I am looking for all the info I can find on the mysterious substance used to make acetylene in carbide generators. I will soon have my hands on a speedster that has acetylene headlights and a beautiful brass carbide generator. It is just too tempting to try out this set-up to power the headlights. On trying to get calcium carbide, I have run into considerable resistance since it is classed as a "hazardous material". The shipper must pay "HAZMAT" fees to ship it (some kind of enormous tribute to the Federal Govt.). Otherwise they will be sentenced to Guantanamo for life.
One shipper claims they have to sell and ship ten lbs. of it because the HAZMAT fee is the same for ten lbs. or one oz. (I don't need ten lbs...!)
So bottom line is:
1) Where do you get it?
2) Do you get "peas" or "rocks"? (2 different granule sizes)?
3) How long does it last?
Thanks for any help,
Jon, there is nothing mysterious about it and as long as you keep it dry it is not hazardous as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately we live in a world that seems to over react to everything and label anything that stupid people can hurt themselves with as hazardous. I finally ran out of my original stock which was purchased at a real hardware store many years ago. I found some calcium carbide on the internet and use the same stuff that the spelunkers use in their head lamps. It is called miners grade and Is for use in their helmet lights. I believe 2 pounds were something like $18 and should last for a long time. I rarely drive at night in any of my cars so the gas light driving is limited to gas light tours that are rarely more than 1/2 an hour so you don't need a lot of calcium carbide for that. You will have to play with the amount of calcium carbide you use as the burner tips vary in how much acetylene they consume per hour. I would start out with enough to loosely cover the bottom of the basket and see how long it takes to use up that amount. You can then adjust the quantity up or down depending on how long you plan to use the lamps. It is a bit messy but lots of fun.
I haven't purchased any in quite a while but the last can I got was at a gun shop. Camping stores may have too. It's EXTREAMLY hydrophilic so make sure the can top is sealed well. Also, don't leave any remains in the generator and don't put any of the waste or unused pellets back into the storage can.
Try a welding supply shop. Probably the smaller the better. Probably not any chain stores.
Over 100 years ago it was dirty and a pain i t a to clean.That's why many used a Prestolite tank.Bud.
Remember that the carbide does not stop creating gas the moment that you turn off the water. There is a youtube video of a brass generator bursting violently at a meet. I'd bet that it had just been "shut off" by closing the water valve and the gas valve (which some generators have). Boom. With experience you will learn to anticipate how much good light you will get after shutting off the water. Vent the remainder (the old instructions were to pull the hose off of the generator).
My local Army Navy / camping / hiking store keeps it in stock.
Jon; I live in Camarillo and may be able to help you out. I'm on a hunting trip right now but you can PM me and we can get together when I'm back.
an acetylene tank with a regulator will enable you to operate the headlights and is a heck of a lot less messy. It also stops gas flow when you turn the acetylene tank valve to "close".
Unless you tell everyone what you are doing, they will think you are on the carbide generator.
I've been using miners grade calcium carbide from Karst Sports. Absolutely no big deal using your headlights as they were designed. Click here: