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The Harold Kettles Series –Sandpit Blasting 1884


Harold Kettles of Carleton Place was an explosive man. Not only in his field of work of “explosives” but also how he could sit down and tell you stories that would pop your eyes out. A folk hero is a person, who may or may not have existed, and is famous and well liked by people, or people of a certain country. Usually it is someone who helped the common people or fought against the authorities, such as a bad king.

Well Harold was real alright– and you either liked him or you didn’t. Harold was always there with a helping hand, and as far as I know he didn’t really like kings or those in authority. They always seemed to mess with his plans. He was also a risk taker from what I knew of him, so I am combining a story of explosives in his honour called The Harold Kettles Series.




For all the tunneling, blasting, mining, trenching, dredging and excavation to be made possibl–people needed explosives. To chip away at rock for hours was ineffective when you could instead blast the rock apart and then just simply carry away the leftover pieces. Easy in theory, very difficult in practice.

The biggest problem, apart from this, was the unpredictable nature of early explosives. People knew it was unstable and that a jolt could cause it to blow up, but the problem was…they didn’t know how much of a jolt. You could strike a bottle of nitroglycerine with a hammer and nothing could happen. Or you could jump up and down with a bottle in your hand and it would blow up in your face.


It was for all these reasons, it’s legendary instability and frustrating unpredictable nature, that a safer explosive had to be found. Something that could be safely transported, safely carried, safely detonated without the risk of exploding unexpectedly. Like this story.

Carleton Place Herald  1884 –While engaged in opening up a sand pit one of our local men made use of dynamite to facilitate operations. After lighting the fuse he retired to a safe position in a cellar to await further developments, but when the dynamite failed to explode in what he considered a reasonable time, he proceeded to hold an investigation as to the cause. While thus engaged, the dynamite went off, landing him about a rod from the excavation, but what was strange was that he received no serious injury, escaping with the loss of only his eyebrows, moustache and right ear.


Related reading:

A Dy-no-mite Story About Harold Kettles of Carleton Place

The Uni-Bomber of Carleton Place? Didn’t I Blow Your Mind?

An Explosive Highway 7 Tale




The Use of Black Powder and Nitroglycerine on the Transcontinental Railroad