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Magnesium Ribbon Flashgun circa 1900-1920 (Hire Only)


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Condition: Excellent

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Camera House is also a prop hire company specialising in photographic props for film, TV, Theatre and events. From toy cameras to Professional movie cameras, we have a great range of equipment that can add that special detail to any set. We have hundreds of vintage, classic and modern still, movie and video cameras, tripods, lenses, darkroom equipment available. Our hire charges are based on multiples of one week and do not include shipping costs. Our stock is too large and varied to list in full, so if you don't find what you're looking for please contact us with your requirements. For further details on hiring from us, please click on the Information & Advice tab 

Magnesium Ribbon Flashgun circa 1900-1920

Excellent cosmetic condition, working but untested with magnesium ribbon

General Magnesium Ribbon Flashgun Information

The earliest flash photography used magnesium ribbon or powder, ignited on a tray, to provide a brief flash of bright light, for about 1/10th of a second. The technique was not without its obvious dangers and it also released a lot of smoke, smell and a fall-out of white ash.

Flash pictures had to be taken by mounting the camera on a tripod, opening the shutter, igniting the ribbon or powder, and then reclosing the shutter.

Flash Powder

The use of flash powder, based upon magnesium, continued in use to (at least) the mid-1950s, because early flash bulbs (c1930 and onwards) were prohibitively expensive for many amateurs.

Kevin MacDonnell, in Photography magazine for January 1981, describes using flash powder "...an explosive mixture of magnesium powder, potassium chlorate and antimony sulphide, which scared me stiff no matter how often I used it." He continued "Supplied in two bottles, the technique was to first of all pour some of the magnesium powder from its container onto a folded sheet of paper. You then replaced the cork tightly in the bottle and put it well to one side. Next you poured some of the 'igniting compound', consisting of the other two chemicals, out of their bottle onto the magnesium lying on the paper and again replaced the cork tightly. The two powders were then shaken together gently. Now came the exciting part ! You had a flashgun complete with a metal tray with a handle and some form of ignition. The one I used had a hammer like that of a shotgun which, when released, fell on a huge explosive cap, while another worked like an old wheel lock pistol, a spring driven steel wheel revolving against a flint. You cocked the flashgun, poured the contents of the folded paper onto the tray, held the gun above your head, uncapped the lens, uttered a short but devout prayer and pulled the trigger. If all went well a sheet of white flame was produced, varying in height from 6" to a foot (12" = 300mm), depending upon the amount of powder. If you were unlucky, however, one of two things could happen. In damp or humid weather, of if the bottles had not been tightly corked, the powder could 'cake' and then, instead of a flash, you got a genuine explosion like that of a small hand grenade which, if you had been generous with the amount of powder, could blow off your fingers! Alternatively, when you pressed the trigger nothing at all happened and the natural reaction was to lower the gun and look into the tray. The action would disturb the powder and it could go off as you looked at it. Everyone had some horrifying story to tell about flash powder."

 

 

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The Magnesium Ribbon Flashgun circa 1900-1920 (Hire Only) is shown in Prop Hire 1900 - 1910 , Prop Hire 1910 -1920.

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Please contact us for any further assembly instructions.

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