I watched a pair of gandy dancers weld a rail together with thermite. I was enthralled! How cool was it, I thought, that you could weld something like a rail with a simple chemical reaction. So I tested various ways of doing it myself. I had several false starts, but once I understoon how the goldschmitt reaction worked I was a hazard to be around. I learned that you could set it off in a baby food jar and it would burn its way through that glass in a relatively predictable time period.

So, being a kid, I looked around for stuff to set on fire, and man, did i ever find things.

Thankfully I was hampered somewhat by the fact that my sources of rusty iron and aluminum were some old lawnmower engines I garbagepicked, I would sit and laboriously file off dust and let it rust on old cookie sheets and mix.  So I never was able to make more than small amounts at a time.


One garbage day I noticed Dad had thrown out an old propane cylinder, the size used most commonly on copper tubing. I thought, I bet I can burn my way into that! So I sat it out in the yard (Thankfully, we lived in a relatively remote area) on it’s side between two concrete blocks on top of which i placed my little bottle of homemade mix. I set it off, and went back inside to watch the show.


I saw the melt, and it seemed to be a long time before anything began happening, but then all of a sudden the cylinder let loose (It was apparently a new cylinder but it had buggered up threads so it was  unusable) and the vertical jet of flames was probably 40 feet high, plenty tall enough  to burn literally every leaf off the north side of the willow at that spot in the yard.


Dad came home from work, climbed out of the Comet, and flipped his Lucky onto the gravel. He saw the blackened willow (Which he despised, and we later cut down) and said “Is there something I need to know about that?” to me. “Not really. All the houses are ok” and that was the end of that conversation. Another one for which I probably deserved but did not get an asswhipping.