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Member Since 06 Nov 2005
Offline Last Active Oct 25 2007 04:18 PM

Topics I've Started

Are You Inadvertently Fostering An Unsafe Environment For Noobies?

23 October 2007 - 09:46 AM

If I may be so bold as to make a general comment, it's occurred to me that there's a barrier to entry that's maintained by the experienced members of this forum, which potentially leads to an unsafe working environment for noobs here.

Please bare with me, I promise this is not a rant, but my observation of what is a very understandable culture on this forum, a discussion as to whether it is the most appropriate stance to take, and finally I hope a constructive suggestion for consideration by the esteemed members here.

First off I'd like to say that the world is a better place for this forum being in existence. I know I certainly appreciate the time and effort that the experienced members here put in to making this forum a wealth of knowledge and centre for excellence in the pyro world. Thank you.

About a year ago I was considering starting a hobby in this field but I didn't. I won't bore you with all the details, but one of the factors was the fact that as a noobie I didn't really know what I was doing, and this forum did a good enough job of putting the fear of god in me enough to decide not to. A major part of that was the fear of getting it wrong, buying the wrong chemicals, not knowing enough about contamination or what slight variances were acceptable as oppose to being dangerous, and basically c0cking it up with disastrous consequences.

Again the details are unimportant, but I've decided to give it another go, and have instantly hit the same issues. The first of course being buying the chemicals in the first place. I appreciate greatly the responses more experienced members have made on my other thread, they have been really helpful. However there is an element to many of the posts I've read over the last week that bothers me slightly.

Yes I have spent many hours reading and reading the threads here, and again and again I find comments like "This has already been discussed, use the search." and many more like them. Now I FULLY understand this approach. I've been on the other side of it on other non-pyro forums: noobs come along and they are all asking the same annoying noob questions that have been answered a million times before, why can't they read what was written last week, last month, last year!

The answer of course is simple: there's too much info. The "Buying Chemicals" thread has loads of useful info, but is a monster 60 page thread that in itself takes hours to read, and meanders about vacillating from topic to topic. It's a very unapproachable way to present the information. Then there is of course the very nature of forums, in that people disagree. Someone may say something seemingly authoritatively, only for it to be rebuffed by someone else a few days later. As a noob, it's very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This all conspires to make it quite hard for a noob to distil out the good quality information and understand it in a clear an uncompromising way. Let's look specifically at my example, I sourced some fertiliser (potassium nitrate I hoped) and posted the label on the forum, and there was disagreement as to whether using it would make sulphuric acid or not!

I wouldn't consider myself a flitter, I am a Chartered Engineer, I bought Introductory Practical Pyrotechnics (on the advice of this forum last year) and read it cover to cover before doing anything, I've spent hours and hours reading the threads here over the last week. Whilst I don't doubt that in the mind of every experienced denizen of this forum, all the information required to safely start off in this hobby has been covered many times here, as a noob I can tell you that this information is not clear.

Now maybe this approach is deliberate, and I can fully understand the reasoning behind that. If you've spent years learning, researching and mastering a field of endeavour, it's human nature to get annoyed when some noob comes along and wants it all handed to them on a plate. Maybe it's even more complicated than that, a rite of passage perhaps? If someone really wants to progress, they will demonstrate the pre-requisite meticulous tenacity necessary for a successful and safe career, by first sifting through the morass of information on the forum. Either motivation is a perfectly understandable approach.

However, what this means is that noobs are far more likely to buy the wrong chemicals and mix them inappropriately. At best this simply means that the composition won't perform, at worst I could be making sulphuric acid in an explosive mix!

So I have a suggestion: a few of the more experienced members here collaborate to produce the definitive starters guide. Just something simple, making a Black Powder powered rocket for example. Most importantly, the guide should incorporate these key elements:

1) First and foremost, a list of safety equipment and safety instructions!
2) Where to buy which ingredients. Not just "online" or "Gardens Direct" but specific links to actual product pages with quantities.
3) Explanations of products to be avoided (flowers of sulphur for example) and how to spot them, (and why would be nice).
4) A list of common mistakes to avoid, e.g. not using your granite pestle and mortar.
5) A list of common problems overcome, e.g. how to fuse your first rocket.
6) The tutorial thread should be locked to prevent dilution from endless discussion, and only maintained by the mods. Have a separate thread for discussion.

The benefits of this approach are many:

- The tutorial will be a central place to direct many of the noob questions that are frequently asked.
- A peer reviewed tutorial will contain best practice with the necessary safety bias.
- Potentially dangerous noob mistakes will be headed off at the pass.
- Following a structured tutorial will be a useful learning exercise for noobs to decide if this is really for them or not.
- This first project can ensure the practitioner is kept within the law, e.g. the 100g limit.

There are of course downsides
, and these must be weighed by those involved:

- Some level of commitment will be required to keep the tutorial up-to-date as products are discontinued, law changes etc.
- There may be liability issues were someone to follow the instructions and it caused an accident. Though by it's nature, this is what should be avoided by the tutorial, and it's not beyond the wit of man to post the proper disclaimers and present it properly.

Anyway, I hope that this awfully long post (sorry) has met with my aims, which were to make an observation and present a constructive and well reasoned suggestion. If nothing else, I am looking forward to reading the discussion this post may generate.

Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Sourcing Components For Bp In England

21 October 2007 - 04:15 PM

I've finally decided to make some BP for the first time ever and could do with a little guidance please. I've read Introductory Practical Pyrotechnics by Tom Perigrin and read many of the relevant topics on these fora and believe I have enough knowledge to take my first practical step, but would appreciate a guiding hand of a few points.

I won't bore you with my motivations, but I've decided to try to buy the requisite BP components locally, rather than over the internet e.g. from eBay or specialist chemical suppliers. I know I need Potassium Nitrate, Charcoal and Sulphur. So today I went looking round the local shops:

I got some Artists Charcoal (Willow) from Hobby Craft, so that's ok. Then I went to B&Q, Homebase and a dedicated local garden centre looking for Potassium Nitrate and Sulphur. Sulphur has completely eluded me so far, I was looking for Sulphur powder or Sulphur Chips in the Gardening sections but couldn't find anything like it. Any tips welcome?

I've had some partial success sourcing Potassium Nitrate. Sure there's loads of fertilisers, but they all have different ratios. Looking at the "NPK" ratios, the highest I found was Westland Feed-All Soluble Plant Food which has a NPK of 15:5:30. However I'm a little worried about the extra ingredients, details are:

Nitrogen (N) Total = 15.0%
Phosphorous Pentoxide (P2O5) = 5.0%
Potassium Oxide (K2O) = 30%
Magnesium Oxide (MgO) = 3.0%
Sulphur Trioxide (SO3) = 5.0%

There's a few other bits, Boron, Copper, Iron etc but all below 0.025%.

So the first question is, are there any issues with that Potassium Nitrate? Second question is: Whilst I haven't got any Sulphur, there is Sulphur Trioxide already in the mix, is that of any help or should I ignore it and keep on searching for a separate Sulphur source?

Many thanks for your help.

16 things that take 50 years to learn:

04 December 2005 - 01:03 PM

1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be "meetings."
3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
5. You should not confuse your career with your life.
6. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
7. Never lick a steak knife.
8. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.
9. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.
10. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.
11. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.
12. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.
13. A person who is nice to you but rude to a waiter is not a nice person.
(This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)
14. Your friends love you anyway.
15. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.
16. Men are like fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it's up to the women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.

Kiddies chemistry set for Xmas?

03 December 2005 - 11:11 AM

Despite being only (nearly) 5, my daughter loves doing experiments of any kind. It occurred to me that a kiddies chemistry set might be a fun thing to get for her for Xmas, for use only under my supervision of course!

So I was wondering if any other parents here had done anything similar with their kids, and if so, at what age were they and how did it go? Also, any recommendations on brand or where to get them, or is it just something like this or this?

Oh whilst I'm here, ToysRus are doing a rock tumbler for ?30, don't know if it's suitable for our purposes?

Non Pyro Discussion about non pyro discussions

28 November 2005 - 07:04 PM

Given the recent off topic conversations on the "I'm a new member!" thread and a few complaints about it, I thought I'd start a separate thread here to discuss not the politics of those posts, but simply to debate whether non pyro topics have a place here.

So here is the topic for debate: Is this UK Rocketry forum:

A ) a place for pyro topics, questions, answers and facts to be exchanged? Or
B ) all of (A) plus a place to chill, hang out, and have a natter with like minded lads (and lasses?) where no subject is off topic?

To get us going, I'll start:

Whether it is or not now, I think the answer is (B ). Yes there is structure to this forum, with key facts and safety information readily available, and that must be maintained. There are areas that are categorised so that people only have to look in the places that they have an interest, and this is all good.

But for my mind, I'd like to think of this as a community of peers, a place where I can hang out and share my thoughts and experiences, both those about pyro and maybe if I chose, also those that are not. If no one cares to reply to me, that's fine. If someone is not interested in chat and banter, that's fine too. But because some people aren't here to discuss (say) the weather and if it's linked to global warming, why should others not be allowed that freedom? I think we already have a precedent for this in "The green room" forum, but that seems to be more about jokes.

Put simply, if I'm going to be spending any time here and learning and sharing about pyro stuff, I'd rather do it amongst friends that I've got to know from, well, just talking to!