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Safety fuse

coiled safety fuse copyright the Geevor Archive

In 1831, William Bickford, a leather merchant from Tuckingmill near Camborne, invented the safety fuse.

The Safety fuse is basically a length of string containing gunpowder.  The fuse was waterproof, reliable and burned at a regular rate unlike the quill fuses, making blasting a lot safer.

The fuse burned at a consistent 30 seconds per foot. The production of the safety fuse in Cornwall increased dramatically as more mines adopted it when blasting underground. Bickford’s product was very successful, and they soon set up works in America, Germany and Spain. Production further spread with factories in Austria, Australia and Hungary. A century after its invention, the Company was manufacturing 160,000 kilometres of safety fuse a year.


Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Geevor Archive

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Comment left by Rob Rodger on 2010-05-07 15:51:01

It's amazing how some people's contributions really stand the test of time. It's a really simple concept in hindsight, but became the standard for over a century. Nowadays electronics are doing the job, but there is still a demand for safety fuse.

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