From Household Worlds. Penny Wisdom.

The Living age 447, 11.12.1852

There is a huge heap of chemical refuse now near the banks of the Tyne at Gateshead, which is not only a commercial nothing, but the manufacturer, who unwillingly calls it his property, would most kindly greet any one who would take it of his hands; for he has to lease sundry acres of land for no other purpose than to deposit this refuse thereon. It is of such nothings as these that we would speak; and of the ingenuity which, from time to time, draws something therefrom. And we would also direct attention to a few misoellaneous examples of the useful application of materials long valued — the causing "a little to go a great way".

Schoolboys display great skill in breaking their slates. Shall they be allowed to continue the exercise of this interesting practice; or shall we invite them to use the new Wurtemberg sheet-iron slates? A manufacturer in that country has invented a mode of applying a surface-coating to sheet-iron, which enables it to take freely the mark of a slate-pencil; it is said to be much lighter, and much less liable to injury, than a common slate. If we have sheet-iron slates, why not sheet-iron paper! Baron von Kleist, the proprietor of some ironworks at Neudeck, in Bohemia, has lately produced paper of this kind, from which great things seem to be expected. It is remarkable for its extreme thinness, flexibility, and strength, and is entirely without flaws. It is used in making buttons, and various other articles shaped by stamping; and it is capable of receiving a very high polish. Whether the world is ever to see the Times printed on a sheet of iron, we must leave to sonic clairvoyants to determine; but, no sooner did our manufacturers become acquainted with this Bohemian product at the Great Exhibition, than they instantly set their wits to work to produce better and thinner sheet-iron than had before been made in England. In the Birmingham department, before the Exhibition closed, there made its appearance a book, about five inches by three, consisting of forty-four leaves of sheet-iron, the whole weighing about two ounces and a half. We are thus getting on; the ago of iron literature may yet arrive.

Our learned chemists have lately discovered that, in making or smelting iron, not less than seven-eighths of all the heat goes off in waste; only one-eighth being really wade available for the extrication of the metal from its stony matrix. What a sad waste of good fuel is here! what a provoking mode of driving money out of one's pocket! So thought Mr. Budd of the Ystalyfera iron-works in Wales. He found that the heat which escapes from an iron furnace is really as high as that of melting brass; and he pondered how he might compel this heat to render some of its useful services. He put a gentle check upon it, just as it was about to escape at the top of the furnace; he gently enticed it to pass through a channel or pipe which bent downwards; and gently brought it under the boiler of the steam-engine which worked the blowing-machine for the furnace. A clever device this; for this economized caloric heated the boiler without any other fuel whatever, and there was a saving of three hundred and fifty pounds in one year in the fuel for one boiler alone. Mr. Budd told all about this to the British Association, at Swansea, in 1848; and at Edinburgh, in 1850, he was able to tell them much more. He stated that he had applied the method to all the nine smelting-furnaces at the Ystalyfera Works; and that it bad also been applied at the Dundyvan Works in Scotland. The coal used in the Scotch works is of such a kind, that the wasted heat from one furnace is believed to be enough to heat the air for the hot-blast, and to work the blast engines for three furnaces. Mr Budd states that his plan enabled the Dundyvan proprietors to smelt ore with a ton and a quarter less coal to a ton of iron than by the old method; and he shows how this might rise to a saving of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds a year for the whole of Scotland. A pretty penny-saving this — a veritable creation of something out of a commercial nothing.

Horse-shoe nails, kicked about the world by horses innumerable, are not the useless fragments we might naturally deem them. Military men may discuss the relative merits of Minié rifles, and needle-guns, and regulation-muskets; but all will agree that the material of which the barrels are made should be sound and tough, and gunmakers tell us that no iron is so well fitted for this purpose as that which is derived from horseshoe nails, and similarly worn fragments. The nails are in the first instance made of good sound iron, and the violent concussions which they receive, when a horse is working over a stony road, give a peculiar annealing and toughening to the metal, highly beneficial to its subsequent use for gun-barrels.

An advertisement in the Times notifies that "The committee for managing the affairs of the Bristol Gas Light Company are ready to enter into a contract for a term, from twenty-first December next, for the sale of from sixteen thousand to twenty thousand gallons of ammoniacal liquor, produced per month at the works of the company." What is this ammoniacal liquor! It is a most unlovable compound, which time gasmakers must get rid of, whether it has commercial value or not. After coal has been converted into coke in the retorts of a gashouse, the vapors which escape are extraordinarily complex in their character; they comprise, not only the gas which is intended for illumination, but acids, and alkalies, and gases of many other kinds - all of which must be removed before the street-gas arrives at its proper degree of purity. By washing in clean water, and washing in lime-water, and other processes, this purification is gradually brought about. But then the water, which has become impregnated with ammonia, and the lime, which has become impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen and other gases, are dolefully fœtid and repulsive; and in the early history of gas-lighting these refuse products embarrassed time gasmakers exceedingly. But now the chemists make all sorts of good things from them. Time lady's smelling-bottle contains volatile salts made from this refuse ammonia, and sulphate of ammonia is another product from the same source; the tar, which is another of the ungracious consequences of gas-making, is now made to yield benzole — a remarkably volatile liquid — which manufacturers employ in making varnish, and perfumers employ in making that which is honored by the name of oil of bitter almonds, and housewives employ in removing grease spots, and economical ladies employ in cleaning white kid gloves; the naphthaline, which annoys the gas-maker by choking up his pipes, is made to render an account of itself in time form of a beautiful red coloring matter, useful in dyeing — in short, our gas works are a sort of magical Savings Bank, in which commercial nothings are put in, and valuable somethings taken out.

Mr. Brockeden has taught us how to make pencils out of dust. Our black lead pencils, as is pretty generally known, are made chiefly from Borrowdale plumbago, brought from a mine in Cumberland. This mine is becoming exhausted; and a question has arisen how the supply shall he kept up. Various compounds have been suggested in different quarters, but Mr. Brockeden has happily hit upon an expedient which promises wonders. Although pieces of plumbago are scarce, plumbago dust is tolerably plentiful, and Mr. Brockeden operates upon this dust. He presses a mass of the powder together, then draws out the air from beneath the particles by means of an air-pump, and then presses again with such enormous force as to convert the mass into a solid block, which can be cut into the oblong prisms suitable for pencils.

If a ton of lead contains three ounces of silver — one ounce in twelve thousand ounces — will it pay to dig out this silver, mechanically or chemically? Will it save a penny? Mr. Pattinson, a manufacturing chemist at Newcastle, says, and shows that it will; although, before his improvements were introduced, the attempt was a losing one, unless the lead contained at least twenty ounces of silver to the ton. Nearly all lead ore contains a trace of silver, which becomes melted and combined in the ingot or pig of lead. Vast are the arrangements which the manufacturers are willing to make to extricate this morsel of silver from the mass in which it is buried; huge furnaces and melting-vessels, and crystallizing vessels are provided, and elaborate processes are carefully conducted. The lead, itself, is all the better fur losing its silvery companion; while the silver makes its appearance afterwards in the form of dazzling teaservices, and such like.

The mention of Newcastle calls to mind our opening paragraph, relating to a certain table-land. of refuse. The history of this useless product carries with it the history of many other remarkable products — once useless, but now of great value. Thus it is. Sulphur is thrown into a "burning fiery furnace;" it burns away, and is converted into a gas called sulphurous acid; this, being combined with steam and water, becomes liquid sulphuric acid. So far good; there is no refuse. But let us go on. Common salt, or rather rock salt from Cheshire, is heated with this sulphuric acid in a furnace. A peculiar penetrating gas rises, which is muriatic acid; the soda-makers (of whom more presently) did not want this troublesome gas, and they therefore sent it up aloft through the chimneys. But the gardeners and farmers all around complained that the muriatic acid vapors poisoned their trees and plants, and then the manufacturers were driven to construct chimneys so lofty as to overtop our loftiest steeples, in order to carry away the enemy as far above the region of vegetation as possible. But good luck or good sense came to their aid; they devised a mode of combining the gas with water, and thus was produced muriatic acid or spirits of salt; and then this muriatic acid was made to yield chlorine, and the chlorine was made to form an ingredient in bleaching powder; so that, by little and little, the once dreaded muriatic acid gas has become a most respectable and respected friend to the manufacturer. Meanwhile, the salt and the sulphuric acid are undergoing such changes, by beatings and mixings of different kinds, that they both disappear from the scene; the useful product left behind is soda, so valuable in glassmaking, and soap-making, and other processes; the useless product is an earthy substance, consisting of calcium and sulphur, which nobody can apply to any profitable purpose, nobody will buy, and nobody even accept as a gift. At a large chemical work near Newcastle, this product has been increasing at such a rapid rate that it now forms a mass six or eight acres in extent, and thirty or forty feet high; it is a mountain or rather a tableland of difficulties. Here, then, we see how chemical manufacturers are saving a penny out of some of their refuse, and looking wistfully towards the day when they may perchance save a penny out of this monstrous commercial nothing.

Coal proprietors are, perhaps necessarily, very wasteful people. They accumulate around tho mouths of their pits large heaps of smell coal, which, formerly, rendered service to no one; and in some parts of the country they burn this coal simply to get rid of it. But, thanks to the Legislature, it sometimes does good by interfering in manufacturing affairs. It ordained that locomotives should not send forth streams of smoke into the air, and we are thus freed from a nuisance which sadly affects our river-steamers and steamer-rivers; while, at the same time, coke being used as a non-smokable fuel, and the supply front the gasworks being too small, coke-makers have looked to the heaps of small coal at the pit's mouth; and the result is, that thousands of locomotives are now fed with coke made from the small waste coal at the collieries. The railway companies get their coke cheaper than formerly; the coal owner makes something out of a (commercial) nothing; and the ground around the coalpits is becoming freed from an incumbrance. And what the coalmakers would leave if they leave anything, the artiticia. fuelmakers will buy; for in most of time patent fuels II, Mr brought under public notice, coal dust is one of the ingredients.

How to get a pennyworth of beauty out of old bones and bits of skin, is a problem which the French gelatinemakers have solved very prettily. Does the reader remember somegorgeous sheets of colored gelatine in the French department of the Great Exhibition? We owed them to the slaughter-houses of Paris. Those establishments are so well organized and conducted, that all the refuse is carefully preserved, to be applied to any purposes for which it may be deemed fitting. Very pure gelatine is made from the waste fragments of skin, bone, tendon, ligature, and gelatinous tissue of the animals slaughtered in the Parisian abattoirs; and thin sheets of this gelatine are made to receive very rich and beautiful colors. As a gelatinous liquid, when melted, it is used in the dressing of woven stuffs, and in the clarification of wine; and, as a solid, it is cut into threads for the ornamental uses of the confectioner, or made into a very thin white and transparent sheets of papier glacé for copying drawings, or applied in the making of artificial flowers, or used as a substitute for paper on which gold printing may be executed. In good sooth, when an ox has given us our beef, and our leather, and our tallow, his career of usefulness is by no means ended; we can get a penny out of him as long us there is a scrap of his substance above ground.

Dyers and calicoprinters, like manufacturing chemists, have frequently accumulations of rubbish about their premises, which they heartily wish to get rid of at any or no price; and at intervals, by a new item added to the general stuck of available knowledge, one of these accumulations becomes suddenly a commercial something. The dye material called madder will serve to illustrate this as well us anything else. Madder is the root of a plant which yields much coloring matter steeping in water; and, after being so treated, the spent madder is thrown aside as a useless refuse. The refuse is not rich enough for manure; no river conservators will allow it to be thrown into a running stream; and the dyer is thus perforce compelled to give it a homestead somewhere or other. But some clear-headed experimenter has just found out that, actually, one-third of the coloring matter is left unused in the so-called spent madder; and he has shown how to make a pretty penny and an honest penny out of it, by the aid of certain let acids.

Whether any perfumed lady would be disconcerted at learning the sources of her perfumes, each tidy must decide for herself; but it seems that Mr. De la Rue and Doctor Hoffman, in their capacities as jurors of the Great Exhibition, have made terrible havoc among the perfumery. They have found that many of the scents said to be procured from flowers and fruits, are realty produced from anything but flowery sources the perfumers are chemists enough to know that similar odors may he often produced from dissimilar substances, and if the half-crown bottle of perfume really has the required odor, the perfumer does not expect to be asked what kind of odor was emitted by the substance whence the perfume was obtained. Now, Docter Lyon Mayfair, in his summary of the jury investigation above alluded to, broadly tells us that these primary odors are often meet unbearable. "A peculiarly fœtid oil, termed fusil oil, is formed in making brandy and whiskey; this fusil oil, distilled with sulphuric acid and acetate of potash, gives the oil of pears. The oil of apples is made from the same fusil oil, by distillation with sulphuric acid and bichromatc of potash. The oil of pineapples is obtained from us product of the action of putrid cheese on sugar, or by making as soap with butter, and distilling it with alcohol and sulphuric acid; and is now largely employed in England in making pineapple ale. Oil of grapes and oil of cognac, used to impart the flavor of French cognac to British brandy, are little else than fusil oil. The artificial oil of bitter almonds, now so largely employed in perfuming soap and for flaworing confectionary, is prepared by the action of nitric acid on the fœtid ells of gastar. Many a fair forehead is damped with eau de millefleurs, without knowing that its easential ingredient is derived from the drainage of cowhouses." In all such cases as these, the chemical science involved is, really, of a high order, and the perfume produced is a bona-fide perfume, not one whit less sterling than if produced from fruits and flowers. The only question is one of commercial honesty, in giving is name no longer applicable, and charging too highly for a cheaply produced scent. This mode of saving a penny is chemically right, but commercially wrong.

The French make a large quantity of sugar from beet-root; and in the processes of manufacture there remains behind a thick, black, unctuous molasses, containing much sugar, but from other causes impregnated with a nauseous taste and a moat disagreeable smell. Men will not eat it, but pigs will; and so to the pigs it has gone, until M. Dubranfaut showed (as he has lately done) that this molasses is something better than pig's meat. He dissolves, and decomposes, and washes, and clarifies, until he ends by producing a kind of eau sucré, a beautifully clear and colorless syrup or sugar-liquid, containing nearly the whole of the saccharine principle from the offensive and almost valueless molasses.

How can we make one kind of paint or liquid produce many different colors, and this with an amount of material almost beneath the power of man to weigh or measure? Mr. De la Rue has solved this question by the production of his beautiful iridescent and opalescent paper. Both mechanically and optically, the production of these papers is strikingly interesting. Water is poured into a flat vessel; and, when quite tranquil, a very minute quantity of spirit varnish is sprinkled upon the surface; this, by a species of attraction between the two liquids, spreads out on all sides, and covers the whole surface in a film of exquisite thinness. A sheet of paper, or a card-board, or any other article, is then dipped fairly into the water, and raised gently with that surface upper-most which is to receive the colored adornment; it lifts up the film of varnish from off the surface of the paper, and this film becomes deposited on the paper itself. The paper is held in an inclined position, to allow the water to drain off from beneath the film; and the varnish then remains permanent on the surface of the paper. Now, the paper thus coated with colorless varnish exhibits the prismatic tints with exquisite clearness; the film of varnish is so extremely thin — so far beneath anything that could be laid on with a brush or pencil — that it reflects light on the same principle as the soap-bubble, exhibiting differences of color on account of minute differences in the thickness of the film at different parts; and not only so, but the selfsame spot exhibits different tints, according to the angle at which we view it. It is a lovely material, and lovely things may be produced front it. We cannot speak or it as producing something out of nothing; but his a means of producing a beautiful result with a marvellously small expenditure of materials.

The clinkers, ashes, or cinders, which remain in furnaces after metallurgic operations have been completed, may appear to be among the most useless of all useless things. Not so, however. If they contain any metal, there are men who will ferret it out by some means or other. Not many years since, the ashes of the coke used in brass-furnaces were carted away as rubbish; but shrewd people have detected a good deal of volatilized copper mixed up therewith; and the brass-makers can now find a market for their ashes as an inferior kind of copper ore. It needs hardly to be stated that all sorts of filings and raspings, cuttings and clippings, borings and turnings, and odds and ends in the real metallic form, are all available for remelting, whatever the metal may be — all is grist that comes to this mill. If metal be a cheap one, it will not pay to extricate a stray percentage from ashes and clinkers; but if it be one of the more costly metals, not only are all scraps and ashes, and skimmings preserved, but particles are sought for in a way that may well astonish those to whom the subject is new. Take gold as an example. There are Jew dealers and Christian dealers also, who sedulously wait upon gilders and jewellers at intervals, to buy up everything (be it what it may) which has gold in or upon it. Old and useless gilt frames are bought: they are burnt, and the ashes so treated as to yield up all their gold. The fragments and dust of gold, which arise during gilding, are bought and refined. The leather cushion which the gilder uses is bought when too old for use, for the sake of the gold particles which insinuate themselves into odd nooks and corners. The old leather apron of it jeweller is bought; it is a rich prize, for, in spite of its dirty look, it possesses very auriferous attractions. The sweepings of the floor of a jeweller's workshop are bought; and there is probably no broom, the use of which is stipulated for with more strictness than that with which such a floor is swept. In short, there are in this world (and at no time so much as the present) a set of very useful people, who may he designated manufacturing scavengers; they clear away refuse which would else encumber the ground, and they put money into the pockets both of buyers and sellers; they do effectually create a something out of a commercial nothing.

How to save a penny by using dairy drainage, and slaughter-house drainage, and stable drainage, and street drainage, and house drainage, and old hones, and old rags, and spent tan, and fax steepwater — how to create value by using such refuse as manure for fields and gardens - one of the great questions of the day, which no one who takes up a newspaper can fail to find elucidated in some form or other. Chemistry is hero the grand economizer. Chemistry is indeed Nature's housewife, making the best of everything. "The clippings of the travelling tinker," as Dr. Playfair well says in one of his lectures, "are mixed with the parings of horses' hoofs from the smithy, or the cast-off woollen garments of the inhabitants of a sister isle, and soon afterwards, in the form of dyes of brightest blue, grace the dress of courtly dames. The main ingredient of the ink with which I now write was possibly once part of the broken hoop of an old beer barrel. The bones of dead animals yield the chief constituent of lucifer matches. The dregs of port wine — carefully rejected by the port wine drinker in decanting his favorite beverage — are taken by him in the morning, in the form of Seidlitz powders, to remove the effects of his debauch. The offal of the streets and the washings of coal-gas reappear carefully preserved in the lady's smelling bottle, or are used by her to flavor Mane mange for her friends."

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