Day: July 29, 2017

Saturday, 29 July 2017

08:49 – It was 65.4F (18.5C) when I took Colin out at 0650, bright and sunny. The peak of summer has definitely passed here. Our highs have been and are to be in the 70’s F (low to mid-20’s C), with lows now dropping into the 50’s F (low teens C).

More kit stuff today. We’re getting perilously low on two or three of the kits, so we’ll be building subassemblies and finished kits today and for the rest of this week.

I’ve been exchanging email with Rebecca Ann Parrish, whose articles on The Prepper Journal I’ve recommended. I wasn’t at all surprised to learn she’s a scientist and a technical writer. I encouraged her to self-publish a book with her combined articles and other writings, but that’s not a project she’s ready to take on at the moment.

Email from a long-time reader, with a question I figured I’d throw open for discussion here:

Big fan of your blog – thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences. Makes me think, see if there is applicability in my plans, and research research research…

Anyway, I have been thinking of alternative sources of light for the house during emergencies. Have a small generator and small solar kit, but would like something else and thought of oil lamps. Which I have zero experience with even with growing up in central Florida and several hurricanes. Do you have any recommendations for oil? Or any “don’t do this” or “don’t buy this” experiences you would share? I am thinking of maybe six small lamps, couple of dozen wick replacements, and maybe 20-30 gallons of oil. With two teenagers and a wife that are jumpy in storms, having light has really helped in the past when electricity was out.

Again, really enjoy the blog and thank you for sharing!

We have two oil lamps, purchased probably 25 years ago from LL Bean, and a gallon of lamp oil. I think we also have a package of spare wicks for them. We haven’t used them in a long time, and perhaps never. I don’t remember ever lighting them.

For emergency lighting, we have several small AA Coleman LED lanterns for task lighting, a couple of larger D LED lanterns for area lighting, a bunch of LED flashlights, and two or three LED headlamps. And a bunch of alkaline and Eneloop NiMH cells to keep them going.

My issue with oil lamps, other than the fact that they don’t provide much light, is that it’s a really bad idea to use open flame lamps, particularly in an emergency. It’s certainly cheaper to store lamp oil than batteries, but for both safety and light level I think you’re better off focusing on LED lighting and some means to recharge NiMH cells to keep them going.

That said, I know many preppers who do exactly what you described. Some of them keep multiple 5-gallon jerry cans of lamp oil, and in a pinch you can burn fuel oil, diesel, or any kerosene in those lamps, at the expense of going through wicks a lot faster.

But I’ll be interested in hearing what my readers have to say about this.

09:13 – Oh, yeah, speaking of making up chemicals, for most of them it’s no big deal. It involves only careful weighing and measuring.

But there are some reagents I despise making up, and put off doing as long as possible. Working with concentrated acetic acid or hydrochloric acid, for example, is obnoxious because of the fumes.

But my least favorite is Kastle-Meyer reagent, which is a presumptive test for blood that’s included in our forensic kits. It has no odor. The issue is that it’s a solution of 2% phenolphthalein in 20% w/v potassium or sodium hydroxide solution, which needs to be refluxed (simmered) over metallic zinc for an hour or so to reduce the bright magenta phenolphthalein to colorless phenolphthalin (note “ein” versus “in”).

A 5-liter flask of boiling lye solution is a fearsome thing, so I avoid it as long as possible. A couple of weeks ago, I started to make up the KM reagent. I got as far as dissolving the hydroxide in water and adding the phenolphthalein powder.

Then I got to thinking. If it takes 30 to 60 minutes to reduce the phenolphthalein at boiling, what would happen if I just let it sit at room temperature for several days or more. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I just stoppered the flask and let it sit. Every couple of days, I look to see if it’s any less intense magenta than it had been. When I checked yesterday, the magenta had faded significantly. Now the solution is yellowish with a slight magenta tint.

So I think I’ll let it sit another day or three to see if it will reduce to colorless. If not, I’ll stick it on a hot plate and warm it up for a while. But this appears to be working, and lets me avoid having a large flask of concentrated lye solution boiling away. And that really is no joke. Boiling concentrated lye solution literally dissolves glass. I always worried when I was refluxing a batch that the flask would suddenly shatter, splashing boiling lye all over the place. This room temperature process really is a lot safer.

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