Harry Veeder wrote:
What does it take to ignite thermite?

Hi All,

Thermite can be ignited with a short thin strip
of magnesium metal, which can be lit with a match.

Every high school chemistry laboratory which
I spent any time at always had powdered aluminum
metal and iron oxide powder on hand, as well as
at least one roll of magnesium stripping.  These
things can be ordered from the ads at the back
of Popular Science.  

In addition to my students, my own kids were
fascinated with pyrotechnics.  I would make the
thermite from the aluminum and iron oxide powders,
and a family project would be to use it to burn
out ground hornets.  First, bags of napalm, made
by dissolving polystyrene (McDonald's cups) in
gasoline, were placed on the nest.  Then a cup
of thermite was put on top of the napalm.
Finally a strip of Mg would be inserted
into the thermite and lit.

Destroying large paper bald-faced hornet nests
in trees was much more mundane:  The kids would
aim their shotguns at the nest from several angles
and simultaneously fire.

Jack Smith

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