Burning fuses[ edit ] A slow match is a very slow-burning fuse consisting of a hemp or cotton rope saturated with an oxidizer such as potassium nitrate. Slow matches are used as a source of fire for manually lighting other devices, such as matchlock guns, or fuses on black powder cannons. Before percussion caps, slow matches were most suitable for use around black-powder weapons because it could be roughly handled without going out, and only presented a small glowing tip instead of a large flame that risked igniting powder supplies nearby. A black match is a type of fuse consisting of cotton string coated with a dried slurry of black powder and glue. This acts as a simple pass-fire, and was used to fire ancient cannons.

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Main article: Gunpowder Documented evidence suggests that the earliest fuses were first used by the Chinese between the 10th and 12th centuries. After the Chinese had invented gunpowder, they began adapting its explosive properties for use in military technology.

By they were using gunpowder in simple grenades, bombs, and flamethrowers. For three centuries gunpowder was primarily used for military warfare. It was not until that gunpowder was first introduced to the mining industry, [2] and it took until before it was first used in a large-scale mining operation—at Thillot in France. The method used by miners to blast away rock involved drilling several holes across a rock face which would be filled with charges of gunpowder.

In order to confine the gases produced on ignition, the gunpowder was confined within each shot hole by inserting a pointed rod known as a "needle" in the gunpowder-charged hole and then packing in soft clay and tamping it down to form a plug. To provide some protection from the blast and the fumes, a nominated miner ignited the far end of the fuse which was intended to burn at a known rate. The miners, therefore, knowing the length of the fuse, could estimate the delay between ignition of the fuse and the ignition of the main charges.

However, early fuses, known as filled "quills", had a tendency to either burn irregularly, "flash off", or break—either by separation or by "pinching" in the shot hole due to the tamping process. They could also be damaged allowing moisture in, which could cause them to smoulder instead of burn and introduce a long delay.

Increasingly, miners in Cornwall in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were becoming badly injured as a result of suspecting that there had been a misfire and returning to the work face just as a smouldering damp quill ignited the gunpowder charges.

After earlier attempts at developing a safer way had failed, Bickford had an insight while visiting his friend who was a ropemaker. While observing his friend winding cord together to generate a rope, Bickford believed he could adapt the same method towards developing a fuse. This was done with the help of his son-in-law George Smith and a working miner named Thomas Davey. The outcome was the development of a fuse which when lit "the fire only travels along it slowly, rate of burning Bickford obtained a British Patent for his device No.

Due to poor record keeping or lack thereof, it is relatively difficult to determine the exact number of mining accidents and related statistics prior to the invention of the safety fuse. However "this fuse soon replaced the less reliable fuses which were made of straws or quills filled with black powder, thus greatly reducing the hazard of accidental explosions in mining or construction.

Alfred Nobel created dynamite in , by moulding nitroglycerine and a mud-like compound found near his laboratories called kieselguhr into individual cylinders. First, by inserting a safety fuse into the blast cap and igniting the fuse, it will set the blast cap off and produce enough energy to detonate the dynamite. Second, it is possible to detonate dynamite by inserting a blast cap into the end of the cylinder and then by attaching an electrical wire into the blast cap and producing a current which will travel from the source to the blast cap will also set off the dynamite.


Safety fuse



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