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The Filthy Lucre Tour
Reading Home Workshop Explosives
25th May 2006
Book Review: Home Workshop Explosives (Uncle Fester)

This book is a veritable treasure. I expected it to be rather more something the author was expecting to sell based on the title, but how wrong I was. Uncle Fester has clearly invested a great deal of time and effort into researching all aspects of production, covering everything from which brand of drain cleaner provides the highest sulphuric acid content to suggestions about what sort of disguise to wear when trying to buy large quantities of nitromethane from motor racing suppliers.

Providing chemistry lessons where necessary, Mr Fester takes us on a journey from good old nitroglycerin to the many ammonium nitrate-boosted variants, with interesting add-on sections on fuel-air explosives and how to manufacture blasting caps. There's even some interesting speculation on the content of the device that Timothy McVeigh set off in Oklahoma, and some subtle criticism of how he could perhaps have set it up better, from one lover of explosions to another.

Mr Fester is clearly a real enthusiast, and his excitement comes across gloriously in this book. In the three-page preface he deals perfunctorily with the nasty question of who might use his book and for what, and in a lot of ways I can understand his approach that the problem is with people, not with explosives. However... while you can buy plenty of books that will explain how to make different sorts of explosives in laboratory conditions (or get instructions from the US Patent Office), there can be few other publications which give you quite such practical instructions for the layperson intending blowing stuff up. His "hardware store nitro" recipe looks remarkeably straightforward, and as he explained to me that serialising production of plastic explosive was a much safer way of producing large batches than cooking a load of the stuff up in one go, I couldn't help but feel a little irksome. If someone had decided to blow me up, wouldn't this book be handy? I'd much rather they spent a few months trying to creating fuming nitric acid for themselves with hopefully disasterous consequences than found out in two pages. Now that I know how to make nitromannitol and it's not turned me into a murdering lunatic, why should I be worried that anyone else reading this book also posesses the same instructions? Has some of the War Against Terror nonsense actually sunk into me?

Aside from whether it causes the death of many innocent civillians or not, the book is spectacularly poorly edited - not only are whole paragraphs repeated in various segments, but the "diagram below" is quite often on another page entirely, and there are hyphenated chunks which clearly once split lines but don't any longer. One page charmingly switches into a whole new font for a couple of paragraphs, and then back again.

In the end, I've decided that I didn't like this book at all. I didn't like it because it made me want to cook up just one small batch of nitroglycerin. Not because I want to blow anything up, but because Uncle Fester tells me that "it has been my experience that anyone who is not brain damaged can easily master the process". I've even spent some time trying to think of things I'd like to blow up, but I haven't got any.

If any reader has a target they're keen to devastatingly explode into smithereens and can come equipped with a glass bowl and rubber stirrer (avoiding glass-on-glass friction and rubber-on-plastic static electricity, as any aspiring explosives manufacturer will know), please get in touch.

Hardens Restaurant Guide Scores (1 good, 5 bad):
Food: 1
Service: 2
Ambience: 3

Next: Climbing to Frassenhutte and some fun with Google Earth
Previous: Arrival in Austria - campsite with WiFi

Diary Photos
25th May 2006
Reading Home Workshop Explosives
At campsite in Nüziders, south-west Austria

Reading Home Workshop Explosives

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