0 OHM
250·FT. NO. 14 DROP WIRE _ 0.5 OHM
TOTAL: 3.5 OHM
12 VOLTS/3.S OHMS _ 3.42 AMPS
'0
(')
+-0:;
'"
DROP WIRES
,,0
ZOO-FT. CONNECTING WIRES
----
~
POWER SOURCE
---
~
-'
"c
,
Note that, with direct current from a battery only. 1.5
amps is required to safely set off a single cap. [n parallel,
only the resistance of a single cap between the connecting
wires are used in the computation. Very large sets are made
by placing more caps in a series between the parallel lines,
but the computation does change.
Going back again to the five-shot series (which for me
is the most common multiple shot), we have:
lOO-ft 20-gauge connecting wire = 1.0 ohm
250-fl l4-gauge drop wire ohms
5 caps with 8-ft. leg wires = 8.3 ohms
12-volt truck battery/lO.4 ohms total resistance
1.15 amps
Again, this is not enough direct current to meet the 1.5
amps of direct current criterion. However. with the engine
running, I have found that the setup always fires properly.
The example on the following page, while not perfect,
illustrates a relatively easy methcxl of using common
equipment to do some blasting.
A parallel-series circuit is shown on page 43.
Paral1el-Scries Circuit Example:
Resistance of each series of 4 caps =
4.0 x 2.04 8.16 ohms
Resistance of 10 series in parallel =
.81 ohm
Resistance of 200-f1. connecting wire = 1.00 ohm
Resistance of 250-ft. No. 14 drop wire = .50 ohm
Total 2.31 ohms
44
Assuming one used a 12-volt battery, the computation
would be as follows:
1212.31
Each series would receive 5.19/10 = .52 amps, which is
not enough to take us up to the 1.5-amp safe level required.
The 5.19 amps must be divided by 10 because there are ten
series of four in the string.
Using a portable generator:
220/2.31 95.6/10 9.56 amps
A portable power generator would probably be ade-
quate in most situations, but vehicle batteri,es, even wired in
series, would not be. The only exception might be to power
the charge from a large bulldozer battery while the machine
is running and the battery charging. Test all multiple shots
with an ohmmeter, and use short leg wires and heavy drop
wires to minimize wire-resistance problems.
In the cases above, the examples are very conservative.
They probably do not reflect the average daY-lo-day needs
of the home and recreational blaster. As I mentioned
previously, I have always powered my little four- and
five-cap sets with a 12-volt car battery or even a 6-volt
lantern battery. Remember, the rule of thumb is 1.5 amps
per cap for DC and 3.0 amps for AC.
Electrical splices on blasting lines are critical. Most
experienced blasters prefer the twisted-loop splice. This and
an equally acceptable telegrapher's splice are illustrated on
page 46. Your ohmmeter will quickly tell you if all the
splices are sound, making good electrical contact.
Be sure to keep all splices tight and practice good
housekeeping wiLh the connecting wires. Neat, taut runs are
likely to cause fewer problems. AU open-wire splices
should be raised up off the ground, away from puddles or
wet grass, using dry rocks or pieces of cardboard as props.
45
Telegrapher's splice.
Twisted-loop splice.
46
Again, be sure to test each circuit with an ohmmeter to
be certain the power source you intend to use is adequate.
All drop and connecting lines should be securely wound
(shunted) together until they are connected. Connecting
should be the last step as the user retreats from the blast
site. Keep the drop wires shunted and the power source
well out of any possible reach until the moment you are
ready for the shot.
For God's sake, cease all operations if an electrical
storm comes up. Even miners working a mile underground
do something else 'til an electrical stonn has passed over.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all charges go ofT
according to the user's prearranged plan, as evidenced by
the following tale.
I was waiting in front of the low, white, wooden
houselike structure that serves as the consulate in Chiang
Mai, Thailand. Suddenly a wind-shock thump, strong
enough to take out exposed windows, hit me. A long. low
rumble followed, echoing up the Ping River, which runs
near the consulate. I ran out the gate and onto the street,
where I could see to the north a kilometer or two. Jt was
possible to make out a black, swirling cloud of dust over
the trees and houses.
The detonation was deep and gutsy enough to get our
serious attention but distant enough not to cause rea] alarm.
My fina reaction was to look for aircraft.
It took what seemed like an inordinate amount of time
before some sirens began to wail in the distance. We
jumped into a friend's LandCruiser and headed out for a
look. Obviously, something was going on that we should
know about.
A line of police and military vehicles, many with
flashing lights, was converging on one of the rather non-
descript yet more exclusive neighborhoods of north Chiang
Mai.
We followed discreetly until we started to get walled in
by hundreds of people walking down the street. Without an
escort or a flashing light, we could not proceed. I asked a
police officer what was going on. He just shrugged. Either
he didn't know or he wasn't going to tell afarong (foreign
47
devil).
By now an hour had passed since the blast, but still no
onc on the street knew what had happened except that there
had becn an explosion. Just before dark, we finally threaded
our way through the little narrow streets to the remains of a
palatial home.
Leaves on the palms in the garden hung in tatters,
shredded into threads. Several buildings nearby lacked
roofs. A school half a block away was windowless on the
blast side. A harried police officer told us no children were
at the school when the blast hit.
Dozens of unifonned men poked around in the piles of
debris. The front of the massive house hung in tatters. One
wall of a former garage leaned sloppily amidst the mess.
There might have been other damage, but a
cement block wall around the property limited our ability to
see everything in the compound.
"Looks to me like a commercial dynamite blast," I told
the consular official. "The trees and bushes aren't blown
away enough for it to have been a faster, much more
powerful military-type explosive." No one seemed to know
whose house had been hit, or if anyone had been injured.
Gossip spread through the crowd to the effect that no one
had been home at the time of the blast.
After a day or two, some information filtered out about
the incident. The house, we learned, was the secret retreat
of General Li, a notorious Kuomintang Chinese drug lord.
General Li, who originally came from northern China to
Thailand at the time of Mao, was so reclusive that no one
was aware he lived-at least part-time-in Chiang Mai.
It was not entirely true that nobody was home when the
blast occurred. A bathtub salvaged from the carnage be-
came the repository used by the police. It was fillcd with
body pieces they collected. A cook and driver were never
seen again, but were never identified among thc pieces,
either.
The theory on the streets was that somc of General Li's
drug-dealing enemies had tried to assassinate him, but that
their timing was bad. A truck thaI allegedly had contained
the explosives had been vaporized in the blast. TIle police
48
didn't even try to find a bathtub full of parts from it.
My theory is somewhat different. It seemed obvious
that we were dealing with a relatively large quantity of
commercial dynamite rather than military explosives. r
knew that people in the Chiang Mai region often illegally
traded commercial explosives for raw opium with the jade
miners who used the explosives to get rocks out of the
ground. I reasoned that perhaps we were dealing with an
accidental detonation. Assassins almost certainly would
have used military explosives.
The theory is reinforced by the fact that one of General
U's drivers appears to have been wiped out in the incident,
that Thais are awfully cavalier about explosives, and that an
assassination attempt was not logical. No one in the region
had an overt motive for doing the general in. If they had, il
seems logical that they would have planned the whole thing
a bit better.
My accidental discharge theory apparently has gained
some credibility, because many Burmese jade smugglers
have come forward in the last year since the incident to
complain that their source of explosives has dried up. More
significantly. no one among the drug lords has come
forward admitting to perpetrating the incident. 1f it had
been intentional, General Li would have retaliated. Open
warfare did not break: out among the drug lords.
Knowing the Thais, they probably stored the caps with
the powder. Later, when they snuck off in the truck to have
a smoke, disaster struck.
49
Chapter 5
Doing the Work
Novices who work with dynamite for the first time are
often surprised to discover that commercial explosives are
very precise in nature. They expect to encounter an uncon-
trollable. unpredictable force that promiscuously rends the
earth. [nstead, they find they are working with a tool that
can be Likened to a hugely powerful precision instrument.
One of my earlier jobs as a powder handler i.nvolved
placing charges for a neighbor who wanted to excavate the
ground under his standing home. The guy was detennined
LO have a basement under his house-despite the fact that
the original builders one hundred years ago had not seen it
that way at all! We had a small four-foot by four-foot rOOl
cellar to start with. As a plus, the stairs going down were
already in place. Lack of moisture for one hundred years,
however, had set up the soil under the house like concrele-
digging could not be accomplished via traditional pick and
shovel methods because of limited space and the hardness
of the earth.
Using mud and wet burlap bags to cap the charges, we
shot half sticks of 6O-percent to break up the ex.i sting
pavement and walls in the root cellar. The cement was not
particularly thick but had been placed back when it was de
rigueur to do a very good job. The breakup wou,ld have
been impossible if it weren't for the larger rock they mixed
with the concrete in an attempt to save on material costs.
After the concrete was cleared out. I used a one-and-a-
half-inch hammer driven mason's hand drill to bore a hole
back into the century-old hardened clay. The material was
51
so consolidated and brittle that a half stick of 6O-percent
shattered a cone-shaped hole to dust.
I carefully worked the charges back to the area below
the house's rear support beam. We shoveled the now loose
material into a conveyor belt that moved it upstairs and
deposited it in a dump truck parked at the rear of the house.
By nightfaJl. we had excavated an area large enough to
build a frame for a foundation wall.
I let the owners spend the next day completing that
work, as well as shoveling out the remaining loose material
I had shaken loose.
While the new cement was hardening, I worked back in
the other direction with my explosives. By week's end, the
back waH was in place as well Although I fired possibly
twenty-five shots, nothing in the house above was
damaged. The lady of the house said she was surprised thaI
the blasting produced very little dust and no damage. We
usually warned her before the shots, but otherwise the work
failed to disturb her routine.
Precision blasters have shot holes in solid rock within
inches of high-pressure gas lines. They have opened
trenches so that telephone lines could be laid right through
the heart of large cities and have spectacularly demolished
great buildings that stood within inches of other great
buildings that were not even scratched.
Although it is the wrong end of the spectrum on which
a novice should start, propagation sets used to cut ditches
nicely illustrate the precise nature of dynamite.
Because a field drainage ditch is seldom if ever blasted
through regions where one must be concerned about
cOming too close to buildings, gas mains, plwer lines, or
other works of man, blasting one is a good project for
someone who wants to test the precision of explosives. The
technique is not, however, one the novice should start with
if he has any choice in the matter. It is so difficult to master
ditChing with powder that the neophyte can easily become
discouraged.
Ditch building by propagation is done using regular
ditching plwder. Your local explosives dealer can assist
you in choosing the correct explosive material. This will be
52
either a 60- or SO-percent material that is more sensitive to
shock than regular powder and is of itself powerful enough
to throw out a large quantity of material. Other powder may
push rather than shock and throw, and will certainly not be
sensitive enough to propagate. The concept is to use one
cap charge to set off up to hundreds of shock-sensitive
cartridges, all placed in a predetermined grid.
Unlike 4O-percent dynamite, which is so sleepy it often
cannot be detonated even by a direct hit from a high-power
rifle, ditching powder is very shock-sensitive.
When I fIrst used it, I carried the cartridges around in a
sawdust-filled box. This seemed to be more paranoia than I
am accustomed to accommodating, so I decided to experi-
ment
A half-pound stick thrown as high as possible from the
top of a twenty-four-foot barn did not detonate on hitting
the frozen clay drive below. Eight additionaJ attempts failed
to produce a bang. I therefore concluded that the material
was safe enough under normal circumstances.
It does, however, go off rather resolutely when hit with
a bullet. Through the y ~ , I have spent a considerable
number of pleasurable hours on my range plunking off
dynamite. There is never a question as to the placement of
the shot If it is good, everybody in the county will know.
Shooting dynamite is a bit tougher than it first seems.
Targets little more than an inch wide are tough to hit,
especially if one places them out far enough so that the
blast does not constitute a danger to the shooter.
One time when such things were still permitted, I
bought a 25mm French Peteau cannon home with me. It
came right from the World War 11 Maginot line-eight
hundred plunds, rubber tires, etc. By tinkering with the
ftring mechanism, I was able to bring the monster back to
life. We spent many an enjoyable afternoon firing thaI
cannon. Factory ammo cost but $32 per case of thirty-two
rounds!
Eventually the thrill wore off. We went back to using
ditching plwder for targets, set off by more conventional
firearms, but the neighbon; never knew the difference. They
thought we frred that antitank cannon one hell of a lot.
53
The best way to proceed with ditching powder is to run
a couple of trial sets. In places where the ground is consis-
tently wet, grassy, and marshy, the charges can be placed
up to two feet apart. Should one be working with ground
that is only very clamp and not wet, the spacing may only
be four to eight inches. Old logs, rocks, and roots mixed in
the material to be ditched may require that one cut the
distance between charges down even funher.
It is impossible to tell what spacing to use, even by
looking, much less make a valid recommendation in a
book. The only way to find out what will work is to try an
experimental shot.
Only one cap charge is used to set off all the charges.
Be careful to note whether the shot detonates all the charges
placed in the string. Some borderline cartridges may be
thrown out undetonated. No matter how ideal the condi-
tions, the maximum spacing will never be more than two
feet. Generally you will end up setting up the shot grid on
about one-foot centers unless the ground is virtually
saturated with standing wateT.
Before starting in earnest, run a cord and post line down
through the region you want ditched. Unlikely as it seems,
running a straight line of cartridges without a physical line
staked out is incredibly difficult. A nice, straight ditch that
the powder monkey can be proud of will result if such early
precautions are taken.
Experimental shots are done not only to determine at
what spacing the shot will propagate, but also to detennine
how much powder is needed to produce a ditch of the
necessary depth and width. Obviously the depth at which
the charges are placed is extremely critical if proper drain-
age is to result. As a general rule, a charge set three feet
deep will cut down to about four feet if enough powder is
placed above to move away the overburden material. This
may require stacking two or even three sticks in the same
hole.
Ditching powder is usually placed using a hollow-core
punch bar. The punch bar is made out of common water
pipe with an outside diameter of one and a half inches. If
the swamp through which one is blasting is so soft that the
54
\
) II
PRIMER CORD
I ~ .
~ .
.'
i
ORIENTATION LINE
DYNAMITE SET ON
l · fT. CENTERS
J
000000
0 0000 0
00000 0
0 0000 0
000000
o 0 0 o 0 0
o 0 0 000
t
J
l
\
..
. ..
. -.
o 0 0
o
o 0 o
: . : . : ~ / ;' 1·
..
. ,.
I
" ..
Q

~ ~ - - ~ ~ __ ~ DOUBLE CHARGES
o 0 0 o 0
o 0 0 o 0
o 0 0 o 0
.
LOW.
SWAM.PY ~ A (
...
..
I
,
Top view of a ditching grid.
55
REMOV ABLE CORE
~
I 1/2-IN, PUNCH PIPE
MARKS SHOWING DEPTI'
IN STICKS OF DYNAMITE
Ditching powder placement ram.
56
AT LEAST 8 IN, OF MATERIAL
TAMPED OVER CHARGE
BORE HOLES SET ON GRID
NO MORE THAN 2 FT, APART
:,? ~
. '
..
, ,
0 '
' ,'
o
,t. , ."
j' .,.
3-FT. SET HOLE
-
:1
... 00'
"
,
" ,
,
, ,
,
, ,
,
,
, , ,
,
, , , ,
, , ,
,
CJ
" . " ,
: ,'
"
3 STICKS OF DITCHING POWDER
Side view of ditching set.
57
,
o
punch hole caves in the pipe must .be fitted
with a removable core. This pointed core can be
and the dynamite slid into the hollow outer shell and held I.n
place with a wooden tamping stick as the punch IS
withdrawn. . .
1t is helprul to fit the punch with a to faCIlitate
pulling, and it is essential that deep, seen notches be
ground in the probe outer shell showing the depth of the
tool in dynamite cartridge lengths.
Every cartridge must be identically placed through
material that is identical in makeup. .
Sandbars or subsurface logjams through which the
dynamite will not propagate can by the
charges in their regular predete,:nllned gn? and finng
with primer cord or by electrIc detonation. Detemlln.lng
exactly how much powder to use in this IS
bitch. Because the ground is not wet and lub.ncated •. It
would seem as though it would take less ThiS,
however, is not necessarily true. As no set rule eXists that 1
know of, the best thing to do is to make sure to plenty
of powder. It is always tough to go back and hit the area
again. .
Ir there is doubt and experiments are not practical, use
at least twice the amount that you originally estimated
would do the job when crossing a dry bar or other obstruc-
tion. .
In all cases mark out the ditch with posts and a strIng
with a great deal of precision. Use. small nags to
indicate the location of the charges If there IS danger of
them being lost or misplaced in the marsh as you work
around your grid line. The grid of charges must be
accurately placed according to a pretested, predetermmed
.'
When a ditch set is detonated, there IS a very mce
ground-shuddering thump. When enough !s used
and the grid is correct, the work accompllshed IS ve.ry
gratirying as well as being most spectacul.ar. The
from the ditch is thrown out and away Without fonnIng.a
costly-to-handle spoil bank. Spoil banks woul.d be there If
the ditch were dug mechanically. Often the dLrt and water
58
-
are thrown two hundred feet into the air, negating any need
to bring in a dozer with a blade to smooth things over.
Other advantages to cutting ditches with explosives
include the fact that man and horses can pack explosives
into places otherwise inaccessible to backhoes and power
shovels. Much smaller jobs can be profitably undertaken
due to economies of scale. Mechanical equipment requires
a much larger job to be profitable. Using explosives is also
orten much faster than hauling in power shovels.
At the time the charges are placed, it may seem as
though costs are going through the ceiling. But in most
cases, when everything is added in, expenses are far less
than when using other means.
Clearing grass and other material out of an existing but
silted-in ditch is virtually always faster and easier with
explosives. In this case, a single string of cartridges is run
down through the existing ditch line. If the cartridges are
buried at least three inches beneath the surface, as they
should be with any propagation set, clay and plastic field
tiles emptying into the ditch will usually not be harmed.
There is no limit to the number of charges that can be
fired using one capped charge as the explosive impulse
through the moist soil. Using three helpers, 1 have set
almost a ton of dynamite in one day. The only practical
limit is the amount of territory available on which to work
and the amount of energy and drive one can muster to put
out the explosives.
All charges placed in a day should be fired that evening.
Ditching powder is not particularly water-sensitive, but
many other factors could lead to a potential misfire or an
unsafe adventure if the charges are left unfired overnight.
Field conditions, vis-l\-vis the season of the year, are
important whenever one uses explosives. When blasting
ditches, wet ground condition is one of the primary con-
siderations. It may be necessary to either wait for a hot spell
to dry up the ground or, conversely, for spring rains to
bring enough moisture to allow the system to work. Only
shooting a trial charge will provide the necessary informa-
tion.
Clearing out stumps comprises the other end of the
59
spectrum of work with which a powder handler will
probably involve himself. Stump removal is not only
common, it is reasonably easy to master. Most blasters will
do as I did and learn the ropes of the business in the field
actually doing the work.
Stumping is both easy and yet quite a challenge for
those given to thinking about such things. Like cutting a
diamond, every situation is a little different. Some varieties
of trees (such as Norway pine, hickory, white oak, elm, and
gum) have massive, deep penetrating roots referred to as
tap roots. Others (such as white pine, fir, maple, box elder.
and cedar) have heavy lateral root structures. There is no
tap rool in this second case, but rather large branch rools
extruding out to the side in all directions. Removing these
stumps can be a real problem. If they are not charged
correctly, the dirt will be blown away from the base of the
stump, leaving a wooden, spider·1ike criuer standing in the
field that is very difficult to cut away.
Unless one is a trained forester, it is impossible to tell
for sure what kind of a stump one is dealing with a couple
of years after the tree has been CUl The most certain plan is
to use the dynamite auger to bore a hole under the stump
and do a bit of exploring.
If the auger hits a tap root on a 30° angle down under
the stump, it's safe to assume it's the kind with big vertical
roots. Sometimes, however, that pronouncement is prema·
ture. 1-Lit it once with a springing charge, which will throw
away the dirt and soil around the root. If the stump has a
tap root, it will then be obvious.
1 do not like to try to bore a shot hole into the tap roots
to save powder. What ( save in powder breaking the root
off underground. I lose in Wheaties trying to force the
auger into the punky. tough·as·wang.leather wood.
Instead, clean out a space next to the tap root about the
size of a small pumpkin. Pack in eightlo ten -or more if the
SlUmp is still large and green-40·pcrcent cartridges against
the tap root and let 'em rip.
Stumps with massive lateral roots require about the
same procedure. Dig the auger in under the main stump
mass, fire a single holing charge, and then hit it with the
60
main charge. The essential element is knowing how many
cartridges should comprise the main charge. Conditions
change from day to day and from soil type to soil type. Try
using the following guidelines for starters:
Size of
stump 1
ft.abov.
ground
6"
12"
IS"
24"
30"
36"
Number
Condilion of
orstump cartridges
Green
Dead
Green
Dead
Green
Dead
Green
Dead
Green
Dead
Green
Dead
2
I
4
2
7
3
9
5
12
6
15
S
61
Soil
type
Wet
Sand
Clay
Wet
Sand
Clay
Wet
Sand
Clay
Wet
Sand
Clay
Wet
Sand
Clay
Wet
Sand
Clay
Add
number
of
cartridges
o
+2
+1
+1
+3
+1
+2
+4
+2
+2
+3
+3
+3
+4
+5
+4
+4
+4
Add
for
tap
roots
o
o
o
o
o
o
+1
+1
+1
+2
+2
+2
+3
+3
+3
+4
+4
+4

'"
BIG, HEAVY HANDLE
. ,i
WELD TO STEEL ROD

t
I II2-IN. AUGER wml HEAVY FLlGHT5
Dynamite auger.
DRILL HOLE AUGERED
UNDER STUMP
Sprung hole charge, part I.
62
', 0
DR1LL HOLE AUGERED
UNDER STUMP
PLACE SINGLE STICK OF 40% POWDER
TO MAKE HOLE FOR MAlN CHARGE
Sprung hole charge, part 2.
DRILL HOLE AUGERED
UNDER STUMP
SPRUNG HOLE CHARGE FIRED
SHOT HOLE CHARGED WITH
POWDER AND RETAMPED
Sprung hole charge, part 3.
63
FUZE
::.11-.
-......,. .. .,.'
' . • • • 6.
, • • .n6 .
.
<D.
o "00 O • •
0.. . .
TAPROOT
Stump with tap roots.
ELECTRIC
o
.:
• •
0::
CHARGES STACKED
IN AUGER HOLE
Stump with tap root shot elcct rically on sides of root.
64
Do not, under any circumstances, allow your mind to go
into neutral while stumping with dynamite. The result can
be a bunch of thundering roars that throw pieces all around
or, even worse, a blast that simply splits the stump while
leaving it firmly anchored in bent, broken sections in the
ground.
Blasting stumps quickly teaches novice powder
keys the importance of adequately stemming their charges.
Shot holes that are solidly packed with mud or wet soil
contain the explosion in a much more satisfactory manner
than if this chore is neglected. The difference can add up to
a case or more of powder by the end of the day.
Start tamping the charge by dumping some crumbly soil
down the shot hole on top of the cartridges after they are in
place. Do this with the wooden handle of your tamping
stock or shovel. Keep working the hole until it is plugged
up with tightly tamped soil. It also helps immeasurably to
pile a few shovels of dirt on the hole after it has been filled
to ground level.
At times when the ground does not adequately contain
the first springing shot charge or when the powder monkey
inadvertently overcharges the set, the blaster will find that
he must move in quite a bit of material with which to tamp
the hole under the stump. Best to fire up the
shovel and move in whatever it takes to do the job properly.
Usually, if this happens, the surrounding soil will be loose
and easily shoveled as a result of being tom up by the
sprung hole charge.
As previously mentioned, some people who work with
explosives make a practice of boring a hole into the tap root
under large stumps. The procedure saves powder but is
such hard work that 1 never became enamored with the
concept In the case of a very large stump with correspond-
ing tap root, 1 will either pack the tap root on one side with
an unusually heavy charge or split the charge into equal
parts and fire the two simultaneously with electric caps or
primer cord.
Some stumps with many lateral roots can simply be
chopped off at ground level using faster powder. Pick a fold
in the stump into which several sticks can be packed. Cap
65
them over with a heavy layer of mud and fire them off. If
done properly, the stump will be rent into little pieces,
leaving the bigger subsurface roots at ground level to rot.
The most difficult stump to take out is one that is burnt
or has been already shot, with only the hean taken out. The
various sections must either be shot elecbically with two or
more charges or, in some cases, the shell can be wrapped
with a chain and successfully shot out in one piece (see
illustration). It still may be necessary to use multiple
charges but tbe chain will tend to hold the stump together
and pull it all out in onc piece. Use plenty of chain along
with slower 40-percent powder or less when employing this
method.
Removing stumps with explosives works especially
well if one can combine the work with the efforts of a
bulldozer as mentioned earlier. The dozer can be rigged to
punch thc charge holes. It can grub out those stumps that
are not sufficiently loosened by the dynamite and it can fill
in excessive holes made by using too much powder. It's an
ideal combination if the novice powder handler can put it
together.
Stumping with dynamite was, in the past, the mOSI
common nonprofessional use for explosives. Stump re-
moval is no longer a big item with farmers, most of whom
are currently working fields thaI have been cleared for more
years than the farmers are old. I don't know which use is
currently in second place, but for us it was removing and
breaking stones, old foundation footings, and cement pads.
Huge stones, many as large as cars or pickups, can be
thrown free of the ground, mud-capped, split, and hauled
away using a few sticks of easily portable powder by one
skilled powder monkey.
One monster stone on our farm had maliciously and
mercilessly torn shares from our plow for years. It lay about
one foot below ground level, was flat as a dining room
table, and just as big if one added all the extra leaves. One
day it ate two of my shares simultaneously. That was
absolutely it. I went straight back to the shop for the
dynamite. My brolhers depreciated my determination.
66
HEAVY CHAIN
WRAPPED AROUND STUMP

o

Chaining split stump for removal in one piece.
PRIMER CORD FROM
1ST CHARGE
SECURELY WRAPPED
AROUND BOTH
CHARGES OF
DYNAMITE
o
CONVENTIONAL FUZE
AND CAP
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ L E V E L
. " ..
1WOCHARGES
PLACED FROM
OPPOSITE SIDES
Split charge fired with det cord
to take out stump left in two pieces.
67
SPLIT FII7FT()
FACILITATE LIGHTING
Oct cord attached to conventional fU7.e
and cap used to detonate the det cord.
NATURAL FOLD IN STUMP
WITH DYNAMITE STICKS
PRESSED INTO PLACE
MUO CAP OVER CHARGE LJe
)
Old, rotten stumps can often be blown orr
at ground level with a mud-<ap charge.
68
...
CABLE DRUM TO RAlSE AND LOWER DRUM
~
60FT. SECTION OF 4-IN.
COLD ROLLED STEEL
~
ROLLED EYE CONNECTED
WITH BOLT TO ORA W BAR
·0
O.''b
· 0·
Dozer with dynamite punch.
.
t1
.....

cJ
~ .

" ~
'0
.0.'0

0 .
..
..
.,
Crawler with punch lowered and pushed under stump.
69
"That stone is so big and mean," they said, "you don't
have enough powder to get it out."
How words are sometimes so prophetic. It was not
immediately obvious what 1 was working with. A five-foot
auger did not reach to the bottom side of the rock. One stick
fired as a springing charge did very little. I dropped in a
bundle of seven and threw out a nice hole that I could get
down into with my shovel. Again using the auger, T went
down under the monstrous piece of granite. Another charge
finally poked an adequate cavern under the rock.
I filled the hole under the rock with approximately
thirty sticks of 40-pcrcent powder. Not many rocks require
that much powder, but this was not an average rock. By
now I was so pissed off 1 would have used three hundred if
that's what it took. My brothers wanted to split it in place
but, in my eyes, that would have been a cop-out.
The thirty sticks thumped about hard enough to be felt
in the county seat fifteen miles away. EI Rocko pitched out
on the ground, leaving a gaping hole that eventually filled
with water and mired our tractors every year we worked the
field 'til we sold out. It had to be the biggest rock anyone in
the county had ever tried to contend with in one piece. Two
of our biggest tractors could barely pull it away.
Even nonnal, garden-sized rocks are best handled by a
variation of the technique we used. Get a springing charge
hole under them and throw them clear with lots of 40-
percent powder. The technique requires quite a lot of
digging and augering, but it's the only way I know of for
one man to economically remove boulders.
Rock outcroppings can be removed nicely with dyna-
mite. The technique is similar to breaking up large rocks for
transport.
Large boulders such as the plow-eating monster are
usually mud-capped and split into hundreds of easily
handled pieces. It's better to haul them away whole, if you
have big enough machinery, rather than pick up all the
pieces. But in cases of very large boulders, that is often not
possible.
Mud-capping consists of placing a number of sticks of
fast 60- or SO-percent powder on top of the victim rock.
70
Cover the cartridge with four to six inches of very wet mud
and touch it off. Apparently, shock waves from the sharp,
fast detonation fracture the rock. It is the one case when a
powder handler can experience a nice, audible explosion as
a result of his labors. The mud vaporizes. There is no
throw-rock danger from mud-cap charges.
At times, powder handlers will use a large masonry drill
to bore a hole into an offending rock. After filling the hole
with powder, they shoot it much the same way a miner
would shoot a working face.
Driving a steel drill into a solid rock is a poor substitute
for conventional, easy-to-set-up, effective mud caps, but it
is necessary if one wants to take out a rock ledge or out-
crop.
Home builders sometimes find underground ledges
through which they must cut for footings or which are
otherwise in the way. When the job is too small or too
remote to bring in a ripper, there is no alternative to trotting
out the rock drill, hammers, and powder. Use fast powder if
it is easier to clean up with a scoop shovel and wheel-
barrow. Slow powder creates bigger chunks that are best
pulled away with a tractor.
Old footings and cement pads can be broken into large
chunks by placing fast 6O-percent charges a foot or so
under the material. The shock will tip up the slab or footing
as well as breaking it at the point of impact. If the cement
contains reinforcing metal, it must be further cut mechani-
cally. Metal is usually too tough and flex.ible to be cut with
explosives except in special military situations.
Road building through hilly terrain is nicely done with
explosives. Start by boring down into the ground between
the rocks with your auger. Place as much explosive in the
hole as possible. This will loosen the rock and soil so that it
can be moved. Keep working down in and around whatever
obstacles exist 'til the roadbed is about as wide and deep as
needed. Even a farmer with a small tractor can cut a road
through a rocky hill using this method along with a rela-
tively small amount of explosives.
Several other chores that are a bit obscure are possible
with dynamite.
71
AUGER HOLE !n
l
;",
'>.,. _ JI'f" \
0
'aJ; I I ,.--r-" .- 0'·
: 1 " ( 0 o. .1
'07/°' II r o.
I I :'
00 I I
I I -a.
: ! "" " .. j. ':' ", .-BURIED ROCK
I..J " ..
o
o
.'
.. 0
Cb
o.
o. o
.'
MAIN CHARGE UNDER ROCK
Removing a deeply buried boulder.
72
o
o
OCK THROWN OUT
IN GROUND BY
·I1ARGE OF 40%

. ,
.
..
o
·0
BURIED ROCK
3 STICK CHARGE
COVERED WITH
3 IN. OFMUD
.
"
o '
oC)o
. ." ,.
00
o
'% .;


" .......
Using a mud-cap charge.
73
:'.
. . :
,
0'
0'
ROCKS
. ,
,
0'· ' ... _ __
BORE IN DEEP AS POSSIBLE
" ., AND SHOOT CHARGE
", o.
'," /';..,/
---- --,,: ::::

"

(

••
0'"
,
.
,
,
,
-
ROCK
: J' TAKEOUT1WO ROCKS AND
" , CLEAN UP AND CUT DOWN AO
:'.
(,_ 0,' "
BOREHOLE
'.:
,
': --r: -: ; :::: -=
'-_________ 2ND BORE HOLE _'--...J
ROCKS AFfER SHOT AND CLEANED OUT
Road building.
74
Springs that are leaking water onto one's property and
creating bog holes can sometimes be shut off permanently
by shooting a large charge of fast powder deep in the
ground above the hill where the water surfaces. Not every
attempt is successful but, given the modest cost, it is worth
a try.
Small potholes are often drained by shooting a charge
of fast, shocking-type powder deep in the underlying
hardpan that forms a water barrier for the hole. This must
be done at a time when the hole is dry and the hardpan
barrier becomes brittle.
In both cases, bore down with a post-hole digger and set
the charge at the very bottom of the hole. Tamp the set shut
nicely. In the case of the pothole, it may be spring before it
is obvious if the shot was successful in breaking the clay
banier.
Other work -such as blasting out duck ponds, tunneling
through rock, or cutting down a rock hill for a road -can be
done with a combination of dynamite and ammonium
nitrate. (Ammonium nitrate and the work it can do is
covered in Chapter 6.)
Building a tunnel is not usually work that the casual
home and recreational user will do. This generally is left for
the miners who do that work. Like stumping, tunneling
through rock is best learned by trial and error. The trial
involves finding a seam soft enough into which you can
sink a hammer-driven star drill. With a bit of practice, it is
possible to determine what drill grid will allow the powder
to do its best work. Usually it is advisable to fire the outer
charges first, releasing the wall so that the inner charge can
dislodge the most rock. Hardened rock drills can be pur-
chased from specialty hardware stores.
Another common category of working uses for dyna-
mite is taking out ice.
The farm on which I grew up was surrounded on three
sides by a fairly large river. Our most productive river-
bottom field was once threatened by a huge ice jam causing
floodwater to cut across the field. Our neighbor on the other
side of the water watched jubilantly as Mother Nature
prepared to hand him an additional forty acres of prime
75
fann ground. (Land titles at that time specified that owner-
ship ran up to the high water mark of the river, wherever
that might be.)
Dad asked me if I could help him do something before
the new channel got deep and pennanent. ] sald I could, but
that it would cost as much as twenty dollars or more for
dynamite. In retrospect, the amount was so trivial it is
embarrassing, but at the time, having money for two or
three cases of dynamite seemed horribly extravagant.
Dad immediately took the truck down to the hardware
store. He bought two fifty-pound cases of 6O-percent, plus a
coil of fuze and a half box of caps.
I didn't know how much powder to use or how long to
make the fuzes. The rule of thumb when hitting ice is to use
three times as much powder as seems necessary. Length of
time on the fuze could only be learned by experimenting.
I cut two identical lengths of fuze six feet long, capped
them to two different sticks of dynamite, and put them back
in the box. We tied the box shut securely with baler twine.
At the river I lit both fuzes at as close to the same time
as possible and pushed the case into the freezing, ice-
swollen current with a long stick.
A full case of dynamite in water doesn't really sink or
float. It kind of bumps along half under the surface. We
kept track of its progress by watching for the smoke from
the fuze. Unless it is put in the water too quickly or goes
too deep, dynamite fuze will burn pretty well under water.
Driven by the current, the case bumped along under the
great ice pack. Huge chunks of floating ice, backed up
perhaps two hundred yards, soon obscured the progress of
the drifting bomb.
After about five minutes, the case went off about one-
third of the way down the ice pack. It sent huge chunks
flying nicely into the trees standing ankle deep along the
swollen river bank. A shock wave rippled downstream,
almost taking out the jam, but mostly the log and ice pileup
stood firm.
We rigged the second case. I cut the fuze off at ten
minutes (ten feet) and double-capped it again.
This time the charge took so long it was at first
76
monotonous and then scary as we began to think we had a
misfire. It finally went with a nice roar, right at the head of
the jam.
After about ten minutes, the river started to move again
in its traditional banks. The stream across our river-bottom
field diminished in intensity. Thanks to the explosives, our
property remained intact.
Dynamite is, of course, useful when one is after large
numbers of fish. The fact that fuze will burn up to ten feet
under water is very helpful when one is pursuing that
activity.
If there is a question, at times I will place the entire cap
charge and coiled fuze in a thin plastic bag. Water pressure
collapses the bag, protecting the burning fuze and cap
charge a bit. 1 am not absolutely certain that this allows me
to go deeper with my charges, but I think it does.
No partiCUlar care need be taken with cap charges set
for regular propagation sets when ditching with powder.
The water is never deep enough to be of concern.
We used dynamite to clean out drainage tiles, blast
holes for end posts or fence lines, clear log jams, and knock
the limbs from old, dead, "widow maker" trees we were
clearing before we cut them with a chain saw.
Using dynamite greatly expands one person' s ability to
accomplish uncommonly difficult tasks. This list may be a
bit archaic, and is certainly not all-inclusive, but it does
illustrate to some extent the range of activities that can be
undertaken using common explosives.
77
Chapter 6
Ammonium Nitrate
Three of us stood looking at a huge boulder lying in the
middle of a black loam field snuggled in a draw in central
Ecuador.
Dr. Richard, the self-proclaimed university expert on
our team, pontificated about the fact that they (the lazy
Ecuadorians) should get some dynamite and remove that
obstacle to modern fanning. Dr. Prick (as he carne to be
known) knew nothing about explosives, much less rernov·
ing rocks with explosives. In retrospect, he actually knew
damn little about farming.
"We aren't allowed to buy explosives." our Ecuadorian
host quietly and patiently explalned. "Doing this job would
require a petition to the army."
"Then you can use ammonium nitrate/' Dr. Prick
persisted. Like so many college professors away from home
a few miles, this guy was an instant expert on anything.
Anunonium nitrate is commonly available for sale in
the United States, but is very uncommon in most if not all
Third World countries. Jorge, our host, explained that
Ecuador is among the countries where it is uncommon.
As for the "expert," there were several things he had
forgotten about explosives, pUlting him in the category of
just barely knowing enough to even be dangerous.
Ammonium nitrate is not really an explosive. It is, more
correctly, a blasting agent. When combined with fuel oil or
diesel fuel at the rate of two gallons per one hundred
pounds, it can have the explosive force of about sixty
pounds of 40-pcrccnt dynamite.
Emphasis in the above statement is on the word can.
79
Even properly treated, ammonium nitrate is quite difficult
to detonate. It is only partially true in the instance of the
Ecuadorian rock to say it can be an explosive.
Another difficulty lies in the fact that, although many
road builders and quarry operators use the material to blast
rock, it is not in a general sense a fast-enough material to
do much more than throw out rock-similar to what 40-
percent dynamite does.
Ammonium nitrate has been around as a blasting agent
for a long time. People interested in explosives tend to
think of ammonium nitrate in terms of the coastal freighter
Grandcamp, which caught fire off the shore of Texas City,
Texas, on April 16, 1947. The fire burned for about an hour
before reaching the criticaJ stage. The detonation of a
reported thirteen million pounds of fertilizer shook the earth
two hundred miles away, killed at least 550 people, injured
3,000, knocked two light planes out of the air and caused a
reported fifty million dollars in damage.
In January 1973, a 340,OOO-pound truckload of am-
monium nitrate being unloaded at a quarry six miles east of
Moscow, Idaho, went up. Workers who had found the
frozen material difficult to break loose burned tires under
the truck to "wann it up a biL" The blast wiped out a gun
club house and several homes within a mile of the truck, as
well as taking out a number of windows as far away as
downtown Moscow.
Ammonium nitrate as an explosive was discovered by
two Swedes in 1867. Ironically, 1867 was the same year
Alfred Nobel patented dynamite. The patented ammonium
nitrate mixture was composed of four pans ammonium
nitrate and one pan charcoal powder. It was called am-
moniakrut. Charcoal provided the carbon base we currenLly
get when we add kerosene.
Commercial interest in the material never materialized
due to the absence of a suitable detonating system. Ap-
parently, early users lacked old tires to burn.
Today the problem with ammonium nitrate continues to
be difficult detonation. A blaster friend tells me he simply
sticks an electric cap in the slurry and gets it to go every
time. My experience has not been that good.
80
During the early fifties, I worked one summer for the
Iowa state fish and game department shooting duck pot-
holes. Two of us dug all day trying to get as deep a hole as
possible in the marshy, grassy land on which we worked.
At about four to five feet, we usually hit water. Ammonium
nitrate tolerates water very poorly-any water at all in the
shot hole stopped our work.
Eighty-pound sacks of the fertilizer were then saturated
with two gallons of diesel fuel and allowed to cure for
thirty minutes to an hour. The still-waten.ight bags were
sealed again and carefully placed in the hole.
Some days we managed to dig six or eight holes about
sixty to ninety yards apan. Each hole was stuffed with as
many sacks of fertilizer as possible, amounting in most
cases to about eight hundred pounds. Containing the shot
was a problem, so we put two feet of damp earth back on
top of the bags.
Each set was shot electrically. The only down side to
the whole effort was that at least one out of every four shots
failed to detonate. Often we threw fertilizer all over the
prairie. Even with two and three sticks of dynamite acting
as a booster, the stuff often failed to go. When it did,
however, the effect was very nice.
Later, I rdn an experiment using an empty thirty-gallon
oil drum. An eighty-pound sack of ammonium nitrate
fertilizer sank the drum about two feet into the pond, but
the drum kept the fertilizer bone dry. I soaked the material
with kerosene, capped a stick of 80-percent, tied it into a
five-Slick bundle, and put it in the ammonium nitratel
kerosene mixture in the barrel. To contain the charge, I put
a sack of mud on top of the pile of fertilizer.
The ammonium nitrate still failed to detonate. Certainly
the water contained the charge, giving the mixture a chance
to detonate. The drum itself remained watertight ' til hit by
the dynamite. Five sticks should have detonated anything
explosive.
In spite of the fact that tons and tons of the stuff is used
by quarry operators, road builders, and others, I have con-
cluded that ammonium nitrate can only be made to detonate
when it damn well pleases, and not before.
81
Under some conditions, it can be a good material, such
as where the bore holes are dry, huge amounts of explo-
sives are required, and the user is on a tight budget. It is not
practical, however, unless the user can easily accommodate
a misfire, has good dynamite and caps to use as a booster
detonator. and can accommodate mixing the material with
diesel fuel.
Although it isn't as powerful as 40-percent dynamite on
a pound-for-pound basis, ammonium nitrate sometimes
makes up for its relative feebleness by taking advantage of
its pourability. The material will flow in and conform to the
exact dimensions of a sprung or shot hole. This can add
power to the shot in a most gratifying manner because the
explosive flows in and exactly fills the shot hole if one can
only get it to detonate.
Another relative advantage to ammonium nitrate is that
it is relatively cheap and very commonly available. Cost is
about ten cents per pound or eight dollars per eighty-pound
bag when purchased a bag at a time. Farmers and blasters
buy it for about SI20 per ton, or S4.80 per eighty-pound
bag.
Virtually all farm supply stores seU ammonium nitrate.
No special handling requirements are necessary, provided it
is kept away from fuels and oils and no one attempts to
bum lires under their material storage area.
Ammonium nitrate is 34-0-0 (indicating percentages of
nitrogen, phosphate, and potash, respectively). Be sure the
bag says ammonium nitrate and not ammonium sulfate,
which will not detonate under any conditions. Often
unknowing and uncaring store clerks will try to foist the
second material off on the unsuspecting buyer. I have
experienced clerks who tried this many times over the
years.
Also, be careful to note that no calcium is contained in
the mixture. Some manufacturers coat their ammonium
nitrate prills with limestone. The material flows more easily
and as fertilizer it works more effectively, but this coated
material is so difficult to detonate that it isn't worth consid-
ering under any circumstances.
Ask the dealer and look on the bag. Under state laws,
82
calcium should be listed on the tag even if it is only used as
a coating at rates around one percent.
Obviously ammonium nitrate has a place in the explo-
sives user's repertoire of tricks. It isn't terribly versatile,
nor is it as easily available as an explosive as some people
seem to think.
TO ELECTR ICAL POWER SOURCE
"
%

o
..
."

AMMONIUM
NITRATE
SO-LB. BAG OF AMMONIUM 1-_
NllRATE SOAKED WITH
DIESEL FUEL. TOP SEALED
TO KEEP OUT MOISTURE
ELECTRICAL CAPPED
STICK COVERED WITIl
AMMONIUM NITRATE
. ,
.. :
.0
Ammonium nitrate charge.
83
Chapter 7
Sugar Chlorate Powder
The discovery of sugar powder was a landmark event in
the history of the Benson family_ In total significance, it
ranked right up there with Pearl Harbor and catching our
first mink. For my brother and I, it certainly was the moral
equivalent of our first piece of ass.
In retrospect, the advent of nuclear energy may have
been more important, but if we took a vote regarding the
relative immediate importance, the outcome would not be
certain. Sugar-powder technology may actually get the vote
for total, immediate impact.
Even my parents acknowledge the coming of sugar
powder technology. 1 remember it as if it were yesterday:
my father standing on the workbench, feeling the plaster
ceiling in the basement after the largest batch of the stuff I
ever attempted to make went up with an unruly hiss,
producing an obscene amount of smoke.
Sugar powder provides one with an easy-to-manu-
facture rough equivalent of black powder. It may not
actually be as powerful as black but, confined under
pressure, it seemed to us, at least, to be far more powerful
than Four F Black.
Far and away, however, the greatest advantage to sugar
powder (other than the fact that we obtained it without
undue strain) was that it was incredibly cheap to manufac-
ture. At the time of discovery, we paid sixty-five cents per
bottle of potassium chlorate, yielding a total net weight of
sixteen ounces. The equal volume of granulated, white
sugar we borrowed from the kitchen didn't cost us a cent
From this we got two pounds of pretty good explosive.
85
When making sugar powder, be sure to get the chemical
with three molecules of oxygen (KCl0
3
) and not potassium
chloride (Kel). which is basically inert: Potassium chlorate
is still used by some farmers to treat livestock and by a
great number of manufacturers to make various products. It
is available from most drugstores, drug supply houses, vet
supply houses, and most industrial chemical suppliers.
Nowadays the cost is far more than eight cents per ounce,
but unlike other explosives that are practically unavailable,
this is a pretty good one that just about anyone can have.
The only down side is that making an acceptable
explosive out of equal parts of sugar and potassium chlorate
requires that one carefully follow some basic procedures.
The procedures are about as complex as making a cake
from a package mix, but unless you follow the directions,
your father may also be feeling the scorched plaster base-
ment ceiling to see if a fire has started.
We originally got our first hint about sugar powder
while reading an ancient Harding book called 1001 Ques-
lions and Answers, purchased for a dollar (one muskrat
hide) through Fur, Fish and Game magazine. Then there
was the article in Sports Afield about the fellow out west
who concocted the powder to load in his .22 long rifle
cases. "Potent medicine on out-of-range jackrabbits," he
wrote.
The problem we encountered was that. although several
sources said it could be done. no one gave step-by-step
instructions for successfully accomplishing the chemical
union of the potassium chlorate and common table sugar.
Our first experiment came out surprisingly like inedibJe
cake frosting. We did not heal the sugar sufficiently to melt
it. Instead, we had used a couple of teaspoons of water to
dissolve the sugar-a complete no-no, we later discovered. 1
don't know if we actually had explosive fudge, but 1 still
suspect that it was basically worthless, either to eat or to
blow things up with. The material was soft and sticky.
After three days, we pitched it.
By some quirk of fate. my brother and I figured out that
the sugar must be melted and not dissolved. OUf second
batch contained no water and a lot more heat. It was
86
infmitely better.
By some similar quirk of fate, we also allowed the
melted sugar to cool down sufficiently before mixing in the
KCI0
3
. As a result, our second batch came off without
incident. Part of this luck occurred as the result of the
KCI0
3
cooling the melted sugar very rapidly when stirred
in. The batch was so small. the KCt0
3
never got hot
enough to ignite. Keep in mind that we were a bunch of
destitute farm kids without many funds for expensive
chemicals. A successful batch of powder was a momentous
occasion. Pulling the needed elements together was as great
a financial challenge as buying a new truck is today.
The second time around, we produced a material much
like rock candy. It was tough to grind fine enough to do
anything with. In this instance, the melted sugar got a bit
too hot. The correct temperature of the melted sugar should
be no more than 255
0
Fahrenheit. Science and technology
have since overtaken the Benson household. I now use a
candy thennometer to make my sugar powder.
Stir the melting sugar constantly. fie sure that when it
reaches 255
0
Fahrenheit. it is completely melted. Take the
sugar off the stove and stir constantly to eliminate hot spots
and to cool. My rule of thumb is to cool it enough so that I
can put my thumb in the melted but cooling sugar without
discomfort. This will take constant, vigorous mixing.
The KCI0
3
should be premeasured so that equal parts
by volume are used. Stir in the KCI0
3
slowly and
thoroughly. Lumps in the chemical must be broken apart
before mixing. At times we have used the expedient of
sifting the KCI0
3
through a screen to break it up. Store-
bought KCI0
3
comes out of the jar as fine crystals.
At this point the compound will cool down very
quickly.
If you have been cautious about not letting the tem-
perature get too high and are very diligent about stirring in
the KCI0
3
rapidly and with vigor, the compound will not
cool down and set up before the last of the potassium
chlorate can be completely mixed in.
Spoon the compound -which is now a kind of off-white
material with the consistency of year-old wedding-cake
87
EQUAL VOLUME OF KCI0
3
AND
COMMON HOUSEHOLD SUGAR
t-' .:
.z;..
:i1!-.
.• ;"f':
....
MEASURE OF KCIO
l
. . ",
SUGAR
AFffiR COOLING,
STIR IN KCIO
l
ROLL OUT MIXTURE ON
FLAT, HARD SURFACE
USING A PIECE OF PLASTIC FILM
Sugar chlorate powder.
88
1
2·IN. OR LARGER IRON PIPE
WITH THREADED END CAPS
" . ".' .
',. "
," .
FUZE HOLE \
PIPE PACKED WITH
KCI0
3
SUGAR POWDER
Pipe bomb.

COMMON SODA STRAW
FILLED WITH MIX OP
50% SUGAR CHLORATE.
50% FINE HARDWOOD SAWDUST
Fuze.
89
frosting-onto a piece of Saran wrap. Let it set overnight in
a cool, dry place. A refrigerator is too cool and damp. An
open garage in Iowa most August nights is ideal.
After curing for twelve hours, the powder must be
ground. For years we used my mother's rolling pin, 'til one
of my brothers got to high school chemistry and found out
about a high-tech implement called a mortar and pestle.
Ground sugar powder can be used as is for many
applications, but for reloading ammo, it is best to sieve the
fines out. We took the resulting fine dust and loaded it into
.22 LR cartridges from which we had pulled the heads and
dumped the factory powder charge.
r believe the powder also would work on a volume
basis in 30-30s, but I've never tried it. If I ever did use a
sugar-powder reload, I would cautiously use light bullets
and tie the gun down first.
Although the powder works in some cartridges, it is
best used for pipe bombs and the like. The sugar powder is
so hard on gun barrels you might as well hire a mouse to
piss down the barrel regularly. The net result would be
almost the same.
Sugar powder is match-sensitive. I do not know if it is
impact-sensitive but suspect it is. I never tried the powder
with standard dynamite caps (which I regret), so I do not
know for sure if it is cap-sensitive. Again, I suspect it is.
We did a huge number of experiments with the powder
in pipe bombs. In three-quarter-inch pipes, the sugar
powder does not reach critical mass and simply fizzles.
When ignited with a fuze in balf-pound quantities in
one-half-inch or larger pipe bombs, it barks nicely, doing
the requisite amount of damage. The best charges are
packed in the pipe in as dense a manner as possible.
Cotton string dipped in a solution of sugar powder
makes acceptable fuze for some applications. It can be
subject to flash burns, so it should only be used in very long
lengths. Thankfully, it is cheap and easy to make.
Another trick we developed was to mix 50-percent
fine-cut hardwood sawdust with fine ground sugar powder
and pour this concoction into a fat plastic straw. If needed,
the straws could be slipped together to make really long
90
fuzes. Unlike string dipped in a sugar-powder solution,
straws packed with sawdust and sugar powder are very
reliable and predictable. The speed at which the fuze burns
can be altered by the amount of sawdust put in the mixture.
We have worked out extremely predictable, one-foot-per-
minute fuzes many times.
Probably the most unique use of sugar powder was the
light bulb bombs my brothers often made up. They took
regular 60- or lOO-watt lightbulbs, knocked out a small
chunk of the side using a towel or rag and small ball peeD
hammer, and filled the bulbs with one-qu311cr to one-half
pound of sugar powder.
On throwing the light switch, the oxygen-exposed
elements in the bulbs flashed, setting off the sugar powder
that, in tum, thumped the room nicely. The device won't do
much damage. It won't even blowout the windows. So
much smoke and confusion are created, however, that the
effect is well worth the trouble trying to get light bulbs to
break properl y.
Recapping briefly: I make potassium chlorate powder
as follows:
1. Buy the correct chemical-use potassium chlorate
KCI0
3
"
2. Use common, granulated white sugar as the second
ingredient.
3. Dry measure the two into equal amounts by volume
(i.e., use one cup of KCl0
3
for each cup of sugar).
4. Sift the KCI0
3
so that all the lumps are removed or
crushed.
5. Place the sugar in an old pot. Ileat it 10 255
0
Fah-
renheit, stirring constantly.
6. Take the melted sugar away from the stove burner
and continue to stir vigorously.
91
7. Continue to stir until the melted sugar cools surfi-
ciently to comfortably put your finger in the mixture.
8. Quickly and vigorously stir in the KCI0
3
before the
compound cools down and sets up, completely mixing in
the KC10
3
"
9. Dump the solidifying compound on a piece of Saran
wrap and flatten out to not more than one-half-inch thick.
10. Allow the batch to cure overnight in a cool, dry
place.
11. Using a wooden rolling pin, crush the frangible
powder as fine as required for the intended use. Fine is
better for reloading; coarse is okay for bombs.
12. Sift the powder through a fine screen to grade for
particle size.
13. Use however you wish.
92
Chapter 8
Improvised Detonating Caps
Alfred Nobel 's discovery of the principle of initial
ignition (blasting caps) in 1863 may be more significant
than the work he did pioneering the development of
dynamite itself. Without the means of safely detonating
one's explosives, the explosives are of little value. As I
demonstrated in the chapter on ammonium nitrate, it is not
particularly difficult to come up with some kind of blasting
agent. Making it go boom somewhat on schedule is the real
piece of work in this business.
Finding something to use for a cap is a different kettle
of fish. Usually under the facade of safety, blasting caps are
the first item to be taken off the market by despotic govern-
ments.
There are at least two reasonably easy expedient
methods of making blasting caps. The formulas arc not
terribly dangerous, but do require that one exercises a high
degree of caution, Caps, after all, are the most sensitive,
dangerous part of the blasting process.
Improvised caps have an additional element of risk due
to the fact that they are sensitive to relatively small amounts
of heat, shock, static electricity, and chemical deterioration.
The solution is to think your way carefully through each
operation and to make only a few caps at a time, By doing
so, you will limit the potential damage to what you hope arc
acceptable levels.
Fuze and electric-sensitive chemical mixtures are best
put in extremely thin-walled .25 10 (inside diameter)
aluminum tubing. If the tubing is not readily available, use
93
clean, bright, unsquashed, undamaged .22 magnum rimfire
cases. Do not use copper tubing unless the caps will be put
in service within forty-eight hours of their manufacture.
Copper can combine with either of the primer mixtures
described below, creating an even more dangerous com-
pound.
For fuze-type caps, empty .22 mag brass should be
filled to within one-quarter inch of the top of the empty
case. This unfilled one-quarter inch provides the needed
"skirt" used to crimp the fuze to the cap.
Fuze can often be purchased. If not, make it yourself
out of straws and sugar chloride powder as described in
Chapter 9.
Two mixtures are fairly easy when making the priming
compound for blasting caps.
Crush to fine powder two and a half teaspoons of
hexamine (military fuel) tablets. Make sure you use
hexamine. Sometimes hexamine is confused with trioxaine,
a chemical that is used for basically the same purpose.
Often, but not always, hexamine is white, while trioxaine is
bluish.
Hexamine is available at many sporting goods stores
and virtually all army surplus shops. Many of the survival
catalogs also carry it, often in larger quantities at reduced
prices. I personally favor ordering my hexamine from
survival catalogs to be more certain of what J am getting.
Many clerks in sporting goods stores seem to have
undergone a lobotomy as a qualification for the job. In my
experience, they will either try to talk you out of hexamine
if they don't have it, or try substituting something else
(suppositories, for instance) if they can't determine for sure
what it is they have or exactly what you want.
As of this writing, a sufficient amount of hexamine to
make two batches of caps costs from $.75 to $1.50.
Place the finely powdered hexamine in a clear glass
mixing jar. A pint-sized jar with an old-fashioned glass top
is perfect for the job.
Add four and a half tablespoons of citric acid to the
two and a half teaspoons of crushed hexamine. Stir with a
glass rod until the mixture is a Slurry. The citric acid can be
94
the common variety found in the canning department of the
grocery store. It is usually used to prcserve the color of
and canned fruit and sells for about $1.59 per
bottle.
The final mix involves pouring in a tablespoon of
common peroxide. Use the stuff bottle blondes are famous
for that is 20- to 3D-percent pure by volume, available from
drugstores. This material is the cheapest of the ingredients,
costing roughly one dollar per boule.
Shake the mixture vigorously for at least ten minutes,
until everything appears to be in solution. Sct the mixing jar
in a dark, undisturbed spot for at least twelve hours. Be sure
this place is somewhat cool as well as dark. Don' t put it in
the basement on top of a heat duct, for instance.
After a few hours of undisturbed, cool shelf sitting, a
white, cloudy precipitate will begin to appear. At the end of
twelve hours, there should be enough to load three blasting
caps. Making enough chemical for three caps is just right,
in my opinion. Anything more in one batch is too risky.
Filter the entire mix through a coffee filter. Run four or
five spoons of isopropyl alcohol through the powder to
clean it.
Spread the wet, filtered powder on a piece of uncoated,
tough paper. Don' t use newspaper or magazine covers.
Notebook paper or a paper bag is ideal.
Allow the powder to dry in a cool, dark place. The
resulting explosive is very powerful. It is also very sensi-
tive, so use caution. In my opinion, the concoction is about
three times as powerful as regular caps of the same size.
Using a plastic spoon, fill the presorted and precleancd
.22 mag cases with the powder. Pack the powder down into
the case with a tight-fitting brdss rod. I have never had an
incident, but for safety's sake J still use a heavy leather
glove and a piece of steel clamped in a
vise to shield me when I pack in the powder. The end result
is a very nice cap, ready to clamp on the fuze in the cus-
tomary fashion.
If a piece of tubing is used in place of a mag case,
securely crimp or solder one end shut. It will not do to have
the powder leak out of the cap. Powder contact with the
95
TOP OPEN TO ALLOW FUZE CRIMP
EMPTY .22 MAG CASE
(CLEAN, UNDAMAGED,
UNDENTED)
FILL WITH CHEMICAL
llGHTL Y PACKED IN CASE
f------- 3112 ---------1
I
114-fN. ID miN WALL
ALUMINUM TUBING
TOP 1/4 IN. LEFf
UNFILLED FOR CRIMP CRIMP END OF TUB
:y ,,,,, .. .' - .' .
, • ,1(:":-;0 -.
'''- . - - -" .-
TUBE FILLED Wl11I QIEMlCAL
Homemade blasting caps.
96
HEAVIER LEAD WIRES
VERYTHLN
NICHROME WIRE
'"
1'1,' ,11
. . 1:)

("'0
I,
I,:."J'I
, :: I
"
, .,} ,
"

, ..
t:1
'i.' -,;
.' ,
I .- I
, 'if,
I ; I
I ,
I I
,
\
GLUE PLUG HOLDS
WLRES IN PLACE
11IIN, NON· COPPER WIRE
EMBEDDED IN CAP CHEMlCAL
,: I
"

f'i/
1
I\\)i ,
0
, .,
2;

I ..
'"
.• - I
i2
I, I
,. ,
i
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H'
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1
,
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,
e
,
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. ,
,
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.: !

Homemade blasting caps (cont.).
97
solder should be kept to a minimum. Fingernail polish can
be used to seal the lead away from the chemical.
It is possible and perhaps desirable to continue on and
lurn these caps into electrically fired units, but more about
that later. First we'll discuss another good formula that uses
equally common materials. This one is a bit better because
the mixture involves aU liquids, but it is temperature critical
and should therefore be approached with special care.
Mix 30 milliliters of acetone purchased from an
automotive supply house with 50 milliliters of 20- to
30-percent peroxide purchased from the corner bottle
blonde. There are about 28 milliliters per ounce. Adjust
your mix on that basis if you have nothing but English
measures to work with.
Stir the acetone and peroxide together thoroughly.
Prepare a large bowl full of crushed ice. Mix in a quart or
so of water and about one-half to two-thirds pound of salt
Place the pint jar with the acetone and peroxide in the salt
ice cooling bath.
Measure out 2.5 milliliters of concentrated sulfuric acid.
Sulfuric is available from people who sell lead acid bat-
teries. Using an eyedropper, add this to the mixture one
drop at a time. Stir continually. If the mixture starts to get
hot, stop adding acid and stir as long as it takes for the
temperature to start to drop again.
After all the acid has been added, cover the jar and set it
in the refrigerator for twelve hours. Try not to disturb or
shake the jar by needlessly opening the refrigerator.
Again. a white. cloudy precipitate will fonn in the
bottom of the pint jar. As before, filter through a coffee
filter, but wash it with a couple of spoons of distilled water.
Spread on paper and dry. Like the first material, this
batch will produce enough powder for about three caps.
These are pretty hefty caps, having about three times the
power of regular dynamite caps.
They should set off ammonium nitrate, but don't be
surprised if they don't. I have never tried it, but making two
caps from a batch rather than three might create a cap with
enough heft to reliably detonate ammonium nitrate. The
problem then is that .22 mag brass does not have enough
98
capacity. You will have to go to a hardware store to find
suitable aluminum tubing.
Electrical caps, because of the fact that bridge wires
must be included in the package, must be considerably
larger than fuze caps.
For making electrical caps, use any fine steel wire that
is available. I use nichrome .002 diameter wire purchased
from a hardware specialty shop. Hobby shops are also a
source of this wire. Copper wire is easiest to obtain, but
should not be used because of its possible reaction with the
blasting material.
J strongly urge that an experimental piece of proposed
bridge wire be placed in a circuit with a 12-volt car battery,
a wall outlet. or whatever power source will be used. The
wire should bum an instantaneous cherry red when the
current is applied. If it doesn't, use a smaller diameter wire.
Having located a usable wire, cut the thread-thin
material into six-inch pieces. Bend these into a U and place
them in the bottom of the tubes. Pack the recently manufac-
tured cap explosive in around the wire. Seal the cap off
with silicon Allow the cap to cure for several days.
The last step IS to attach the lead wires to the thin bridge
wires. The job can be tougher than one would suppose
because of the thinness of the bridge wires. Be sure the
connection is secure and solid. Use tiny mechanical clamps
as necessary and, of course, do not even think about
soldering the wires after they are embedded in the primer.
For some unknown reason, some of my mixtures have
not well using. a heated bridge wire. To get
around thIS, I have occasIonally loaded two-thirds of the
cap with hexamine or acetate booster and one-third with
FFFF6 black powder or sugar chlorate powder, whichever
is easier and more available.
The chlorate or black powder ignites much easier
taking in tum the morc powerful cap mixture with
Concocting this combination is, of course. dependent on
having the necessary materials.
If black or sugar powder is not available. the caps can
usually be made to work reliably using only the original cap
powder.
99
Making these caps requires more than the usual amount
of care and experimentation. The procedure is workable but
dangerous. Blasters who can secure commercial caps are
advised to go that route. But if not, these caps are workable
and, in total, not all that tough to make.
100
Chapter 9
Improvised Explosives
This is the part of the explosives business that is really
dangerous. I can' t begin to remember my many friends who
in their youth had misadventures with noncommercial
explosives. To this day. many are maimed or impaired as a
result of fooling around with this stuff.
On the other hand, 1 do not recall a single friend who
ever got hurt with commercial explosives, in spite of some
god-awful dumb things they did with them. Homemade
explosives carry with them a huge intrinsic risk.
Those needing evidence of this fact need look no
further than the early history of high explosives. Chemist
after chemist who worked with explosives came to work to
find his assistants splattered all over the lab walL Those
who survived charged gamely on 'til it seemed as though
only the lucky remained.
On the other hand, high explosives are so much fun and
so intereSting I have always felt the risk was well worth the
ultimate payoff. Perhaps because 1 am a reasonably good
half-assed chemist (having taken chemistry in school), I
have never had a serious incident. The closest] ever came
was the time my batch of sugar powder went up. r have all
my fingers and toes and even my hearing is not too bad
considering al\ the mortars, heavy artillery, and demolition
charges I have been around.
With this warning, [ will charge ahead and offer some
suggestions for the truly desperate who cannot get explo-
sives by any other means. The formulas I list are not
necessarily the easiest or most powerful. They are, how-
101
ever, among the safest one can put together in a jam.
The first formula I will recommend yields a product
that is comparable to 4O-percent commercial dynamite. It is
not really powerful enough for military applications but
does very nicely as a substitute for common dynamite.
First, finely grind potassium chlorate. If you find you
cannot purchase commercial KCI0
3
, you will have to make
it. This isn't terribly difficult, but to some places may be
necessary if you cannot convince your comer druggist to
order KCI0
3
for you, , . , , '
Potassium chlorate IS a strong oXJdizmg agent. J claim
that 1 use it as a wash for flowerpots, a cement cleaner, a
super-soluble fertilizer for a hydroponics garden, or as a
seed treatment. Readers undoubtedly can come up with
equally creative reasons for owning KCl0
3
that their
comer druggist will accept.
When you are done grinding, the consistency of the
Kel0
3
must be similar to talcum powder. There must be no
compromising here, or the product simply will not work.
There is little danger to the maker when grinding up this
chemical into fine powder. Heal the powder slightly while
paddling it to be sure not a trace of water remains on
completion of the grinding operation.
Carefully measure five level teaspoons-or tablespoons
if you want to make a larger initial batch-of common
Vaseline and place this in an old ceramic or plastic bowl
along with five carefully measured level teaspoons
(tablespoons) of common beeswax. Use white-as in camp
stove-gas to dissolve the mixture. Mix in as little-white gas
as possible. Usually about one-third cup or less wiU be
enough to dissolve the wax/ Vaseline mixture.
Take ninety premeasured level teaspoons of powdered
potassium chlorate and hand knead it into the melted wax
and Vaseline. You will want to work outside on a warm
day so that the gasoline can evaporate out of the mixture
and blow away.
As the mixture starts to harden, compress it very tightly
into rolls from toilet paper, blocks, or whatever shape is
desired. After packing and shaping the charge, place it in a
cool, dry place for four or five days to cure.
102
Avoid rough friction andlor any sulfur or phosphorous
compounds. Sulfur and phosphorous can needlessly sen-
sitize and degrade the mixture. The finished block of
explosives should be dipped in paraffin to seal it against
moisture and foreign chemicals.
The addition of a trace of finely ground aluminum
powder at the mixing stage will increase the detonation
velocity a bit. Like 4O-percent dynamite, this explosive
must be shot with a cap.
Potassium chlorate, if it cannot be purchased off the
shelf, can be made from common 5 I/4-percent sodium
hypochlorite solution (bleach),
The maker will require an old hot plate, a reliable
hydrometer (many people use a battery hydrometer), a large
glass bowl, and an accurate metric scale.
Along with the gallon of bleach, you will need a total of
65 grams of potassium chloride. Potassium chloride is sold
expensively in the grocery store as salt substitute and dirt
cheap in farm supply stores for fanners to use as fertilizer.
It is also sold as a cleaner at some drugstores.
.Put the gallon of bleach on the hot plate and slowly heat
it in a glass container. Add the 65 grams of potassium
chloride and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently until
the hydrometer reads 1.3. This is full charge on a battery
hydrometer.
Take the 1.3 solution and place it in a snowbank or
refrigerator until it drops to 32° Fahrenheit. Crystals will
fonn. Filter the solution through a coffee filter and save rhe
crystals in another container.
Boil again until the solution reads 1.3 on the
hydrometer, cool, and filter, saving the crystals as in step
one.
Combine the two batches of crystals and mix 56 grams
of the material with 100 milliliters of distilled water. Gently
heat this solution again, cool . and save the crystals, which
should be pure KCI0
3
,
Obviously, this is a lot of dinking around for a small
yield of potassium chlorate. There is at least one other
method of securing KCI0
3
in larger quantities.
Start with 1200 grams of calcium hypochlorite
103
(swimming pool chlorination compound). Add in 225
grams of potassium chloride (salt substitute) as above. Mix
in enough jumping hot water to dissolve the potassium
chloride. Boil the solution until a white, milky substance is
fonned. Boil as long as the white precipitate continues to
fonn.
While the solution is still very hot, drain through a
coffee filter to remove the milky precipitate. Set the re-
maining liquid on a shelf and allow the temperature to drop
to about 65° to 70° Fahrenheit. Crystals of KCI0
3
will
fonn as the solution cools. This KCI0
3
becomes the basis
for manufacture of the explosives previously mentioned.
Another family of explosives can be made at home by
those willing to take the risk. These are based on the
R.D.X. compounds used often by the military.
R.D.X. is the basis of C-4, an explosive with which
most GIs are very familiar. Making R.D.x. is a bit tough
but certainly not an insurmountable task for the desperate,
half-assed chemist.
If the maker can find a good source of nitric acid from
school chern labs, jewelry shops, or other industrial users,
the process is relatively easy. Even if the nitric acid must be
home manufactured, the project is still doable.
Start by grinding hexamine fuel ban; into fine powder.
Hexamine is the old camp stove fuel used by GIs for years.
It is gelling a bit scarce, but is still commonly available in
most surplus stores.
Carefully weigh out 45 grams of this finely ground
hexamine and place it in a paper cup.
Prepare a sa1ted, crushed-ice bath large enough to
conveniently hold a large, glass beaker-type mixing bowl.
Measure out 500 grams of pure nitric acid. Since nitric
acid is Quite heavy, this will be considerably less than 500
cc's. Those who can not secure pure nitric can condense it
down by carefully and slowly boiling the diluted nitric acid
on a hot plate. Do this outside when a gentle wind is
blowing. Continue to slowly boil until red fumes begin to
come off the mixture. These red fumes are very poisonous.
One whiff will generally cause a person to go T.U. (totally
under).
104
Cool the now-pure nitric acid and place 500 grams by
weight in the glass bowl, which is in turn nestled down in
Lhe chopped ice/salt cooling mixture.
Keep an accurate thermometer on hand to monitor the
process of adding the powdered hexamine to the nitric acid.
Stir continually with a glass rod. If the temperature of the
mixture goes up to 85° Fahrenheit, stop adding hexamine
and continue stirring. Keep plenty of ice and salt on hand to
replenish the cooling bath as needed.
TIlERMOMETER
45 GRAMS FINELY
GROUND HE)(AM"NE
Manufacturing R.D.X.
105
. ' 0
Continue Sl1mng for about fifteen minutes after the
hexamine has all been added to the acid. The mixture
should drop to about 32° Fahrenheit. Continue stirring until
it does and then stir an additional ten minutes.
Take the now cooled and well mixed solution and dump
it into a clean bowl of crushed ice and water. Be sure the
water and ice are clean and relatively free of dissolved
minerals. If there is a question, buy pure ice, grind it, and
mix with distilled water.
Crystals of R.D.X. will form in the ice water. Filter
these out. Make a second batch of crushed ice in which to
dump and wash the R.D.x. crystals. Filter again.
Wash them one more time by dumping the crystals in a
cup of boiling distilled water. Stir, cool, and filter again.
Place them in just enough warm water to cover them and
allow the batch to sit for three or four minutes.
Using litmus paper from a school lab or chern supply
house, test the water for pH. To be on the safe side, the
reading should be almost 7, or neutral. If there is any acid,
reboil in water to wash away this material. Slightly acidic
R.D.X. crystals are extremely unstable.
Since the crystals are very explosive, they should be
stored underwater in a glass jar. No metals should ever be
allowed to touch these chemicals.
To make a C-4-like explosive, allow the R.D.X. crystals
to dry in an open bowl. When they are completely dry,
knead the R.D.X. into a mixture of beeswax and wheel-
bearing grease. I have found that a good mix is 80 percent
by weight KD.X., 10 percent beeswax, and 10 percent
wheel-bearing grease.
This explosive is quite fast and very powerful. It
definitely has military applications if one is in the need of a
fast, powerful explosive with which to cut down bridges,
blow in steel doors, or whatever. The only potential prob-
lem is that the explosive is sleepy below 45° Fahrenheit and
becomes a bit unstable above 90° Fahrenheit, though thi s
does not present a problem for many applications. In any
case, it must be fired with a cap.
The real problem with RD.x. occurs when a good
source of nitric acid is not available. Nitric acid can be
106
made using commonly available apparatus and somewhat
common chemicals, but it definitely is a pain in the ass.
You will need a retort still, which can be purchased
from almost any chemical supply house. These arc very
expensive, running from $80 to $120. Buy 100 grams of
potassium nitrate from a drugstore or vet supply house.
Potassium nitrate is commonly available as a food p r e s e r v ~
ative and feed additive. Almost any drugstore will order it
if they don't have it. The price is around $5.
Place two-thirds of the potassium nitrate by weight in
the retort. Add in half as much sulfuric acid. Battery acid is
okay, but try to get the highest purity possible. Sulfuric acid
of98 to 100 percent purity works the best.
Heat the mixture very gently in an extremely well
ventilated area. The gas produced by this reaction will
condense as droplets on the inside neck of the retort. Place
a bottle under the neck of the retort to catch the drops as
they fall out. It is helpful to pack ice around the bottle to
condense Lhe acid.
The process is slow, but it does work. Speeding the
heating process pushes water into the acid, producing a
less-than-pure product, especially if the sulfuric acid is not
pure.
It will take time to collect enough nitric acid with which
to do anything, but it is a good field-expedient procedure if
all else fails.
There are many additional explosives formulas that r
could list. Anyone who is interested can easily buy one of
the numerous books on the subject available from Paladin
Press. Since using explosives as a hobby is much more
dangerous than doing things such as bowling, golf, and
hustling-and homemade explosives are especially
dangerous-I willlcave it at that.
107
RETORT FLASK PRODUCES NITRIC ACID
STOPPER
POTASSIUM NITRATE
AND SULfURIC ACID
BURNER
COOLING WATER
ICE PACK MAY
BE ADVISABLB
CATCHES
NITRIC ACID
Manufacturing nitric acid.
108
Chapter 10
Recreational Use of Explosives
It is difficult for me to comprehend the fact that some
people actually do not consider all uses of explosives to be
recreation. In my mind, at least, this is a perfectly logical
progression, going from firecrackers when one is very
young to heavy explosives when one is older and more
mature.
I can remember the exact moment I fully appreciated
the enjoyment that can come from using explosives.
Slowly and carefully. the mammoth, sixty-ton lank felt
its way up to the top of the rise. I found it incredible that
such a behemoth could give the impression of treading so
lightly.
Toward the top of the basalt hill, the tank commander
stood on tiptoe on his turret platfonn to look out over the
vast expanse of desert. From the target eight hundred yards
out, he was probably not visible; only his head showed over
the basalt rock.
On seeing the target, he hit the traverse lever, swinging
his 105mm main gun around. It fired almost instanta-
neously, tracking on the target. The old car body disin-
tegrated into a shower of metal shards from the impact of
the HE (high explosives) round.
The concussion from the shot threw up sand and bits of
rock in a gritty, dusty shower. Trapped between the explo-
sion and the little basalt canyon as I was, the blast about
washed me off the tank. It was as if the steel monster had
run into a wall of lelia.
All the sagebrush and wire grass in front of the tank
109
was uprooted and destroyed. Any living thing up to sixty
feet under and in front of the main gun would have been
kiJled by the muzzle blast. It was at that moment. sitting in
the basket as I rode through the lank commander school on
the desert south of Boise, Idaho, that I realized I was
addicted to high explosives. The smell was exhilarating, the
effect of the tank a charm, and the return rumble of the
round as it detonated downrange a pure delight.
I don' t know why everyone does not share my delight
with explosives. If they don't. it has to be some abhorrent
character defect.
My underprivileged wife was raised by college profes·
sors who thought firecrackers were dangerous. She grew up
in an extremely deprived atmosphere. Now, given the
chance, she just loves to set up a few surplus sticks of
6O·percent and plink at them with her .257 Roberts. As she
is quick to point out, they are terribly difficult 10 hit, but
when you hit one, the whole neighborhood knows it.
Nobody has to speculate if the round was accurately
directed or not Given the chance, she is quick to appreciate
the funnier things in life.
. A pleasant variation of that system involved placing a
suck or two of powder under a milk jug filled with gas-
oline. It takes quite a sharpshooter to plunk off the
dynamite before holing the gas container. Successful hits
are very showy. The combination produces an angry black
and red cloud of a most spectacular nature.
Blasting fish in eight or more feet of water is definitely
recreational. The water flashes silver for an instant. The
noise is a kind of sharp click. Water from the blast chums
up in a kind of reverse maelstrom. In shallower water along
creeks, it is fun to blast a waterspout up over the treetops.
When we were kids, we bought surplus parachute
grenades by the case. We pulled the parachute and flare,
packed in the most powerful dynamite we had around, and
fired these out into the pasture field. One time, we starn·
peded the cattle toward the hired man, who was down along
the creek with his girlfriend.
We got very good at dropping the grenades into logjams
along the creek where trash had piled up during spring
110
floOOs. The homemade bombs blew sticks and twigs hun-
dreds of feel into the air. This was indeed a thing of beauty.
Each year, we looked forward to the new deposits of debris
left during the flood season, so we could practice on them.
Case after case of our improvised rifle grenades went
whizzing over the countryside, with but two "incidents."
Both were practice runs that went amok.
In one case, I was demonstrating the proficiency we had
acquired with our little bombs. Dad suggested I try lobbing
one into the front yard of the homestead two hundred yards
east.
"Aim for that little blue spruce in the far front yard," he
said. "See how close you can come."
Perhaps I was lucky, but the grenade landed short about
ten feet and bounced once, landing right under Dad's
precious pine. It blew all the lower branches off and turned
the top limbs in an awkward upward angle.
"I don't believe it," Dad said. "All the years I've been
watering and caring for that tree and now it's blown up. I
didn't think you could do it."
The other time, I was demonstrating a rifle grenade to
some neighborhoOO kids. The thing malfunctioned and,
instead of arcing out over the pasture field, anemically
dribbled across the bam lot, coming to rest under our gas
barrel. Luckily, the barrel-containing three hundred gal.
Ions of ethyl-was perched high enough to avoid any
serious damage from the blast below.
Serious blasters eschew the use of common fireworks
on the Fourth of July. The neighbor kids could take their
M-BOs, aerial and cherry bombs, and Zebras and stuff them.
All this claptrap paled into insignificance compared to just
one stick of 40·percent. On the Founh, we treated our peers
who had nothing more than firecrackers with a deference
born of the natural superiority held by those who have real
explosives.
Our best show occurred when we floated sticks with
long fuzes high into the sky tied to helium-filled weather
balloons.
A really wondrous recreational event using explosives
occurs when an especially long, wide ditch is shot with
III
propagation powder. The black muck is instantaneously put
in the air in a vaporized configuration. ]t is a real hype for
those who enjoy the thump of explosives.
Another real high (no pun intended) occurs when
shooting duck ponds with large charges of ammonium
nitrate. This explosive isn't particularly powerful, but if you
use a lot of it, the effect is very nice.
Blowing down buildings is very recreationa1. In my
younger days, we absorbed several farms into our main
operation. We wanted the land, not the buildings, which
were by anyone's standards completely redundant.
Using a bug sprayer, we fogged the buildings with a
quart of gasoline. A half stick of dynamite used as an ig-
niter blew the buildings right resolutely to hell.
This spectacular recreational use of powder only works
on buildings that are reasonably intact. The windows must
be in place, the doors closed, and so on. A shop building we
tried to shoot down several different times still stands. The
doors were loose and the siding too open.
Using a mousetrap as a trip switch dates back almost to
prehistoric times. My uncle was a great believer in rigging
up a trip wire connected to a charge hung in a tree. Using a
battery and two wires, he often scared people out of our
woodlot at night. He also managed to deafen a significant
number of our cows.
Those who are uncertain as to how to rig this set had
best start by practicing with caps alone. Leave the dynamite
off the set until you are experienced at wiring up a
mousetrap that, when sprung, will close a circuit.
As I mentioned earl.ier, the thump, smeU, and concus-
sion rush becomes adclictive to many users. On the other
hand, many people will choose to use explosives only to do
work. There is nothing wrong with that approach. It 's just
that, for many of us, there is much, much more.
112

\

Ragnar's Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives

Ragnar Benson
PALADIN PRESS BOULDER,COLORADO

IL

r
Also by RaIQlr Benson:

Action CIrce,.. Bruth oIlhe Drascm: Homeb ulll Almelltrowrl1i Bull'. Eye: Croasbowl by Rl,nar &1IlOII Fire, Flub, and Fury: The. Ore alell EJ:pl05ion1 or RistO<)! GU/If\IIlnlnl ror Fun and Proli Hard..co..e Po.c:hina Homc:lJI&Ck C4: A Reclpe ror Surv.val Homemade Ore~de Launthe,,: ConJIru;ling the UJumatc: Hobby Weapon Live Offlhe UOO In Ihe aty and Country Mlnt..-ppi", Modem Wuporu: C.chin&: A Down-1O-Eanh Approach 10 BeatinJIhe ~mment Gun Gf1Ib The MOIl D'!lJerous Gtme; Adv.nced ~bnl ... ppinl Toc:hnique5 Raarw', BIS Book of Homentlde We.pons: Bwldinllnd Xupin, Your Arsc/l.lJ5e<:ure Rai!W"" Ten 'flue 'rtIJ'I ... And. Few OlheR T1IaI Are Dlmn Good, Too Survival Poaehlna SlII'Viv.lisl'l M«iiclne 01«1 TIle Survival Reltell Swhchblldc: The Ace or Blades

Warning

"

RagnaT's Guide to JlomI! and

Re.crt.alwl1.(Jl Use. 0/ High Explosives
by Ragnar Benson

Copyright

©

1988 by Ragnar Benson

ISBN 0-87364-478-6 Prinled in the United Stales of America Published by Paladin Press, a division of Paladin Enterprises, Inc., P.O. Bolt 1307, Boulder, Colorado 80306, USA. (303)443-7250 Direct inquiries andlor orders 10 the above address. All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, no portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without the express written pennission of the publisher. Neilher the author nor the publisher assumes any responsibility for the use or misuse of information contained in this book.

The procedures discussed in this book and the resulting end product are extremely dangerous. Whenever dealing with high explosives, special precautions should be followed in accordance with industry standards for experimentation and production of high explosives. Failure to strictly follow such industry standards may result in harm to life or limb. Therefore, the author and publisher disclaim any liability from any damages or injuries of any type that a reader or user of infonnarion contained within this book may encounter from the use of said infonnation.

Illustrations by Bill Border

'"

Contents Introduction Chapler J 1 7 13 Historic Perspective of High Explosives Chapter 2 Obtaining Dynamite and Other Explosives Chapter 3 Storage and General Safety 23 29 51 79 Chapter 4 Basic Procedures Chapter 5 Doing the Work Chapter 6 Ammonium Nitrate Chapler 7 Sugar Chlorate Powder Chapter 8 Improvised Detonating Caps Chapter 9 Improvised Explosives Chapter 10 Recreational Use of Explosives 85 93 101 109 v .

the job was probably a bit more risky than those with which most thirteen-year-alds get involved. principally because I was inexperienced and my employer was tight as a turtle shell." it couldn't come to naught. We used a long-haft. rural communities at the time. inch~and~a-half dirt auger to bore down under the stumps. Even in those pre-OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) days. we used an old rake handle to slide a capped I . The fact that the powder monkey for whom I labored was an elder in the church made it even better. My job was to lift and haul the things the old gent no longer could nor wanted to lift or hau1. Like so many small. Our first piece of work: was taking out some green stumps in the woodlot where the new church was going to be built. Once the bore hole was properly excavated down under the stump. Sweat rolled off our brows in rivulets. The hot. Our ftrst piece of church work just about wiped out our old '38 Chevy ton-and-a~half powder wagon. The incident could have been predicted but it wasn't. ours had the requisite resident powder monkey.I Introduction The summer I was thirteen I went to work as a roustabout for the local contract blaster. My folks figured that since this was "church work. sticky June days in Iowa made this the most disagreeable part of being a powder monkey.

especially when we did not invest in connecting wires. the charge hole was quite large because the small green piss-elm stump had not adequately contained the first bore-hole charge. The good news. the charge thumped nicely. It took two of us with pikes just to roll that massive piece of granite to where we wanted it. We frred the single charge by backing up the '38 Chev near the stump and using drop wires to electrically fire the cap from the truck's bauery. Obviously those pennies could really add up. because they were a penny or two cheaper. Now in his nineties. lasting most of the summer. As a result of that experience. Primer cord is nylon rope-looking stuff that 3 '" . and fuze and the work loading it Some glitches notwithstanding. He touched the wires to the battery. we produced a chamber under the stump large enough to accommcx:late enough powder to throw the stump out on the ground. sticky. Being one who is always anxious to prove or disprove almost any good theory regarding explosives. the front of the truck rose up off the ground four feet or more. It was a good enough system. as if some ghostly hand had intervened. He paid me twenty-five cents per hour. Forty-percent dynamite throws more than it cracks or blasts. One of the problems faced by aU blasters is plugging or stemming the charge hole. One day. being assistant powder monkey was a good job. The problems started when my mentor insisted on buying electrical caps with four-foot rather than six-foot leads. One only learns this from experience. he still remembers the incident. After rotating once. was that the big old stone that we were going to have to break with a mud-cap charge was conveniently loaded all in one piece. the blast chewed a bite of three or four inches off OUf drop wires. saving the price of the powder. caps. Finnly gripping the drop lines. the drop wires got shorter and we had LO back the flatbed Chev closer and closer to the blast site. Sometimes the four-foot leads-which are no longer offered commercially-worked just fme. As a result. A single stick of 4O-percent powder in the black. good old Charlie Betten stopped by to tell me that a big flock of crows had become accustomed to sleeping in an old gnarled oak in the bayou by his river-bottom field.stick down to the bottom of the auger hole. even when six or eight half-pound sticks are detonated together. The man lived through the episode. the hood thundered down mercilessly on my diminutive employer. I threw a case of dynamite and a roll of primer cord in good old Charlie's pickup truck. In this particular case. when I was fifteen. Again. bonnettype hood with the steel rod provided by the maker. Charlie was wondering if the stories were true about stringing dynamite in a crow roosting tree and firing it off at night when the crows were all sleeping. Iowa loam soil produced just the right sized hole into which to slide the main charge. With it. who ended up trapped between engine and bonnet hood of his selfpropelJed dynamite detonator. The charge was known as the bore-hole or sprung-hole charge. The engine on that old truck was as huge as the hood covering it. according to my powder-mOnkey mentor. since we always knew how well the battery was charged and the six-volt battery was safely sufficient for a single blasting cap (or even two or three caps if called upon). When the truck slammed back down. however. but that's all that went well The massive stone slowly rose into the air as if some giant hand had tossed it. it flew the fifteen or twenty feet back-landing squarely on the rear three feet of the flatbed. as he told it. A boom signals excessive wasted powder. as well as the expertise necessary to make it go off -usually when I wanted it to. Sometimes. The exploding charge thumps rather than booms. as was true in this case. We thought we solved the problem by rolling a huge rock over the carefully tamped bore hole. At detonation. he crawled in under the hood to the location of the battery. The powder monkey carefully backed the truck near the 2 set He climbed out and propped open the heavy. I have always had lots of powder around.

As kids. my brother and I chopped four small holes in the ten-inch ice. and dropped it in.explodes. Old Man Terrel. I gingerly touched the ends of the two drop wires to the battery in Charlie's pickup. At times. Two and three went off. Charlie looked at me and ] at him. we knew their time had come. 1 don't immediately recall at which age we found out about using dynamite to fish with. which made Grandma smile. cracking the whole slab covering the fishing hole. We gathered up our gear anyway. most of our fish-gathering efforts weren't so fortuitous. They were about thiny feet apart over a good fishing hole. A huge number. Du Pont's finest By evening we were out of dynamite. As he did. Brother ran for shore. The method was surely the most effective we youngsters knew about One time my brother and I got tired of Grandma griping about not having any fresh fish in the house. 4 Back on the river. 1 finally got number four going. We collected almost seven bushel baskets of the pesky critters. It was the middle of one of those god-awful Midwestern winters that only people who have endured one can really appreciate. Later in life. Fortunately he was able to walk through the smoking. number one went off. Good old Charlie griped about having to dump the mess but later he was laudatory about the crop of mallards he got next spring without so many molesting crows around to bother Lbe nests. The situation became ominous when Brother got one. as evidenced by the bodies scattered around the bayou. "Just like fishing back on the farm. On each stick we tied a rock with baler twine. had a large. roiled water to shore. carried it to the appropriate hole. We motored back to the bayou and spent the day working in the hot sun until the big old oak looked like a Christmas tree. But it was not to be. two-inch bluegills that were at least ninety-seven years old. It missed and went skittering across the ice toward Brother. for instance. two. number four went off. and three going while [ was still trying to light number four. to which we attached randomly placed sticks of Mr. throwing Brother ass-over-appetite into the shallow water. Brother said he didn't mind a bit. We gathered a couple of gunnysacks full of carp and suckers. didn't make it through the blitz. Many of the Midwestern ponds we shot were crammed full of stunted. It was crisscrossed round and round with primer cord. which was threatening to dump him back on top of charge number four. Desperately [ threw the lighted charge at the hole. when mortar rounds were dropping around him. and energy-and we could hear the crows coming. Even from our safe position three hundred yards away. By some now-forgotten. They squawked and hollered by the thousands 'til it was pitch dark. Brother started out lighting fuzes at one end of the string of holes and I at the other. who calmly picked it up. Desperately. It was worse for the crows. Not wanting to repeat my mentor's trick. At first light we were back in the bayou. deep pond hidden way back behind his north eighty that he swore housed dozens of 5 . I don't know if any crows survived. If they did. the noise was deafening. Not a leaf remained on the mighty oak. and only a few stragglers hung on some hapless elms that were so unfortunate as to have been standing nearby. the situation was interesting. they certainly were deaf. Just when things looked darkest. showering us with ice chips and freezing water. Brother's weight tilted the slab so he was now trying to run uphill on the ice. We left about six inches of twine between the dynamite and the rock so the dynamite-which tends to float-could stand off the river bottom and have more concussion effect. When they finally settled down. prearranged signal. primer cord. We blasted pond after pond and got nothing but pound after unusable pound of those tiny blue gills. We found out firsthand thal the stories about dynamite and crows are absolutely true." he always said.

To this day. This book is dedicated to those hardy souls who want to go back to a time when the use of explosives. No explosion and subsequenLly no fish. In the twilight. a bunch of us kids snuck back and tried to shoot the old curmudgeon's pond.. similar to the crow setup. treated common glycerin with nitric acid. it looked like the poor old walnut was trying 10 do an impersonation of a huge spider. we stiU don't know if there are any bass back there. one brave lad stripped down and swam the line right down the middle of the water. Everything was set up perfectly. and of being so sluggish at temperatures under 55° Fahrenheit that it could not be detonated under any circumstances. diatomaceous earth produced a reasonably stable material of immense benefit to mankind. was a domestic necessity-not to mention a source of pleasure and recreation. The blast reduced the coon to possession as well as reducing the hide from three dollars to fifty cents in value. One night. a ho-hum Italian chemistry professor who. the challenges were to make the explosive substance pure enough so as not to self-detonate on the shelf and to stabilize it to the point that the explosive could be transported safely to the work site. apparent cause other than a Slight wanning of the weather. where it could be detonated on command. 7 .-vis black powder. There was really no risk from the explosives. in 1846. After a lifetime of handling explosives. had a maddening habit of going off prematurely without immediate. Coon hunting with dynamite is certainly another sport that isn't all that it's cracked up to be. It also threw all the dirt away from the tree roots. for various uses during the American Civil War.r lunker largemouth bass. excavate enough of a hole that we were able to slip seventeen sticks of dynamite in and touch 'em off. except we had a misfire. To produce an explosive. We had to sneak in because of his shotgun. The explosives were too deep in the water to retrieve and recap. to a limited extent. and dynamite in particular. allegedly loaded with rock salt. otherwise innocuous. but this one was especially bad because we had invested so much time and work sneaking into Old Man Terrel's place. The world named the stuff dynamite. the lad was brave because the mosquitoes were so bad. The whole episode was a dud. One night. however. and dangerously unstable nitroglycerin oil with inert. Because of its vastly superior explosive qualities vis-a. powerful. The book will tell you how it was done. A highly unpredictable substance. we ran a coon into a den dug under a big old walnut tree. We used primer cord with several charges hung on it. Misfires have only happened to me three times during my long and fruitful life of handling explosives. Jed to the technological shifts that. They did. heroic attempts were made to use raw nitroglycerin oil for mining and. however. I have concluded that modem people are missing a lot of fun-not to mention the adrenalin rush from all the excitement -if they haven't experienced this pastime. nitroglycerin had been around since its discovery by Ascanio Sobrero. I let the hounds dig for thirty minutes. The substance. in addition to numerous tangential dlscovenes he a1so made 10 the field of explosives engineering. To get the charge in the correct place in the pond. but they couldn't get to the critter. Alfred Nobel's fortuitous mixture. Chapter 1 A Historic Perspective of High Explosives 6 The American Civil War had been over for only two years in 1867 when an otherwise obscure Swedish chemist discovered that mixing capricious. Any misfire is tough.

were of equal importance to the power loom. The concept is revolutionary in its significance but was completely unknown before Nobel's time. medicine.in economic terms. Ironically. There is a modem tendency to dismiss the productive use of dynamite as unimportant in our sociely. Eight ounces of high-tech dynamite stores the potential of about six-hundred thousand foot-pounds of energy. Technological advances in the field of high explosives in the late 1800s had a high price. chlorate powder. By 1875.r superpowerful nuclear relati . digging foundation trenches. In an economy that increasingly eschews the use of dynamite.. societies and cultures cannot build roads. the older high explosives have been dwarfed into obscurity by thei. High explosives are used whenever large amounts of force are required. bore tunnels. this assumption is understandable.R. clear harbors. 9 . At this point. contained in a cylinder tcn feet long by IhOe more than two feet in diameter the explosive equivalcnt of a 8 single stick of dynamite twelve yards in diameter and one hundred yards long. build railroad beds.tanding work in the fields of physics. High explosives decompose with high reaction rates having significant pressures. reliable explosives to the world 's economies. mines are busy. Explosives consumption is up. Few realize the source and background of the prize that rewards outs. Alfred's older brother was killed April 12. chemistry. most common example of a high explosive. We use the concept e~ery time we set up a cap and fuze to produce a detonating sltck.. a good definition is in order. and other similar products that burn rather than detonate. AU chemica1 explosives are divided into two classes. high and low. it is lillie wonder Americans forget about the role dynamite plays in ou. He was popularly pilloried as a "merchant of death. wherein he used a small. Dynamite is the best. When the economy is in the doldrums. Without the shocking. He actually pioneered the concept of initial ignition before he developed dynamite! Early explosives engineers even thought in terms of rigging up a mechanical hammer with which to detonate a primary charge. and airfields leveled. Nobel predicted that high explosives would eventually make wars so costly that wars would cease to occur.r economy. Yet it is still true today that explosives use acts as a lagging indicator of economic activity. or even perfonn such mundane tasks as laying sewer lines. or even the steam engine. es. A relatively small five-megaton nuclear weapon has the explosive equivalent of a fifty-story building covering a city block and crammed full of dynamite. In another regard. Like many simplistic technological jumps. When the economy is buoyant. iron plow. or excavating holes for outhouses. roads are being built. With competition like this. Low explosives include black blasting powder of various types. Nobel funded the now widely recognized Nobel Peace Prize. Viewed in some perspectives. the line on the graph plotting consumption of powder angles sharply down . a surprising fifty million pounds were used in the United States as late as 1985. Substitutes such as ammonium nitrate and others have taken over much of the market for commercial. hterature. Low explosives are seldom used to do commercial blasting. Alfred Nobel made millions in his lifetime supplying good.. The Hiroshima bomb. and fraternity between nations. As a result. Properly harnessed and directed. protected charge of easily degraded black powder to detonate a more stable main charge comprised of high explosives. Conversion from solid to gaseous state is almost instantaneous. Alfred Nobel perfected the principle of initial ignition. extract minerals from deep in the earth. the discovery of initial ignition tends to be lost in history. for instance. dynamitetype explosives." but contemporary records indicate that little use of dynamite was made in a military context. their shattering force is great. or represents the total muzzle energy of two hundred 30-06 rounds fired simultaneously. that is enough to throw a ten-pound projectile eleven miles. tearing effect that is at least twenty times as great as that of dynamite's weak sister (black powder). Perhaps in response to the adverse P.

Modem dynamite is wrapped with a double layer of heavy bag paper impregnated with materials that keep water out and which assist with the overall detonation. if one bought in ftfty-pound case lots. the product froze solid at 55° Fahrenheit and was extremely difficult to detonate. On a relative productivity scale. Under pressure from the Stockholm city fathers. so marketing the product was not a particularly difficult chore. Sweden. could detonate the new form of high explosive. The blast was the second death-dealing event in the Nobel family history. he peddled about twenty-two thousand pounds of the stuff. and some fuze in its inventory. Nobel lost his younger brother Emil when his nitroglycerin factory went up. a few kilometers from Stockholm. Ammonium nitrate. how to surface them with an asphalt-like material. By the 19505 and '60s. The price had fallen to ten cents per pound or.( year Nobel sold dynamite. The result was a mixture that was much more usable at low temperatures. The water problem was solved by judicious use of additives and by better use of cartridge wrappers. There is no dynamite today that is pure nitroglycerin. however. The price was $1. Dynamite became so safe and so well accepted that virtually every rural hardware shop had at least a few sticks. with pure nitro. or a most intense heat. New York. Other compounds. It was during this time that America learned to be afraid of explosives. of caps. were added to increase dynamite'S stabiJity as well as lower its freezing point. Nobel moved his factory onto a raft that he floated on a nearby lake. The fin. During the fifties and sixties. this country was evolving out of being a rural society. The solution that eventually emerged involved mixing ethylene glycol dinitrate. however. taking four employees and the young man with it.tent. In September 1864. an antifreeze compound that is mOlecularly similar to pure nitroglycerin oil. This did not seem to deter a rapidly industrializing wor1d thai saw these explosives as a good answer to reaching low-grade ore deJX>Sits deep underground and for ripping rock with which to surface carriage and railroad rights-of-way . to an ex.1888. 10 The problem of nitroglycerin's high freezing point was never really overcome. in an explosion at their dynamite factory at Helenborg. was blended into the formula to give the cartridges an almost waterproof quality that is still in use today. and Sydney. the price was four dollars total. Modern explosives cost about one dollar per pound or II . The Romans knew how to build roads and. they found it absorbed three times its own weight of the hostile liquid. At the time. a box. That fear has been translated into vendor regUlations and restrictions that have raised the price of powder dramatically. Watery sets tended to kill the early nitro dynamite by driving the oil out of the diatomaceous earth. such as calcium carbonate and nitrocellulose. ranging from Japan to Finland. Factory owners quickly added dynamite-processing lines on to their nitroglycerin factories. to produce cement (dynamite was necessary to blast huge stones out of the earth in small enough pieces to crush to make the cement). it was much cheaper than black powder. annual consumption of dynamite in the United States alone was hovering around the one-billion-pound mark. Nitroglycerin factories are known to have blown up in Panama. Only the most detennined blow. By mixing nitroglycerin oil with commonly available diatomaceous earth. Managers of existing nitroglycerin factories that did not detonate prematurely quickly saw the value of the new Nobel process. Fann-supply stores sold it by the piece to those who were too poverty-stricken to buy more than that for which they had an immediate need. The explosion was the first of many worldwide. By 1873. It took Nobel and his invention. Problems with the end product persisted. San Francisco. there were at least thirteen major producers throughout the world. Also.75 per pound. among others. the United States was starting in on the largest road-building program ever to be undertaken in human history.

Everyone who hand1es explosives in Pennsylvania must be Hcensed by the stale. depending on whom one talks to. Lower-strength powder in the 4O-percent range is used to push and throw. It does not take a huge amount of experience to learn what strength is proper for a given application. the feds generally relegate the day-to-day regulation of explosives to the states. Hy-Drive is used to detonate blasting agents such as ammonium nitrate. Finishing the work with as small a crater as possible is another advantage of lower-strength powder. Grades run from the relatively tame 20-percent sluff on up to 8S-percent dynamite. Oregon and California are no longer western states. the cleavage is generally between those east of the Mississippi and those west. as in removing stumps and rocks from the earth. With them. or blow up bad guys. For example. until one gets out to Oregon. or has become so tough that the restrictions are strangling the economy. One or the other of these statements is true. remove large boulders. known as Hy-Drive. Federal rules and regUlations ex. Unfortunately. if the dynamite contains 40 percent explosive oil by weight. as well as perfonn a host of othelWise impossible chores of immense benefit to mankind.r Chapter 2 fifty cents per stick. unclog duck ponds. there is no longer a single-stick price. socially. a single individual can dig a disposal pit or dry well in otherwise impenetrable ground. The blaster himself must be certified and always prepared to present his special registra13 . Higher-strength 6O-percent and 70-percent grades are used to shatter rock into pocket-sized pieces and to reorganize ice jams. The plan with this material is to keep the object being shot intact so it can be hauled away after it is tom loose from its mooring. redirect creeks. but as long as there is no blatant misuse. Politically.ist pertaining to storage and transport of explosives between states. those who now have the right to use them seem in favor of a pennit system to limit the number of other users with which they will have to compete in the marketplace. agricu1tura1 states stay oul of the explosives-control business. Fifty-pound cases run a minimum of futy dollars! To some exten~ dynamite is priced on the basis of grade and strength. it is said to be "40-percent dynamite. and economically one is going east again when one gets that far west Pennsylvania is a good example of an eastern slate with stringent-many would say punitive-regulations. As a general rule. one charge will set off another on down the line by hydraulic shock. doing the work was what Alfred Nobel had in mind when he first perfected his blasting systems. The strength of straight nitro dynamite (of which there is virtually none remaining today) is evaluated by its explosive oil content. others regulate them tightly. cut drainage ditches. Between states. 12 Obtaining Dynamite and Other Explosives Purchasing commercial high explosives is either so ridiculously easy it is almost criminal. set in a row. Some very high grades of dynamite are used to blast channels in wet marshes because these grades will propagate. set posts. As a general rule. In the final analysis. meaning that." Mixtures are graded by tests that establish their strength as compared to an imaginary benchmark of straight dynamite. Pressure for more stringent laws covering commercial explosives generally comes from within the industry. Some states have virtually no laws concerning explosives.

agriculture. if not new. He can aJso specify that powder be hauled in a proper wooden box. it is best to claim a specific agricultural use for all the explosives (i. or whatever). loggers. and social security number. and federal and state regulations is mandatory for those wanting to use ex· piosives.. flI'Cworks display. it is wise to claim you are a farmer when applying to purchase high explosives. construction. Sellers and their employees vary greatly from state to state and from business to business. A buyer who appears flaky to the dynamite-store clerk will probably walk away empty-handed. put them in the truck. the customer must check off a few obligatory boxes regarding his status as a felon. They have a licensing requirement on the books. Selections under the heading of intended use of the explosive materials include coal mining. Completing the form takes at most ten minutes. storage. place of birth. other mining or quarrying. in perfect working condition. the seHer may make an issue out of the customer's means of hauling the explosive.he buyer will have to give the impression that he knows what he is 14 doing. One can still use a pickup. be transported in the same vehicle. and carries fire extinguishers. and specified other. the potential fanner must be twenty-one years of age.. date of intended use. if all goes well. The certification requirement is so restrictive that small coal mining and pit operations and farme~ construe the statutes as undue harassment Licenses are very tough to get An extremely comprehensive training course including questions on procedures.he usual questions about sex. as well as sufficiently literate to fill out a Bureau of Alcohol. seismographic research. if they even have an officia1 attitude at all. contains an approved storage magazine. weight. the tailgate closure must be operating properly. Even in relatively relaxed states. Tobacco and Firearms Form #5400. In all cases. Theoretically. road build· ing. Caps should nol. as well as a proper Department of Transportation warning sign. Nevertheless.tion number when doing any explosives work.4 asks !. the seller retains the forms in a permanent record similar 10 those coUected by gun dealers. As far as I can determine. The only class of users who must attend classes and receive a state user's license are conn-actors. Often these signs can be purchased from the explosives dealer. spare fuses. oil-well drilling. and place of use. A copy of the form is included on pages 19 and 20. substance abuser. the user intends to use everything up this day and the next shooting stumps. and road-hazard markers on board. Fonn 5400. Sellers will at times make an issue of the transport arrangements when they would otherwise not like to sell to that particular customer-the next guy who comes into the shop might be a long-lime regular customer who will simply take the cases of dynamite off a pile. age. etc. even if the seller forgets to check and will permit it The only possible exception that I allow for myself is if I purchase only a few caps and have a special wooden box that will fit in the cab of the truck well away from the powder carried in the back of the bed. as a practical matter. The days of pulling up and throwing a case or two of powder in the back of a pickup appear to be gone forever in most places. that will be recognizable to anyone who has purchased a firearm. At a minimum. safety. rocks. !. the seller can demand that the truck be fairly new or. and small pit operato~. In most states. There are also questions regarding the type of magazine the powder monkey will use. If one applies to buy in the name of a corporation.4. On the other end of the spectrum. an employee identification number will be requested. Some selle~ wiIJ also ask for evidence that the buyer has planned out a route to his destination that does not go through heavily populated areas. and drive away. but be prepared to face a seller who may check to see if the vehicle is properly licensed and insured. As a general rule. After this. Montana is fairly typical of western states that take a fairly laid-back attitude regarding explosives.e. 15 . The course is culminated by a rigorous four·hour exam. but it effectively excepts farme~. techniques.

most is said not to be recovered. At times it was a chore but. Another way is to stay away from home brews. on federal property such as military bases. Fewer explosives dealers exist today than at virtually any time since the founding of our nalion. and especially the criminal 16 misuse. It must be anchored to the pickup. BATF takes everything else. BATF has its Bomb Investiga tion Techniques Center at Glynco. One way of doing this is to use blasting agents such as ammonium nitrate fertilizer whenever possible rather than the traditional commercial dynamite. something will tum up with surprising speed. originality. A large number of the illegal. The FBI Hazardous Devices School is in Huntsville. talk to contractors. or any other possible consumers of explosives in your area. and in post offices. Obviously they are not going to advertise warehouse specials in the Sunday paper. For starters. Alabama. Many places require that a fire-resistant tarp also be tied down over the load. fishing. . and diligence in the search for commercial explosives. At times it was from a powder monkey. These total about two hundred Americans per annum. dress up like a gentleman farmer. If one includes detlagrates (such as black powder) as explosives. uses investigated involve the loss of life. The best bel for the new purchaser is to study up on the subject of high explosives. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is easily available from a multitude of agricultural supply houses scattered in every comer of the United States. These are fine as frog hair for making duck ponds. It may even be necessary to have someone from an adjoining state come over and purchase the goods for you. this is cenainly true. oil drill-rig.Casual users of explosives are best advised to go out of their way not to attract the attention and scrutiny of either group. other times a heavy-equipment operator. or quarry operators. Yet. they only really work in relatively large sets of twenty-five pounds or more. and others a large. Some of these are thefts of explosives. If that fails. Tobacco and Firearms). Very few people know that these centers exist or what exactly is taught at them. rock 17 . It is important to exercise some determination. in spile of all the moving around I have done. road builders. of explosives falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI and BATF (Bureau of Alcohol. According to the present split in priorities. It is impossible to predict rapidly changing nuances of state and federal laws penaining to explosives. having a solid lOp with leather hinges in good working condition. Du. as pointed oul earlier. check under "explosives" in all the regional yellow pages that you can reasonably lay your hands on. no record is kept. and farming communities. the FBI will investigate incidents involving explosives on national forest land.ring a typical year. In mining. The weak link is the fact that blasting agents such as ammonium nitrate are not particularly cap-sensitive. They roughly split the duties but cooperation between the two agencies is said to be strained and "reserved" at best. Each agency runs its own explosives training program. Of the approximately twenty tons of filched dynamite taken each year. Also. No obligatory form muSt be signed. our economy depends on the ready accessibility of explosives more than most people realize. but not so fine (or stumping. the Irick is to find them. and there are no transportation problems or requirements. large farm owners. and then go to the nearest dealer to make inquiry as to what exactly will be required. Georgia. I have always found someplace to buy powder. BATF looks at about two thou sand incidents involving "misuse" of explosives. Regulation of the use. I have even known people who had road crews leave cases of powder and primers for them in trade for the cases of whiskey left for them.The pickup magazine box generaUy must be of solid wood built out of two-by-fours. Dealers are around. heavy-equipment. wholesale peddler. One need do little more than call farm and feed stores in rural agricultural regions to locate an abundance of dealers selling ammonium nitrate. The FBI looks at about half this many cases in a given year. logging.

. _ " __.--_____'___ .. n"'~ _-__-----.. _ ... and powder. ...removal.... • _.. Tbe alternative is to make caps and fuze plus some booster explosives at home.... ___ . .. fuze.. as well as the Acbilles' beel of (onns and regulations bandIed by doubtful store derks.. . ...... _ .. .... .. ~_A" ._ _ __ _ w.. ' _ _ _ _ _ . ... .-- Form #5400... --~---­ ---._. .__ .. . I don ' t live in a restrictive eastern state. . ...e _ _ _ • .. Of course. .... but have always found it safer and more convenient to buy the stuff commercially.. _ . .. . . . .... __ . .4.. ...-w. .... ----_ --_ ---_ _--.. ~. _ .. -------.. I have done this... __--_ __ . ._·k. Since blasting agents require dynamite to get tbem going. "-'-".-_._... .. or Fourth of July activities. .. ... page 1 of 4 18 19 .Jo""uOL_"....... __ _ ----.. .. ..-. ..... _ .... . .__...... _ _ . ._--_ ____ -_ -_ _-. either....... --~- ._-"'. it's back to the commercial dealer for caps.. ""' _ .

c.._....... __ _-. ... page 2 of 4 Form #5400. _ _ _ _. . .. ..... .... _.---... __ -__-_ _ -_ . ..4. " _-----_ I ...... . _ .... --'''---''~- _-_ __ __ -~....._ ... ... . _ . _..._-_ ...__... ___ .. --..._-_ _--_ ____ _..... -...... .. ..._ .------...--............... . ...._..... ~... 5C t...... ... ..... _ _ _ _ ......!... --. .~. .. . ........ _.-__-........... ........_ ... •• _.. " --. ... ._.__ .. .. '"'-- . --~ . _ _-'_-__ ... . • Form #5400..._-_.-.. .........m-. -=--...._ ............... ...._-_ __ -.. .. page 3 of 4 20 21 . "cno_"'..'--_ ... __ ..:.. . ...... --~..... . .._........... _ __ ___--__ __ _ .... "'" _ ........._......--_ ... _--... .. ....._-_ . _..... >-----------". ....:----::::-. '. ... --~...... _-_... .. ....... _ _ _ • _ _ . -. _ _ _ • _ _ • ~ ..-- ..... -"--"---'--"...... . -....-_-__._ . ..... _ ...w._-_... . .... __.. ...-..=--=---_ ........ .....:... -. A" . ..- .... . ...__ _---. __ ...."_.. . _ .. ._ .. .. . ..-------. ----... ..-... ".....c..-..__ _--_..... ..:::C.....-_·_· __ _. .. _ ...--"-'0..--. ..__. •.--=... . _ ~.-__--_-_........ --"-"--" ..-n _ . _.. . _ ........- . .._ ---_. ......_._-_ __-........_--_ _-.-.. ~----..... ""'" t _ . --' ..... .. -:"... .=. _-_ ... ....... _--_ -...._--_ .• _ ... .. _ _ ~ _ _ . .... .. __ .. _ _---_.._-_ ... .. .=::::: ----.. ._. _-.. _ _ . .......... .. ..... -"-"---"--__---_ __ .._-....._ .:=. ____ '_A'...... _ .. .. .... . . -~--......_ .::""-==-~- ... .....-z _ .._-".. . . ....-... . ... .. __ .. .'--..._ .... _ _ . _...~_... .. ._-_..:::-:'!: . ... -___... _ _-_ .. _... . _ ..-_ .-::.- ~ __.._--------.R . . _ ......." . _ _ _ . _-_ ----__... .- -~-- -~- W_ _ _ _ ~....... -. ...... .. __-_ ... .... _-.... __ _...--... ._ ....:'=... .4. . ......... .. .. ---_ _--. _ ......... ._----....... .. .:n ". __ .. ..

'A .. .."'-___ .. .... _ .ro . ."m .. _ ". _.............-..*..... ......'cr:.. _.._......_.........0""" .~. . " .. 'A ..-~ _. <0.. 0......... _ .....~ ..._ ..-. using metal pliers rather than a capping tool to crimp caps ...... ..... _ . _... c_ ..". '" c. -.......... _ . . ""'".ort •••_ ."."""" . "0. . _. " ......" ..... _.. .... ......"....~ ''' .... . a'MtI ' ..... o«>.oo _ _ _""..a -. _ .. 0. ..". --.. __. Borderline procedures include such things as canying caps in a shirt pocket or evcn in the same load with the powder.. ... -" .='.__ .. " ." ~-"I"" __ _ ul""' _ ... carries a stick of dynamite in his truck jockey-box to impress his girlfriend... -'-- .":...._ -(10 ..__ _ .... . '''' • • _ "'''-_'."... .... M ..... o .. -_... _.0 10'_'...-..." .. -". ..... _ ' .._ . __ ... CAIOO< .Chapter 3 . ...._-._ ".. 0 • ..·'_ .. _ Q-' :::=---=........00"""........ . ..... . .="'"'....... -'--" ".......-... ".. Anyone who has been around high explosives any length of time has incredible stories to tell-about the powder monkey who crimps the caps with his teeth...... _........'~~i~"""'''' .... _ .. .... '0 _ ...----_-..".. ....""" -_ . ""........ -----......0 __ _...."-. "' . . ". ... ..... They are plain. .... 0-.... .. T __' .... _-....---_ ""H. .... ... " .. _ ..... "" ~ ~...""".........''''.... .. . ..... ---... ..."""_...... __ ..... ] even knew one fellow who tied his cases of powder shut with four-foot lengths of primer cord.-... .. ......::::.. """*. ........... -_. .. ...___-"'.... -"'............ ...... _.... O""'~CM' _ _ " ._"" ""'""' . '.... .'" ....0 ' A.. .... _ .. . t . ...... e ...._ _ " '·At _ _ L .""... """""-'''.....'...-. . M' ~G""' O_ !:'i""'_~. ". . ........__ n "'0-_ ... -_... . ." ............._ .0..."" ""0:0' _... .. " ' T ! "'-- ''''_~- .~-""' w _"~'" . Primer cord is plastic rope-like matcrial that is very explosive and very powerful....... . .0 . . _OCT""" "A'"'· ... ....'-"..." . _ _ _ "-".. .---. 0. A popular writer." .. ' ' _ _ .... _. ""-. _ · " ....-" .".'_.. ..-. ._. _ _ . ~M ........ 0 ~- ..........:"".. .... these are not the kind of borderline dumb events that usually allow the powder monkey to get by......""""'"....._. ".... untested battery to fire electric charges. said he saw another fellow using a piece of primer cord for a belt.....y."'''' ' ' 000 _ _ _ '.. . _ .. neglecting to cut a fresh end on a fuze....-~...-... ... . ...-. ._. .... _ u . ..... . . .. ."N"""".... '0 ."'t.~ _"'. -~""-. ..... .. _ _ 10""" ...._-._- ----_.--__. . Obviously. "... """"" .. . ~ 0 ..... .... ._ .. _ _ ...... .._. ' .... ... ..... _n_'''''' ::::........... _'000 .' --. "...-oa-... -~-~-....u_. ... .... "" ._'_..... ....... _ " " _ -_.' --~-.-.... au- . m~ ....':r...... . ......... _ ... _ .......... using an old. ' UH --... ...----'.. . -_ .. The first and foremost are people problems... .. .. _--.....'" -~ -"-"'".. ... --~..... .... _ . .. .. __ '0 ......... hammers the caps into the primer stick with a convenient rock......-.. _ .. death-dealing stupidity._.. ... ..... ---.... . .. . _ . _ .......... ...._..... ..........1J........... .._"'". " ..... ...... old-fashioned.-". . --......... ... -.0.. .....'" ---""'...0'''''' Ooo........ Storage and General Safety IOUT .......oo ....... ...... =~....1 _ .. .._ -----".. _ ------. _ .4.... __ u N ....""" ".. or runs off and leaves a misfire located in a welltraveled place.... -_ -.' -. Form # 5400.. -">-.... . -_'_........ .. '0. -------. """"" .... """'"......... It was used more extensively in the past to fire multiple charges when electric caps were not available or were difficult to obtain. _ _ ..... ... _CoMo'"'''''' _ """" ..... :'''::'':t: ~~m''' . ... Primer cord can be very destructive. --<-....... '0001 _ ._c. .. or not standing clear 22 23 ....... . commenting about high explosives..d... ... " .....'1 . ...u •• _ ......... --.... page 4 of 4 Several basic categories of folly contribute to perhaps 95 percent of the problems one can encounter with explosives .....'... -_.... .. U _ " :... _ _ ..'" ".._..... .

of the work zone when the shot goes. After they mastered that. but he insisted that as long as he was paying for the powder. lit the fuze. Before getting to those. for God's sake. They were extremely careful not to break the rules. We were beh. blasting caps are much more sensitive and dangerous than the powder itself. Like everyone else. which issues scores of citations each year for improper storage and transport of explosives. My client. I started my children out with explosives by allowing them to shoot single sticks on the bare ground. the fireworks lover. Even OSHA. t always carry only enough caps for the immediate job. [f they so much as set one foot outside the jeep. 1 would have slid five slicks of dynamite into the little cavern under the still-fibrous. He urged me to slip in five more so that we wouldn't "tear up" his tractor "pulling the pieces out of the ground. As usual. but respect them at least to that extent. I followed his instructions.ind the truck and needed to do nothing more than duck down. I frred the stemming charge to produce a nice powder chamber under the large box elder stump on wbich we labored. Statistically. again with nothing more than single sticks. There are. although we had done very little work. carry the two in separate vehicles. the stump disappeared in a cloud of smoke and rubble. Don't ever carry caps in your pockel Treat the caps as you would an easily detonated M-80 firecracker. I have 24 25 . and at a fast walk retreated to his pickup truck parked broadside to the charge about one hundred yards away. Our shirts were shamefuUy sweated through." Throw rock is a broad tenn for the pieces the explosion throws out of the set. people cause accidents! When I was a younger powder monkey I had an employer who loved to hear the charges thump. The guy who crimps caps with his teeth or runs right up to a misfrre when it didn't detonate will have his day of reckoning rather quickly. the most frequent cause of real. Our biggest problem was a pair of severely bumped heads incurred when ducking simultaneously. however. It was a typical Midwestern morning. landing perhaps sixty feet behind us. chunks will fallon your head. Don't allow the caps to rattle around and. they enjoyed the show. act-of-God accidents while handling explosives is inappropriate and insufficient precautions against what people in the industry call"throw rock. the fuze took longer than one would suppose to bum down to the cap. The long-handled bore-hole auger shaved out the sticky black soil in coarse ribbons. I let them come along and sit in the open jeep when I was really blasting something significant so that they could see fmthand how destructive dynamite could be. Knowing how far back to stand from a blast site is. we blasted large ant nests and snowbanks. of course." . The chunk passed not a foot over the bed of the truck. They may not be quite that powerful. if one could just stay motivated enough to power the thing. A large chunk of root shot out like a bullet on a virtual level line toward the truck. if there are more than one or two caps that cannot be widely separated from the powder in the back of the truck. I put in the five. Normally. liked the fireworks. the great long lists of do's and don'ts involved with using powder. The powder monkey who finds he occasionally has to do these things will usually get by. J took them home immediately. are the best example in my personal experience. stemmed the hole With the solid. if you are too close to the blast site when it goes. damp earth. has come to the conclusion that most explosives problems arc people problems. woody green stump. I should use enough to make the results spectacular. 1l0Id him that a nice whoomp indicated a properly sized charge. however. At the blast. to a great extent. I carry them securely fastened in a small Styrofoam box inside a cheap Styrofoam cooler. a matter of experience. It's a variation of the plaintive cry of the gun owners-explosives don't cause accidents. As part of the demonstrations I do for people. By their very nature. direct cautions. The overcharged box elder and my client. Simply put. It is people who cause them by not paying strict heed to rather simple. there is one other broad category of folly of which neophyte blasters must be aware.

explosives store poorly. all lighters must immediately leave the blasting area. [watched it closely. but that is simply asking for trouble in my opinion. Stand apart from the powder and any watchers when preparing the primer cartridge. federal. Primer cord. pressure. Unlike people. When lighting mUltiple cap and fuze sets. and stout goggles. Don't use any explosives or caps that have been soaked with water. they do not get weak and feeble with age. As a precaution. Don't load in or near sites that could contain old. As a younger man. After using common sense. Attach caps to detonating cord in an approved manner and do so last. If explosives are to be stored. heavily used roads. and treating caps with respect. cut a length of fuze half the length of the shortest fuze in the group. use the correct amount of electrical current. test the circuits. storage areas should be stout. 1 always treat them as though the slightest shock or warming will touch them off. Even miners selting explosives deep underground do something else until an electrical storm blows past.dropped dynamite caps (both electric and fuzed) on the concrete floor from shoulder height. This could have been an unsmart procedure. and don't allow the cartridges to get scattered around. however. fuze. bright. planning smart to avoid throw rock. heavy pants. cap it. always ready to take action if necessary. Even so. More about this in a later chapter. I have kept dynamite 'til it was ten years old without undue problems. Be cautious regarding the preparation of primers. Use them up regularly. but as a general rule. and cap wires should not be kinked or injured. Never place any capped charge or fuze under pressure. and always attempt the demonstrations out on the patio. Keep explosives away from the working area until the moment they are loaded. cement-floored cellar dug into the hillside. I wear high boots. If stray bullets might be a problem. the following cautions apply. wooden shovel handles. Gasoline and other petroleum products must be kept away from powder. where a low wall also offers protection. and quit if an electrical storm comes up. Always use nonsparking or nonmetal tools around explosives when placing charges. secure buildings located away from inhabited buildings. Make sure soil covers the dynamite so that no sparks 26 27 . Keep all wires shunted (tied together). fresh commercial powder is not particularly cantankerous. Federal and state laws require that 1 put out warning signs. or pound any dynamite-especially material cut from the cartridge that is placed loose in the blast hole. unexploded cartridges. Don't keep explosives around for long periods of time unless you are skilled enough to know the signs of deterioration. Ideally. I have always used old. bridges. Never light a fuze while holding the charge in your hand. I kept our powder in the pump house located about ten feet from the bedroom window. I keep my caps in a small. No metal tools should be stored with the powder. and electrically and mechanically secure. Dooni should be tight and lockable and the structure generally rodent-proof. no matter how well they seem to have dried. Be certain of all bore holes. Know where the cartridges are being loaded. Keep boxes and cartons in good repair. So far I have never had a cap detonate. Be sure all electrical connections are clean. take that into consideration. just before the detonation sequence is commenced. These buildings should have good roofs and sound floors. When fuing electrical caps. and be dry and well ventilated. or areas where lightning might strike. Keep the power source well away from the blasting circuit until the moment of firing. detached barn and the powder up the mountain about three hundred yards in a small. being careful never to bring the metal auger near the JX)wder. Don't tamp. follow state. When that cap explodes. and light it first. As a general rule. and industry standards for storage.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand they will be half-pound sticks that are about one-and-a-quarter inches in diameter by eight inches long. going-out-of-condition powder. When burning dynamite. We had cut out the logs the previous winter. I have never had a detonation following this procedure. if included in the mixture. The three-pound canisters were special orders that I lined up for dealing with an especially dreary stumpremoval project. I have occasionally used some twelve-inch long sticks and some three~pound canisters. Mushy. Keep clear of a blast area until the smoke and fumes are well dissipated. When a misflre would be an absolute disaster. lf the blaster does not allow himself to be complacent. and light them. If you have it already. Most of all. should be round and firm. it is best to plan for the worst and bum in a remote area. but you should always assume one could occur. users who have never examined dynamite before should open the end of a cartridge for a firsthand look. use caution and common sense. Some of the logs were forty inches on the 28 29 . carefuUy dispose of them by burning. Before proceeding. distorted prills are a sign of old. most basic skill that the would-be blaster must acquire. If the cartridges are weeping or leaking. • Capping a dynamite cartridge is the first. Simply lay the stocks on the ground.Chapter 4 from the burning fuze fall on an exposed cartridge. use the more certain and often less troublesome electric caps. Post guards to be sure no one inadvertently moves OOlO the blast site. Old dynamite can be burned as a means of disposal. They will find that the tan to tan-grey mixture looks like old Chewing gum. the entire procedure is certainly safer than many other things we commonly do every day. use it up. Cartridges come in a great variety of sizes and shapes. Basic Procedures Detonating dynamite is relatively simple. Approximately thirty-five fresh oak stumps dotted the middle of a fifty-acre field. but only a handful of times in forty years of blasting. Don't buy this kind if you can help it. Getting it to go off at the time and place one desires is a matter of straightforward training combined with a modest amount of self-discipline. The white prills (spherical pellets). douse them with kerosene.

These range from 0 (virtually instantaneous detonation) to 10 (five seconds). The sandy.. Dynamite cartridges are compact and tough . Usually a blaster would use a hand auger to dig down under the stumps. rolled-round steel stock to the drawbar of our D-8 Cat. producing a very workable. One drum of the machine's winch raised and lowered the bar." Codes used to designate the type of cap one is dealing with are fastened to the lead wires. fire a springing charge. we were ready to fann the ground. As many miners can attest.butt end. Electrical caps are easily distinguished by their two red-and-white or green-and-yellow wire leads. Several different styles of electrical caps are available. which gives the reader some idea of the size of the stumps. dry soil and the incredibly hot.0 4. power-punching dynamite tool. All the logs were cut into one-inch boards. It took immense wiIJpower just to go out to the humidity -sodden work site.0 4. we fashioned a punch that took the place of the auger. Lightening the work load became a priority item.0 2. where the last fresh breeze had blown months ago. The little dozer operator who just returned from a government-sponsored hunting trip in Korea jumped two feet every time a charge thumped. Standard delay caps are designed to fire at intervals of from one-half to five seconds after they are elcctricatly "set off. The 2 lI4-inch x 3/8-inch caps are marked "Dangerous Blasting Cap Explosive" on the body. The paper ends and the seam along the cartridge are sealed with wax. deepbrown paper. muggy weather added immeasurably to our grief. It will have a watertight rubber plug securing the wire leads to the cap body. and then blast the stumps out with a heavy main charge.percent powder down the hole with our rake handle and let ' em rip. we lit them all en masse. they will 30 withstand a fair amount of rough handling bordering on abuse. The plan we worked out did the job very nicely.5 5. By lowering the pitch of the punch to a 45° angle.5 3. the three-pound canisters were packed in what appeared to be common cardboard tubes. The cap itself will be a natural aluminum color. These are used in mining and quarrying to allow multi-charge sets to be set off in proper sequence.5 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 9 \0 2. The hole it produced was just right for the three-pound canisters. The slick paperlike material of regular half-pound charges is specially treated so that it will enter into the detonation. When we had eight or ten sets batched up. Standard industry codes for these caps are as follows: Delay Period (code) o Time in Seconds to Actual Detonation 0.0 Delay-action electrical caps are manufactured by putting a delay element with a closely controlled burn time between the ignition element and the primer charge. The primer ultimately deteriorates the cap. By connecting a rotating six-foot length of cold.5 1. Dynamite cartridges are wrapped in tough. Powder users will commonly encounter two types of detonating caps. it was a tough project. Because the stumps were so large and green. we were able to back up the Cat onto the bar and drive it down under the stump. Unlike regular cartridges. The delay caps are used in a way that the outside charge 31 . providing for a time lapse between ruing and actual detonation.0 1. Other than the stumps. A couple of times the blasts were so close together that he didn't get to touch the ground between thumps.008 0. We routinely pushed four or five of the cylinders of 4(). Any limbs bigger than three inches were stacked up by the stove.

Fuze comes in white. As a general rule. Unlike regular dynamite (which burns without incident for a minute or two when torched). Crimping can be done with common gas-pipe pliers but -like many. in times past. Old timers sometimes knot the fuze around the dynamite to hold the cap in place. in tum. Knife cutting distorts the fuze a bit. . right-angle cut to the cap. which is useful when connecting drop wires to a power box. spitting. cut a proper length off the roU of fuze. smoking flame. Surrounding the core is a sticky. many things in life-is best done with the correct instrument. Caps used with fuze were. The correct procedure when attaching a cap to the fuze is to always trim about one-half inch from the end of the coU of fuze. fresh. Always be very cautious about the springy fuze snapping the cap around into a rock or other hard object and detonating it. Dynanute combmatton tools are made by Diamond Tool and others. This procedure is a definite no-no if one wants to avoid adrenalininducing rushes while cleaning up messy misfires. although J have never had a cap go off prematurely. Considering that the fuze will bum at the rate of one foot per minute. One handle of the tool is a punch and the other is a screwdriver. relieving the outside waH so that the inner charges will then in sequence crack the material being blasted free in the correct direction. push a diagonal hole down through a dynamite cartridge. Fuze caps are thin. I use a precut eight-i. Using a one-quarter-inch wooden stick as the pick. vendors tell me-to a government drive to make these easier-to-use explosives more difficult to obtain. Place the knot over the pick hole to protect it a bit. that no fuze should ever be less than a foot in length. Crimp the thin aluminum skirt of the cap securely onto the fuze. Some blasters run the hole in from the end but I have always run the hole in the side. The tool is principally useful when crimping the cap to the fuze and for cutting fuze. tar-like layer that is. Coils can be from four to nine inches in diameter. most common because they were generally less expensive and less cumbersome to use than their electrical counterparts. and black colors depending on the whim of the maker. There is no reason for preferring the side-pick system other than this is how [ was originally taught. or the dynamite tool.blows first. red. The cut can be done with a knife but is best accom- plished with a nonsparking combina~on cutti~g t~l made specifically for this purpose. Insert the fresh-cut fuze end fIrmly into the cap. the hobby blaster will use only the instantaneous varieties of electric blasting caps. Insert the cap on the fuze snugly into the hole in the punched cartridge. The only exception might occur if one buys supplies from a quarry operator or other secondary source. and are available for about $8 from dynamite distributoni-usually without filling out forms. The feel is stiff and slick. hollow alumin um cylinders oneand-one-half inches long and about one-quarter inch in diameter. an explosion about the intensity of a healthy firecracker results. When the fuze bums to it. starting about one-third of the way down the stick. I perform this part of the sequence weU away from the box of cartridges. due-in part. Be cautious not to run the hole through both sides of the cartridge. covered with a wrapping of light thread that is lightly painted. 32 33 . but the fuze should be protected from kinking. The fuze core bums with a hissing. the mixture that fills the cap up to about two-fifths of its capacity is fire-sensiti ve. with lengths from fifty to one hundred feet. It doesn ' t happen easily. especially on a hot day when the tar-like fuze is more pliable.nch length of baler twine to tie the capped fuze securely 10 place. Fuze caps are much smaller than electrical caps. and that the extra time the extra fuze provides is always worth the price. even excluding the wire leads. Do Ihis to expose a clean. Lately I have had trouble buying fuze and caps in anything but very limited quantities.

New or used. Detonating cord looks like heavy. . By welding a five-foot-Iong. into cartridges much the same way fuzed caps are installed. I tightly wrapped three winds of del-cord around the trunks two feet above ground level. When I was a young man.and fuze-capped charges are fairly reliable in about ten feet of water. The wooden handle is good for poking the cartridges down the bore hole. precluding one from getting too carried away with this use. In the case of electrical caps. such as that used for blasting duck ponds or drainage ditches. these tools are virtually unfindable. Electric~l caps . the leads can be knotted around the cartridge to hold the cap in place without compromising safety. we often saw dynamite augers being sold at farm auctions. ' The first time I used. yellow flame for a minute or two before the fuze itself sputters to life. When going deeper or using electrical caps. which is used to create the main powder chamber under the stump or rock. .to ten-inch .are most practical when multiple charges are shot. the tar coating may burn with a weak. the handle long enough to reach under the designated Object and the turning handle long enough to torque the rig through common obstructions. you can ~ap a turn of ~et-cord around each cartridge in a set runnmg from the mam charge that was capped conventionally to the side charges.hawthorne trees.This package constitutes the cap charge. 34 Match. I don't find this necessary. To obtain more or less simultaneous detonations. especially the first charge (called the spring or springing charge). a minimum of 250 feet of drop wire and up to 500 feet for heavier charges. By whatever means. poly-plastic clotheshne. det-cord was to take out a number of six. In spite of a seemingly minim'al amount of exposure. The flights must be wide enough to pull out small stones. The water pressure will collapse the bag. a good bore-hole auger is invaluable when doing serious work with commercial explosives. Now even the large-diameter bore carpenter bits are tough to find. we purchased some of the many one-and-one-half-inch-diameter wood augers that bam carpenters used. they all disappeared . exposing the inner powder lTain. After learning to make blasts with cap and fuze that allow the user to retreat as far as his legs and discretion take 35 . Otherwise.I suspect into the hands of antique collectors. It is much easier to Light fuze if it is sliced back about an inch. Besides the combination tool and a pocket knife. The explosive component of det-cord is extremely fast and powerful. It I~ poSSible to shoot a number of charges simultaneously usmg match cap and fuze with detonating cord but if the charges are very far apart the cost become~ prohibitive. After a few years. 1 place the capped charge in a thin plastic bag. An auger with flights rather than a flat-spoon cutting edge is needed to pull the dirt out of the hole. threeeighths-inch steel rod to them. Electrical caps are inserted. the cutting edge sharp enough to cut small roots. one-thou sandfoot reels. I pinched up my hands and arms doing even this much work around those damn trees. coming in ten-inch. Powder monkeys shooting mostly electrical caps will also need an ohmmeter to read the resistance in the electrical sets. I had all the trees lying over in an hour. giving the neophyte apoplexy in the process. Some blasters use a separate tamping stick. very sharp thorns virtually precluded cutting them with a saw. other than placing it in ditches and holes the enemy might use during an ambush is to co~nect multiple match and fuze charges together. The principal use of det-cord. the blaster will need a long-handled shovel. To make do. I have marked my shovel handle with pieces of tape spaced every eight inches to quickly indicate how many charges can be placed in the hole. It will take an eight-inch green tree and splinter the trunk through to the core. It is fairly flexible. A covering of long. slipped a fuze cap between the trunk of the tree and the det cord and shot them individually. The matenal runs forty cents per foot. which helps seal out harmful moisture. we had a reasonably good dynamite drill.

With match and fuze there is always a question until the moment of detonation. Newer blasting machines are sometimes the condenser-discharge type.8 amps be used. which starts an explosive force strong enough to detonate the main charge. Power sources for a shot can be delivered by blasting machines. Having learned to contain the blast by using the correct type and amount of powder. it is gallons-per-minute.rrent flowing through a conductor such as a wire is comparable to water moving through a pipe. the source of energy. To a point. The flash compound detonates an intermediate charge in the cap that is actually the primer. Every schoolboy learns the formula at one time or another: PressurelResistance = Rate of Flow 37 36 .0 amps of 6O-cycle alternating current from a waH socket or a portable generator. when they are touched off. the electrical charge heats a bridge wire embedded in a flash compound. In a pipe. inc1uding the electrical cap itself. increasing the current lessens the irregularities among caps. the retreat.3 to 0. The ohmmeter can be a simple instrument purchased from Radio Shack. defeat the safety argument in favor of electrical caps -i. [ relied on a lantern battery for single charges and truck batteries for multiples under five caps. Like a filament in a light bulb.. and the drop wires that carry the electrical current.him. the blaster can feel more confident regarding the use of the shorter 250-foot drop WIres. Voltage is the pressure of the water (electricity).6 to 0. Larger sets.4 amps will fire a commercial electrical cap. The three factors-voltage. I have never used a blasting machine. motor-driven gener~ ators. Most blasting machines. The cross section of either (or lack tbereof) opposes the flow or creates resistance. and resistance-are related in a formula known as Ohm's Law. When hooked up in series or used while Drop lines should be heavily insulated. Casual dynamite users will seldom be called on to make sets larger than could be handled by five caps. l4-gauge wire. I have never purchased a blasting machine. Rate of flow through the wire is measured in amperes. Sometimes detonation takes what seems like forever between lighting the fuze. are portable electric generators designed to have high voltages. The electrical blasting cap transfonns electrical energy into heat. It takes an extremely short time for the electricity to heat enough to flash the compound. and the whoomp. The diameter of a wire influences the rate of flow of electricity much the same as the diameter of a pipe influences the rate of water flow. but safety and consistency dictate that a charge of 0.e.5 amps of direct current (batteries) and at least 3. Some machines that are more than adequate for ten simultaneous shots can be carried in one hand. Electrical blasting is not a mysterious process. in my opinion. Electric cu. or Volts/Ohms = Amperes These terms relate to the three elements of an electrical blasting circuit. A minimum current of 0. however. [ try to limit my electrical sets to five charges. commercial power lines. It does.type push boxes used in the movies. the user will also learn how to make sets that merely whoomp and do not throw rock and debris allover the state. This time can vary. and storclge and dry-cell batteries. Instead. they either go or don't go. depending on the amount of electrical energy going (0 the cap. including the old rack~bar. They are discharged by a quick twist of the wrist Because of the high cost. require a knowledge of the most basic laws of electricity . Ohm's Law is probably the most basic piece of electrical physics. Cautious blasters usually figure on a minimum of 1. current. This small but powerful charge has enough strength to detonate the dynamite cartridge.

the engine is running. Drop wires are those that connect the basic set to the power source.04 = 102. They range in length fram six ta fifty feet. of drop wire 0.72 1. along with an ohmmeter. 38 Resistance of lOO-ft. leg wires::: 50 x 2. If at all possible. It is important ta know the resistance of these caps. The heavier wires are needed for lower resistances over longer distances. A single series is illustrated on page 41.0 ohms 30 40 50 2. No. At twenty fect. series in parallel. Use the following chart. including the leg wires. the nature of the shot will dictate the type of circuit that must be used.000 ft.999 1. . and parallel.20 2.5 ohm 39 .38 10. One must know the resistance of connecting and drop wires to calculate how many caps can be fired from a given power source.40 Resistance can be extrapolated from six to twenty fect and from twenty-four to fifty feet.17 There are three types of circuits commonly used: single series. No blasti ng should be attempted with vehicle batteries that are not fully charged or that show signs of any deterioration or weakness.53 1. ultimately connecting to the drop wires from the caps. Gauge 4 Ohms pcr 1. They are usually 20 gauge. the wire size in caps jumps from 22 gauge to 20 gauge. The engine should be on fast idle when the shot is made to ensure that enough amperage is available. these wires should be l4-gauge copper. 14 drop wire .04 2. the blaster would compute the circuit as follows: 50 electric caps with 20-ft.15 16. standard 12-volt truck batteries will usually fire more charges than I have the energy to install in one set.248 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 0.628 0.0 ohm Resistance of 250-ft.00 2. Connecting wires are those insulated wires run through the shot region that may be tom up at detonation .59 2. 14 Resistance of Copper Wire Electrical Blasting Caps Length of Leg Wires (feet) Average Resistance (ohms) 6 8 10 16 20 24 1. 20 connecting wire = 1.66 1. No. Do not allow a charge to stand overnight or even leave the site for lunch or a break..91 2. every charge set in a day should be fired that day. Many times. For safety's sake. Three types of wire are used in the blasting circuits: Leg wires are the thin .52 4.02 6.395 0. so that accurate calculations can be made regarding the adequacy of one's power supply. If there were fifty electrica1 caps rather than the six shown. insulated wires that run from the cap itself.

a huge number of caps can be fired.75 ohms. or if one is working with a smaller power source such as a vehicle battery-is to connect the caps in a parallel circuit. fifty caps have a resistance of 51. No.Total Resistance of Circuit = L03.62 ohms 1. the blaster would have to cut the set down to fifty charges. 20 connecting wire = 1.24 amps 41 40 . The resistance in this case is only Ihe resistance of each cap.0 ohm 4 caps in parallel series = 8. For example.5 ohms Single·series circuit. 220 volts/51. Parallel Series Circuit Example ELECTRIC CAPS i 200-ft.0 amps of alternating current per cap that is considered a safe standard. Using a paraUel circuit or a parallel-series circuit.5 Ohms If the current were supplied by a ator. These readings can be verified by using the ohmmeter.5 ohms ~ 220~volt AC gener- CONNECTING WIRES (ONLY INCLUDED IF BLAST WILL 2.12 ohms 250-ft.12 amps.25 ohms • mDROpWlRES A partial solution -if a larger set must be used. 14 drop wire = . the current supplied would be: 220 volts/103. No. To be entirely safe. This is not enough power supply to power the necessary 3. Some sets containing more than onc thousand caps are made using a variation of a parallel series. Total ~ 9.62 ohms ~ 12 vol15/9. An example of a parallel circuit is shown on page 42.75 ohms ~ LEG rES___-------.!! HIT DROP WIRES) 4.

42 AMPS .0 OHM 250·FT.... Q ri c Q. CONNECTING WIRES w . 20 CONNECl1NG WIRE _ 1.0 OHM I CAP IN PARALLEL _ 2. '" . if Q. NO.5 OHM 12 VOLTS/3.. "" " !!. ~ (') t<. 14 DROP WIRE _ 0. ..S OHMS _ 3. ZOO-FT. f. '0 "c DROP WIRES '" '" ~ .. ~ " ~ ~ • '" :< "I r ~ '? tn Q N ~ ---- ~ POWER SOURCE " E. ---' ~ '" ..5 OHM TOTAL: 3..0 .EXAMPLE: 2oo·FT. (') +-0:. '" "" " " [ ~ . NO.

[n parallel.31 ~5. A parallel-series circuit is shown on page 43.0 ohm 250-fl l4-gauge drop wire ~ . while not perfect. This and an equally acceptable telegrapher's splice are illustrated on page 46. In the cases above. No. 45 . Paral1el-Scries Circuit Example: Resistance of each series of 4 caps = 4. the examples are very conservative. Using a portable generator: ohms 220/2.16 ohms Resistance of 10 series in parallel = 8. but the computation does change. Most experienced blasters prefer the twisted-loop splice.19 amps must be divided by 10 because there are ten series of four in the string. Going back again to the five-shot series (which for me is the most common multiple shot). Very large sets are made by placing more caps in a series between the parallel lines. I have always powered my little four. AU open-wire splices should be raised up off the ground.12I1O~ .and five-cap sets with a 12-volt car battery or even a 6-volt lantern battery.Note that. taut runs are likely to cause fewer problems. The example on the following page. using dry rocks or pieces of cardboard as props. even wired in e series. only the resistance of a single cap between the connecting wires are used in the computation. connecting wire = 1. As I mentioned previously. making good electrical contact. the computation would be as follows: 1212. The 5. and use short leg wires and heavy drop wires to minimize wire-resistance problems.00 ohm Resistance of 250-ft.31 ohms 44 A portable power generator would probably be adequate in most situations. 1.5 amps per cap for DC and 3. which is not enough to take us up to the 1. with the engine running.0 amps for AC.4 ohms total resistance ~ 1. The only exception might be to power the charge from a large bulldozer battery while the machine is running and the battery charging.5-amp safe level required.19amps Each series would receive 5. Electrical splices on blasting lines are critical. Remember.56 amps 5 caps with 8-ft. Your ohmmeter will quickly tell you if all the splices are sound.81 ohm Resistance of 200-f1. away from puddles or wet grass.31 ~ 95. leg wires = 8. Be sure to keep all splices tight and practice good housekeeping wiLh the connecting wires. I have found that the setup always fires properly. s.0 x 2.5 amps of direct current criterion. illustrates a relatively easy methcxl of using common equipment to do some blasting. we have: lOO-ft 20-gauge connecting wire = 1.5 Assuming one used a 12-volt battery. the rule of thumb is 1.6/10 ~ 9.5 amps is required to safely set off a single cap. but vehicle batteri. Neat. They probably do not reflect the average daY-lo-day needs of the home and recreational blaster. 14 drop wire = . Test all multiple shots with an ohmmeter.52 amps.04 ~ 8. However. this is not enough direct current to meet the 1.3 ohms 12-volt truck battery/lO.50 ohm Total ~ 2.15 amps Again. with direct current from a battery only.19/10 = . would not be.

low rumble followed. strong enough to take out exposed windows. It took what seemed like an inordinate amount of time before some sirens began to wail in the distance. cease all operations if an electrical storm comes up. many with flashing lights. Thailand. Obviously. was converging on one of the rather nondescript yet more exclusive neighborhoods of north Chiang Mai. One thing to keep in mind is that not all charges go ofT according to the user's prearranged plan. we could not proceed. something was going on that we should know about. For God's sake. echoing up the Ping River. A long. Twisted-loop splice. white. All drop and connecting lines should be securely wound Telegrapher's splice. Suddenly a wind-shock thump. where I could see to the north a kilometer or two. Without an escort or a flashing light. 46 (shunted) together until they are connected. wooden houselike structure that serves as the consulate in Chiang Mai. hit me. Keep the drop wires shunted and the power source well out of any possible reach until the moment you are ready for the shot.Again. He just shrugged. which runs near the consulate. swirling cloud of dust over the trees and houses. Even miners working a mile underground do something else 'til an electrical stonn has passed over. as evidenced by the following tale. We followed discreetly until we started to get walled in by hundreds of people walking down the street. Connecting should be the last step as the user retreats from the blast site. A line of police and military vehicles. be sure to test each circuit with an ohmmeter to be certain the power source you intend to use is adequate. The detonation was deep and gutsy enough to get our serious attention but distant enough not to cause rea] alarm. We jumped into a friend's LandCruiser and headed out for a look. My fina reaction was to look for aircraft. I ran out the gate and onto the street. Either he didn't know or he wasn't going to tell afarong (foreign 47 . Jt was possible to make out a black. I asked a police officer what was going on. I was waiting in front of the low.

Gossip spread through the crowd to the effect that no one had been home at the time of the blast. More significantly. and that an assassination attempt was not logical. shredded into threads. General Li. they probably stored the caps with the powder. either. The theory is reinforced by the fact that one of General U's drivers appears to have been wiped out in the incident. A harried police officer told us no children were at the school when the blast hit. A truck thaI allegedly had contained the explosives had been vaporized in the blast. no one among the drug lords has come forward admitting to perpetrating the incident. but that their timing was bad. A bathtub salvaged from the carnage became the repository used by the police. It was fillcd with body pieces they collected. or if anyone had been injured. The theory on the streets was that somc of General Li's drug-dealing enemies had tried to assassinate him. Knowing the Thais. Dozens of unifonned men poked around in the piles of debris. I reasoned that perhaps we were dealing with an accidental detonation. 48 49 . TIle police didn't even try to find a bathtub full of parts from it. "Looks to me like a commercial dynamite blast. General Li would have retaliated. because many Burmese jade smugglers have come forward in the last year since the incident to complain that their source of explosives has dried up. we finally threaded our way through the little narrow streets to the remains of a palatial home. My accidental discharge theory apparently has gained some credibility. who originally came from northern China to Thailand at the time of Mao. much more powerful military-type explosive. The house. 1f it had been intentional.devil). Leaves on the palms in the garden hung in tatters. Later. but still no onc on the street knew what had happened except that there had becn an explosion. was the secret retreat of General Li. some information filtered out about the incident. My theory is somewhat different. disaster struck. r knew that people in the Chiang Mai region often illegally traded commercial explosives for raw opium with the jade miners who used the explosives to get rocks out of the ground." I told the consular official. "The trees and bushes aren't blown away enough for it to have been a faster. but a twelve~fool cement block wall around the property limited our ability to see everything in the compound." No one seemed to know whose house had been hit. By now an hour had passed since the blast. Assassins almost certainly would have used military explosives. il seems logical that they would have planned the whole thing a bit better. It was not entirely true that nobody was home when the blast occurred. One wall of a former garage leaned sloppily amidst the mess. It seemed obvious that we were dealing with a relatively large quantity of commercial dynamite rather than military explosives. we learned. a notorious Kuomintang Chinese drug lord. Just before dark. If they had. No one in the region had an overt motive for doing the general in. There might have been other damage. After a day or two. Several buildings nearby lacked roofs. when they snuck off in the truck to have a smoke. Open warfare did not break: out among the drug lords. A cook and driver were never seen again. was so reclusive that no one was aware he lived-at least part-time-in Chiang Mai. The front of the massive house hung in tatters . that Thais are awfully cavalier about explosives. A school half a block away was windowless on the blast side. but were never identified among thc pieces.

Chapter 5 Doing the Work Novices who work with dynamite for the first time are often surprised to discover that commercial explosives are very precise in nature.ld have been impossible if it weren't for the larger rock they mixed with the concrete in an attempt to save on material costs. I used a one-and-ahalf-inch hammer driven mason's hand drill to bore a hole back into the century-old hardened clay. As a plus. They expect to encounter an uncontrollable. One of my earlier jobs as a powder handler i. The breakup wou. Lack of moisture for one hundred years . The guy was detennined LO have a basement under his house-despite the fact that the original builders one hundred years ago had not seen it that way at all! We had a small four-foot by four-foot rOOl cellar to start with. [nstead.i sting pavement and walls in the root cellar. had set up the soil under the house like concreledigging could not be accomplished via traditional pick and shovel methods because of limited space and the hardness of the earth. Using mud and wet burlap bags to cap the charges. the stairs going down were already in place. we shot half sticks of 6O-percent to break up the ex. The cement was not particularly thick but had been placed back when it was de rigueur to do a very good job. however.nvolved placing charges for a neighbor who wanted to excavate the ground under his standing home. After the concrete was cleared out. unpredictable force that promiscuously rends the earth. they find they are working with a tool that can be Likened to a hugely powerful precision instrument. The material was 51 .

ditching powder is very shock-sensitive. It is so difficult to master ditChing with powder that the neophyte can easily become discouraged. I bought a 25mm French Peteau cannon home with me. When I fIrst used it. It came right from the World War 11 Maginot line-eight hundred plunds. however. but the neighbon. We shoveled the now loose material into a conveyor belt that moved it upstairs and deposited it in a dump truck parked at the rear of the house. The technique is not. all placed in a predetermined grid. or other works of man. rubber tires. Targets little more than an inch wide are tough to hit. the back waH was in place as well Although I fired possibly twenty-five shots. Eight additionaJ attempts failed to produce a bang. Although it is the wrong end of the spectrum on which a novice should start. I let the owners spend the next day completing that work. especially if one places them out far enough so that the blast does not constitute a danger to the shooter. blasting one is a good project for someone who wants to test the precision of explosives. The concept is to use one cap charge to set off up to hundreds of shock-sensitive cartridges. I carried the cartridges around in a sawdust-filled box. It does. One time when such things were still permitted. We spent many an enjoyable afternoon firing thaI cannon. They have opened trenches so that telephone lines could be laid right through the heart of large cities and have spectacularly demolished great buildings that stood within inches of other great buildings that were not even scratched. I have spent a considerable number of pleasurable hours on my range plunking off dynamite. By nightfaJl. plwer lines. go off rather resolutely when hit with a bullet. gas mains. propagation sets used to cut ditches nicely illustrate the precise nature of dynamite. which is so sleepy it often cannot be detonated even by a direct hit from a high-power rifle. We usually warned her before the shots. one the novice should start with if he has any choice in the matter. They thought we frred that antitank cannon one hell of a lot. and will certainly not be sensitive enough to propagate. set off by more conventional firearms. I carefully worked the c harges back to the area below the house's rear support beam. Shooting dynamite is a bit tougher than it first seems. There is never a question as to the placement of the shot If it is good. 52 53 . but otherwise the work failed to disturb her routine.or SO-percent material that is more sensitive to shock than regular powder and is of itself powerful enough to throw out a large quantity of material. I was able to bring the monster back to life. Other powder may push rather than shock and throw. By tinkering with the ftring mechanism. never knew the difference. I therefore concluded that the material was safe enough under normal circumstances. we had excavated an area large enough to build a frame for a foundation wall. Through the y~. everybody in the county will know. nothing in the house above was damaged. While the new cement was hardening. Ditch building by propagation is done using regular ditching plwder. etc. This will be either a 60. Unlike 4O-percent dynamite. I worked back in the other direction with my explosives. This seemed to be more paranoia than I am accustomed to accommodating. as well as shoveling out the remaining loose material I had shaken loose. so I decided to experiment A half-pound stick thrown as high as possible from the top of a twenty-four-foot barn did not detonate on hitting the frozen clay drive below. We went back to using ditching plwder for targets. By week's end. Factory ammo cost but $32 per case of thirty-two rounds! Eventually the thrill wore off. Because a field drainage ditch is seldom if ever blasted through regions where one must be concerned about cOming too close to buildings. however. Your local explosives dealer can assist you in choosing the correct explosive material.so consolidated and brittle that a half stick of 6O-percent shattered a cone-shaped hole to dust. The lady of the house said she was surprised thaI the blasting produced very little dust and no damage. Precision blasters have shot holes in solid rock within inches of high-pressure gas lines.

. . . Be careful to note whether the shot detonates all the charges placed in the string. and roots mixed in the material to be ditched may require that one cut the distance between charges down even funher.' o . As a general rule. Before starting in earnest. LOW. CENTERS 000000 t J J l \ " 0 0000 0 0 0 00000 0 0000 000000 o 0 0 o 0 0 PRIMER CORD o o o ) II I ~. Obviously the depth at which the charges are placed is extremely critical if proper drainage is to result. Only one cap charge is used to set off all the charges.The best way to proceed with ditching powder is to run a couple of trial sets. even by looking. The only way to find out what will work is to try an experimental shot. rocks. No matter how ideal the conditions. Generally you will end up setting up the shot grid on about one-foot centers unless the ground is virtually saturated with standing wateT. 0 0 0 0 000 • o o o o 0 : . . Some borderline cartridges may be thrown out undetonated. . ~. The punch bar is made out of common water pipe with an outside diameter of one and a half inches. In places where the ground is consistently wet. SWAM. . Experimental shots are done not only to determine at what spacing the shot will propagate. 0 ~~--~~__~ DOUBLE CHARGES 0 0 0 0 o o o 0 0 0 0 . . Old logs.. the spacing may only be four to eight inches.. and marshy.. run a cord and post line down through the region you want ditched. Should one be working with ground that is only very clamp and not wet. straight ditch that the powder monkey can be proud of will result if such early precautions are taken. If the swamp through which one is blasting is so soft that the 54 \ ORIENTATION L INE I DYNAMITE SET ON l·fT.' 1 . 55 I .. This may require stacking two or even three sticks in the same hole. a charge set three feet deep will cut down to about four feet if enough powder is placed above to move away the overburden material... Ditching powder is usually placed using a hollow-core punch bar.~/ .-.. the charges can be placed up to two feet apart..PY ~A( i Top view of a ditching grid. Q . but also to detennine how much powder is needed to produce a ditch of the necessary depth and width. running a straight line of cartridges without a physical line staked out is incredibly difficult. much less make a valid recommendation in a book. grassy. : . Unlikely as it seems. A nice. . the maximum spacing will never be more than two feet.: · . It is impossible to tell what spacing to use.

56 57 . .. .REMOV ABLE CORE ~ I 1/2-IN .' 0 o ' ... . 3-FT.' .. CJ . OF MATERIAL TAMPED OVER CHARGE BORE HOLES SET ON GRID NO MORE THAN 2 FT. Side view of ditching set... " " ..? ~ . MARKS SHOWING DEPTI' IN STICKS OF DYNAMITE :. 00' . . : . APART . . SET HOLE 3 STICKS OF DITCHING POWDER Ditching powder placement ram." o . .. j' :1 .. . PUNCH PIPE AT LEAST 8 IN. .t. ." .' " " ... . . .. '. . . .

a single string of cartridges is run down through the existing ditch line. Often the dLrt and water 58 59 . ThiS. Mechanical equipment requires a much larger job to be profitable.:nllned gn? and finng ~h~m with primer cord or by electrIc detonation. small ~ire nags to indicate the location of the charges If there IS danger of them being lost or misplaced in the marsh as you work around your grid line. Detemlln. when everything is added in.lng exactly how much powder to use in this circumst~nce IS ~ bitch. . and it is essential that deep. . for spring rains to bring enough moisture to allow the system to work. When blasting ditches. e~l ly seen notches be ground in the probe outer shell showing the depth of the tool in dynamite cartridge lengths.. In all cases mark out the ditch with posts and a strIng with a great deal of precision. It is always tough to go back and hit the area again. 1t is helprul to fit the punch with a ~andle to faCIlitate pulling. there . Using three helpers. wet ground condition is one of the primary considerations. There is no limit to the number of charges that can be fired using one capped charge as the explosive impulse through the moist soil.ry gratirying as well as being most spectacul. This pointed core can be wlthdra~n and the dynamite slid into the hollow outer shell and held I. clay and plastic field tiles emptying into the ditch will usually not be harmed. If the cartridges are buried at least three inches beneath the surface. Clearing out stumps comprises the other end of the ~When a ditch set is detonated. expenses are far less than when using other means. But in most cases. conversely.a costly-to-handle spoil bank. Using explosives is also orten much faster than hauling in power shovels. The grid of charges must be ~ery accurately placed according to a pretested. negating any need to bring in a dozer with a blade to smooth things over. It may be necessary to either wait for a hot spell to dry up the ground or. It would seem as though it would take less explosl~es. The on ly practical limit is the amount of territory available on which to work and the amount of energy and drive one can muster to put out the explosives.d be there If the ditch were dug mechanically. At the time the charges are placed. Only shooting a trial charge will provide the necessary information. it may seem as though costs are going through the ceiling. the pipe must . Clearing grass and other material out of an existing but silted-in ditch is virtually always faster and easier with explosives. ' IS a very mce ground-shuddering thump.punch hole caves in imm~diat~ly. as they should be with any propagation set. Ir there is doubt and experiments are not practical. Spoil banks woul. vis-l\-vis the season of the year. . are important whenever one uses explosives. but many other factors could lead to a potentia l misfire or an unsafe adventure if the charges are left unfired overnight. use at least twice the amount that you originally estimated would do the job when crossing a dry bar or other obstruction. Use. however.ar. 1 have set almost a ton of dynamite in one day. is not necessarily true. Every cartridge must be identically placed through material that is identical in makeup.n place with a wooden tamping stick as the punch IS withdrawn. the work accompllshed IS ve.ncated •. When enough ~wder !s used and the grid is correct. the best thing to do is to make sure to ~se plenty of powder. predetermmed are thrown two hundred feet into the air. All charges placed in a day should be fired that evening. Other advantages to cutting ditches with explosives include the fact that man and horses can pack explosives into places otherwise inaccessible to backhoes and power shovels. In this case. As no set rule eXists that 1 know of. Because the ground is not wet and lub.be fitted with a removable core. The ma~enal from the ditch is thrown out and away Without fonnIng. Sandbars or subsurface logjams through which the dynamite will not propagate can ~ hand~ed by pl~cing the charges in their regular predete. . Much smaller jobs can be profitably undertaken due to economies of scale. Field conditions. Ditching powder is not particularly water-sensitive.

but rather large branch rools extruding out to the side in all directions. If the auger hits a tap root on a 30° angle down under the stump. If they are not charged correctly. white oak. the dirt will be blown away from the base of the stump. box elder. If the stump has a tap root. it's safe to assume it's the kind with big vertical roots.leather wood. Stump removal is not only common. The essential element is knowing how many cartridges should comprise the main charge. Try using the following guidelines for starters: Size of stump 1 Number ft. Like cutting a diamond. every situation is a little different. that pronouncement is prema· ture. I lose in Wheaties trying to force the auger into the punky. Condilion ground of Soil tap orstump cartridges type cartridges roots Green Dead Add number of Add for 6" 2 I Wet Sand Clay Wet Sand Clay Wet Sand Clay Wet Sand Clay Wet Sand Clay Wet Sand Clay +2 +1 o o o o o o o +1 +1 +1 12" Green Dead 4 2 +1 +3 +1 IS" Green Dead 7 3 +2 +4 +2 +2 +3 24" Green Dead 9 5 +3 +3 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3 30" Green Dead 12 6 +4 +5 +3 36" Green Dead 15 S +4 +4 +4 +4 +4 +4 60 61 . Instead. Stumps with massive lateral roots require about the same procedure. fir. Conditions change from day to day and from soil type to soil type. however. Stumping is both easy and yet quite a challenge for those given to thinking about such things. Most blasters will do as I did and learn the ropes of the business in the field actually doing the work. Unless one is a trained forester.abov. and cedar) have heavy lateral root structures. tough·as·wang. clean out a space next to the tap root about the size of a small pumpkin. fire a single holing charge. Removing these stumps can be a real problem. it is impossible to tell for sure what kind of a stump one is dealing with a couple of years after the tree has been CUl The most certain plan is to use the dynamite auger to bore a hole under the stump and do a bit of exploring. 1-Lit it once with a springing charge. deep penetrating roots referred to as tap roots.spectrum of work with which a powder handler will probably involve himself. Pack in eightlo ten -or more if the SlUmp is still large and green-40·pcrcent cartridges against the tap root and let 'em rip. 1 do not like to try to bore a shot hole into the tap roots to save powder. What ( save in powder breaking the root off underground. Sometimes. spider·1ike criuer standing in the field that is very difficult to cut away. Dig the auger in under the main stump mass. which will throw away the dirt and soil around the root. leaving a wooden. elm. hickory. Others (such as white pine. and gum) have massive. maple. it will then be obvious. There is no tap rool in this second case. it is reasonably easy to master. and then hit it with the main charge. Some varieties of trees (such as Norway pine.

SHOT HOLE CHARGED WITH POWDER AND RETAMPED Sprung hole charge. HEAVY HANDLE '" I II2-IN. AUGER wml HEAVY FLlGHT5 t Dynamite auger. DRILL HOLE AUGERED UNDER STUMP DRILL HOLE AUGERED UNDER STUMP SPRUNG HOLE CHARGE FIRED .----------------~ DR1LL HOLE AUGERED WELD TO STEEL ROD UNDER STUMP ~ BIG. part 3. 62 63 . part 2. . PLACE SINGLE STICK OF 40% POWDER TO MAKE HOLE FOR MAlN CHARGE Sprung hole charge. part I.i '. 0 FUZE Sprung hole charge.~----------------5T06FT.

allow your mind to go into neutral while stumping with dynamite. ~. Pick a fold in the stump into which several sticks can be packed. Usually. Keep working the hole until it is plugged up with tightly tamped soil. The procedure saves powder but is such hard work that 1 never became enamored with the concept In the case of a very large stump with corresponding tap root. 1 will either pack the tap root on one side with an unusually heavy charge or split the charge into equal parts and fire the two simultaneously with electric caps or primer cord. some people who work with explosives make a practice of boring a hole into the tap root under large stumps.E~ . • • 0:: o CHARGES STACKED IN AUGER HOLE Stump with tap root shot elcct rically on sides of root. O• •~. • ~::c--~ . the blaster will find that he must move in quite a bit of material with which to tamp the hole under the stump. 64 Do not.... Start tamping the charge by dumping some crumbly soil down the shot hole on top of the cartridges after they are in place. As previously mentioned. At times when the ground does not adequately contain the first springing shot charge or when the powder monkey inadvertently overcharges the set.: <D. The difference can add up to a case or more of powder by the end of the day. Do this with the wooden handle of your tamping stock or shovel. Blasting stumps quickly teaches novice powder mon~ keys the importance of adequately stemming their charges... ~ . the surrounding soil will be loose and easily shoveled as a result of being tom up by the sprung hole charge. ELECTRIC W~IRE~~~~. "00 0. a blast that simply splits the stump while leaving it firmly anchored in bent. Best to fire up the long~handled shovel and move in whatever it takes to do the job properly. o •. ..11-. TAPROOT Stump with tap roots.n6 -. .. .. • ' . Shot holes that are solidly packed with mud or wet soil contain the explosion in a much more satisfactory manner than if this chore is neglected. Cap 65 .' •• 6.. broken sections in the ground. The result can be a bunch of thundering roars that throw pieces all around or.. under any circumstances. if this happens..::.~~~T~O~PO~W~ER~SO~UR~C. even worse. Some stumps with many lateral roots can simply be chopped off at ground level using faster powder. It also helps immeasurably to pile a few shovels of dirt on the hole after it has been filled to ground level...

and just as big if one added all the extra leaves. One day it ate two of my shares simultaneously. It can grub out those stumps that are not sufficiently loosened by the dynamite and it can fill in excessive holes made by using too much powder. The dozer can be rigged to punch thc charge holes. It's an ideal combination if the novice powder handler can put it together. was flat as a dining room table. and hauled away using a few sticks of easily portable powder by one skilled powder monkey. leaving the bigger subsurface roots at ground level to rot. I went straight back to the shop for the dynamite. with only the hean taken out. old foundation footings. It still may be necessary to use multiple charges but tbe chain will tend to hold the stump together and pull it all out in onc piece. the mOSI common nonprofessional use for explosives. the shell can be wrapped with a chain and successfully shot out in one piece (see illustration). Use plenty of chain along with slower 40-percent powder or less when employing this method." . 66 67 . The most difficult stump to take out is one that is burnt or has been already shot. The various sections must either be shot elecbically with two or more charges or. o 1WOCHARGES PLACED FROM OPPOSITE SIDES Split charge fired with det cord to take out stump left in two pieces.them over with a heavy layer of mud and fire them off. in some cases. It lay about one foot below ground level. PRIMER CORD FROM 1ST CHARGE SECURELY WRAPPED AROUND BOTH CHARGES OF DYNAMITE CONVENTIONAL FUZE AND CAP ~~~~~~~LEVEL . the stump will be rent into little pieces. If done properly. Huge stones. in the past. Stumping with dynamite was. Removing stumps with explosives works especially well if one can combine the work with the efforts of a bulldozer as mentioned earlier. can be thrown free of the ground. most of whom are currently working fields thaI have been cleared for more years than the farmers are old. One monster stone on our farm had maliciously and mercilessly torn shares from our plow for years. Stump removal is no longer a big item with farmers.. That was absolutely it. HEAVY CHAIN WRAPPED AROUND STUMP o• • Chaining split stump for removal in one piece. and cement pads. I don't know which use is currently in second place. but for us it was removing and breaking stones. split. mud-capped. My brolhers depreciated my determination. many as large as cars or pickups.

'0 . ~.0.''b · 0· Oct cord attached to conventional fU7. rotten stumps can often be blown orr at ground level with a mud-<ap charge. . COLD ROLLED STEEL ~ ~ SPLIT FII7FT() FACILITATE LIGHTING ROLLED EYE CONNECTED WITH BOLT TO ORA W BAR ·0 O. 68 69 . NATURAL FOLD IN STUMP WITH DYNAMITE STICKS PRESSED INTO PLACE MUO CAP OVER CHARGE LJe ) . " ~ .. ..CABLE DRUM TO RAlSE AND LOWER DRUM 60FT....e and cap used to detonate the det cord. • cJ . Dozer with dynamite punch. Old... SECTION OF 4-IN. Crawler with punch lowered and pushed under stump.. • t1 .'0 • 0..

Home builders sometimes find underground ledges through which they must cut for footings or which are otherwise in the way.or SO-percent powder on top of the victim rock."That stone is so big and mean. T went down under the monstrous piece of granite. After filling the hole with powder. and powder. fast detonation fracture the rock. 71 . powder handlers will use a large masonry drill to bore a hole into an offending rock. The technique is similar to breaking up large rocks for transport. hammers. EI Rocko pitched out on the ground. Get a springing charge hole under them and throw them clear with lots of 40percent powder. that is often not possible. I dropped in a bundle of seven and threw out a nice hole that I could get down into with my shovel." How words are sometimes so prophetic. It was not immediately obvious what 1 was working with. This will loosen the rock and soil so that it can be moved. Road building through hilly terrain is nicely done with explosives. Slow powder creates bigger chunks that are best pulled away with a tractor. Another charge finally poked an adequate cavern under the rock. Even a farmer with a small tractor can cut a road through a rocky hill using this method along with a relatively small amount of explosives. One stick fired as a springing charge did very little. The technique requires quite a lot of digging and augering. that would have been a cop-out. easy-to-set-up. By now I was so pissed off 1 would have used three hundred if that's what it took. but this was not an average rock. At times. Large boulders such as the plow-eating monster are usually mud-capped and split into hundreds of easily handled pieces. rather than pick up all the pieces. Mud-capping consists of placing a number of sticks of fast 60. "you don't have enough powder to get it out. The shock will tip up the slab or footing as well as breaking it at the point of impact. It's better to haul them away whole. garden-sized rocks are best handled by a variation of the technique we used. they shoot it much the same way a miner would shoot a working face. Metal is usually too tough and flex. It had to be the biggest rock anyone in the county had ever tried to contend with in one piece. there is no alternative to trotting out the rock drill. It is the one case when a powder handler can experience a nice. Two of our biggest tractors could barely pull it away. The thirty sticks thumped about hard enough to be felt in the county seat fifteen miles away. but it's the only way I know of for one man to economically remove boulders. Again using the auger. Keep working down in and around whatever obstacles exist 'til the roadbed is about as wide and deep as needed. leaving a gaping hole that eventually filled with water and mired our tractors every year we worked the field 'til we sold out. A five-foot auger did not reach to the bottom side of the rock. 70 Cover the cartridge with four to six inches of very wet mud and touch it off. But in cases of very large boulders. Place as much explosive in the hole as possible. Start by boring down into the ground between the rocks with your auger. Driving a steel drill into a solid rock is a poor substitute for conventional. Several other chores that are a bit obscure are possible with dynamite. if you have big enough machinery. audible explosion as a result of his labors. Apparently. My brothers wanted to split it in place but. Rock outcroppings can be removed nicely with dynamite." they said. If the cement contains reinforcing metal. The mud vaporizes. effective mud caps. it must be further cut mechanically. Even nonnal. I filled the hole under the rock with approximately thirty sticks of 40-pcrcent powder. Old footings and cement pads can be broken into large chunks by placing fast 6O-percent charges a foot or so under the material. but it is necessary if one wants to take out a rock ledge or outcrop. shock waves from the sharp. When the job is too small or too remote to bring in a ripper. Not many rocks require that much powder. There is no throw-rock danger from mud-cap charges. in my eyes. Use fast powder if it is easier to clean up with a scoop shovel and wheelbarrow.ible to be cut with explosives except in special military situations.

' " o o ~. ~ . ' . .-:~.. ': ". o.n. -a.-=:=====~~~-:: 'aJ. .:. o .j..1 o. JI'~g\0"\~ f" 0 \\~ !n l..e..." oC)o '% ..' o 3 STICK CHARGE COVERED WITH 3 IN.. '-.~ . ... . .goo~o----l.' MAIN CHARGE UNDER ROCK . ~.o ·0 BURIED ROCK ." . 0 Cb o.--r-" . 73 ... I I '>.AUGER HOLE ~~~. . . OFMUD OCK THROWN OUT IN GROUND BY ·I1ARGE OF 40% 00 ~.I... " o o ..". _~' ... :' :! "" " .J I I ~ ." ( ~. ~ ~ BURIED ROCK o.~~ '07/°' 00 o I I I I . _ : 1 II )... • Removing a deeply buried boulder. 0'· r o.. 72 Using a mud-cap charge.

tunneling through rock is best learned by trial and error. it is possible to determine what drill grid will allow the powder to do its best work.a. 74 Springs that are leaking water onto one's property and creating bog holes can sometimes be shut off permanently by shooting a large charge of fast powder deep in the ground above the hill where the water surfaces. 0'" o· •• : . o. Tamp the set shut nicely.. J' " "~~-~~~~ (." TAKEOUT1WO ROCKS AND CLEAN UP AND CUT DOWN AO BOREHOLE '... Usually it is advisable to fire the outer charges first. : : : : . -. This generally is left for the miners who do that work. tunneling through rock. ''''-''~.. or cutting down a rock hill for a road -can be done with a combination of dynamite and ammonium nitrate.' :'. With a bit of practice. This must be done at a time when the hole is dry and the hardpan barrier becomes brittle." :'. it may be spring before it is obvious if the shot was successful in breaking the clay banier. bore down with a post-hole digger and set the charge at the very bottom of the hole. (Ammonium nitrate and the work it can do is covered in Chapter 6. Our neighbor on the other side of the water watched jubilantly as Mother Nature prepared to hand him an additional forty acres of prime 75 . given the modest cost. . Another common category of working uses for dynamite is taking out ice. The farm on which I grew up was surrounded on three sides by a fairly large river. .. :::: -=:':'S-.. ---.. . ~ . Our most productive riverbottom field was once threatened by a huge ice jam causing floodwater to cut across the field. Small potholes are often drained by shooting a charge of fast.: " ".0' 0'· . _ __ " '. . ' ~ ROCK - ('~ (.Q::::~ _'--. Hardened rock drills can be purchased from specialty hardware stores.: 0._ ./ .--.: ': --r:-:..:-~"' -~- /'.--~ ROCKS . 0' .) Building a tunnel is not usually work that the casual home and recreational user will do. . The trial involves finding a seam soft enough into which you can sink a hammer-driven star drill.J ' -_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 2ND BORE HOLE ROCKS AFfER SHOT AND CLEANED OUT Road building. Not every attempt is successful but.. it is worth a try. In the case of the pothole. Like stumping.'~--~ . In both cases. BORE IN DEEP AS POSSIBLE AND SHOOT CHARGE ' . releasing the wall so that the inner charge can dislodge the most rock. shocking-type powder deep in the underlying hardpan that forms a water barrier for the hole. .. Other work -such as blasting out duck ponds..

but it does illustrate to some extent the range of activities that can be undertaken using common explosives. If there is a question. at times I will place the entire cap charge and coiled fuze in a thin plastic bag. blast holes for end posts or fence lines. but mostly the log and ice pileup stood firm. It sent huge chunks flying nicely into the trees standing ankle deep along the swollen river bank. I cut two identical lengths of fuze six feet long.fann ground. and is certainly not all-inclusive. Dad immediately took the truck down to the hardware store. wherever that might be. Unless it is put in the water too quickly or goes too deep. of course. and knock the limbs from old. protecting the burning fuze and cap charge a bit. clear log jams. right at the head of the jam. 1 am not absolutely certain that this allows me to go deeper with my charges. This list may be a bit archaic. iceswollen current with a long stick. Length of time on the fuze could only be learned by experimenting. I didn't know how much powder to use or how long to make the fuzes. but that it would cost as much as twenty dollars or more for dynamite. the river started to move again in its traditional banks. the amount was so trivial it is embarrassing. It finally went with a nice roar. soon obscured the progress of the drifting bomb. dynamite fuze will burn pretty well under water. It kind of bumps along half under the surface. The water is never deep enough to be of concern. We rigged the second case. A full case of dynamite in water doesn't really sink or float. The fact that fuze will burn up to ten feet under water is very helpful when one is pursuing that activity. We tied the box shut securely with baler twine. but I think it does . capped them to two different sticks of dynamite. Huge chunks of floating ice. Thanks to the explosives. The stream across our river-bottom field diminished in intensity. Water pressure collapses the bag. After about ten minutes. Using dynamite greatly expands one person ' s ability to accomplish uncommonly difficult tasks. the case went off about onethird of the way down the ice pack. The rule of thumb when hitting ice is to use three times as much powder as seems necessary. Driven by the current. This time the charge took so long it was at first monotonous and then scary as we began to think we had a misfire. We kept track of its progress by watching for the smoke from the fuze. I cut the fuze off at ten minutes (ten feet) and double-capped it again. the case bumped along under the great ice pack. 76 77 . No partiCUlar care need be taken with cap charges set for regular propagation sets when ditching with powder. backed up perhaps two hundred yards. "widow maker" trees we were clearing before we cut them with a chain saw. ] sald I could. almost taking out the jam. having money for two or three cases of dynamite seemed horribly extravagant. our property remained intact.) Dad asked me if I could help him do something before the new channel got deep and pennanent. but at the time. (Land titles at that time specified that ownership ran up to the high water mark of the river. useful when one is after large numbers of fish. A shock wave rippled downstream. In retrospect. After about five minutes. plus a coil of fuze and a half box of caps. Dynamite is. He bought two fifty-pound cases of 6O-percent. dead. We used dynamite to clean out drainage tiles. and put them back in the box. At the river I lit both fuzes at as close to the same time as possible and pushed the case into the freezing.

pUlting him in the category of just barely knowing enough to even be dangerous. the self-proclaimed university expert on our team. Anunonium nitrate is commonly available for sale in the United States." "Then you can use ammonium nitrate/' Dr. As for the "expert. Dr. a blasting agent. but is very uncommon in most if not all Third World countries. more correctly. Prick (as he carne to be known) knew nothing about explosives. Jorge. much less rernov· ing rocks with explosives. Like so many college professors away from home a few miles. our host. pontificated about the fact that they (the lazy Ecuadorians) should get some dynamite and remove that obstacle to modern fanning. It is. he actually knew damn little about farming. this guy was an instant expert on anything." there were several things he had forgotten about explosives. it can have the explosive force of about sixty pounds of 40-pcrccnt dynamite. Emphasis in the above statement is on the word can. "We aren't allowed to buy explosives. "Doing this job would require a petition to the army. Prick persisted. Richard. Dr. Ammonium nitrate is not really an explosive. explained that Ecuador is among the countries where it is uncommon.Chapter 6 Ammonium Nitrate Three of us stood looking at a huge boulder lying in the middle of a black loam field snuggled in a draw in central Ecuador. In retrospect." our Ecuadorian host quietly and patiently explalned. When combined with fuel oil or diesel fuel at the rate of two gallons per one hundred pounds. 79 .

Some days we managed to dig six or eight holes about sixty to ninety yards apan. The ammonium nitrate still failed to detonate. Ammonium nitrate has been around as a blasting agent for a long time. Another difficulty lies in the fact that. At about four to five feet.Even properly treated. and not before. I put a sack of mud on top of the pile of fertilizer.OOO-pound truckload of ammonium nitrate being unloaded at a quarry six miles east of Moscow. road builders. tied it into a five-Slick bundle. Certainly the water contained the charge. People interested in explosives tend to think of ammonium nitrate in terms of the coastal freighter Grandcamp. I worked one summer for the Iowa state fish and game department shooting duck potholes.000. 80 During the early fifties. killed at least 550 people. as well as taking out a number of windows as far away as downtown Moscow. Workers who had found the frozen material difficult to break loose burned tires under the truck to "wann it up a biL" The blast wiped out a gun club house and several homes within a mile of the truck. The patented ammonium nitrate mixture was composed of four pans ammonium nitrate and one pan charcoal powder. Two of us dug all day trying to get as deep a hole as possible in the marshy. Commercial interest in the material never materialized due to the absence of a suitable detonating system. 1867 was the same year Alfred Nobel patented dynamite. although many road builders and quarry operators use the material to blast rock. so we put two feet of damp earth back on top of the bags. The detonation of a reported thirteen million pounds of fertilizer shook the earth two hundred miles away . The fire burned for about an hour before reaching the criticaJ stage. Containing the shot was a problem. injured 3. capped a stick of 80-percent. Ammonium nitrate tolerates water very poorly-any water at all in the shot hole stopped our work. we usually hit water. the stuff often failed to go. knocked two light planes out of the air and caused a reported fifty million dollars in damage. I have concluded that ammonium nitrate can only be made to detonate when it damn well pleases. which caught fire off the shore of Texas City. it is not in a general sense a fast-enough material to do much more than throw out rock-similar to what 40percent dynamite does.ight bags were sealed again and carefully placed in the hole. 1947. Often we threw fertilizer all over the prairie. Ironically. but the drum kept the fertilizer bone dry. Ammonium nitrate as an explosive was discovered by two Swedes in 1867. In spite of the fact that tons and tons of the stuff is used by quarry operators. a 340. Each set was shot electrically. The only down side to the whole effort was that at least one out of every four shots failed to detonate. giving the mixture a chance to detonate. Charcoal provided the carbon base we currenLly get when we add kerosene. A blaster friend tells me he simply sticks an electric cap in the slurry and gets it to go every time. Texas. When it did. amounting in most cases to about eight hundred pounds. went up. Eighty-pound sacks of the fertilizer were then saturated with two gallons of diesel fuel and allowed to cure for thirty minutes to an hour. The still-waten. Even with two and three sticks of dynamite acting as a booster. the effect was very nice. early users lacked old tires to burn. Later. An eighty-pound sack of ammonium nitrate fertilizer sank the drum about two feet into the pond. ammonium nitrate is quite difficult to detonate. It was called ammoniakrut. grassy land on which we worked. My experience has not been that good. In January 1973. Today the problem with ammonium nitrate continues to be difficult detonation. however. Each hole was stuffed with as many sacks of fertilizer as possible. and put it in the ammonium nitratel kerosene mixture in the barrel. Apparently. 81 . Idaho. I soaked the material with kerosene. To contain the charge. and others. I rdn an experiment using an empty thirty-gallon oil drum. Five sticks should have detonated anything explosive. on April 16. It is only partially true in the instance of the Ecuadorian rock to say it can be an explosive. The drum itself remained watertight ' til hit by the dynamite.

. Obviously ammonium nitrate has a place in the explosives user's repertoire of tricks. The material flows more easily and as fertilizer it works more effectively. Under state laws. it can be a good material. Also. or S4. huge amounts of explosives are required. I have experienced clerks who tried this many times over the years. provided it is kept away from fuels and oils and no one attempts to bum lires under their material storage area.0 Ammonium nitrate charge. TOP SEALED TO KEEP OUT MOISTURE .. BAG OF AMMONIUM 1-_ NllRATE SOAKED WITH DIESEL FUEL. and can accommodate mixing the material with diesel fuel.80 per eighty-pound bag. Virtually all farm supply stores seU ammonium nitrate. Another relative advantage to ammonium nitrate is that it is relatively cheap and very commonly available. nor is it as easily available as an explosive as some people seem to think. but this coated material is so difficult to detonate that it isn't worth considering under any circumstances. The material will flow in and conform to the exact dimensions of a sprung or shot hole. phosphate. and the user is on a tight budget. however. TO ELECTR ICAL POWER SOURCE " % . It isn't terribly versatile. be careful to note that no calcium is contained in the mixture. 82 calcium should be listed on the tag even if it is only used as a coating at rates around one percent.. Be sure the bag says ammonium nitrate and not ammonium sulfate. has good dynamite and caps to use as a booster detonator. Cost is about ten cents per pound or eight dollars per eighty-pound bag when purchased a bag at a time. Farmers and blasters buy it for about SI20 per ton." SO-LB. Ask the dealer and look on the bag. Although it isn't as powerful as 40-percent dynamite on a pound-for-pound basis. ammonium nitrate sometimes makes up for its relative feebleness by taking advantage of its pourability. o· o • ELECTRICAL CAPPED STICK COVERED WITIl AMMONIUM NITRATE AMMONIUM NITRATE .. No special handling requirements are necessary. Some manufacturers coat their ammonium nitrate prills with limestone. 83 . It is not practical. and potash. which will not detonate under any conditions. : . This can add power to the shot in a most gratifying manner because the explosive flows in and exactly fills the shot hole if one can only get it to detonate. Often unknowing and uncaring store clerks will try to foist the second material off on the unsuspecting buyer. such as where the bore holes are dry.Under some conditions. unless the user can easily accommodate a misfire. respectively). Ammonium nitrate is 34-0-0 (indicating percentages of nitrogen.

In retrospect. 85 . it seemed to us. we paid sixty-five cents per bottle of potassium chlorate. to be far more powerful than Four F Black. but if we took a vote regarding the relative immediate importance. For my brother and I. the advent of nuclear energy may have been more important. yielding a total net weight of sixteen ounces. Far and away. the outcome would not be certain. At the time of discovery . confined under pressure. The equal volume of granulated. producing an obscene amount of smoke. it certainly was the moral equivalent of our first piece of ass. white sugar we borrowed from the kitchen didn't cost us a cent From this we got two pounds of pretty good explosive. at least.Chapter 7 Sugar Chlorate Powder The discovery of sugar powder was a landmark event in the history of the Benson family_ In total significance. the greatest advantage to sugar powder (other than the fact that we obtained it without undue strain) was that it was incredibly cheap to manufacture. Sugar powder provides one with an easy-to-manufacture rough equivalent of black powder. feeling the plaster ceiling in the basement after the largest batch of the stuff I ever attempted to make went up with an unruly hiss. Sugar-powder technology may actually get the vote for total. Even my parents acknowledge the coming of sugar powder technology. It may not actually be as powerful as black but. it ranked right up there with Pearl Harbor and catching our first mink. immediate impact. however. 1 remember it as if it were yesterday: my father standing on the workbench.

When making sugar powder, be sure to get the chemical with three molecules of oxygen (KCl03 ) and not potassium chloride (Kel). which is basically inert: Potassium chlorate is still used by some farmers to treat livestock and by a great number of manufacturers to make various products. It is available from most drugstores, drug supply houses, vet supply houses, and most industrial chemical suppliers. Nowadays the cost is far more than eight cents per ounce, but unlike other explosives that are practically unavailable, this is a pretty good one that just about anyone can have. The only down side is that making an acceptable explosive out of equal parts of sugar and potassium chlorate requires that one carefully follow some basic procedures. The procedures are about as complex as making a cake from a package mix, but unless you follow the directions, your father may also be feeling the scorched plaster basement ceiling to see if a fire has started. We originally got our first hint about sugar powder while reading an ancient Harding book called 1001 Queslions and Answers, purchased for a dollar (one muskrat hide) through Fur, Fish and Game magazine. Then there was the article in Sports Afield about the fellow out west who concocted the powder to load in his .22 long rifle cases. "Potent medicine on out-of-range jackrabbits," he wrote. The problem we encountered was that. although several sources said it could be done. no one gave step-by-step instructions for successfully accomplishing the chemical union of the potassium chlorate and common table sugar. Our first experiment came out surprisingly like inedibJe cake frosting. We did not heal the sugar sufficiently to melt it. Instead, we had used a couple of teaspoons of water to dissolve the sugar-a complete no-no, we later discovered. 1 don't know if we actually had explosive fudge, but 1 still suspect that it was basically worthless, either to eat or to blow things up with. The material was soft and sticky. After three days, we pitched it. By some quirk of fate. my brother and I figured out that the sugar must be melted and not dissolved. OUf second batch contained no water and a lot more heat. It was

infmitely better. By some similar quirk of fate, we also allowed the melted sugar to cool down sufficiently before mixing in the KCI0 3 . As a result, our second batch came off without incident. Part of this luck occurred as the result of the KCI0 cooling the melted sugar very rapidly when stirred 3 in. The batch was so small. the KCt0 never got hot 3 enough to ignite. Keep in mind that we were a bunch of destitute farm kids without many funds for expensive chemicals. A successful batch of powder was a momentous occasion. Pulling the needed elements together was as great a financial challenge as buying a new truck is today. The second time around, we produced a material much like rock candy. It was tough to grind fine enough to do anything with. In this instance, the melted sugar got a bit too hot. The correct temperature of the melted sugar should be no more than 255 0 Fahrenheit. Science and technology have since overtaken the Benson household. I now use a candy thennometer to make my sugar powder. Stir the melting sugar constantly. fie sure that when it reaches 255 0 Fahrenheit. it is completely melted. Take the sugar off the stove and stir constantly to eliminate hot spots and to cool. My rule of thumb is to cool it enough so that I can put my thumb in the melted but cooling sugar without discomfort. This will take constant, vigorous mixing. The KCI0 3 should be premeasured so that equal parts by volume are used. Stir in the KCI0 slowly and 3 thoroughly. Lumps in the chemical must be broken apart before mixing. At times we have used the expedient of sifting the KCI0 3 through a screen to break it up. Storebought KCI0 comes out of the jar as fine crystals. 3 At this point the compound will cool down very quickly. If you have been cautious about not letting the temperature get too high and are very diligent about stirring in the KCI0 3 rapidly and with vigor, the compound will not cool down and set up before the last of the potassium chlorate can be completely mixed in. Spoon the compound -which is now a kind of off-white material with the consistency of year-old wedding-cake

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87

EQUAL VOLUME OF KCI0 3 AND COMMON HOUSEHOLD SUGAR

1
SUGAR 2·IN. OR LARGER IRON PIPE WITH THREADED END CAPS
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MEASURE OF KCIO l

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FUZE HOLE

PIPE PACKED WITH KCI0 SUGAR POWDER 3

AFffiR COOLING, STIR IN KCIO l

Pipe bomb.

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ROLL OUT MIXTURE ON FLAT, HARD SURFACE USING A PIECE OF PLASTIC FILM

COMMON SODA STRAW FILLED WITH MIX OP 50% SUGAR CHLORATE. 50% FINE HARDWOOD SAWDUST

Fuze.

Sugar chlorate powder.

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89

frosting-onto a piece of Saran wrap. Let it set overnight in a cool, dry place. A refrigerator is too cool and damp. An open garage in Iowa most August nights is ideal. After curing for twelve hours, the powder must be ground. For years we used my mother's rolling pin, 'til one of my brothers got to high school chemistry and found out about a high-tech implement called a mortar and pestle. Ground sugar powder can be used as is for many applications, but for reloading ammo, it is best to sieve the fines out. We took the resulting fine dust and loaded it into .22 LR cartridges from which we had pulled the heads and dumped the factory powder charge. r believe the powder also would work on a volume basis in 30-30s, but I've never tried it. If I ever did use a sugar-powder reload, I would cautiously use light bullets and tie the gun down first. Although the powder works in some cartridges, it is best used for pipe bombs and the like. The sugar powder is so hard on gun barrels you might as well hire a mouse to piss down the barrel regularly. The net result would be almost the same. Sugar powder is match-sensitive. I do not know if it is impact-sensitive but suspect it is. I never tried the powder with standard dynamite caps (which I regret), so I do not know for sure if it is cap-sensitive. Again, I suspect it is. We did a huge number of experiments with the powder in pipe bombs. In three-quarter-inch pipes, the sugar powder does not reach critical mass and simply fizzles. When ignited with a fuze in balf-pound quantities in one-half-inch or larger pipe bombs, it barks nicely, doing the requisite amount of damage. The best charges are packed in the pipe in as dense a manner as possible. Cotton string dipped in a solution of sugar powder makes acceptable fuze for some applications. It can be subject to flash burns, so it should only be used in very long lengths. Thankfully, it is cheap and easy to make. Another trick we developed was to mix 50-percent fine-cut hardwood sawdust with fine ground sugar powder and pour this concoction into a fat plastic straw. If needed, the straws could be slipped together to make really long

fuzes. Unlike string dipped in a sugar-powder solution, straws packed with sawdust and sugar powder are very reliable and predictable. The speed at which the fuze burns can be altered by the amount of sawdust put in the mixture. We have worked out extremely predictable, one-foot-perminute fuzes many times. Probably the most unique use of sugar powder was the light bulb bombs my brothers often made up. They took regular 60- or lOO-watt lightbulbs, knocked out a small chunk of the side using a towel or rag and small ball peeD hammer, and filled the bulbs with one-qu311cr to one-half pound of sugar powder. On throwing the light switch, the oxygen-exposed elements in the bulbs flashed, setting off the sugar powder that, in tum, thumped the room nicely. The device won't do much damage. It won't even blowout the windows. So much smoke and confusion are created, however, that the effect is well worth the trouble trying to get light bulbs to break properl y. Recapping briefly: I make potassium chlorate powder as follows:
1. Buy the correct chemical-use potassium chlorate KCI03 "
2. Use common, granulated white sugar as the second ingredient.

3. Dry measure the two into equal amounts by volume (i.e., use one cup of KCl0 3 for each cup of sugar). 4. Sift the KCI0 so that all the lumps are removed or 3 crushed. 5. Place the sugar in an old pot. Ileat it 10 255 0 Fahrenheit, stirring constantly. 6. Take the melted sugar away from the stove burner and continue to stir vigorously.
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8. 13. the explosives are of little value. dry place. Use however you wish. 12. Without the means of safely detonating one's explosives. 11. after all. Alfred Nobel 's discovery of the principle of initial ignition (blasting caps) in 1863 may be more significant than the work he did pioneering the development of dynamite itself. Fine is better for reloading. Improvised caps have an additional element of risk due to the fact that they are sensitive to relatively small amounts of heat. Continue to stir until the melted sugar cools surficiently to comfortably put your finger in the mixture. blasting caps are the first item to be taken off the market by despotic governments. If the tubing is not readily available. completely mixing in the KC10 3 " Improvised Detonating Caps 9. coarse is okay for bombs. Caps. The solution is to think your way carefully through each operation and to make only a few caps at a time. Fuze and electric-sensitive chemical mixtures are best put in extremely thin-walled . but do require that one exercises a high degree of caution. Allow the batch to cure overnight in a cool. Sift the powder through a fine screen to grade for particle size. shock. crush the frangible powder as fine as required for the intended use. Finding something to use for a cap is a different kettle of fish. By doing so.Chapter 8 7. dangerous part of the blasting process. As I demonstrated in the chapter on ammonium nitrate. static electricity. use 92 93 . Dump the solidifying compound on a piece of Saran wrap and flatten out to not more than one-half-inch thick. Usually under the facade of safety. Making it go boom somewhat on schedule is the real piece of work in this business. it is not particularly difficult to come up with some kind of blasting agent. There are at least two reasonably easy expedient methods of making blasting caps. Quickly and vigorously stir in the KCI0 3 before the compound cools down and sets up. The formulas arc not terribly dangerous. and chemical deterioration. 10. Using a wooden rolling pin. are the most sensitive. you will limit the potential damage to what you hope arc acceptable levels.25 10 (inside diameter) aluminum tubing.

often in larger quantities at reduced prices. If a piece of tubing is used in place of a mag case.59 per bottle. Be sure this place is somewhat cool as well as dark. ready to clamp on the fuze in the customary fashion. Shake the mixture vigorously for at least ten minutes . but for safety's sake J still use a heavy leather glove and a piece of one~quarter-inch steel clamped in a vise to shield me when I pack in the powder. Powder contact with the 94 95 . Copper can combine with either of the primer mixtures described below.22 mag cases with the powder. so use caution. Do not use copper tubing unless the caps will be put in service within forty-eight hours of their manufacture. hexamine is white. costing roughly one dollar per boule. Many of the survival catalogs also carry it. As of this writing. securely crimp or solder one end shut. unsquashed.50. for instance. Use the stuff bottle blondes are famous for that is 20. Two mixtures are fairly easy when making the priming compound for blasting caps.22 mag brass should be filled to within one-quarter inch of the top of the empty case. Anything more in one batch is too risky. Run four or five spoons of isopropyl alcohol through the powder to clean it. for instance) if they can't determine for sure what it is they have or exactly what you want. Many clerks in sporting goods stores seem to have undergone a lobotomy as a qualification for the job. I have never had an incident.to 3D-percent pure by volume. In my experience. Add four and a half tablespoons of citric acid to the two and a half teaspoons of crushed hexamine. there should be enough to load three blasting caps. a chemical that is used for basically the same purpose. Don ' t use newspaper or magazine covers. The final mix involves pouring in a tablespoon of common peroxide. I personally favor ordering my hexamine from survival catalogs to be more certain of what J am getting. Sct the mixing jar in a dark. make it yourself out of straws and sugar chloride powder as described in Chapter 9. This material is the cheapest of the ingredients. For fuze-type caps. the concoction is about three times as powerful as regular caps of the same size. filtered powder on a piece of uncoated. Filter the entire mix through a coffee filter. a white. Making enough chemical for three caps is just right. Using a plastic spoon. In my opinion. It is usually used to prcserve the color of home~frozen and canned fruit and sells for about $1. Make sure you use hexamine. At the end of twelve hours. tough paper. undamaged . bright. Don ' t put it in the basement on top of a heat duct. Notebook paper or a paper bag is ideal. Often. but not always. Stir with a glass rod until the mixture is a Slurry. creating an even more dangerous compound. This unfilled one-quarter inch provides the needed "skirt" used to crimp the fuze to the cap. Fuze can often be purchased. Crush to fine powder two and a half teaspoons of hexamine (military fuel) tablets. until everything appears to be in solution. cool shelf sitting. they will either try to talk you out of hexamine if they don't have it.22 magnum rimfire cases. Sometimes hexamine is confused with trioxaine. empty . The resulting explosive is very powerful. Spread the wet. a sufficient amount of hexamine to make two batches of caps costs from $.clean. It will not do to have the powder leak out of the cap. After a few hours of undisturbed. The end result is a very nice cap. while trioxaine is bluish. available from drugstores. Pack the powder down into the case with a tight-fitting brdss rod. or try substituting something else (suppositories. in my opinion. undisturbed spot for at least twelve hours. It is also very sensitive. cloudy precipitate will begin to appear. Hexamine is available at many sporting goods stores and virtually all army surplus shops. dark place. Place the finely powdered hexamine in a clear glass mixing jar.75 to $1. Allow the powder to dry in a cool. A pint-sized jar with an old-fashioned glass top is perfect for the job. The citric acid can be the common variety found in the canning department of the grocery store. If not. fill the presorted and precleancd .

' .. CRIMP END OF TUB . I. I I .I . UNDAMAGED...' 'i.e 2. I .. 1 I ~ I I .} .. .11 I!~ 1:) ~. .0 . . 1 1 .' I H' i2 .~ 2.y~..w<~~<~8'~ 114-fN . '''- • . ~~~"""~II:Qdf~.. ... ."J'I ("'0 ~: I. .. I.. "f"~"~'.. .1 TOP 1/4 IN.22 MAG CASE (CLEAN. - - -" .-. Homemade blasting caps (cont....). ID miN WALL ALUMINUM TUBING " .I ~~ 0 .- TUBE FILLED Wl11I QIEMlCAL Homemade blasting caps. ". ! . LEFf UNFILLED FOR CRIMP ..1 f'i/ . .' . '" ' . " ~'..' -. '" GLUE PLUG HOLDS FILL WITH CHEMICAL llGHTLY PACKED IN CASE f ..:.: ! • .: I I\\)i .3112 .4: . ~I . I I " ~I ...-----1 I .' .....~ ~ :y .HEAVIER LEAD WIRES TOP OPEN TO ALLOW FUZE CRIMP EMPTY . . UNDENTED) \ VERYTHLN 11IIN. NON· COPPER WIRE EMBEDDED IN CAP CHEMlCAL NICHROME WIRE 1'1. .. ... WLRES IN PLACE :: I . :1 i ':. . . . 'if.. I I . 96 97 .. ~J n_~Q"_""'''_''''''~'''_ 'llhl4n~ . . I~ " t:1 .•.1(:":. ... I ..

Adjust your mix on that basis if you have nothing but English measures to work with. This one is a bit better because the mixture involves aU liquids.5 milliliters of concentrated sulfuric acid. this batch will produce enough powder for about three caps. Try not to disturb or shake the jar by needlessly opening the refrigerator. Hobby shops are also a source of this wire. They should set off ammonium nitrate. cover the jar and set it in the refrigerator for twelve hours. Spread on paper and dry. whichever is easier and more available. a wall outlet. To get around thIS. of course. There are about 28 milliliters per ounce. cut the thread-thin material into six-inch pieces.002 diameter wire purchased from a hardware specialty shop. Mix 30 milliliters of acetone purchased from an automotive supply house with 50 milliliters of 20. First we'll discuss another good formula that uses equally common materials. I have occasIonally loaded two-thirds of the cap with hexamine or acetate booster and one-third with FFFF6 black powder or sugar chlorate powder. must be considerably larger than fuze caps. The job can be tougher than one would suppose because of the thinness of the bridge wires. Copper wire is easiest to obtain. Seal the cap off with silicon c~ulk. The wire should bum an instantaneous cherry red when the current is applied. The last step IS to attach the lead wires to the thin bridge wires. For some unknown reason. filter through a coffee filter. After all the acid has been added. Allow the cap to cure for several days.solder should be kept to a minimum. Again. add this to the mixture one drop at a time. stop adding acid and stir as long as it takes for the temperature to start to drop again. These are pretty hefty caps. some of my mixtures have not deton~ted well using. Be sure the connection is secure and solid. Having located a usable wire. Stir continually. Sulfuric is available from people who sell lead acid batteries.22 mag brass does not have enough capacity. If black or sugar powder is not available. I use nichrome . I have never tried it. do not even think about soldering the wires after they are embedded in the primer. dependent on having the necessary materials. It is possible and perhaps desirable to continue on and lurn these caps into electrically fired units.to 30-percent peroxide purchased from the corner bottle blonde. but don't be surprised if they don't. but more about that later. or whatever power source will be used. use a smaller diameter wire. of course. Prepare a large bowl full of crushed ice. The problem then is that . but making two caps from a batch rather than three might create a cap with enough heft to reliably detonate ammonium nitrate. a heated bridge wire. Fingernail polish can be used to seal the lead away from the chemical. because of the fact that bridge wires must be included in the package. a white. cloudy precipitate will fonn in the bottom of the pint jar. If it doesn't. but should not be used because of its possible reaction with the blasting material. the caps can usually be made to work reliably using only the original cap powder. Using an eyedropper. having about three times the power of regular dynamite caps. Pack the recently manufactured cap explosive in around the wire. 98 99 . If the mixture starts to get hot. Use tiny mechanical clamps as necessary and. As before. Electrical caps. For making electrical caps. use any fine steel wire that is available. but it is temperature critical and should therefore be approached with special care. Bend these into a U and place them in the bottom of the tubes. Measure out 2. J strongly urge that an experimental piece of proposed bridge wire be placed in a circuit with a 12-volt car battery. Stir the acetone and peroxide together thoroughly. Mix in a quart or so of water and about one-half to two-thirds pound of salt Place the pint jar with the acetone and peroxide in the salt ice cooling bath. Like the first material. You will have to go to a hardware store to find suitable aluminum tubing. but wash it with a couple of spoons of distilled water. The chlorate or black powder ignites much easier taking in tum the morc powerful cap mixture with it~ Concocting this combination is.

how- 100 101 . I have never had a serious incident. Blasters who can secure commercial caps are advised to go that route. and demolition charges I have been around. Homemade explosives carry with them a huge intrinsic risk. r have all my fingers and toes and even my hearing is not too bad considering al\ the mortars. On the other hand. in total. [ will charge ahead and offer some suggestions for the truly desperate who cannot get explosives by any other means.Chapter 9 Making these caps requires more than the usual amount of care and experimentation. many are maimed or impaired as a result of fooling around with this stuff. The closest] ever came was the time my batch of sugar powder went up. To this day . With this warning. I can ' t begin to remember my many friends who in their youth had misadventures with noncommercial explosives. not all that tough to make. On the other hand. in spite of some god-awful dumb things they did with them. The formulas I list are not necessarily the easiest or most powerful. high explosives are so much fun and so intereSting I have always felt the risk was well worth the ultimate payoff. 1 do not recall a single friend who ever got hurt with commercial explosives. these caps are workable and. But if not. They are. heavy artillery. Those needing evidence of this fact need look no further than the early history of high explosives. Improvised Explosives This is the part of the explosives business that is really dangerous. Chemist after chemist who worked with explosives came to work to find his assistants splattered all over the lab walL Those who survived charged gamely on 'til it seemed as though only the lucky remained. Perhaps because 1 am a reasonably good half-assed chemist (having taken chemistry in school). The procedure is workable but dangerous.

the consistency of the Kel0 must be similar to talcum powder. This isn't terribly difficult. Carefully measure five level teaspoons-or tablespoons if you want to make a larger initial batch-of common Vaseline and place this in an old ceramic or plastic bowl along with five carefully measured level teaspoons (tablespoons) of common beeswax.3 solution and place it in a snowbank or refrigerator until it drops to 32° Fahrenheit. The maker will require an old hot plate. saving the crystals as in step one. J claim that 1 use it as a wash for flowerpots. Start with 1200 grams of calcium hypochlorite 103 . Potassium chlorate IS a strong oXJdizmg agent. Use white-as in camp stove-gas to dissolve the mixture. you will need a total of 65 grams of potassium chloride. It is also sold as a cleaner at some drugstores. It is not really powerful enough for military applications but does very nicely as a substitute for common dynamite. Along with the gallon of bleach. finely grind potassium chlorate. you will have to make 3 it. When you are done grinding. Crystals will fonn. You will want to work outside on a warm day so that the gasoline can evaporate out of the mixture and blow away. Combine the two batches of crystals and mix 56 grams of the material with 100 milliliters of distilled water. a cement cleaner. a large glass bowl. The addition of a trace of finely ground aluminum powder at the mixing stage will increase the detonation velocity a bit. If you find you cannot purchase commercial KCI0 .3 on the hydrometer. . . There is at least one other method of securing KCI0 3 in larger quantities.Put the gallon of bleach on the hot plate and slowly heat it in a glass container. or as a seed treatment. Like 4O-percent dynamite. or the product simply will not work. or whatever shape is desired. The finished block of explosives should be dipped in paraffin to seal it against moisture and foreign chemicals. As the mixture starts to harden. this explosive must be shot with a cap. Mix in as little-white gas as possible. which should be pure KCI0 . There must be no 3 compromising here. Sulfur and phosphorous can needlessly sensitize and degrade the mixture. The first formula I will recommend yields a product that is comparable to 4O-percent commercial dynamite. and save the crystals. Boil again until the solution reads 1. and an accurate metric scale. There is little danger to the maker when grinding up this chemical into fine powder. cool. among the safest one can put together in a jam. Heal the powder slightly while paddling it to be sure not a trace of water remains on completion of the grinding operation. a reliable hydrometer (many people use a battery hydrometer). After packing and shaping the charge. if it cannot be purchased off the shelf. but to some places may be necessary if you cannot convince your comer druggist to . a super-soluble fertilizer for a hydroponics garden. Readers undoubtedly can come up with equally creative reasons for owning KCl0 3 that their comer druggist will accept. This is full charge on a battery hydrometer. . Potassium chlorate. Add the 65 grams of potassium chloride and bring the mixture to a boil. this is a lot of dinking around for a small yield of potassium chlorate. Usually about one-third cup or less wiU be enough to dissolve the wax/Vaseline mixture. ' order KCI0 3 for you. Filter the solution through a coffee filter and save rhe crystals in another container. compress it very tightly into rolls from toilet paper. Take the 1. 102 Avoid rough friction andlor any sulfur or phosphorous compounds. 3 Obviously.ever.3. . Take ninety premeasured level teaspoons of powdered potassium chlorate and hand knead it into the melted wax and Vaseline. First. Boil gently until the hydrometer reads 1. Potassium chloride is sold expensively in the grocery store as salt substitute and dirt cheap in farm supply stores for fanners to use as fertilizer. blocks. dry place for four or five days to cure. can be made from common 5 I/4-percent sodium hypochlorite solution (bleach). Gently heat this solution again. cool. place it in a cool. and filter.

It is gelling a bit scarce.D.X. 105 . These red fumes are very poisonous. While the solution is still very hot.U.x. 45 GRAMS FINELY GROUND HE)(AM"NE TIlERMOMETER . (totally under).X. glass beaker-type mixing bowl. Those who can not secure pure nitric can condense it down by carefully and slowly boiling the diluted nitric acid on a hot plate. Making R. half-assed chemist. or other industrial users. Hexamine is the old camp stove fuel used by GIs for years. Keep an accurate thermometer on hand to monitor the process of adding the powdered hexamine to the nitric acid. Continue to slowly boil until red fumes begin to come off the mixture. If the maker can find a good source of nitric acid from school chern labs. Even if the nitric acid must be home manufactured. this will be considerably less than 500 cc's. crushed-ice bath large enough to conveniently hold a large. Another family of explosives can be made at home by those willing to take the risk. drain through a coffee filter to remove the milky precipitate.D. Carefully weigh out 45 grams of this finely ground hexamine and place it in a paper cup. Start by grinding hexamine fuel ban. Set the remaining liquid on a shelf and allow the temperature to drop to about 65° to 70° Fahrenheit.D. compounds used often by the military. Measure out 500 grams of pure nitric acid. but is still commonly available in most surplus stores. Keep plenty of ice and salt on hand to replenish the cooling bath as needed. Add in 225 grams of potassium chloride (salt substitute) as above. 104 Cool the now-pure nitric acid and place 500 grams by weight in the glass bowl. milky substance is fonned. One whiff will generally cause a person to go T. This KCI0 3 becomes the basis for manufacture of the explosives previously mentioned. Since nitric acid is Quite heavy. which is in turn nestled down in Lhe chopped ice/salt cooling mixture. is a bit tough but certainly not an insurmountable task for the desperate.D. jewelry shops. Prepare a sa1ted.X. Do this outside when a gentle wind is blowing. Boil the solution until a white. If the temperature of the mixture goes up to 85° Fahrenheit. Boil as long as the white precipitate continues to fonn. an explosive with which most GIs are very familiar. Crystals of KCI0 3 will fonn as the solution cools. the process is relatively easy. Stir continually with a glass rod. stop adding hexamine and continue stirring. is the basis of C-4. the project is still doable. Mix in enough jumping hot water to dissolve the potassium chloride.' 0 Manufacturing R. R. into fine powder.(swimming pool chlorination compound). These are based on the R.

The real problem with RD.. Buy 100 grams of potassium nitrate from a drugstore or vet supply house.x. buy pure ice. allow the R. Speeding the heating process pushes water into the acid. it must be fired with a cap. cool. blow in steel doors. The mixture should drop to about 32° Fahrenheit. 107 . running from $80 to $120. Be sure the water and ice are clean and relatively free of dissolved minerals. though thi s does not present a problem for many applications. but it definitely is a pain in the ass. Almost any drugstore will order it if they don't have it. and filter again.X. The only potential problem is that the explosive is sleepy below 45° Fahrenheit and becomes a bit unstable above 90° Fahrenheit. Place two-thirds of the potassium nitrate by weight in the retort.D. Nitric acid can be 106 made using commonly available apparatus and somewhat common chemicals. Place them in just enough warm water to cover them and allow the batch to sit for three or four minutes. Continue stirring until it does and then stir an additional ten minutes. they should be stored underwater in a glass jar. and mix with distilled water. The process is slow. Wash them one more time by dumping the crystals in a cup of boiling distilled water. Since the crystals are very explosive. It is helpful to pack ice around the bottle to condense Lhe acid. Place a bottle under the neck of the retort to catch the drops as they fall out. into a mixture of beeswax and wheelbearing grease.X. and 10 percent wheel-bearing grease. crystals. 10 percent beeswax. Heat the mixture very gently in an extremely well ventilated area. To make a C-4-like explosive. producing a less-than-pure product. reboil in water to wash away this material. This explosive is quite fast and very powerful. Add in half as much sulfuric acid. If there is any acid.Continue Sl1mng for about fifteen minutes after the hexamine has all been added to the acid. but it does work. occurs when a good source of nitric acid is not available. Crystals of R. Stir. Battery acid is okay. Make a second batch of crushed ice in which to dump and wash the R.X. or neutral.X. Using litmus paper from a school lab or chern supply house. Filter again. grind it. golf.D. Potassium nitrate is commonly available as a food preserv~ ative and feed additive. but it is a good field-expedient procedure if all else fails.x. Anyone who is interested can easily buy one of the numerous books on the subject available from Paladin Press. Take the now cooled and well mixed solution and dump it into a clean bowl of crushed ice and water. but try to get the highest purity possible. No metals should ever be allowed to touch these chemicals. especially if the sulfuric acid is not pure. test the water for pH. These arc very expensive. and hustling-and homemade explosives are especially dangerous-I willlcave it at that.D. which can be purchased from almost any chemical supply house. powerful explosive with which to cut down bridges.D. It definitely has military applications if one is in the need of a fast.X. Since using explosives as a hobby is much more dangerous than doing things such as bowling. The price is around $5. crystals to dry in an open bowl. There are many additional explosives formulas that r could list. Slightly acidic R.D. crystals are extremely unstable. It will take time to collect enough nitric acid with which to do anything. Sulfuric acid of98 to 100 percent purity works the best. knead the R. In any case. You will need a retort still. The gas produced by this reaction will condense as droplets on the inside neck of the retort. will form in the ice water. the reading should be almost 7. When they are completely dry. I have found that a good mix is 80 percent by weight KD. To be on the safe side. Filter these out. If there is a question. or whatever.

The old car body disintegrated into a shower of metal shards from the impact of the HE (high explosives) round. swinging his 105mm main gun around. Slowly and carefully. From the target eight hundred yards out. at least. the tank commander stood on tiptoe on his turret platfonn to look out over the vast expanse of desert. sixty-ton lank felt its way up to the top of the rise. dusty shower. Toward the top of the basalt hill. All the sagebrush and wire grass in front of the tank 108 109 . On seeing the target. The concussion from the shot threw up sand and bits of rock in a gritty. going from firecrackers when one is very young to heavy explosives when one is older and more mature. the mammoth.Chapter 10 RETORT FLASK PRODUCES NITRIC ACID STOPPER Recreational Use of Explosives COOLING WATER POTASSIUM NITRATE AND SULfURIC ACID ICE PACK MAY BE ADVISABLB It is difficult for me to comprehend the fact that some people actually do not consider all uses of explosives to be recreation. It was as if the steel monster had run into a wall of lelia. he hit the traverse lever. Trapped between the explosion and the little basalt canyon as I was. I found it incredible that such a behemoth could give the impression of treading so lightly. the blast about washed me off the tank. BURNER CATCHES NITRIC ACID Manufacturing nitric acid. I can remember the exact moment I fully appreciated the enjoyment that can come from using explosives. this is a perfectly logical progression. tracking on the target. only his head showed over the basalt rock. In my mind. he was probably not visible. It fired almost instantaneously.

A pleasant variation of that system involved placing a suck or two of powder under a milk jug filled with gasoline. All this claptrap paled into insignificance compared to just one stick of 40·percent. In one case. I didn't think you could do it. Water from the blast chums up in a kind of reverse maelstrom. who was down along the creek with his girlfriend. We pulled the parachute and flare. so we could practice on them." he said. Blasting fish in eight or more feet of water is definitely recreational. Serious blasters eschew the use of common fireworks on the Fourth of July. we starn· peded the cattle toward the hired man.257 Roberts. Ions of ethyl-was perched high enough to avoid any serious damage from the blast below. anemically dribbled across the bam lot. It blew all the lower branches off and turned the top limbs in an awkward upward angle. we treated our peers who had nothing more than firecrackers with a deference born of the natural superiority held by those who have real explosives. they are terribly difficult 10 hit. Successful hits are very showy. the whole neighborhood knows it." Dad said. with but two "incidents. packed in the most powerful dynamite we had around. Each year. aerial and cherry bombs. "Aim for that little blue spruce in the far front yard. the effect of the tank a charm. It was at that moment. Any living thing up to sixty feet under and in front of the main gun would have been kiJled by the muzzle blast. A really wondrous recreational event using explosives occurs when an especially long. As she is quick to point out. The smell was exhilarating. she just loves to set up a few surplus sticks of 6O·percent and plink at them with her . Nobody has to speculate if the round was accurately directed or not Given the chance. that I realized I was addicted to high explosives. instead of arcing out over the pasture field. wide ditch is shot with III 110 . Luckily. We got very good at dropping the grenades into logjams along the creek where trash had piled up during spring floOOs. Case after case of our improvised rifle grenades went whizzing over the countryside. I don ' t know why everyone does not share my delight with explosives. The thing malfunctioned and. I was demonstrating a rifle grenade to some neighborhoOO kids. This was indeed a thing of beauty. Our best show occurred when we floated sticks with long fuzes high into the sky tied to helium-filled weather balloons.was uprooted and destroyed." The other time. it is fun to blast a waterspout up over the treetops. The neighbor kids could take their M-BOs. Idaho. sitting in the basket as I rode through the lank commander school on the desert south of Boise. One time." Both were practice runs that went amok. she is quick to appreciate the funnier things in life. and Zebras and stuff them. The homemade bombs blew sticks and twigs hundreds of feel into the air. we bought surplus parachute grenades by the case. landing right under Dad's precious pine. "I don't believe it. it has to be some abhorrent character defect. The combination produces an angry black and red cloud of a most spectacular nature. but when you hit one. Now. and the return rumble of the round as it detonated downrange a pure delight. The water flashes silver for an instant. On the Founh. She grew up in an extremely deprived atmosphere. and fired these out into the pasture field. "All the years I've been watering and caring for that tree and now it's blown up." Perhaps I was lucky. Dad suggested I try lobbing one into the front yard of the homestead two hundred yards east. If they don't. coming to rest under our gas barrel. The noise is a kind of sharp click. given the chance. the barrel-containing three hundred gal. we looked forward to the new deposits of debris left during the flood season. but the grenade landed short about ten feet and bounced once. "See how close you can come. It takes quite a sharpshooter to plunk off the dynamite before holing the gas container. My underprivileged wife was raised by college profes· sors who thought firecrackers were dangerous. When we were kids. . In shallower water along creeks. I was demonstrating the proficiency we had acquired with our little bombs.

Using a battery and two wires. My uncle was a great believer in rigging up a trip wire connected to a charge hung in a tree. A shop building we tried to shoot down several different times still stands. Those who are uncertain as to how to rig this set had best start by practicing with caps alone. ]t is a real hype for those who enjoy the thump of explosives. many people will choose to use explosives only to do work. The windows must be in place. Another real high (no pun intended) occurs when shooting duck ponds with large charges of ammonium nitrate. We wanted the land. will close a circuit. he often scared people out of our woodlot at night. not the buildings. This explosive isn't particularly powerful.ier. smeU. there is much. and concussion rush becomes adclictive to many users. In my younger days. The black muck is instantaneously put in the air in a vaporized configuration. Leave the dynamite off the set until you are experienced at wiring up a mousetrap that. and so on. the doors closed. Blowing down buildings is very recreationa1. when sprung. which were by anyone's standards completely redundant. Using a bug sprayer. much more. Using a mousetrap as a trip switch dates back almost to prehistoric times.propagation powder. There is nothing wrong with that approach. we fogged the buildings with a quart of gasoline. the effect is very nice. He also managed to deafen a significant number of our cows. On the other hand. we absorbed several farms into our main operation. It 's just that. A half stick of dynamite used as an igniter blew the buildings right resolutely to hell. the thump. 112 . This spectacular recreational use of powder only works on buildings that are reasonably intact. The doors were loose and the siding too open. for many of us. As I mentioned earl. but if you use a lot of it.

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