Re: [CR]stuck stems and Nerve Gas

Example: Framebuilding:Restoration
Date: Sat, 01 Sep 2001 18:31:11 -0700
From: "Skip Echert" <>
Subject: Re: [CR]stuck stems and Nerve Gas

Hello Dennis -

From your post on Thu, 30 Aug 2001: "NOW... I'm a Banker and not a Chemist... so I invite any chemists, metallurgists, backyard mechanics to correct me / advise us if by chance ammonia and alloy combines to form CS Nerve Gas."

Wow - loosening a stem with ammonia and making nerve agent too - a scary thought, but probably not a real concern.

I have been a C/R lurker for about a year. Finally, a topic to which I can contribute. I have a MS in chemistry and spent 6 years in the Army Chemical Corps, mostly teaching defense against, and use of, chemical agents. I also qualify as a "backyard mechanic".

First a short personal intro - my bikes:

1976 Trek TX900 with mostly Campy Nuovo Record gear (vintage 1973). 1973 Nishiki Comp fixed up as a daily rider. 1972 or 73 near-mint American Eagle Semi Pro (early name for Nishiki). Late 60's Gitane InterClub. A couple of mountain bikes and other assorted ...

Nine other bikes are owned by my wife, son, and daughter, but I get to work on them. This keeps my personal count to no more than the critical value of 8. According to a Bicycling Mag. article, more than 8 could be grounds for complaint by one's spouse. ;-)

Latest project is a 1975 Miyata touring bike that my son and I are converting to a cross bike for the Fall. Not as light as the aluminium bikes ridden by the real racers but hoisting it will build our upper-body strength. Additionally, trees should fear us. The parts mostly from Recycled Cycles in Seattle.

I am working on an informational web site covering steel Trek road bikes, which will be the subject of future posts. I hope to have the initial effort up in a few weeks.

Back to the thread - CS is a tear gas, not nerve agent. Nasty, but not lethal. Widely used in Seattle during the WTO riots/peaceful demonstrations (depending on your point of view). Not terribly difficult to make. It does contain nitrogen, which could be supplied by the ammonia. Does not contain aluminium, or any other metal for that matter, but perhaps the metal would serve as the catalyst. Could this be the gas you were thinking of?

Nerve agents, (GA, GB, VX) are organophosphates i.e. contain phosphorus. No nitrogen nor other metals. Very deadly. Fortunately, they are hard to make. Aluminium is used as an approved material for ammonia-type refrigeration units, so I believe it unlikely that a dangerous reaction is possible, at least not under normal conditions.

Adding heat (a torch) to any organic material (WD40, Phil grease, or the hair tonic and general elixir - Kroil) will result in lots of different products. With ammonia present one could make even more and different products. One of my chemical warfare books told a cautionary tale about an episode during the Civil War. A gun crew was found dead to a man, but without a mark on any of them. It caused quite a stir until the cause was found. By happenstance, the crew had ready access to turpentine. They used it instead of water to cool the cannon (no rust!). In the heat of battle, the cannon red hot, the heated turpentine formed phosgene gas. Phosgene was one of the chemical agents later used during WWI with (sadly) great effect.

The caution "use with adequate ventilation" sounds like good advice when using any liquid besides water. When I was in college (three short decades ago) it was well documented that chemists lived 3 years shorter than the national average.

Dennis - If you do track down that article, I would like to hear more.


Skip Echert Renton (just southeast of Seattle and just as sunny), WA

At 07:32 PM 8/30/01, you wrote:
> > Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 19:28:27 -0700 (PDT)
> > From: Dennis Johnson <>
> > To:
> > CC:
> >
> > I remember reading advice to apply ammonia as a
> > penetrant to the stem / fork junction, (or seat-tube
> > /
> > seat post junction) because the oxidation of the
> > alloy
> > post dissolves quickly with ammonia...
> >
> > NOW... I'm a Banker and not a Chemist... so I invite
> > any chemists, metallurgists, backyard mechanics to
> > correct me / advise us if by chance ammonia and
> > alloy
> > combines to form CS Nerve Gas..
> >
> > Wonder if I can find that reference in my vast
> > unfiled
> > disorganized files of clippings, e-mails, etc..
> >
> > Dennis Johnson
> > Visalia CA