Fun with propane

We have a new firepit at our house fed by a propane tank. It is a very simple design — tank, firepit, burner. Light it and go. It has been many years since we have dealt with propane, and I have forgotten most of hard-won knowledge. I am reminded of my all-time favorite camping joke:

A novice skydiver was taking his first jump. The instructor was reminding him in the plane “When it is time to deploy your chute, pull the ring on the left. If for any reason that doesn’t work, don’t worry, count to ten and pull the ring on the right. And if for some unlikely reason that doesn’t work, reach behind you and pull this tab, the chute is guaranteed to come out.”.

So the novice leapt out of the plane, counted to ten, and pulled the ring on the left. Nothing. No need to panic, the skydiver thought, I know what to do, I’ll pull the right ring in ten.

He counted to ten, and then pulled the right ring. Again nothing. Again he thought, no need to panic, I’ll pull the rear tab. And he did, and again nothing.

So there he was, plummeting to the earth, wondering what to do. And he noticed, down and to his left, a man skyrocketing upward from the earth. Well, the skydiver thought, he must know what he is doing. And so he yelled over to the man, “Hey, do you know anything about parachutes?”

And the man yelled back “No, do you know anything about propane stoves?”

In case you haven’t used propane, unlike a lot of gases, it is heavier than air, and it likes to invisibly pool in every nook and cranny, and then ignite all at once. Which is exciting in a “you didn’t really want those eyebrows” kind of way.

A modest bit of research on the web reveals that our simple firepit probably needs a bit more complexity in its “burner design”: if we would like to have less exciting evening fires. In my defense, I didn’t design this firepit, but I probably should have asked a few more questions about it as it was being built.

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