Friday, March 28, 2014

Cubic Inches: Part IV

Well, that was humbling.

Large Families

One of the advantages of belonging to a large German-Irish-Polish-Ukranian-Croatian Catholic family is that they have a wealth of skills to draw upon.  Family members are often eager to share their innermost thoughts and feelings. 

Cousin Timmy got his advanced degrees in Wood Chemistry and moved to Wisconsin.  We have not had a lot of interactions since then.  Cousin Timmy is a really smart guy and I think he might be helping me out.

Please understand that email between family members is often more causal than business memos.  Cousin Timmy probably did not anticipate that I would post this email on my blog.

Joe, you moron:


You MORON.  Engineers never change.  Good science involves replicating previous results before attempting to improve the process. It is arrogant of you to assume that you can do better than 800 years of evolution.

Didn't you ever think that flour/starch had probably been tried and rejected about a thousand times already?

You noted in one of your earlier posts on propellant that the process bottleneck for combustion is the availability of the carbon due to its high vaporization temperature.

Wood cells are like egg shells.  They retain that shape even after they are turned to char.

A little bit of math shows a two ounce egg has about 10 square inches of surface area.  Two ounces of egg shells have about 210 square inches of surface area.

You dope.  It is not about "Cubic Inches."  It is about "Square" inches....that is, the collective surface area of the charcoal you are using.

Yes, you can grind charred cornstarch pretty fine.   But the grains are still egg shaped.

You want to use the same types of wood that were used in the 1800s.  They were "go-fer" wood, the kind of wood you threw on the fire and immediately had to "go fer more".

They are white-woods with no visible summer wood, that is, no visible growth rings.  You want finely pored wood (i.e. small cells).  You want wood with low density, that is, cells with thin walls.

You need to stop pissing around with corn starch and start from the beginning.  You need to replicate with charcoal made from willow, aspen, cottonwood, alder or maybe basswood.


Thank-you cousin Timmy.  I will take your sage advice under advisement.  I plan to use up the cornstarch based charcoal that I have already made up.  Then, when the rain stops, I am going out back and cut some "cookies" out of a hybrid poplar that toppled this year.

Again, thank-you.

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