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Blog entry by jockmike2 posted 05-20-2008 11:21 AM 1845 reads 0 times favorited 43 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Do you all know that denatured alcohol burns, invisibly. I mean you can’t see it burn. Well a little blue flame maybe if you’re at the right angle. Well let me tell you from the beginning. I’m on quite a few meds from a broken back, diabeties and a few other ailments. Needless to say my wife does’nt even want me in my shop, let alone playing with power tools and chemicals. Most of the time I have my wits about me and do just fine until I get tired or in pain, thats when it’s dangerous for me to be out there. Sometimes I don’t recognize the warning signs which is dangerous indeed. My son had broke m the handle off my maul, and I was trying to burn out the inside of the maul head using denatured alcohol. It would burn quite a while and I could see a fickering blue flame so I knew it was burning the wood out of the maul head, in fact it was about half way burned through. Well it looked like it was out so I started pouring a little bit into the hole, I had it setting on my wood stove, I had a full can of denatured alcohol, and whoosh! it blew me back about 5 feet and blew the can out of my hand. Luckily I had a piece of plywood standing next to me and a bag of garbage because I had been cleaning up the shop. The can Landed upright on the bag, but everything was burning. My first instinct was to grab the fire extinguisher, note here, everyone, please read your directions on your fire extinguisher BEFORE you have a fire. They don’t all work the same. Anyway I tore everything off the top of the extinguisher and nothing happened, so I ran/hobbled outside and grabbed the garden hose which is luckily just outside the garage door. I was able to grab the can of explosive material and toss it out the door with minor burns, and put the fire out in a matter of seconds thank G—d. I did fall over backward and managed to lacerate my left arm pretty good so there was a blood trail for the wife to follow when she got home from work, thus revoking my shop privileges once again. OH, I forgot to tell you once the fire was out and the mess cleaned up I went out and picked up the can of alcohol that had been laying on its side in the dirt outside, spilling a little on my right foot. I quikly set it back down , it being to hot. I went and picked up the hose to spray it to cool it down and realized my right foot was getting very hot. I looked down and did’nt see anything, like fire, but having learned a valuable lesson and my foot getting hotter all the time I started putting my foot out. So boys and girls don’t play with chemical, of which you don’t know the property of, know how your fire extinguisher works, and don’t be an idiot, if your gonna do something stupid do it outside your shop. There’s too much money to loose in there. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

43 comments so far

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4080 days

#1 posted 05-20-2008 11:36 AM

I am really glad you are OK Mike.

The shop can be a dangerous place. We all have to remember to keep our head in the game all the time.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4027 days

#2 posted 05-20-2008 12:21 PM


You are extremely lucky. This could have had a more unfortunate ending if the alcohol can had turned over in your shop. I worked in chemistry laboratories all my adult life. In one of these a co-worker was pouring alcohol from a glass container and a faulty heating element that was nearby ignited it. Naturally he was startled by the flame and simply threw the container. When it hit the glass shattered and the flaming alcohol mixture exploded and spread rapidly. If fire extinguishers had not be readily available it would have taken the entire building out since the flames were spreading so fast.

I am just glad that you were not hurt seriously and that your house/shop is still standing.

Mike, with all that you have been through, you certainly don’t need any more instances like this.

I am wishing you nothing but the best with your recovery from this.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3973 days

#3 posted 05-20-2008 01:41 PM

Mike, I am glad you and your shop were not seriously hurt. Thanks for the warning about denatured alcohol. I had forgotten about its dangers. I worked with the stuff many years ago while doing some refinishing work. I was warned back then of its dangers. Of course I was a naive teen back then and didn’t really think that stuff applied to me. I have seen some decent results lately from people using denatured alcohol for drying green turnings. I will definitely keep your warning in mind if I choose to give it a try. Be safe my friend!

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 4086 days

#4 posted 05-20-2008 01:56 PM

wow ! i think id have a little ” trail mix ” in my shorts after that experience ! glad your not hurt too badly .
i guess id have to agree with the wife on this one brother .

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4424 days

#5 posted 05-20-2008 02:16 PM

I’m very glad you’re okay, Mike. It could have been a whole lot worse. Thanks for the reminder, because sometimes we get so caught up in concentrating our safety efforts on those spinning blades that we forget about the dangerous chemicals we use.

I’ve got to admit, though… It is just a little funny to picture you wondering why your foot is so hot, then suddenly realizing it’s on fire. Sounds like something from the Three Stooges.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4452 days

#6 posted 05-20-2008 02:54 PM

I really was trying to hope for you to see the humor in some of this, and it’s from not having all your wits about you when working in the shop. If you’re on the saw or lathe or using a chemical, no matter what you’re doing and it was kind of funny, I’m spraying the can to put it out and my foot starts getting hot, and it dawns on me it’s on fire. DO-DA! I was very lucky it did hardly any damage, just scorched the plywood and burned my compressor hose in two. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3992 days

#7 posted 05-20-2008 03:12 PM

Mike, Glad you and the house are basically OK. I’m going to review my firefighting apparatus when I get home.
Don’t beat yourself up over it. This could have happened to anyone really.
Thanks for sharing!

View pat sherman's profile

pat sherman

621 posts in 4578 days

#8 posted 05-20-2008 03:15 PM

wow mike, am glad you are ok. that could have been so much worse. how are you today?

please be careful and i will remember that. thanks.

-- pat,ohio...

View Raymond Dersch's profile

Raymond Dersch

38 posts in 3872 days

#9 posted 05-20-2008 03:25 PM

Holy Cow! I hope you’re alright. I don’t even know what denatured alcohol is, but it’s posts like this that will make amature ww’s like myself be more cautious when working with tools, chemicals etc… So for all you experienced wood workers out there please don’t be too proud to admit mistakes made; they may save someone from a whole lot of trouble. Or worse.

Thanks for the Wisdom.

-- A King, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A Father can do neither. -Marlene Dietrich

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 4102 days

#10 posted 05-20-2008 03:34 PM

Glad you’re OK, Mike. You could have been seriously hurt. Your wife was wise to yank your shop privileges, at least until you can change your shorts.
A fire in the shop is scary at best, deadly at worst. An invisible fire is even worse, especially when it’s coming from your clothes or shoes.
I think I will use a propane torch to burn wood out of handles, or maybe just drill ‘em out.

Thanks for the reminder.

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 4094 days

#11 posted 05-20-2008 03:43 PM

Glad things were not anymore serious for you and your shop. I hope a quick recovery of your health and your shop privileges.

Your experience does raise questions about fire extinquishers. I just happened to look at my fire extinquisher in the garage and noticed the pressure gauge indicator showing the pressure just above the full/dispose mark. I need to make up an annual safety checklist, in addition to replacing the smoke detector batteries, I now have to add checking the fire extinquishers and going over how to use them with the family.

Thanks for your shop safety story.


View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3976 days

#12 posted 05-20-2008 04:17 PM

Mike, glad you’re ok, and that all will mend. To add further to your lucky streak, it is amazing that water from the garden hose put it out. While it may seem like the perfect cure, a hose will spread a chemical fire and worsen or electricute on an electrical fire. Even extingushing a small bon fire in the back yard will cause the rocks or bricks around the pit to explode. Please (to everyone at LJs) get 2..3..4.. oh heck, a Bunch of extinguishers and have them around your shop and for goodness sake, know how to use them. It is a very difficult learning curve to read the directions when something is on fire, especially yourself.
Remember, use the extinguisher if neccessary just to escape! Don’t be a hero and try to save the day. You won’t, not with a small extinguisher. Once outside, call 911. Yea, that’s right, dial 911! Don’t be too proud to let the firefighters do their job. Sure, you’ll have some nosey neighbors gawking on the front lawn, but that is easier to explain to the wife than it is to justify how you lost the house because you were too embarrased to call 911. Let the firefighters be the heros. They still make house calls!

Be safe,

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View TreeBones's profile


1827 posts in 4229 days

#13 posted 05-20-2008 04:19 PM

Mike, I’m glad you are OK. This is a lesson for all of us. Thanks for sharing your experience in a way that hopefully will keep all who read it from learning the hard way. I was unaware about the invisible flame and will now be better able to make safe decisions in the future. How long have you been grounded for?

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4520 days

#14 posted 05-20-2008 04:31 PM

powerless over alcohol…I know the feeling. Glad you are OK!

View againstthegrain's profile


117 posts in 3958 days

#15 posted 05-20-2008 04:53 PM

Praying for you buddy!!!

-- Anchul - Warrensburg, MO: As a Pastor, I am just trying to get closer to Jesus. He was a woodworker too.

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