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Magnesium YAK

G’day. Referring to the ‘burnability’ of magnesium metal -
though I reckon the person really meant ‘magnesia’ anyway,
(magnesium oxide, MgO) - and although it isn’t really
jewellery-related, I wondered if you might be amused by a little
anecdote on an experience with the metal magnesium.

I spent the early war years in the East End of London, where we
got bombed on a fairly regular nightly - and sometimes daily -
basis. Hitler put out the order, “Set London afire!” And so they
did, with a nightly rain of incendiary bombs - hundreds of
thousands of 'em. These weren’t very big, about three feet long
around 3-4 inches diameter, and they were made of almost solid
magnesium. They burnt with a brilliant white light - boy - did
they burn! I remember hearing the rattle of a number of them on
the slate roof, and found one burning it’s way through the attic
floor. But you can’t put them out. If you were silly enough to
pour water on them they’d likely explode and you’d get bits of
white hot magnesium all over the place. If you sprayed them with
water the intense heat broke down the water into it’s oxygen and
hydrogen - and it burnt even more fiercely! Drop a sandbag over
it and it still kept burning which was ok on a concrete floor,
but it quickly burnt through a wood ceiling or floor. So all I
could do was spray the surrounding fires with a stirrup pump,
and wait until the bomb had burnt it’s way through, and fallen on
the floor below. You couldn’t even lift it on a shovel, for it
would burn through that too! I chased that thing through the
roof, the attic floor, the bedroom floor, the kitchen floor, and
it finally ended down in the cellar which had a concrete floor,
and I simply put a sandbag over it and let it continue. Oh -
I’d be about 18 at the time.

So, yes, magnesium metal burns very nicely, eh?

   / /    John Burgess, 
  / /
 / //\    @John_Burgess2
/ / \ \

/ (___)

The war story about magnesium brought back memories from my Navy
days. When I was serving on an aircraft carrier, I was around
planes which contained some parts made from an alloy containing a
high percentage of magnesium–enough magnesium to burn if there
was an accident. We were told that the only thing to do in case
of a magnesium fire was to shove the burning material overboard,
& that the stuff would burn all the way down to the bottom of the

Joel Kahn <@Joel_Kahn>
Comptroller for Maxon’s Jewelers
Diamond Merchants & Estate Jewelers
2622 S Glenstone, Springfield Missouri 65804 USA
Voice: 417-887-1800 or 417-887-1809
Fax: 417-887-3422