(Hot wire lighter)

A box of  9" Spitters

Spitters are the common method used in Bisbee to light safety fuse for detonating rounds. They look like a firework sparkler except when burning no sparks are given off, The burning is with intense heat ,red hot glow and  are very smoky . Spitters are made in 7” 9”and  12” lengths with burning rates of 1 minute, 1 1/2 minutes and 2 ½ minutes  respectfully, 2 ½ minutes is  just enough time to light 30 to 50 fuses.  For safety  two spitters are lighted when lighting rounds in case one goes out the lighting can be completed, also as soon as the spitter  stops burning it is mandatory time for miners to leave the face whether the lighting is completed or not.   Spitters are 1/8” in diameter and consist of a straight steel wire coated with a ignition composition that has been coated with wax for waterproofing.  To light a spitter, hold a light match or cigarette lighter to the end and it will quickly ignite. Some miners scratch the end of the spitter against the rock to scrape off the wax coating to make it easier to light.   The red hot spot on the spitter is then touched against the end of a fuse that has been split back ¼”, this will light the fuse. Spitter boards are used to organize fuses that need to be lit in special order. In most cases the bottom fuse is light first when using a spitter board

Drawing showing how to light fuse with spitter

Spitters are stored at the cap magazine in “spitter can”.   Painted green and made of galvanized metal, Spitter cans have a screened in light bulb inside to keep the spitters dry. 

Spitter can at the Southwest shaft station Queen Mine Tour

Just ingited spitter

Burning spitter glowing red hot

Spitting fuses (Lighting safety fuse with a spitter)

Miner lighting spitter  Junction mine circa 1940’s

Insides of a Spitter can showing the screen protected light bulb

Cap magazine inside the Shattuck mine  with spitter can on shelf


Code of Safe Practice for Stope Mining 1968, Phelps Dodge Corporation Fig 28

Richard Graeme IV 2010, pers. comm., 4 April


© 2013 by Doug Graeme