This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
Strictly speaking, it is impossible to render wood completely incombustible, but an almost absolute immunity against the attacks of fire can be imparted.
Gay-Lussac was one of the first to lay down the principal conditions indispensable for rendering organic matters in general, and wood in particular, uninflammable.
During the whole duration of the action of the heat the fibers must be kept from contact with the air, which would cause combustion. The presence of borates, silicates, etc., imparts this property to organic bodies.
Combustible gases, disengaged by the action of the heat, must be mingled in sufficient proportion with other gases difficult of combustion in such a way that the disorganization of bodies by heat will be reduced to a simple calcination without production of flame. Salts volatile or decomposable by heat and not combustible, like certain ammoniacal salts, afford excellent results.
Numerous processes have been recommended for 'combating the inflammability of organic tissues, some consisting in external applications, others in injection, under a certain pressure, of saline solutions.
By simple superficial applications only illusory protection is attained, for these coverings, instead of fireproofing the objects on which they are applied, preserve them only for the moment from a slight flame. Resistance to the fire being of only short duration, these coatings scale off or are rapidly reduced to ashes and the parts covered are again exposed. It often happens, too, that such coatings have disappeared before the occurrence of a fire, so that the so-called remedy becomes injurious from the false security occasioned.
Some formulas recommended are as follows:
For immersion or imbibition the following solution is advised: Ammonium phosphate, 100 parts; boracic acid, 10 parts per 1,000; or ammonium sulphate, 135 parts; sodium borate, 15 parts; boracic acid, 5 parts per 1,000. For each of these formulas two coats are necessary.
For application with the brush the following compositions are the best:
a. Apply hot, sodium silicate, 100 parts; Spanish white, 50 parts; glue, 100 parts.
b. Apply successively and hot; for first application, water, 100 parts; aluminum sulphate, 20 parts; second application, water, 100 parts; liquid sodium silicate, 50 parts.
c. First application, 2 coats, hot; water, 100 parts; sodium silicate, 50 parts; second application, 2 coatings; oiling water, 75 parts; gelatin, white, 200 parts; work up with asbestos, 50 parts; borax, 30 parts; and boracic acid, 10 parts.
Oil paints rendered uninflammable by the addition of phosphate of ammonia and borax in the form of impalpable powders incorporated in the mass, mortar of plaster and asbestos and asbestos paint, are still employed for preserving temporarily from limited exposure to a fire.
Sodium silicate, solid........... 350 parts
Asbestos, powdered.......... 350 parts
Water, boiling. ... 1,000 parts Mix. Give several coatings, letting each dry before applying the next.
Asbestos, powdered 35 parts Sodium borate. ... 20 parts
Water............ 100 parts
Gum lac.......10 to 15 parts
Dissolve the borax in the water by the aid of heat, and in the hot solution dissolve the lac. When solution is complete incorporate the asbestos. These last solutions give a superficial protection, the efficiency of which depends upon the number of coatings given.
Prepare a syrupy solution of sodium silicate, 1 part, and water, 3 parts, and coat the wood 2 to 3 times, thus imparting to it great hardness. After drying, it is given a coating of lime of the consistency of milk, and when this is almost dry. is fixed by a strong solution of soluble glass, 2 parts of the syrupy mass to 3 parts of water. If the lime is applied thick, repeat the treatment with the soluble glass.
Subject the wood or wooden objects for 6 to 8 hours to the boiling heat of a solution of 33 parts of manganese chloride, 20 parts of orthophosphoric acid, 12 parts of magnesium carbonate, 10 parts of boracic acid, and 25 parts of ammonium chloride in 1,000 parts of water. The wood thus treated is said to be perfectly incombustible even at great heat, and, besides, to be also protected by this method against decay, injury by insects, and putrefaction.
One of the simplest methods is to saturate the timber with a solution of tungstate of soda; if this is done in a vacuum chamber, by means of which the wood is partly deprived of the air contained in its cells, a very satisfactory result will be obtained. Payne's process consists in treating wood under these conditions first with solution of sulphate of iron, and then with chloride of calcium; calcium sulphate is thus precipitated in the tissues of the timber, which is rendered incombustible and much more durable. There are several other methods besides these, phosphate of ammonia and tungstate being most useful. A coat of common whitewash is an excellent means of lessening the combustibility of soft wood.