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Name: Debbie
Status: other
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999-2001


Question:
I want to make-pine cones that will burn colors in a fireplace. Saw some in a store, too expensive, thought I could make them myself. I know copper sulfate will burn blue. Where can I get it and what would I mix it with to make a paste (so it would stick to cones) I do not want to build something that would blow up. Would soaking them in a saturated solution be sufficient? Thanks, Debbie


Replies:
Soaking the pine cones with concentrated solutions of the electrolytes should be sufficient. Table salt will burn with an intense yellow that could mask any other color, so only put one salt per pine cone. Calcium chloride will burn red. You can get it from a hardware store -- it is used in some snow and ice "melters" -- check the label. You might try a farm supply store for the copper sulfate. It is used to kill algae in ponds and lakes.

Vince Calder


Debbie,

This issue has been dealt with in the Newton Chemistry Archives. Check them out. Nevertheless, here's my take on the matter:

First, be aware that pine cones contain a very energetic sap that can pop and spew flaming jets of goo into the room. Be sure the cones are confined behind a suitable fire-screen so that cannot happen.

Granulated copper sulfate (TOXIC!) can be purchased at feed stores and home centers. Dissolve about a half cupful in about a gallon of water contained in a 2 gallon plastic bucket, Stir the solution until all the granules are dissolved. Place the pine cones in the solution and weight them down with a brick so they're all under the solution. Let them stand for a week. As required, fish out a few and burn them wet. You should get some pretty blue and green flames when they burn.

Follow the handling instruction that appear on the container of copper sulfate. Do not allow children or pets to contact the solution. Wash hands and clean up spills.

BTW, you can do the same thing with plain table salt to make a very intense yellow color in the flames. In any case, the colors will be most apparent when the fire is quite hot -- you will not see much when it is first lit.

Be safe and good luck.

Regards,
ProfHoff



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