Old Technology - Blue Touchpaper

Discussion in 'Fireworks Nostalgia, Collectables And History' started by spectrum, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. Charlie

    Charlie Pro Firer/Crew

  2. that concentration,~5% seems a bit low. without trying it I am guessing that would be quite a sluggish smoulder.

    one thing to remember is that presumably people are trying to copy the "standard" or "brocks" type of blue touch paper, and not
    the older versions quoted above.
    Tinderbox and jww like this.
  3. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Bazza, that was an amazing contribution! Big thanks for putting much effort in. Personally I find this sort of info incredibly interesting. Cheers!
    jww likes this.
  4. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    I know! I wonder if it evolved over the years into the thicker stuff used by most UK companies? Maybe because it was so thin and teared easily, letting the powders leak out?

    Bazza mentions: "'Practicus' described the suitable blue paper as 'not as thin as tissue paper, but thicker than the ordinary blue paper used by shopkeepers.' This blue paper was evidently readily available in the 1870s."
    This thin blue paper used to package bought goods sounds like it probably went through very few changes and I am guessing is pretty much the same as used by shop keepers today. A lot of gift shops and boutique type spots still use it. I've seen it, although it's always white these days. As blue was a relatively new colour back then, this paper most likely enjoyed a fad/fashion/trend lasting many years in the colour blue. So, I am coming to the conclusion that this is the most likely candidate for the origins of BTP. Until more research is done of course.

    I'm still massively busy but next week my time eases out a bit. More stuff to do on this subject...
  5. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Maybe not for the thin paper they were using. Might be sluggish for newsprint though? Malta Pyro made some using stuff about half the thickness of newsprint and it works real nice by the looks of his video.
  6. jww

    jww Supports UKFR

    Just as an aside before I forget - I was burning some rubbish recently., and noted that plain paper was smouldering in various interesting ways including the "tracking" effect of previous mention. So, it seems like this behaviour is intrinsic to the paper itself rather than paper prepared as BTP. The main point - when I'm doing tests on paper / oxidiser concentration., helpful to include a piece of untreated paper as a control. Are we assuming that commercial production worked against single sheets or some kind of role for continuous feed? If role, then drying must have been in "real time" too, thou drying such thin paper does not seem to require too much heat/energy. I've studied black powder manufacture to some degree, and of course we all know that wood/charcoal is the main material variation - with some of the lighter more fibrous materials ( vine for instance ) producing super fast powder, and hard wood possibly slower powder. I wonder if there is an analogue with BTP paper ? So, what we're perhaps looking for is any combination of paper / oxidiser concentration which works best. The application to one side only for the oxidiser is interesting too. Napkin papers are increasingly holding my attention - they're that subtle mix of lightness, strength, very high absorption. Again, I wonder how much the actual process modified the nature of the paper. An obvious question - any chance of tracking down an ex-industry bod who "knows the answers" - or would that spoil the fun !?! Sorry for long block of text - tired and just dumping a few things down before forgetting :) Later....J.
  7. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Hi JWW,

    I know of at least a couple of UKPS forum members who worked for many years in the UK fireworks manufacturing industry and one in particular worked for many many years at Astra during the BTP years. As a nod toward your mention of BTP manufacture, Standard did employ a machine which took a roll of untreated blue paper, unrolled it, submerged it in a bath of nitrate solution, passed it through a set of rollers which squeezed excess solution out and then through a set of heated rollers which dried the paper before being rolled up and stored. Repeat process as required. Spectrum almost bought this machine but it was either scrapped or re-purposed for a sticky labels machine???

    I agree with your point about wood types. You are on the money with the charcoal variant topic. So many sources of wood and all from different species of trees. All offering charcoals with vastly different applications owing to their properties. The same must be true with the pulped fibers ni paper manufacture and how these papers burn will no doubt be influenced by the source of the fibers and of course the methods of manufacture.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
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  8. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    On a different topic but continuing with the paper variant issue, Japanese senko hanabi sparklers use a very specific type of paper. It is critical to how they operate. Any old paper simply will not do. It has to be a specific paper and it is almost made exclusively for senko hanabi. The ingredients of which are nothing more than carbon, sulphur and KNO3. I say "carbon" as to not get too deep into a side topic on something which isn't BTP.
  9. Charlie

    Charlie Pro Firer/Crew

  10. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

  11. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Yes, my aim is to recreate that kind of BTP. The stuff I remember during the 80's and 90's. Purely as a nostalgia thing really. But, this has taken me on a fascinating journey of interest to discover the first use of BTP. Why has it remained only a British phenomena and why the colour blue? These are questions I hope, with the help of you guys, to be able to answer in as much detail as possible and have it published in Fireworks. I have downloaded some lovely old open source full scans of books dating back to the 1500's through to 1700's and beginning to narrow things down a bit now. Emphasis on the "bit" bit. My crazy period of work is over so now I can dedicate more time to research and experimentation.
  12. could you post links to the book downloads ?
    they would be interesting to look through
  13. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    I really can not remember where I found them. Mostly from different sources but here is one i found to read online though it does exist as a free download if you search. It's Babbington's book which they refer to in the BBc documentary on Iplayer at the moment. Fireworks for a Tudor Queen. Be quick if you want to watch it. been on a while.
    will try link them all tomorrow. Been a long day and I much tiredness ensues after several ales....hic

  14. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    These are by no means all the old books available on "fyer-works" but this should keep anyone from getting off the loo for several days. Pretty much any book over a certain age is free to download these days. Not sure why but I am pleased they are. Search around, you may come up with a gem and if you do, share it with us.






  15. Charlie

    Charlie Pro Firer/Crew

    Found this from 1842

    A manual of pyrotechny, or, A familiar system of recreative fire-works - G.jpg
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  16. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Great, which book is that?
  17. thank you, useful links to have
  18. Charlie's post is from G. W. Mortimer, 'A Manual of Pyrotechny; or, a Familiar System of Recreative Fireworks'. London: W. Simpkin & R. Marshall, 1824.
    The date is 1824, not 1842.
    Mortimer's contribution comes after that of Jones (1766) but well before those of 'Practicus', Browne and Kentish that I mentioned last week. Here is what Jones had to say in 1766:

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  19. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Just downloading this now from the Getty Institute site. I've had my head stuck in John Bate's and John Babingtons books C1634 and 1635. No mention of touchpaper yet in those but I find all the other stuff in these books too interesting to just ignore so my touchpaper research is slowed as I absorb everything else. I used to study calligraphy and handwriting during the times before the printing press when a scribe was a highly sought after tradesman. The language in these early books on fireworks echo the tongue of the middle ages so that in itself is of interest. I've collected a large number of old books so far. All of them legitimate open source downloads. Should have the earliest mention of touchpaper narrowed down at some point soon. So far it's looking like it might be in this book you guys are talking about (Robert Jones - 1766). Bates and Babington are 130ish years earlier and no mention of it so far from them though "match" is mentioned (cotten stringe soked liquore of salt petre)...
  20. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox Pro Firer/Crew

    Bates - 1634 writes: (The Mysteryes of Art & Natvre)

    How to make stouple, or prepare cotten-week to prime your fire-works with.

    Take cotten-week, such as the Chandlers use for candles, double it six or seuen times double, and wet it throughly in saltpeter water, or aqua vitæ, wherein some camphire hath been dissolued, or, for want of either, in faire water; cut it into diuers peeces, rowle it in mealed gunpowder, or powder and sulphur; then
    dry them in the Sun, and reserue them in a box where they may lie straight, to prime Starres, Rockets, or any other fire-works.

    How to know the true time, that any quantity of fired Gun-match that shall doe an exployt at a time desired.

    Take common gun-match, rub, or beat the same a little against a post to soften it; then either dip the same in salt peter water, and drie it againe in the Sunne, or else rub it in a little powder and brimstone beaten very small, and made liquid with a little aqua vitæ, and dried afterwards; trie first how long one yard of match thus prepared will burne, which suppose to be a quarter of an howr, then fowre yards will be a iust howre. Take therefore as much of this match as will burne so long as you will haue it to be ere your worke should fire, binde the one end unto your worke, lay loose powder under, and about it lay the rest of the match in hollow, or turning so that one part of it touch not another, and then fire it.

    No further mention of any other fuse types including preparing paper with nitre. No mention of that at all. So it's down to Babington to come up with the goods now.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018