SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN SUPPLEMENT NO. 821
NEW YORK, September 26, 1891
Scientific American Supplement. Vol. XXXII, No. 821.
Scientific American established 1845
Scientific American Supplement, $5 a year.
Scientific American and Supplement, $7 a year.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. Architectural.—The New Labor Exchange in Paris.—With views of the interior and exterior of the building
II. Electrical.—The Construction and Maintenance of Underground Circuits.—By S.B. FOWLER.—A comprehensive article, discussing at length the various devices for protecting underground circuits, methods of inserting the cables, etc.
III. Engineering.—Railroads to the Clouds.—Sketches of a number of mountain railroads
IV. Marine Engineering.—The French Armored Turret Ship the Marceau.—1 engraving.—A full description of the vessel, giving dimensions and cost
A Review of Marine Engineering during the Past Decade.—A paper read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers by Mr. Alfred Blechynben, of Barrow-in-Furness.—This paper, which is continued from Supplement No. 820, treats on steam pipes, feed water heating, twin screws, etc.
V. Miscellaneous.—The Little House.—An article giving various hints about the arrangement and management of small dwellings, with special view to the best sanitary arrangements
Stilt Walking.—A sketch, with engraving, of Sylvain Dornon, the stilt walker of Landes
Remains of a Roman Villa in England
Gum Arabic and its Modern Substitutes.—A continuation of a paper by Dr. S. Rideal and W.E. Youle.—With 26 tables
A New Method of Extinguishing Fires.—Invented by George Dickson and David A. Jones, of Toronto, Canada.—Apparatus designed to utilize a mixture of water and liquefied carbonic acid
VI. Medicine and Hygiene.—The Hygienic Treatment of Obesity.—By Dr. Paul Chebon.—Methods of eating, drinking, and exercising for the purpose of reducing fat.—An extended article, giving valuable information to people troubled with too much flesh
VII. Photography.—Spectroscopic Determination of the Sensitiveness of Dry Plates.—A full description of the new plan of Mr. G.F. WILLIAMS, for determining the sensitiveness of dry plates by the use of a small direct vision pocket spectroscope
VIII. Physics.—A Physical Laboratory Indicator.—By J.W. MOORE, of Lafayette College.—1 engraving.—This is a modification of the old peg board adapted to use in the laboratory.—It indicates the names of the members of the class, contains a full list of the experiments to be performed, refers the student to the book and page where information in reference to experiments or apparatus may be found, it shows what experiments are to be performed by each student at a given time, etc.
Cailletet's Cryogen.—A description, with one engraving, of Mr. Cailletet's new apparatus for producing temperatures from 70 degrees to 80 degrees C., below zero, through the expansion of liquid carbonic acid
IX. Technology.—The Manufacture of Roll Tar Paper.—An extended article containing a historical sketch and full information as to the materials used and the methods of manufacture
Smokeless Gunpowder.—By Hudson Maxim.—A comprehensive article on the manufacture and use of smokeless gunpowder, giving a sketch of its history, and describing the methods of manufacture and its characteristics
Method of Producing Alcohol.—A description of an improved process for making alcohol.—Invented by Mr. Alfred Springer, of Cincinnati, Ohio
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THE NEW LABOR EXCHANGE, PARIS.
The new Labor Exchange is soon to be inaugurated. We give herewith a view of the entrance facade of the meeting hall. The buildings, which are the work of Mr Bouvard, architect, of the city of Paris, are comprised within the block of houses whose sharp angle forms upon Place de la Republique, the intersection of Boulevard Magenta and Bondy street. One of the entrances of the Exchange is on a level with this street. The three others are on Chateau d'Eau street, where the facade of the edifice extends for a length of one hundred feet. From the facade and above the balcony that projects from the first story, stand out in bold relief three heads surrounded by foliage and fruit that dominate the three entrance doors. These sculptures represent the Republic between Labor and Peace. The windows of the upper stories are set within nine rows of columns, from between the capitals of which stand out the names of the manufacturers, inventors, and statesmen that have sprung from the laboring classes. Upon the same line, at the two extremities of the facade, two modillions, traversed through their center by palms, bear the devices "Labor" and "Peace." Above, there is a dial surmounted by a shield bearing the device of the city of Paris.
The central door of the ground floor opens upon a large vestibule, around which are arranged symmetrically the post, telegraph, telephone, and intelligence offices, etc. Beyond the vestibule there is a gallery that leads to the central court, upon the site of which has been erected the grand assembly hall. This latter, which measures 20 meters in length, 22 in width, and 6 in height, is lighted by a glazed ceiling, and contains ten rows of benches. These latter contain 900 seats, arranged in the form of circular steps, radiating around the president's platform, which is one meter in height. A special combination will permit of increasing the number of seats reserved for the labor associations on occasions of grand reunions to 1,200. The oak doors forming the lateral bays of the hall will open upon the two large assembly rooms and the three waiting rooms constructed around the faces of the large hall. In the assembly rooms forming one with the central hall will take place the deliberations of the syndic chambers. The walls of the hall will, ere long, receive decorative paintings.—L'Illustration.
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MANUFACTURE OF ROLL TAR PAPER.
Roofing paper was first used in Scandinavia early as the last century, the invention being accredited to Faxa, an official of the Swedish Admiralty. The first tar and gravel roofs in Sweden were very defective. The impregnation of the paper with a water-proofing liquid had not been thought of, and the roofs were constructed by laying over the rafters a boarding, upon which the unsaturated paper, the sides of which lapped over the other, was fastened with short tacks. The surface of the paper was next coated with heated pine tar to make it waterproof. The thin layer of tar was soon destroyed by the weather, so that the paper, swelled by the absorption of rain water, lost its cohesiveness and was soon destroyed by the elements. This imperfect method of roof covering found no great favor and was but seldom employed.
In Germany the architect Gilly was first to become interested in tar paper roofing, and recommended it in his architecture for the country. Nevertheless the new style of roof covering was but little employed, and was finally abandoned during the first year of the 19th century. It was revived again in 1840, when people began to take a renewed interest in tar paper roofs, the method of manufacturing an impermeable paper being already so far perfected that the squares of paper were dipped in tar until thoroughly saturated. The roof constructed of these waterproof paper sheets proved itself to be a durable covering, being unimpenetrable to atmospheric precipitations, and soon several factories commenced manufacturing the paper. The product was improved continually and its method of manufacture perfected. The good qualities of tar paper roofs being recognized by the public, they were gradually adopted. The costly pine tar was soon replaced by the cheaper coal tar. Square sheets of paper were made at first; they were dipped sufficiently long in ordinary heated coal tar, until perfectly saturated. The excess of tar was then permitted to drip off, and the sheets were dried in the air. The improvement of passing them through rollers to get rid of the surplus tar was reserved for a future time, when an enterprising manufacturer commenced to make endless tar paper in place of sheets. Special apparatus were constructed to impregnate these rolls with tar; they were imperfect at first, but gradually improved to a high degree. Much progress was also made in the construction of the roofs, and several methods of covering were devised. The defects caused by the old method of nailing the tar paper direct upon the roof boarding were corrected; the consequence of this method was that the paper was apt to tear, caused by the unequal expansion of the roofing boards and paper, and this soon led to the idea of making the latter independent of the former by nailing the sides of the paper upon strips running parallel with the gable. The use of endless tar paper proved to be an essential advantage, because the number of seams as well as places where it had to be nailed to the roof boarding was largely decreased. The manufacture of tar paper has remained at about the same stage and no essential improvements have been made up to the present. As partial improvement may be mentioned the preparation of tar, especially since the introduction of the tar distillery, and the manufacture of special roof lacquers, which have been used for coating in place of the coal tar. As an essential progress in the tar paper roofing may be mentioned the invention of the double tar paper roof, and the wood cement roof, which is regarded as an offshoot.
The tar paper industry has, within the last forty years, assumed great dimensions, and the preferences for this roofing are gaining ground daily. In view of the small weight of the covering material, the wood construction of the roof can be much lighter, and the building is therefore less strained by the weight of the roof than one with the other kind, so that the outer walls need not be as heavy. Considering the price, the paper roof is not only cheaper than other fireproof roofs, but its light weight makes it possible for the whole building to be constructed lighter and cheaper. The durability of the tar paper roof is satisfactory, if carefully made of good material; the double tar paper roof, the gravel double roof, and the wood cement roof are distinguished by their great durability.
These roofs may be used for all kinds of buildings, and not only are factories, storehouses, and country buildings covered with it, but also many dwellings. The most stylish residences and villas are at present being inclosed with the more durable kinds; the double roof, the gravel double roof, and the wood cement roof. For factory buildings, which are constantly shaken by the vibrations of the machinery, the tar paper roof is preferable to any other.
In order to ascertain to what degree tar paper roofs would resist fire, experiments were instituted at the instigation of some of the larger manufacturers of roofing paper, in the presence of experts, architects, and others, embracing the most severe tests, and it was fully proved that the tar paper roof is as fireproof as any other. These experiments were made in two different ways; first, the readiness of ignition of the tar paper roof by a spark or flame from the outside was considered, and, second, it was tested in how far it would resist a fire in the interior of the building. In the former case, it was ascertained that a bright, intense fire could be kept burning upon the roof for some time, without igniting the woodwork of the roof, but heat from above caused some of the more volatile constituents of the tar to be expelled, whereby small flames appeared upon the surface within the limits of the fire; the roofing paper was not completely destroyed. There always remained a cohesive substance, although it was charred and friable, which by reason of its bad conductivity of heat protected the roof boarding to such an extent that it was "browned" only by the developed tar vapors. A fire was next started within a building covered with a tar paper roof; the flame touched the roof boarding, which partly commenced to char and smoulder, but the bright burning of the wood was prevented by the air-tight condition of the roof; the fire gases could not escape from the building. The smoke collecting under the roof prevented the entrance of fresh air, in consequence of which the want of oxygen smothered the fire. The roofing paper remained unchanged. By making openings in the sides of the building so that the fire gases could escape, the wood part of the roof was consumed, but the roofing paper itself was only charred and did not burn. After removing the fire in contact with the paper, this ceased burning at once and evinced no disposition whatever to spread. In large conflagrations, also, the tar paper roofs behaved in identically a similar manner. Many instances have occurred where the tar paper roof prevented the fire from spreading inside the building, and developing with sufficient intensity to work injury.
As it is of interest to the roofer to know the manner of making the material he uses, we give in the following a short description of the manufacture of roofing paper. At first, when square sheets were used exclusively, the raw paper consisted of ordinary dipped or formed sheets. The materials used in its manufacture were common woolen rags and other material. In order to prepare the pulp from the rags it is necessary to cut them so small that the fabric is entirely dissolved and converted into short fibers. The rags are for this purpose first cut into pieces, which are again reduced by special machines. The rags are cut in a rag cutting machine, which was formerly constructed similar to a feed cutter; later on, more complicated machines of various constructions were employed. It is not our task to describe the various kinds, but we remain content with the general remark that they are all based on the principles of causing revolving knives to operate upon the rags. The careful cleansing of the cut rags, necessary for the manufacture of paper, is not required for roofing paper. It is sufficient to rinse away the sand and other solid extraneous matter. The further reduction of the cut rags was formerly performed in a stamp mill, which is no longer employed, the pulp mill or rag engine being universally used.
The construction of this engine may be described as follows: A box or trough of wood, iron, or stone is by a partition divided into two parts which are connected at their ends. At one side upon the bottom of the box lies an oakwood block, called the back fall. In a hollow of this back fall is sunk the so-called plate, furnished with a number of sharp steel cutters or knives, lying alongside of each other. A roller of solid oakwood, the circumference of which is also furnished with sharp steel cutters or knives, is fastened upon a shaft and revolves within the hollow. The journal bearings of the shaft are let into and fastened in movable wooden carriers. The carriers of the bearings may be raised and lowered by turning suitable thumbscrews, whereby the distance between the roller and the back fall is increased or decreased. The whole is above covered with a dome, the so-called case, to prevent the throwing out of the mass under the operation of grinding. The roller is revolved with a velocity of from 100 to 150 revolutions per minute, whereby the rags are sucked in between the roller and the back fall and cut and torn between the knives. At the beginning of the operation, the distance between the roller and the back fall is made as great as possible, the intention being less to cut the rags than to wash them thoroughly. The dirty water is then drawn off and replaced by clean, and the space of the grinding apparatus is lessened gradually, so as to cut the rags between the knives. The mass is constantly kept in motion and each piece of rag passes repeatedly between the knives. The case protects the mass from being thrown out by the centrifugal force. The work of beating the rags is ended in a few hours, and the ensuing thin paste is drawn off into the pulp chest, this being a square box lined with lead.
From the pulp chest it passes to the form of the paper machine. This form consists of an endless fine web of brass wire, which revolves around rollers. The upper part of this form rests upon a number of hollow copper rollers, whereby a level place is formed. The form revolves uniformly around the two end rollers, and has at the same time a vibratory motion, by which the pulp running upon the form is spread out uniformly and conducted along, more flowing on as the latter progresses. The water escapes rapidly through the close wire web. In order to limit the form on the sides two endless leather straps revolve around the rollers on each side, which touch with their lower parts the form on both sides and confine the fluid within a proper breadth. The thickness of the pulp is regulated at the head of the form by a brass rule standing at a certain height; its function is to level the pulp and distribute it at a certain thickness. The continually moving pulp layer assumes greater consistency the nearer it approaches to the dandy roll. This is a cylinder covered with brass wire, and is for the purpose of compressing the paper, after it has left the form, and free it from a great part of the water, which escapes into a box. The paper is now freed of a good deal of the fluid, and assumes a consistency with which it is enabled to leave the form, which now commences to return underneath the paper, passing on to an endless felt, which revolves around rollers and delivers it to two iron rolls. The paper passes through a second pair of iron rollers, the interiors of which are heated by steam. These rollers cause the last of the water to be evaporated, so that it can then be rolled upon reels. A special arrangement shaves the edges to the exact size required.
The paper is made in different thicknesses and designated by numbers to the size and weight.
Waste paper, bookbinders' shavings, etc., can be used for making the paper. As much wool as possible should be employed, because the wool fiber has a greater resistance than vegetable fiber to the effects of the temperature. By wool fiber is understood the horny substance resembling hair, with the difference that the former has no marrowy tissue. The covering pellicle of the wool fiber consists of flat, mostly elongated leaves, with more or less corners, lying over each other like scales, which makes the surface of the fiber rough; this condition, together with the inclination of curling, renders it capable of felting readily. Pure wool consists of a horny substance, containing both nitrogen and sulphur, and dissolves in a potash solution. In a clean condition, the wool contains from 0.3 to 0.5 per cent. of ash. It is very hygroscopical, and under ordinary circumstances it contains from 13 to 16 per cent. humidity, in dry air from 7 to 11 per cent., which can be entirely expelled at a temperature of from 226 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Wool when ignited does not burn with a bright flame, as vegetable fiber does, but consumes with a feeble smouldering glow, soon extinguishes, spreading a disagreeable pungent vapor, as of burning horn. By placing a test tube with a solution of five parts caustic potash in 100 parts water, a mixture of vegetable fibers and wool fibers, the latter dissolve if the fluid is brought to boiling above an alcohol flame, while the cotton and linen fibers remain intact.
The solubility of the woolen fibers in potash lye is a ready means of ascertaining the percentage of wool fiber in the paper. An exhaustive analysis of the latter can be performed in the following manner: A known quantity of the paper is slowly dried in a drying apparatus at temperature of 230 deg. Fahrenheit, until a sample weighed on a scale remains constant. The loss of weight indicates the degree of humidity. To determine the ash percentage, the sample is placed in a platinum crucible, and held over a lamp until all the organic matter is burned out and the ash has assumed a light color. The cold ash is then moistened with a carbonate of ammonia solution, and the crucible again exposed until it is dark red; the weight of the ash is then taken. To determine the percentage of wool, a sample of the paper is dried at 230 deg. Fahrenheit and weighed, boiled in a porcelain dish in potash lye 12 deg. B. strong, and frequently stirred with a glass rod. The wool fiber soon dissolves in the potash lye, while the vegetable fiber remains unaltered. The pulpy mass resulting is placed upon a filter, dried at 212 deg. Fahrenheit, and after the potash lye has dripped off, the residue, consisting of vegetable fiber and earthy ash ingredients, is washed until the water ceases to dissolve anything. The residue dried at 212 deg. Fahrenheit is weighed with a filter, after which that of the latter is deducted. The loss of weight experienced is essentially equal to the loss of the wool fiber. If the filtrate is saturated with hydrochloric acid, the dissolved wool fiber separates again, and after having been collected upon a weighed filter, it may be weighed and the quantity ascertained.
The weight of the mineral substances in the raw paper is ascertained by analyzing the ash in a manner similar to that above described. The several constituents of the ash and the mineral added to the raw paper are ascertained as follows: Sufficient of the paper is calcined in the manner described; a known quantity of the ash is weighed and thrown into a small porcelain dish containing a little distilled water and an excess of chemically pure hydrochloric acid. In this solution are dissolved the carbonates, carbonate of lime, carbonate of magnesia, a little of sulphate of alumina, as well as metallic oxides, while silicate of magnesia, silicic acid, sulphate of lime (gypsum) remain undissolved. The substance is heated until the water and excess of free hydrochloric acid have been driven off; it is then moistened with a little hydrochloric acid, diluted with distilled water and heated. The undissolved residue is by filtering separated from the dissolved, the filter washed with distilled water, and the wash water added to the filtrate. The undissolved residue is dried, and after the filter has also been burned in due manner and the ash added, the weight is ascertained. It consists of clay, sand, silicic acid and gypsum.
The filtrate is then poured into a cylinder capable of holding 100 cubic centimeters, and furnished with a scale; sufficient distilled water is then added until the well-shaken fluid measures precisely 100 cubic centimeters. By means of this measuring instrument, the filtrate is then divided into two equal portions. One of these parts is in a beaker glass over-saturated with chemically pure chloride of ammonia, whereby any iron of oxide present and a little dissolved alumina fall down as deposit. The precipitate is separated by filtering, washed, dried at 212 deg. Fahrenheit and weighed. To the filtrate is then added a solution of oxalate of ammonia until a white precipitate of oxalate of lime is formed. This precipitate is separated by filtering, washed, dried and when separated from the filter, is collected upon dark satinized paper; the filter itself is burned and the ash added to the oxalate of lime. This oxalate of lime is then heated to a dark red heat in a platinum crucible with lid until the oxalate of lime is converted into carbonate of lime. By the addition of a few drops of carbonate of ammonia solution and another slight heating of the crucible, also the caustic lime produced in the filter ash by heating, is reconverted into carbonate of lime, and after cooling in the exsiccator, the whole contents of the crucible is weighed as carbonate of lime, after deducting the known quantity of filter ash.
Any magnesia present in the filtrate of the oxalate of lime is by the addition of a solution of phosphate of soda separated as phosphate of ammonia and magnesia, after having stood twenty-four hours. The precipitate is filtered off, washed with water to which a little chloride of ammonia is added, dried, and after calcining the fiber and adding the filter ash, glow heated in the crucible. The glowed substance is weighed after cooling, and is pyrophosphate of magnesia, from which the magnesia or carbonate of magnesia is calculated stoichiometrically. All the ascertained sums must be multiplied by 2, if they are to correspond to the analyzed and weighed quantity of ash.
The second half of the filtrate is used for determining the small quantity of sulphate of lime still contained in the hydrochlorate solution. By adding chloride of barium solution the sulphuric acid is bound to the barytes and sulphate of baryta separates as white precipitate. This is separated by filtering, washed, dried and weighed in the customary manner. From the weight of the sulphate of baryta is then computed the weight of sulphate of lime, which has passed over into solution. The ascertained sum is also to be multiplied with 2.
The manufacture of roll tar paper from the roll paper was at first found to be difficult, as it was impossible to submerge a surface larger than from ten to fifteen square yards, rolled up, in the tar, because more would have required too large a pan. Besides this, the paper tears easily, when it is in the hot tar. All kinds of experiments were tried, in order to impregnate the surface of the paper without employing too large a pan.
The following method was tried at first: The roll paper was cut into lengths of ten yards, which were rolled up loosely, so that a certain space was left between the different coils. These loose rolls, of course, occupied much space and could be put into the tar only in a standing position, because in a horizontal one the several coils would have pressed together again. The loose roll was therefore slipped over a vertical iron rod fastened into a circular perforated wooden foot. The upper end of this iron rod ended in a ring, in which the hook of a chain or rope could be fastened. With the aid of a windlass the roll was raised or lowered. When placed in the pan with boiling tar, it was left there until thoroughly saturated. It was then taken out, placed upon a table, and the excess of tar allowed to drip off into a vessel underneath. After partially drying, the roll was spread out in open air, occasionally turned, until sufficiently dried, when it was rolled up again.
In order to neutralize the smeary, sticky condition of the surface and avoid the disagreeable drying in open air, the experiment of strewing sand on the sticky places was tried next. The weight of the paper was largely increased by the sand, and appeared considerably thicker. For this reason the method of sanding the paper was at once universally adopted. To dispense with the process of permitting the surplus tar to drip off, means were devised by which it was taken off by scrapers, or by pressing through rollers. The scrapers, two sharp edged rods fastened across the pan, were then so placed that the paper was drawn through them. The excess of tar adhering to its surface was thereby scraped off and ran back into the pan.
This work, however, was performed better and to more satisfaction by a pair of rollers fastened to the pan. These performed a double duty; thoroughly removed the tar from the surface and by reason of their pressure they caused a more perfect incorporation of the tar with the fibers of the paper. Finally, different factories employed different methods of manufacture, one of which was to cut the rolls into definite lengths of about ten yards; these were then rerolled very loosely and immersed in the hot tar until sufficiently saturated. The paper was then passed through the roller, much pressure exerted, and then loosely rolled up again. Being tarred once, it was then laid into a second pan with hot tar, reeled out after a time, strewn with sand, and rolled up again. Another method was to cut clothes lines into lengths of about fifteen yards, and at a distance of two inches have knots tied in them. The paper was cut in lengths of ten or fifteen yards, three pieces of the knotted clothes line were then rolled between the loose coils of paper, which was then submerged in the tar, which on account of the knots could penetrate the paper. The paper was next sanded by permitting its lower surface to pass over dry sand in a box standing on the floor. A workman rolled off the paper, and with his hand he strews sand on the upper surface. The rolling taking place on the edge of a table, by means of a crank, the excess of sand dropped off.
It is said by this method two workmen, one of which tends to the rolling and sanding, the other turning the crank, could turn out eighty rolls per day. This method is still in use. It is useless to describe the many antiquated methods in vogue in smaller factories, and it can truthfully be said that nearly all of them are out of date. It appears to be the fact of almost all inventions that when reduced to practical use, the arrangements, apparatus, and working methods employed are generally of the most complicated nature, and time and experience only will simplify them. This has been also the case with the methods in the roofing paper industry, which are at present gradually being reduced to a practical basis. The method gradually adopted has been described in the preceding. The pan is of a certain length, whereby it becomes possible to saturate the paper by slowly drawing it through the heated tar. This is the chief feature. The work is much simplified thereby and the workmen need not dip their hands into the tar or soil them with it. The work of impregnating has become much cleaner and easier, while at the same time the tar can be heated to a much higher temperature. The pan is generally filled with distilled coal tar, and the heating is regulated in such a manner that the temperature of the impregnating mass is raised far beyond 212 deg. Fahrenheit. This accelerates the penetration, which takes place more quickly as the degree of heat is raised, which may be almost up to the boiling point of the tar, as at this degree the paper is not destroyed by the heat. In order to prevent the evaporation of the volatile ingredients of the tar, the pan is covered with a sheet iron cover, with a slot at the place where the paper enters into the impregnating mass and another at the place where it issues. The tar is always kept at the same level, by occasional additions.
The roll of paper is mounted upon a shaft at the back end of the pan, and by suitable arrangement of guide rollers it unwinds slowly, passes into the tar in which it is kept submerged. The guide rollers can be raised so that when a new roller is set up they can be raised out of the tar. The end of the paper is then slipped underneath them above the surface of the tar, when having passed through the squeezing rollers, it is fastened to the beaming roller, and the guide rollers are submerged again. A workman slowly turns the crank of the beaming roller.
This motion draws the paper slowly through the fluid, the roll at the back end unwinding. The speed with which the squeezing rollers are turned is regulated in such a manner that the paper remains sufficiently long underneath the fluid to be thoroughly impregnated with it. The workmen quickly learn by experience how fast to turn the crank. The hotter the tar, the more rapid the saturation; the high degree of heat expels the air and evaporates the hygroscopic fluid in the pores of the paper. The strong heating of the tar causes another advantage connected with this method. The surface of the paper as it issues from the squeezing rollers is still very hot, and a part of the volatile oils evaporate very quickly at this high temperature. The surface is thereby at once dried to a certain degree and at the same time receives a handsome luster, as if it had been coated with a black lacquer. The paper is sanded in a very simple manner without the use of mechanical apparatus; as it is being wrapped into a coil, it passes with its lower surface over a layer of sand, while the workman who tends to rolling up strews the inside with sand. The lower surface is coated very equally. Care only being necessary that the sand lies smooth and even at all times. When the workman has rolled up ten or fifteen yards, he cuts it across with a knife and straightedge, so that the paper is cut at right angles with its sides.
There are three different sorts of roofing paper, according to the impregnating fluid used in its manufacture. The ordinary tar paper is that saturated with clear cold tar. This contains the greatest amount of fluid ingredients and is very raggy in a fresh condition. It is easy to see that the volatile hydrocarbons evaporate in a short time, and when expelled, the paper becomes stiffer and apparently drier. This drying, or the volatilization of the hydrocarbons, causes pores between the fibers of the paper. These pores are highly injurious to it, as they facilitate a process of decomposition which will ruin it in a short time.
Roofing paper can be called good only when it is essentially made from woolen rags, and contains either very few or no earthy additions. It is beyond doubt that the durability of a roofing paper increases with the quality of wool fiber it contains—vegetable fibers and earthy additions cause a direct injury. Reprehensible altogether is any combination with lime, either in form of a carbonate or sulphate, because the lime enters into chemical combination with the decomposition products of the tar.
The general nature of gravel is too well known to require description. The grains of quartz sand are either sharp cornered or else rounded pieces of stone of quartz, occasionally mixed with grains of other amorphous pieces of silica—such as horn stone, silicious slate, carnelian, etc.; again, with lustrous pieces of mica, or red and white pieces of feldspar. The gravel used for a tar paper roof must be of a special nature and be prepared for the purpose. The size of its grains must not exceed a certain standard—say, the size of a pea. When found in the gravel bank, it is frequently mixed with clay, etc., and it cannot be used in this condition for a roof, but must be washed. The utensils necessary for this purpose are of so simple and suggestive a nature that they need not be described. Slag is being successfully used in place of the gravel. It is easily reduced to suitable size, by letting the red hot mass, as it runs from the furnace, run into a vessel with water. The sudden chilling of the slag causes it to burst into fragments of a sharp cornered structure. It is next passed through a sieve, and the suitably sized gravel makes an excellent material, as it gives a clean appearance to the roof.
The thinking mind can easily go one step further and imagine that, since the tar contains a number of volatile hydrocarbons, it might be made more adaptable for impregnation by paper by distilling it, as by this process the fluid would lose its tendency to evaporate and the percentage of resinous substances increase. Singular to say, there was a prejudice against the employment of distilled tar, entertained by builders and people who had no knowledge of chemistry. Increasing intelligence and altered business circumstances, however, brought about the almost universal employment of distilled tar, and every large factory uses it at present. The roofing paper prepared with distilled tar is perhaps most suitably called asphaltum paper, as this has been used in its manufacture. It possesses properties superior to the ordinary tar paper, one of which is that immediately after its manufacture, as soon as cold, it is dry and ready for shipment; nor does it require to be kept in store for a length of time, and it has also a good, firm body, being as flexible and tough as leather. It is very durable upon the roof, and remains flexible for a long time. It is true that asphaltum papers will always in a fresh state contain a small percentage of volatile ingredients, which after a while make it hard and friable upon the roof; but, by reason of its greater percentage of resinous components, it will always preserve a superior degree of durability and become far less porous. One hundred parts by weight absorb 140 or 150 parts by weight of coal tar. A factory which distilled a good standard tar for roofing paper recovered, besides benzole and naphtha, also about ten per cent. of creosote oil, used for one hundred parts raw paper, 176.4 partially distilled tar. Experiments on a larger as well as a smaller scale reduced this quantity to an average of 141.5 parts for one hundred parts raw paper. The weight of sanded paper is very variable, as it depends altogether upon the size of the sand grains. It may be stated generally that the weight of the sand is as large as that of the tarred paper.
The kinds of roofing paper saturated with other additions besides coal tar form a separate class, in order to neutralize the defects inherent in coal tar. These additions were originally for the purpose of thickening the paper and making it stiffer and drier. The most ordinary and cheapest thickener was the coal pitch. Although the resinous substances are increased thereby, still the light tar oils remain to evaporate, and the paper prepared with such a substance readily becomes hard and brittle. A better addition is the natural asphaltum, because it resists better the destroying influence of the decomposition process, and also, to a certain degree, protects the coal tar in which it is dissolved. The addition of natural asphaltum doubtless caused the name of "asphaltum roofing paper." Resin, sulphur, wood tar and other substances were also used as additions; each manufacturer kept his method secret, however, and simply pointed out by high sounding title in what manner his paper was composed. In most cases, however, this appellation was applied to the ordinary tar paper; the impregnating substance was mixed only with coal pitch, or else a roofing paper saturated with distilled tar. The costly additions, by the use of which a high grade of roofing paper can doubtless be produced, largely increased its price, and on account of the constant fall of prices of the article, its use became rather one of those things "more honored in the breach than in the observance," and was dispensed with whenever practicable. The crude paper is the foundation of the roofing paper. The qualities of a good, unadulterated paper have already been stated. At times, the crude paper contains too many earthy ingredients which impair the cohesion of the felted fibrous substance, and which especially the carbonate of lime is very injurious, as it readily effects the decomposition of the coal tar. The percentage of wool, upon which the durability of the paper depends very largely, is very small in some of the paper found in the market. In place of woolen rags, cheap substitutes have been used, such as waste, which contains vegetable fibers. Since this cannot resist the decomposition process for any length of time, it is evident that the roofing paper which contains a noticeable quantity of vegetable fibers cannot be very durable. To judge from the endeavors made to improve the coal tar, it may be concluded that this material does not fully comply with its function of making the roofing paper perfectly and durably waterproof. The coal tar, be it either crude or distilled, is not a perfect impregnating material, and the roofing paper, saturated with it, possesses several defects. Let us in the following try to ascertain their shortcomings, and then express our idea in what manner the roofing paper may be improved. It was previously mentioned that every tar roofing paper will, after a greater or smaller lapse of time, assume a dry, porous, friable condition, caused by the volatilization of a part of the constituents of the tar. This alteration is materially assisted by the oxygen of the air, which causes the latter to become resinous and exerts a chemical influence upon them. By the volatilization of the lighter tar oils, pores are generated between the fibers of the roofing paper, into which the air and humidity penetrate. In consequence of the greatly enlarged surface, not only the solid ingredients of the tar, which still remain unaltered, are exposed to the action of the oxygen, but also the fibers of the roofing paper are exposed to decomposition. How destructive the alternating influence of the oxygen and the atmospheric precipitations are for the roofing paper will be shown by the following results of tests. It will have been observed that the rain water running from an old paper roof, especially after dry weather, has a yellowish, sometimes a brown yellow color. The supposition that this colored rain water might contain decomposition products of the roofing paper readily prompted itself, and it has been collected and analyzed at different seasons of the year. After a period of several weeks of fair weather during the summer, rain fell, and the sample of water running from a roof was caught and evaporated; the residue when dried weighed 1.68 grammes. It was of a brownish black color, fusible in heat and readily soluble, with a yellow brown color in water. The dark brown substance readily dissolved in ammonia, alcohol, dilute acid, hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, and decomposed in nitric acid, but did not dissolve in benzine or fat oil. After several days' rain during the summer, a quantity of the water was caught, evaporated, and the residue dried. Its characteristics were similar to those above mentioned. By an experiment instituted in water under conditions similar to the first mentioned, the dry brown substance weighed 71 grammes. It possessed the same characteristics. In the solution effected with water containing some aqua ammonia of the brown substance, a white precipitate of oxalate of lime occurred when an oxalate of ammonia solution was added, but the brown substance remained in solution. A further precipitation of oxalate of lime was produced by a solution of oxalic acid, but the brown organic substance remained in solution. This organic substance being liberated from the lime was evaporated, and left a dry, resinous, fusible brownish black substance, which also dissolved readily in water. It will be seen from these trials that the substance obtained from the rain water running from a paper roof is a combination of an organic acid with lime, which readily dissolves in water, and that also the free organic acid combined with the lime dissolves easily in water.
The question concerning the origin of this organic substance or its combination with lime can only be answered in one way, viz., that it must have been washed by the rain water out of the paper. But since such a solid substance, easily soluble in water, is contained neither in the fresh roofing paper nor in the coal tar, the only deduction is that it must have arisen by the decomposition of the tar, in consequence of the operation of the oxygen. The lime comes from the coating substance of the roof, for which tar mixed with coal pitch was used. The latter was fused with carbonate of lime. These analyses furthermore show that the formation of the organic acid easily soluble in water depends upon the season; and that a larger quantity of it is generated in warm, sunny weather than in cold, without sunshine. This peculiarity of the solid, resinous constituents of the coal tar, to be by the operation of the atmospheric oxygen altered into such products that are readily soluble in water, makes the tar very unsuitable as a saturative substance for a roofing paper. How rapidly a paper roof can be ruined by the generation of this injurious organic acid will be seen from the following calculation: Let us suppose that an average of 132 gallons of rain water falls upon ten square feet roof surface per year, and that the arithmetical mean 0.932 of the largest (1.680) and smallest number (0.184) be the quantity of the soluble brown substance which on an average is dissolved in one quart of rain water; hence from ten square feet of roof surface are rinsed away with the rain water per year 466 grammes of the soluble decomposition products of the tar. The oxidation process will not always occur as intensely as by a paper roof, ten years old and painted two years ago, which instigated above described experiment. As long as the roofing paper is fresh and less porous, especially if the occurring pores are filled and closed again by repeated coatings, oxidation will take place far less rapidly. Besides this, the protective coating applied to the roof surface is exposed most to this oxidation process. Even by assuming this constantly progressive destructive action of the oxygen on the roofing paper to be much less than above stated, we can readily imagine that it must be quite large. If it is desired to produce a material free of faults, it is first of all indispensable that unobjectionable raw material be procured. Coal tar was formerly used almost exclusively for the coating of a roof. It was heated and applied hot upon the surface. In order to avoid the running off of the thinly fluid mass, the freshly coated surface was strewn with sand. The most volatile portion of the tar evaporated soon, whereby the coating became thicker and finally dried. The bad properties of the coal tar, pointed out elsewhere, made it very unsuitable even for this purpose, and experiments were instituted to compound mixtures, by adding other ingredients to the tar, that should more fully comply with its function. It may be said in general that the coating masses for roofs can be divided into two classes: either as lacquers or as cements. To the former may be classed those of a fairly thinly fluid consistency, and which contain volatile oils in such quantities that they will dry quickly. Cements are those of a thickly fluid consistency, and are rendered thus fluid by heating. It is not necessary that the coating applied should harden quickly, as it assumes soon after its application a firmness sufficient to prevent it from running off the roof. Coal tar is to be classed among lacquers. If it has been liberated by distillation from the volatile oils, it is made better suited for the purpose than the ordinary kind. The mass contains much more asphaltum, and after drying, which takes place soon, it leaves a far thicker layer upon the roof surface, while the pores, which had formed in the roofing paper consequent on drying, are better filled up. Nevertheless, the distilled tar also has retained the property of drying with time into a hard, vitreous mass, and ultimately to be destroyed by decomposition.—The Roofer.
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A PHYSICAL LABORATORY INDICATOR.
The difficulties attending the management of a physical laboratory are much greater than those of a chemical one. The cause of this lies in the fact that in the latter the apparatus is less complicated and the pieces less varied. Any contrivance that will reduce the labor and worry connected with the running of a laboratory is valuable.
A physical laboratory may be arranged in several ways. The apparatus may be kept in a store room and such as is needed may be given to the student each day and removed after the experiments are performed; or the apparatus for each experiment or system of experiments may be kept in a fixed place in the laboratory ready for assembling; for certain experiments the apparatus may be kept in a fixed place in the laboratory and permanently arranged for service.
Each student may have his own desk and apparatus or he may be required to pass from desk to desk. The latter method is preferable.
When a store room is used the services of a man are required to distribute and afterward to collect. If the apparatus is permanently distributed, a large room is necessary, but the labor of collecting and distributing is done away with.
There are certain general experiments intended to show the use of measuring instruments which all students must perform. To illustrate the use of the indicator I have selected an elementary class, although the instrument is equally applicable to all classes of experiments.
Having selected a suitable room, tables may be placed against the walls between the windows and at other convenient places. Shallow closets are built upon these tables against the wall; they have glass doors and are fitted with shelves properly spaced. A large number of light wooden boxes are prepared, numbered from one up to the limit of the storage capacity of the closets. A number corresponding to that upon the box is placed upon the shelf, so that each one after removal may be returned to its proper place without difficulty. On the front of the box is a label upon which is written the experiment to be performed or the name of the apparatus whose use is to be learned, references to various books, which may be found in the laboratory library, and the apparatus necessary for the experiment, which ought to be found in the box. If any parts of the apparatus are too large to be placed in the box, the label indicates by a number where it may be found in the storage case.
It is evident that, instead of the above arrangement, all the boxes can be stacked in piles in a general store room. The described arrangement is preferable, as it prevents confusion in collecting and distributing apparatus when the class is large.
The Indicator (see figure).—Some device is evidently desirable to direct the work of a laboratory with the least trouble and friction possible. I have found that the old fashioned "peg board," formerly used in schools to record the demerits of scholars, modified as in the following description, leaves nothing to be desired.
The requirements of such an instrument are these: It must show the names of the members of the class; it must contain a full list of the experiments to be performed; it must refer the student to the book and page where information in reference to the experiments or apparatus may be found; it must show what experiments are to be performed by each student at a given time; it must give information as to the place in the laboratory where the apparatus is deposited; it must show to the instructor what experiments have been performed by each student; it must prevent the assignment of the same experiment to two students; it must enable the instructor to assign the same experiment to two or more students; it must form a complete record of what has been done, what work is incomplete, and what experiments have not yet been assigned; it must also be so arranged that new experiments or sets of experiments may be exhibited.
- - - - - - - - A B C D E F G H - - - - - - - - 1 * o o * o o o o 2 * o * * o o o o 3 + * * * o o o o 4 + o * * o o o o 5 o + * * * * o o 6 o + * * o * o o 7 o o + * o o o o 8 o o o + * o o o 9 o o o * + o o o 10 o o o o o + o o 11 o o o * o o + * 12 o o * * o + + + 13 o o * o o o o o 14 o o * o o o o o 15 o o + o o o o o 16 o o + + * o o *
A, B, C, etc., are cards upon which are the names of students. 1, 2, 3, etc., are cards like the one described in the article. The small circles (o) represent unassigned experiments. The black circles (*) (slate nails) represent work done. The caudate circles (+) (brass nail) represent work assigned.
The indicator consists of a plank of any convenient length and breadth. The front surface is divided into squares of such size that the pegs may be introduced and withdrawn with ease. At each corner of the squares holes are bored into which nails may be placed. There is a blank border at the top and another on the left side. At the top of each vertical column of holes is placed a card holder. This is made of light tin turned up on the long edges—which are vertical—and tacked to the board. Opposite each horizontal row of holes is a similar tin card holder, but of greater length, and having its length horizontal. The holders at the top of the board contain cards upon which the names of the class are written.
Cards, like the following, are prepared for the horizontal holders.
——————————————————————————————— Stewart & Gee 229 Physical Manip. 85 Intensity of Gravity—Borda's Method 39 Glazebrook & Shaw 132 ———————————————————————————————
These cards are numbered from one to any desired number and are arranged in the holders consecutively.
Two kinds of nails are provided to fit the holes in the board: An ordinary slate nail and a common picture frame nail with a brass head. The latter indicates work to be done, the former work done.
To prepare the board for service, brass headed nails are placed opposite each experiment, and below the names, care being taken not to have more than one nail in the same horizontal row, unless it is intended that two persons or more are to work upon the same experiment.
There will be no conflict when the brass nails occupy diagonal lines. If they do not, a glance will show the fact.
After an experiment has been performed and a report made upon the usual blank, the brass nail is removed and a slate nail put in its place.
The board will show by the slate nails what work has been done by each student, by the brass nails what is yet to be done, and by the empty holes, experiments which have been omitted or are yet to be assigned. A slate nail opposite an experiment card indicates that that experiment may now be assigned to another person.
It is evident that the schedule for a whole term may be arranged in a few minutes and that the daily changes require very little time.
The board is hung in a convenient place. The student as he enters the laboratory looks for his name on the upper cards and under it for the first brass nail in the vertical column: to the left he finds the experiment card. On the left hand end of the slip he sees the book references, on the right hand end a number—39 in the sample card given above. Knowing the number, he proceeds to a desk and finds a box numbered in the same manner. He removes the box from the closet. On the label of the box is a list of all the apparatus necessary, which he will find in the box; the label also contains the book references. He performs the experiment, fills up a blank which he gives to the instructor, puts all the materials back in the box, replaces the box in its proper place in the closet and proceeds with the next experiment. With this indicator there is no difficulty in managing fifty students or more.
Comparatively little apparatus need be duplicated. Where apparatus is fixed against a wall a number may be tacked upon the wall and a card containing the information desired. The procedure is then the same as with the boxes. The cards on the board being removable, other ones may be inserted containing information in reference to other boxes having the same number but containing different materials. There can be no successful tampering with the board, for the record of experiments performed is upon the blanks which the students turn in and also in the individual note books which are written up and given to the instructor for daily examination.
Lafayette College. J.W. MOORE.
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NEW METHOD OF EXTINGUISHING FIRES
This is by George Dickson, of Toronto, Canada, and David Alanson Jones.
A mixture of water and liquefied carbon dioxide upon being discharged through pipes at high pressure causes the rapid expansion of the gas and converts the mixture into spray more or less frozen, and portions of the liquid carbon dioxide are frozen, owing to its rapid expansion, and are thus thrown upon the fire in a solid state, where said frozen carbon dioxide in its further expansion not only acts to put out the fire, but cools the surface upon which it falls, and thus tends to prevent reignition.
A represents a receptacle sufficiently strong to stand a pressure of not less than a thousand pounds to the square inch.
B B water receptacles.
In the drawings we have shown two receptacles B and only one receptacle A; but we do not wish to confine ourselves to any particular number, nor do we wish to confine ourselves to the horizontal position in which the receptacles are shown.
C is a pipe leading from the receptacle A to a point at or near the bottom of the receptacle B.
F is a pipe through which the mixture of water and liquefied gas from the receptacle B is forced by the expansion of said liquefied gas, the said pipe taking the mixture of water and liquefied gas from the bottom of the receptacle.
To use the apparatus, open the stop cock D in the pipe C, leading to one of the receptacles B, whereupon, owing to the lower pressure in the cylinder B, the liquid carbon dioxide expands and rises to the top of the cylinder A and forces the liquid carbon dioxide into the cylinder B, the same as the superior steam of a boiler forces the water of the boiler out when the same is tapped below the surface of the liquid. Now upon opening the tap H, this superior gas forces out the mixture of water and liquid carbon dioxide, which suddenly expanding causes portions of the globules of liquefied gas to be frozen, and these, being protected by a rapidly evaporating portion of the liquefied gas, are thrown on the fire in solid particles. At the same time the water is blown into a spray, which is more or less frozen. The fire is thus rapidly extinguished by the vaporization of the carbon dioxide and water spray.
* * * * *
BY HUDSON MAXIM.
During the last forty years leading chemists have continued to experiment with a view to the production of a gunpowder which should be smokeless. But not until the last few years has any considerable degree of success been attained.
To be smokeless, a gunpowder must yield only gaseous products of combustion. None of the so-called smokeless powders are entirely smokeless, although some of them are very nearly so.
The smoke of common black gunpowder is largely due to minute particles of solid matter which float in the air. About one-half of the total products of combustion of black gunpowder of ordinary composition consists of potassium carbonate in a finely divided condition and of potassium sulphate, which is produced chiefly by the burning in the air of potassium sulphide, another production of combustion, as on the outrushing gases it is borne into the air in a fine state of division.
Another cause for the smoke of gunpowder is the formation of small liquid vesicles which condense from some of the products of combustion thrown into the air in a state of vapor, in the same manner as vesicles of aqueous vapor form in the air on the escape of highly heated steam from the whistle of a locomotive.
Broadly speaking, an explosive compound is one which contains, within itself, all the elements necessary for its complete combustion, and whose heated gaseous products occupy vastly more space than the original compound. Such compound usually consists of oxygen, associated with other elements, for which it has great affinity, and from which it is held from more intimate union, or direct chemical combination, under normal conditions, by being in combination as well with other elements for which it has less affinity, but which it readily gives up for the stronger affinities when explosion takes place, the other elements either combining with one another to form new compounds or being set free in an uncombined state.
An explosive is said to detonate when the above changes take place instantaneously, the action being transmitted with the speed of electricity by a sort of molecular rhythm from molecule to molecule throughout the entire substance of the compound.
An explosive is said to explode when the above changes do not occur instantaneously throughout the whole substance, but whose combustion takes place from the surface inward of the particles or grains of which it is composed, thus requiring some definite lapse of time.
The elements of an explosive compound may be associated chemically as in nitro-glycerine and gun-cotton, which are chemical compounds, being the results of definite reactions. Or, an explosive may be a mere mechanical mixture of different substances comprising the necessary elements, as is ordinary black gunpowder, which is a compound of charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter, the saltpeter supplying the necessary oxygen.
No gunpowder can be smokeless in which saltpeter or any oxygen-bearing salt having a metallic base is employed, for when the salt gives up its oxygen, the base combines with other elements to produce a sulphate, a carbonate, or other salt, which, being solid, produces smoke. Therefore, to be smokeless, a gunpowder must contain no other elements than oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, and in such proportions that the products of combustion shall be wholly gaseous. The nitric ethers—gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine—constitute such explosive compounds. These substances were formerly thought to be nitro-substitution compounds, but are now known to belong to the compound ethers of nitric acid.
Gun-cotton, discovered by Schonbein, in 1845, has since been looked upon as the most promising material for a smokeless gunpowder, it being a very powerful explosive and burning with practically no smoke. To-day, gun-cotton, in some form or other, constitutes the base of substantially all of the smokeless powders with which have been attained any considerable degree of success.
Gun-cotton alone and in its fibrous state has been found to be too quick, or violent, for propulsive purposes, such as use in firearms; as under such conditions of confinement it is very likely to detonate and burst the gun. However, if gun-cotton be dissolved in a suitable solvent, which is capable of being evaporated out, such as acetone, or acetate of ethyl, which are very volatile, it becomes, when thus dissolved and dried, a very hard, horn-like, amorphous substance, which may be used for a smokeless gunpowder. But this substance taken alone is very difficult to mould or granulate, and the loss of expensive solvents must necessarily be quite considerable.
When gun-cotton is reduced to a collodial solid, as above, and used as a smokeless gunpowder, the grains must be made comparatively small to insure prompt and certain ignition, and consequently the pressures developed in the gun are apt to be too great when charges sufficiently large are used to give desired velocities.
If, however, a compound be made of gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine, in about equal parts, by means of a volatile solvent or combining agent, such as one of the before mentioned, and the solvent evaporated out, we obtain practically a new substance and one which, as regards its explosive nature, is quite unlike either of its two constituents taken alone. The nitro-glycerine, furthermore, being itself a solvent of gun-cotton, much less of the volatile ether is necessary to render the compound of an amorphous character. Being quite plastic this substance may be wrought or moulded into any desired size or form of grain.
This simple compound of nitro-glycerine and gun-cotton, or with some slight modifications, has been found, when properly granulated, to be the most smokeless powder that has yet been discovered or invented. If pure chemicals are employed in the manufacture, and the gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine be made of the highest nitration and best quality, we have a smokeless powder which will possess the following desirable qualities:
1st. It is absolutely smokeless, that is, its products of combustion are entirely gaseous.
2d. Its products of combustion are in no way deleterious or unpleasant.
3d. It is perfectly safe to manufacture, handle and transport. There is no more danger of its exploding accidentally than there would be of an explosion of shavings or sawdust; for, unless well confined and set off with a strong primer, it will not explode at all. In the open its combustion is so slow as to in no way resemble or partake of the nature of an explosion.
4th. It is perfectly stable, and will keep any length of time absolutely without undergoing any change whatever, under all conditions of temperature or exposure to which gunpowder would ever be subjected.
5th. It is not hygroscopic, and may be soaked in water without being at all affected by it.
6th. It will not corrode the cartridge case.
7th. It will not foul the gun.
8th. It is sure of ignition with a good primer, and may be made to burn as slowly as desired by varying the character and size of the grains. Indeed, it may be made to burn so slowly as to fail of complete combustion before the bullet leaves the gun, and after firing several rounds, partly burned pieces of the powder may be picked up in front of the gun.
9th. In a shoulder arm, a velocity of 2,000 feet per second may be imparted to the bullet with this powder, and with a pressure in the chamber of the gun of not more than fifteen English tons. This is, of course, when the gun, cartridge case, primer, and projectile are adapted to the use of smokeless powder, and the granulation of the powder is adapted to them.
If what I have here claimed for the above smokeless powder be true, it would appear that it may be taken as really an ideal smokeless powder. Why, then, has it not already been universally adopted? Surely such a powder is just what every government is seeking. In reply to this, let me say that, in order for the above compound to be an effective and successful smokeless powder, with the manifestation of the many desirable qualities which I have recited, a great many other conditions are necessary, some of which I will mention. To arrive at the knowledge that this compound would constitute the best smokeless powder has required a great deal of experimenting. It was first thought that gun-cotton colloid, without any nitro-glycerine, that is, gun-cotton dissolved and dried, would burn more slowly, keep better, and give better ballistics than it would if combined with nitro-glycerine. It was also thought that gun-cotton of a high degree of nitration when made into colloidal form would even then burn too quickly to be suitable for use in firearms. Consequently, the first experiments were with low grade gun-cotton, what is called collodion cotton, such as is employed in the manufacture of celluloid. But, as this would not explode without the addition of some oxygen-bearing element, various oxygen-bearing salts were combined with it, such as nitrate of potassium, nitrate of ammonia, nitrate of baryta, etc. Also a great many of the first smokeless powders were made of low grade gun-cotton combined with nitro-glycerine in varying proportions. These powders would often give very good results when first made; but low grade gun-cotton or di-nitro-cellulose, as it is called, is a very unstable compound, and these powders, after giving very promising results, were found to be constantly undergoing change, sooner or later resulting in complete decomposition.
When nitro-glycerine was first combined with gun-cotton in small quantities, camphor was often added, to lessen the rapidity of combustion which the nitro-glycerine was supposed to impart and also to render the compound more plastic, and to tend to prevent the decomposition of the low grade gun-cotton. But camphor being volatile, would, by its evaporation, cause the powder to constantly change in character. Castor oil has been found to be a better diluent, as this will not evaporate.
As all of the smokeless powders made of a low grade gun-cotton were found to deteriorate and spoil, experiments were made with gun-cotton of the highest degree of nitration, both alone and in combination with nitro-glycerine. These experiments were first conducted in England by private parties and by the British government, when it was found that high grade gun-cotton would give excellent results if made into a colloidal solid and used alone, or in combination with certain other constituents. With a view to saving the large quantity of solvents necessary to reduce the gun-cotton, and to get a more prompt and certain ignition with a larger grain, experiments were cautiously made by the admixture of varying proportions of nitro-glycerine to the gun-cotton when dissolved, or rather along with other solvents in the process of dissolving it.
It was soon found that nitro-glycerine added in quantities, even equal in weight to the gun-cotton itself, did not materially increase the rapidity of the explosion of the compound. And it was also found that high grade gun-cotton, when combined with nitro-glycerine, gave very much better results than low grade gun-cotton.
I have spoken here of high and low grade gun-cotton, when in fact the word gun-cotton should be applied only to the highest nitro-compound of cellulose. The word gun cotton has always been rather loosely used. Pyroxyline would be a better word, as this applies to all grades. When cotton fiber is soaked in a large excess of a mixture of the strongest nitric and sulphuric acids, gun-cotton proper, or that of the highest grade, is produced. When weaker acids are used, lower grades of nitro-cellulose are formed.
The first mentioned or highest grade gun-cotton, when thoroughly freed from its acids, has always proved to be a perfectly stable compound. The lower grades have always been found to be unstable and subject to spontaneous decomposition. Nitro-glycerine has also been erroneously thought to be a very unstable compound. But experiments have proved that, when made pure, it is perfectly stable.
Having now explained how the knowledge came to be arrived at that the aforementioned compound of highest grade nitro-glycerine and highest grade gun-cotton would constitute the best basis for a smokeless powder, I will now mention a few of the other conditions necessary to success with its use, without assuming that smokeless powder has yet passed its experimental stage, and is beyond further improvement. Nevertheless, such is the compound which has come to stay as the basis of all smokeless powders; and any smokeless powder, if a successful one, may be counted upon as being made of this compound of gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine, or of a colloid of gun-cotton, either alone or combined with diluents, oxygen-bearing salts, or inert matter. The fact that smokeless powder may still be said to be in somewhat of an experimental stage is not to admit that it is not a success. Firearms, cartridge cases, and projectiles are also still in an experimental stage, for they are constantly being improved; yet their use has been a great success for a good many years.
The question of success of a smokeless powder does not rest alone with the powder itself. The gun, the cartridge case, primer, and bullet have been as much the subjects of experiments in adapting them to the use of smokeless powder as has the smokeless powder in being adapted to them. To impart a velocity of 2,000 feet per second to a rifle ball, with corresponding long range and accuracy of flight, has been a question as much of improvement in rifles and projectiles as in the powder. To give a velocity of 2,000 feet per second to a bullet, requires a pressure of at least 15 English tons in the chamber of a gun. This would be a dangerous pressure in an old-fashioned shoulder arm; while a bullet made only of lead would strip on striking the rifling and pass right through the barrel of the gun without taking any rotary motion whatever. It might at first seem that the powder is the only thing to be considered; but high ballistics can only be obtained when everything else is adapted to its use.
The projectile, the cartridge case, the fulminating cap, and the gun have had to be all built up together, and a very large amount of experimenting has been necessary to determine what would constitute the best projectile, best cartridge case, best fulminating cap, and what should be the character of the rifling and the quality and temper of the steel of the gun barrel.
It has been necessary first to conduct experiments to test the smokeless powders for velocities and pressures, and then with the powders test various kinds of projectiles and guns. In order to obtain the high ballistics which have been secured, it has been found necessary to cover the bullet with something harder than lead and to rifle the gun in a special manner.
The French, who were the first to definitely adopt smokeless powder, were the first also to make a rifle, projectile, cartridge case and primer suited to its use.
To obtain long range with a small long bullet such as is now used, it should rotate at a very high speed. It is well known to artillerists that a projectile of four or more calibers in length has to be rotated at a much higher speed than one of half that length, in order to keep the projectile stiff in the air, and to prevent it from ending over in its flight. To communicate this very high rotary movement to the bullet in the instant of time during which it is passing through the barrel, the rifling of the gun has to exert an enormous torsion on the bullet. Lead, no matter how hardened, is not sufficiently strong, as it will not only strip and pass straight through the gun without taking any rotary movement whatever, but under such very high pressures it behaves like wax, and is thrown from the gun in a distorted mass.
The French cover their bullets with German silver, a substance made of nickel, zinc and copper; and in order to put as little strain upon the rifling and projectile as possible, the rifling of the gun is made with an increasing twist, and has no sharp edges. The French rifle is made very strong at the breech and is of tempered steel throughout. In this way the French have made smokeless powder a success—a smokeless powder made substantially of a character such as I have herein described. With smokeless powder, the French rifle imparts a muzzle velocity of 2,000 feet per second to the bullet, with a range of about 2,400 meters.
If smokeless powder be divided into sufficiently small grains to be ignited by an ordinary fulminating cap, it would burn too quickly, thereby causing the pressure to mount too high, and without giving the desired velocity. Consequently very large and strong fulminating caps have to be employed. Smokeless powder is not ignited in the same manner as black powder. Something besides ignition is necessary. Black powder simply requires to be set on fire; while a smokeless powder, on the contrary, not only requires that it be set on fire, but that a certain degree of pressure be set up inside of the cartridge case. For instance, if a primer of a certain size should be found to operate perfectly well, giving prompt ignition in the cartridge case of a rifle of small caliber, it would be found that the same primer would not ignite a charge of the same powder if loaded into a gun of one inch caliber. In the latter case a few grains only lying near the primer would be ignited, and these would soon become extinguished by sudden release of pressure bringing about a cooling effect due to expansion of the gases. In small cartridges a large fulminating cap is all that is required, but in large cartridges it is necessary to resort to additional means of ignition.
In France, where experiments were conducted with a 37 millimeter Maxim gun, it was found to be impracticable to use a fulminating cap sufficiently large to ignite the powder and cause it to burn. Therefore, a small ignition charge of black powder was employed, it being put in a capsule or bag and placed next the primer. On firing at the rate of 300 rounds per minute, the black powder, though small in quantity, produced a cloud of smoke through which it was quite impossible to see. The inventor of the gun then prepared for the French some wafers of pyroxyline canvas, which were placed next to the primer, securing thereby prompt ignition without the production of any smoke.
Smokeless powder, made as I have described, cannot be detonated by a fulminating cap of any size or by any means whatever. A large charge of fulminate of mercury placed inside the cartridge case next the primer will not detonate the powder, it serving only to ignite it and cause it to explode. But even this would not cause the powder to explode except it be confined behind a projectile, that sufficient pressure may be run up to make it burn in its own gases.
Some curious experiments with smokeless powder may be tried with a shot gun. If the fulminating cap be large, the powder fine, the wads numerous and hard and the charge of shot heavy, all being well rammed down, and the paper case well spun over the last pasteboard wad, a charge of smokeless powder about equal in weight to one-half of what would be employed of black powder would give about the same results as black powder. But if the charge of shot be omitted, the primer will only ignite the powder, and there will be set up sufficient pressure merely to throw the wads about half way up the barrel of the gun, when the powder will go out. Now if this same charge of powder be collected and reloaded into a new cartridge case and well confined behind wads and a charge of shot, as above explained, it will all burn, giving the same results as black powder.
Attempts have been made to use this powder in pistols and revolvers, but here it has proved a failure, as the pressure is not great enough to cause the powder to be consumed, unless it be in the form of very fine grains or dust, in which case the pressure mounts too high. However, this might be overcome to a degree by making the powder porous. The chemical conditions of the powder might be the same, but the physical conditions must be different. A powder suitable for shot guns and pistols would not be suitable for rifles.
One not familiar with the characteristics of smokeless powder would be almost certain to fail in his first attempt to fire it. Many persons have been convinced by their first experiments that this powder would not burn at all in a gun, any more than so much sand.
Smokeless powder is consumed with a rapidity which accords with the conditions of its confinement. Therefore, the bullets which have been experimented with by different governments have been the cause of much of the varying pressures attributed to the smokeless powders.
The Austrians use the Mannlicher steel jacketed bullet. The steel casing or jacket is first tinned on the inside and then the lead is cast in, thus melting the tin and adhering firmly to the jacket. This projectile sets up enormous friction in the barrel of the gun when used with smokeless powder; as the smokeless powder leaves the gun barrel perfectly clean and the two steel surfaces being in absolute contact cause tremendous friction; and as the coefficient of friction varies with every shot, the pressure in the gun constantly varies greatly.
The German silver covered bullet used by the French has the disadvantage that when firing rapidly the chamber of the barrel becomes nickel plated and great friction is caused, mounting up the pressures and causing the muzzle velocities to fall off.
The Austrians, in order to prevent their steel cased bullets from rusting and to lessen the friction in the barrel of the gun, cover them with a heavy lubricant, which gives the cartridges an unsightly appearance and causes them to gather dust and sand. The French employ a lubricant at the base of the projectile, with a small copper disk between the same and the powder.
Col. A.R. Buffington, commander of the National Armory at Springfield, Mass., has made a steel covered projectile which he prevents from rusting by blackening by a niter process. Several grooves are pressed in the base of the bullet which carry a lubricant, and when the bullet is inserted in the cartridge case the grooves are covered by it. Furthermore, these grooves prevent the lead filling from bursting through the steel casing, leaving the latter in the barrel, as often occurs with the Austrian and French projectiles when using smokeless powder.
A new projectile has lately come out, the invention of Captain Edward Palliser, of the British army. This bullet consists of a jacket made of very soft Swedish wrought iron, coated with zinc and filled with lead, the lead being pressed into this jacket. The bullet is corrugated at its base, after the manner of the one made by Colonel Buffington. This projectile has been experimented with very extensively by the British government, and at the works of the Maxim-Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company, in England. The zinc coating of the bullet is too soft to stick to the barrel of the gun, and also in a measure acts as a lubricant. This projectile has given better results than any other that has been experimented with. The great velocities and the most uniform pressures by the use of smokeless powder have been attained with this Palliser bullet.
A great many stories have been told about the noiselessness of smokeless powder. But there is no such thing as a noiseless gunpowder. The report of a gun charged with smokeless powder is very sharp, and is as loud as when black powder is used, yet the volume of sound is much less, so that the report cannot be heard at so great a distance.
The report of a gun using smokeless powder is a sound of much higher pitch than when black powder is used, and consequently cannot be heard at so great a distance as the lower notes given by black powder.
As smokeless powder exerts a much greater pressure than common black powder when burned in a gun, one would naturally think that the recoil of the barrel would be greater, owing to the greater pressure exerted by the smokeless powder on the base of the cartridge case and the breech mechanism. However, such is not the fact; for the barrel actually recoils very much less when smokeless powder is used. This is due to the suddenness with which the pressure is exerted by smokeless powder, it acting more like a very sharp blow on the metal, whereby more of the energy is converted into heat instead of being spent in overcoming the inertia of the barrel to give recoil. Similarly when smokeless powder is fired in a gun, the displacement of the air is so sudden that the sound waves do not possess the same amplitude of recoil or vibration as is given by black powder.