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Firewood

1. Q. My family enjoys our fireplace during the winter. It is very relaxing to watch the flames dancing over the logs. I have heard that flames can be colored if certain chemicals are added before burning. Do you know which chemicals cause which colors?

A. I am basically a chemical-free guy but if you really want to "color" the flames for the holiday season, you will have to seek out certain chemicals. Chemical treatment of the material to be burned can result in green, red, blue, orange, or purple flames instead of the usual yellow flame from wood.

Calcium chloride can be used to produce orange-colored flames; copper chloride, blue; potassium chloride, purple; strontium nitrate, red; lithium chloride, carmine; and copper sulfate, emerald green. Most of these chemicals can be purchased from chemical suppliers or drugstores.

To treat either pine cones or wood chips, a plastic pail and an onion sack are needed. The cones or chips are placed in the sack and immersed in a solution containing one pound of chemical dissolved thoroughly in one gallon or more of water. The bag must be weighted so that all of the material is completely covered, and the cones and wood should soak for at least 10 minutes.

After soaking, place the treated material on newspaper to dry; then it will be ready to brighten the holiday fireplace.

With the rising cost of wood, newspapers can be turned into "logs" which will burn with a rainbow of color. Simply tie the loosely rolled newspapers with heavy twine and soak them in a solution of four pounds of copper sulfate and three pounds of rock salt dissolved in a gallon of water. After allowing these "logs" several days to dry, they may be burned just as wood.


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