This post sadly lacks any photos of actual fire, but if you would like to know what this is about do a Google search on “video potassium glycerol“. Cool isn’t it!

I first saw this in action on a survival course I attended last September. It was so easy, just add a little glycerol/ glycerine to some potassium permanganate (which can also be used for cleaning wounds and sterilising water), wait a few seconds and whoosh!

A few months later I decided to buy some myself for a possibles bag I was putting together (once I am happy with my bag I will write a post about it, should be any year now…), I went onto eBay, bought a little pot of glycerine, a little pot of potassium permanganate crystals, got them home mixed them together and……. nothing.

Nothing I could do in any way would make them react. I was, to put it mildly, disappointed and certain that I had bought or done something wrong. I then noticed a tiny amount of smoke coming from one sample that had been in the sun and I had taken inside (I was going to clean the metal tray I had been using and got waylaid on the phone). It didn’t react too much more but I remembered enough from basic chemistry to know that the chemicals were now reacting probably because they had become warm. The other way of making them react was to increase their surface area….. grind them up!

The photos below show me doing this in my kitchen pestle and mortar. Don’t do this as you will make an awful mess not-quite managing to clean it out and have to buy a new one. Use a separate pestle and mortar to start with.

The resultant powder reacts within a few seconds with the glycerine, and burns very hot. You generally have a few seconds to put something over the mixture before anything happens and then a large flare starts, which will cause serious burns if your fingers are anywhere near it when it catches!

I also mixed it with some magnesium powder (also from eBay), this is very impressive as it makes a little explosion, just like one of those stage flashes used by cheesy magicians! It is not so useful for starting fires however as it tends to blow bits of flaming material all over the place rather than concentrating the heat.

This last new years I did spend some time experimenting with the magnesium/ potassium mix and I found if you take a used baby-wipe, put it through the washing machine and then dry it you get an interesting tinder material. Put your potassium powder in a little heap in the centre of a sheet , add some magnesium (I spread mine out over the baby-wipe) then add the glycerine, quickly wrap it all up and throw it into the fire. The ball of fabric will burst into a very hot ball of flames within a few seconds and will burn for some time, allowing even a damp fire to get going.

However it will also burn a big hole in your hand if you still holding it, so move quickly!

I will try to add some photo’s of the fire etc at a later date.