What Can Happen When You Do Try This At Home

In somewhat of a countdown format, [John McMaster] looked back over the last few years of projects and documented the incidents he’s suffered (and their causes) in the course of doing cool stuff.

[John] starts us off easy — mis-wiring and consequently blowing up a 400V power supply. He concludes “double-check wiring, especially with high power systems”. Other tips and hazards involve situations in which we seldom find ourselves: “always check CCTV” before entering the experiment chamber of a cyclotron to prevent getting irradiated. Sounds like good advice.

hotplate[John] also does a lot of IC decapping, which can involve both heat and nasty acids. His advice includes being ready for large spills with lots of baking soda on hand, and he points out the need to be much more careful with large batches of acid than with the usual smaller ones. Don’t store acid in unfamiliar bottles — all plastics aren’t created equal — and don’t store any of it in your bedroom.

The incidents are listed from least to most horrible, and second place goes to what was probably a dilute Hydrofluoric acid splash. Keyword: necrosis. First place is a DIY Hydrochloric acid fabrication that involves, naturally, combining pure hydrogen and chlorine gas. What could possibly go wrong?

Anyway, if you’re going to do “this” at home, and we know a bunch of you are: be careful, be protected, and be prepared.

Thanks [J. Peterson] for the tip!

25 thoughts on “What Can Happen When You Do Try This At Home

  1. Great article! There are a lot of builds and hacks I’ve done where I didn’t find out just how much of a risk I’d taken until years later at college (think 8 KV power supply cobbled together from microwaves). I’m always happy to see people encouraged to properly prepare for accidents.

  2. I think my favorite was the one where he tried using rosin to decap ICs and then determined that nitric acid would be safer. I can’t imagine that there aren’t too many other processes where using nitric acid is actually the safer option…

  3. Hydrofluoric is the worst. It doesn’t burn, so you have no warning how severely you’ve been exposed. Instead it rapidly penetrates skin, where it starts reacting with calcium to form insoluble crystals. Those crystals can remain in nerves and other tissues a long time, causing chronic pain and necrosis. A significant exposure can deplete calcium to the point where your heart stops. Happened to a local fellow when a pressure vessel exploded. Depending on who you ask, it was 10% body exposure, or the front of one thigh. He was immediately stripped naked, washed down, and rushed to the hospital where he would have received intravenous calcium gluconate. He died from heart failure halfway there. I’ve accidentally inhaled HCl, had most of my clothes dissolved by by H2SO4. Mistakes happen, but those acids are quite forgiving compared to HF. I draw a hard line, and never use HF except in extremely dilute forms and small quantities; for example consumer glass etching kits. Even then I take great care.

  4. Worked in a water process situation with gaseous chlorine (2-ton cylinders of it…) and a bunch of leaky chlorinators. Air was bad enough to require an SCBA for entry. Let’s see…
    1. Keys and coins in pocket all turned green.
    2. Skin acquired a slightly oily feel that took days to go away.
    3. Despite precautions (MSA SCBA) lost my sense of smell for a while.
    4. Within days my clothes basically fell apart.

  5. The problem is that contingent remaining willfully ignorant. Because in their mind if it never happened to them or seen it happened to someone they know,it can’t happen and those who warn of the dangers are lying for some reason. With any kind of luck such persons would be taken out of the gene pool before they had the chance to reproduce. As it’s a task I wouldn’t assign my wort enemy, it’s with hesitation that I suggest that the Hackday staff assemble a safer work practices and a safer workplace manual. No doubt they already exist somewhere on the Web.

  6. Far from me to encourage safety nazis, but to be honest on that _long_ list there was something conspicuously missing from all “Takeaway:” entries – “learn to respect dangerous stuff properly already, dammit, and start handling it accordingly; and no, that doesn’t just mean to wear a random amount of safety equipment even if every bit helps”…

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