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Posted: 9/9/2013 3:32:58 AM EST
My dad looked through some old documents this weekend that the family had collected over the years.

My 3rd great grandmother kept a "trunk" that was guarded through the years, and as a child my father and his sisters always imagined that there was some great treasure in it.  

What's in the box?  A lot of old receipts and shares of stock in long dead companies (and tobacco allotments).

Anyway, I scanned this one.  Can someone explain how a "carbide generator" works?  My ggf paid $258 for one in 1924 to have lights in the house.  Apparently rural electrification came late to Eastern NC.

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:36:44 AM EST
they use the generator to make acetylene gas. water+ carbide=acetylene. they use a measured drip to keep from making too much at one time. they then burn the acetylene. works like a carbide lantern
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:37:11 AM EST
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:43:18 AM EST
Can I still get 100 pounds of carbide for $5.40? Might be fun to play with
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:45:51 AM EST
Generates acetylene gas for gas lamps and stoves.






















Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:47:03 AM EST
Thank you for sharing the receipt. I love reading old receipts. Interesting that much of the legalese on the receipt is pretty much the same today.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:47:54 AM EST
Can you even buy Carbide anymore?
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:54:27 AM EST
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Can you even buy Carbide anymore?
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Make your own.  Lime and coke plus 2000 degrees F = carbide and carbon monoxide.


Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:56:26 AM EST
So you just put the lime in de coconut?  

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Quoted:


Make your own.  Lime and coke plus 2000 degrees F = carbide and carbon monoxide.


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Quoted:
Quoted:
Can you even buy Carbide anymore?


Make your own.  Lime and coke plus 2000 degrees F = carbide and carbon monoxide.



Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:59:28 AM EST
Carbide lamps were the coal miner's headgear back then.  It was of course problematic in gassy mines.




On March 8, 1924, at 7:30 a.m., less than an hour after the miners had entered the Castle Gate Mine, coal dust and gas exploded through the tunnels, killing everyone in the mine.

What apparently happened was that one of the bosses had discovered some gas near the roof of the mine tunnel. When he climbed up to investigate, his carbide light went out. As he relit his lamp, the flame from his match ignited the gas.
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Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:02:22 AM EST
damn that sounds like a perilous way to light your house.

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:04:41 AM EST
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damn that sounds like a perilous way to light your house.

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That's what I think about homes with natural gas today.  I just don't want flammable gas pumped all over my house, even if it is more cost-effective than electric.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:05:40 AM EST
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Quoted:
So you just put the lime in de coconut?  


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Quoted:
So you just put the lime in de coconut?  

Quoted:
Quoted:
Can you even buy Carbide anymore?


Make your own.  Lime and coke plus 2000 degrees F = carbide and carbon monoxide.





*groan*

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:12:43 AM EST
I think it is funny that the ad says "free from soot" since I use a modern carbide lamp to blacken the front sight of my AR before shooting highpower. It's called a "smoker".

Miners would use their carbide lamps to write on the walls of the mines too.

Free from soot. Yeah right.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:15:55 AM EST
They used to be the headlights for cars horseless carriages, too.  








Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:20:59 AM EST
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:35:06 AM EST
so is there piping that runs from that gas generator cylinder to the lights, or does each light have its own generator (basically a headlamp)
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:40:35 AM EST

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so is there piping that runs from that gas generator cylinder to the lights, or does each light have its own generator (basically a headlamp)
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Pipes, hoses, whatever works best.





 
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:45:27 AM EST
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so is there piping that runs from that gas generator cylinder to the lights, or does each light have its own generator (basically a headlamp)
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Piping. The generator was often in a structure at the back of the house or elsewhere.

You can still find the old pipes and occasionally an intact gas jet in older buildings here.In city areas, they tended to run on piped coalgas instead, which, with its CO levels, could kill you if the flame went out. Victorians had a lot of hazards.

This video, someone restored the original system running acetylene in their home.

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:58:37 AM EST

I worked for an outdoor adventure company in college. We took kids backpacking, paddling, caving, climbing, etc. The owners wanted the kids to have a really special experience caving, so we did all of those trips with carbide headlamps. They weren't too bad to light and keep running, but they have the disadvantage of shooting-out a hot, inch-long tongue of flame. If our kids bunched-up in a tight crawling passage, somebody would invariably get their butt burnt by the kid behind them.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:00:31 AM EST
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:03:52 AM EST

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*groan*



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Quoted:



Quoted:

So you just put the lime in de coconut?  




Quoted:


Quoted:

Can you even buy Carbide anymore?




Make your own.  Lime and coke plus 2000 degrees F = carbide and carbon monoxide.











*groan*



Ditto.   HAHAHA

 
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:05:52 AM EST
Very interesting and I have learned something.   On a side note I have seen some old houses that had wiring in the pipes that would have been fed by one of these to power newer lights.  I always thought it would have been something like NG pumped into them.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:07:56 AM EST
My grandfather used his carbide lamps for frog gigging when I was a little kid. I can still smell it almost 40 years later.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:08:32 AM EST
Found an inflation calculator:





$285.00 in 1924 had  the same buying power as $3,782.44 in 2013.


Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:11:42 AM EST
A lot of the Mom And Pop hardware stores sell it as "mole gas" in quart sized containers for just a few bucks. We use to make carbide cannons when I was kid. Duct tape three 1lb coffe cans together9cut the bottom off the top and middle one), punch a hole in the bottom of the "cannon", put in about a cup of water and a handful of carbide rocks, place the plastic lid on it. wait 30 - 40 seconds for the gas to build up and touch a lit match to the hole...big boom!
ETA: you can also buy it in bulk for about $600 a metric ton (20 ton minimum)



 
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:13:24 AM EST
The problem with obtaining carbide today is that it is rarely used and subject to stringent shipping regulations that increase the price significantly.  It's rarely available in small quantities.  Lehman's has five two pound cans for $80, Fedex ground only, $25 hazmat surcharge.

Sure the open flame was a risk back in the day, but gas in mines still explodes today, and any caver will tell you... We're still just trying to get the light output and runtime of a carbide lamp out of as small a package today.  They're incredibly bright.  While complex and fiddly, they were in use for long enough that the bugs were mostly worked out of the technology.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:28:17 AM EST
My cutting/welding instructor said that they are illegal. A bunch of people died from those generators blowing up. Acetylene doesn't like to be pressurized.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:30:20 AM EST
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My cutting/welding instructor said that they are illegal. A bunch of people died from those generators blowing up. Acetylene doesn't like to be pressurized.
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They were extremely LOW pressure, often .09psi or less.

Gasoline vapor lighting generators were the ones that occasionally blew up houses. Those are the ones you find half-buried in the ground.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:37:12 AM EST
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My cutting/welding instructor said that they are illegal. A bunch of people died from those generators blowing up. Acetylene doesn't like to be pressurized.
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Shhh, not so loud.  My tank in the garage might hear you.

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:41:00 AM EST

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My cutting/welding instructor said that they are illegal. A bunch of people died from those generators blowing up. Acetylene doesn't like to be pressurized.
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Ahem .......................















Acetylene pressures







Oxygen pressures





 
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:51:30 AM EST
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My cutting/welding instructor said that they are illegal. A bunch of people died from those generators blowing up. Acetylene doesn't like to be pressurized.
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Did you mean Oyx-Acetylene?      


 Might want to get your money back.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:55:06 AM EST
Quoted:
as a child my father and his sisters always imagined that there was some great treasure in it.  

What's in the box?  A lot of old receipts and shares of stock in long dead companies (and tobacco allotments).

View Quote



How long you been in the Tarheel state, boy?

At one time tobacco allotments WERE great treasure.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:59:10 AM EST
My great grandfather's house had a carbide lighting system. Generator was outside and the gas was piped into the house. To turn on a light you went to the individual fixture, turned a tap, and lit it. All the lights had protective globes and hard lines almost like automotive brake lines and it didn't seem all that dangerous at the time.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 6:13:19 AM EST
Family farm deeded in 1859.

Tobacco Allotments were a treasure, but you know how it works now.

I'm actually from Wilson, so yeah, I know tobacco culture.  I still miss opening day.

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How long you been in the Tarheel state, boy?

At one time tobacco allotments WERE great treasure.
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Link Posted: 9/9/2013 7:05:00 AM EST
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Actually, the guy talking about acetylene not liking to be pressurized is correct.

It can self ignite.

If you were to empty out your fancy acetylene tank there, you'd find a white monolithic porus solid impregnated with acetone, which dissolves acetylene.   Its necessary to stabilize it under pressure so it doesn't go boom.  

So, yes, you have pressurized acetylene there.  But it takes special technology for that to happen and a raw carbide generator would not have it.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 7:18:48 AM EST
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Quoted:



Actually, the guy talking about acetylene not liking to be pressurized is correct.

It can self ignite.

If you were to empty out your fancy acetylene tank there, you'd find a white monolithic porus solid impregnated with acetone, which dissolves acetylene.   Its necessary to stabilize it under pressure so it doesn't go boom.  

So, yes, you have pressurized acetylene there.  But it takes special technology for that to happen and a raw carbide generator would not have it.
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Quoted:



Actually, the guy talking about acetylene not liking to be pressurized is correct.

It can self ignite.

If you were to empty out your fancy acetylene tank there, you'd find a white monolithic porus solid impregnated with acetone, which dissolves acetylene.   Its necessary to stabilize it under pressure so it doesn't go boom.  

So, yes, you have pressurized acetylene there.  But it takes special technology for that to happen and a raw carbide generator would not have it.



Thanks for the backup.

The generators were designed to operate at extremely low pressures, but nozzles could clog from dust or soot and would unintentionally raise to the explosion point.

If you have an oxy/acetylene rig in your shop, you should know it's properties.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 7:22:07 AM EST
Used em on motorcycles too

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 7:25:33 AM EST
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Thanks for the backup.

The generators were designed to operate at extremely low pressures, but nozzles could clog from dust or soot and would unintentionally raise to the explosion point.

If you have an oxy/acetylene rig in your shop, you should know it's properties.
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Quoted:
Quoted:



Actually, the guy talking about acetylene not liking to be pressurized is correct.

It can self ignite.

If you were to empty out your fancy acetylene tank there, you'd find a white monolithic porus solid impregnated with acetone, which dissolves acetylene.   Its necessary to stabilize it under pressure so it doesn't go boom.  

So, yes, you have pressurized acetylene there.  But it takes special technology for that to happen and a raw carbide generator would not have it.



Thanks for the backup.

The generators were designed to operate at extremely low pressures, but nozzles could clog from dust or soot and would unintentionally raise to the explosion point.

If you have an oxy/acetylene rig in your shop, you should know it's properties.


Indeed.   When I was a kid, one of the guys who ran the junk yard found out the hard way.    His acetylene rig got backed into by a car.   The acetylene tank sort of crushed in, which dislodged and created a void in the tank unoccupied by the stabilizer.   The acetylene gas collected in this void in the tank and blew up his equipment shed that night.


Link Posted: 9/9/2013 2:14:11 PM EST
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Used em on motorcycles too

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccE_0y-56IU
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Supposedly that's where the MC sized acetylene cylinders got their name.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 2:24:23 PM EST
Carbide cannon anyone?


Link Posted: 9/9/2013 2:28:45 PM EST
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Quoted:
Can I still get 100 pounds of carbide for $5.40? Might be fun to play with
View Quote

I just paid $45 for 10 pounds of carbide. Hazmat shipping and the prevalence of LED lights has pretty much killed it.

It's kind of a niche thing, but some cavers still like to use carbide lamps

Link Posted: 9/9/2013 2:54:45 PM EST
great grandparents house was lit with acetylene. The light fixtures and piping were still there when I was a kid. I think the soot free claim was an exaggeration...
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:48:13 PM EST
Never used one myself, but some of the NRA Highpower Service Rifle target shooters here are probably familiar with the little acetylene generators used to blacken front sights with acetylene soot. (It reduces glare and makes the front sight more visible.)
You put a couple pea-sized chunks of carbide in the canister with a few drops of water. Light the wick and you get the blackest smoke on Earth.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 3:51:48 PM EST
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Quoted:
Carbide cannon anyone?


http://youtu.be/m7D029mTgAM
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Came for the carbide cannon, left happy.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:04:07 PM EST
Awesome...thanks for sharing.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:06:20 PM EST
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Quoted:

I just paid $45 for 10 pounds of carbide. Hazmat shipping and the prevalence of LED lights has pretty much killed it.

It's kind of a niche thing, but some cavers still like to use carbide lamps

http://carbidelamplightco.com/images/home-page-photo-01.jpg
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Quoted:
Quoted:
Can I still get 100 pounds of carbide for $5.40? Might be fun to play with

I just paid $45 for 10 pounds of carbide. Hazmat shipping and the prevalence of LED lights has pretty much killed it.

It's kind of a niche thing, but some cavers still like to use carbide lamps

http://carbidelamplightco.com/images/home-page-photo-01.jpg



A few old coon hunters still use them.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:10:36 PM EST
I live right by Jackson Michigan.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:11:00 PM EST
You know, for as "backwards" as technology was then...it was pretty fucking clever.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 4:15:56 PM EST
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That's what I think about homes with natural gas today.  I just don't want flammable gas pumped all over my house, even if it is more cost-effective than electric.
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Quoted:
Quoted:
damn that sounds like a perilous way to light your house.



That's what I think about homes with natural gas today.  I just don't want flammable gas pumped all over my house, even if it is more cost-effective than electric.


You'd better unhook from the electric grid because electricity burns down houses at about a 1000 to 1 ratio when compared to Natural gas. It is DAMN hard to get house to go kaboom with NG as it rises and is always looking for a way out.

Went to 5 fires this week, all five were electrical in nature.
Link Posted: 9/9/2013 5:21:51 PM EST
Interesting. My fathers side of the family is from Johnston County, NC around Kenly. My brother used to make bombs out of carbide when we were kids. Lots of dead catfish & bream in those swamps in Bladen County from those carbide bombs.

Tobacco, I cropped it as a kid for $15 a day. Nothing like the smell of cured brightleaf on the way to Richmond & Winston Salem. Convoys of semis going through town hauling it from the markets in Fairmont, Lumberton, & Clarkton to the cig factories. My uncle was a tobacco auctioneer in Fairmont.
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