View Full Version : Would a stone mason/builder have a legititimate excuse to use chloroform

Albus Severus
10-03-2010, 01:18 PM
Hi guys, I've had a good look at previous posts and I know there are many of you out there who can have an educated guess at this one.

My character is a stone mason with a builder's licence who needs to appear to have sinister motives.

The house owner is a mother convinced the stone mason is trying to kidnap her daughter. I have a scene where she goes into the new room that is being built and sees a bottle with a cloth. She smells the rag and thinks its suspcious. Ideally I would like to have written on the label of the bottle something like chloroform or some other agent known for its sleeping effects, so the mother will be justified in worrying.

My character is about 70 and old school that means he may do things slightly differently to modern builders. For instance if it was illegal to use certain subtances or poisons he would still use them if he thought they would do a good job; he also has connections with police so he can do what he likes. He takes tremendous pride in his work and strictly forbids people from coming onto his work sites so he feels their is no risk to others.

My reason for him using chloroform as a builder is sketchy and I am wondering just whether to have the mother assume its chloroform. My research into chloroform showed me that it could be used as a solvent. But it didn't say solvent of what? Assuming he has to paint the interior of the building he is working on could it be used instead of turpentine for instance? Is there some other agent that would look equally suspicious that could plausibly be used. Remember it does not have to be legal, but legal would be excellent.

If you make a reply to this one I am happy for you to direct me to something you have written and I will offer my comments for what they are worth.

10-03-2010, 02:22 PM
Might use chloroform as paint stripper or brush cleaner

10-03-2010, 06:42 PM
You could use Ether instead of Chloroform.The anaesthetic properties are similar,ether was often used instead chloroform. But,ether has a number of modern uses .It is used to start diesel engines .It is also used as a fuel, in some model planes.

Albus Severus
10-04-2010, 10:56 AM
Thanks guys. Yes I considered ether as well. If it is used to start diesel engines then I guess he could have his own generator out there - in the room he is building. One interesting plot point it brings up is the fact the power goes out in the climactic scene, and has been known to go out before, in the main house. If this guy has a generator it would look suspicious that the power keeps going out (which is good) and yet his doesn't. That could work and he uses ether to start it. As for choloroform as a paint stripper or brush cleaner, I like the simplicity of the idea. If all else fails I might use this. Will investigate these leads thanks guys

10-04-2010, 01:14 PM
Chloroform is a controled substance that you have to have a licence to use it under the COSH rules. As a paint stripper it's not practical, it is used occassionally industrially to stip paint, but not often due to the fumes it gives off. Basically, carrying it around with you to strip paint is dangerous, and really stupid. And using it on small scale for cleaning brushes etc is not practical or believable. Even if he was old school he'd use meths or turps.

10-04-2010, 06:22 PM
Couldn't it just be turps but decanted into an old bottle that just happens to have the suspicious label?

Albus Severus
10-14-2010, 06:34 PM
Hi guys, I am now leaning towards ether. He keeps it out in the shed because he is wait for it...a model plane enthusiast. When he gets stressed he goes and flys his plane at the local reserve. This gets around the chloroform unlikelihoods and legality questions. So thanks all for your efforts thus far.

10-14-2010, 07:01 PM
Hi Albus,

In my line of work I've come across various things liable to send you to sleep. Mainly my conversation but I'll stay on topic.

I've seen carpenters using, I think, tetrachlorylethyl, for cleaning mastic and hyperfoam off of window frames. You'd think the lazy buggers would leave the windows open. After a while, in a small room, you find your eyes shutting. So that may be a good alternative to chloroform.

I'd check the spelling though.

10-14-2010, 10:20 PM
I've seen carpenters using, I think, tetrachlorylethyl, for cleaning mastic and hyperfoam off of window frames. You'd think the lazy buggers would leave the windows open. After a while, in a small room, you find your eyes shutting. So that may be a good alternative to chloroform.

I'd check the spelling though.

Would that be tetrachloroethylene by any chance?

10-14-2010, 10:25 PM
Would that be tetrachloroethylene by any chance?

Possibly. I tried to read the label but got distracted by the dancing elephants.

Albus Severus
11-13-2010, 12:51 PM
Thank you to all who have contributed. I am following up on tetrachlroethylene/also called Perc. It seems to be associated predominantly with dry cleaning but I will see if I can turn up some more broader applications for its use.

Whacko mentioned it could be used for cleaning mastic and hyperfoam off of window frames. I feel quite ignorant as I don't really know what mastic or hyperfoam is.

Thanks again waylander, stephen f, shaldna, veinglory and whacko.

11-14-2010, 02:38 AM
Hi Albus,

Mastic is what we Brits call silicone sealant. It's the stuff that comes out of tubes in a semi-liquid form but solidifies. Sort of. It covers a multitude of sins. Google some of your big DIY suppliers and you'll find it.

Hyperfoam's kind of similar. It comes out a can, in an explosive dribble usually, then expands to fill all sorts of gaps. Although cavities would probably be more strictly correct.

Try and find something on TLC or youtube about fitting windows.

Or try and find a local builder!


11-16-2010, 01:58 AM
I've worked with tetrachloroethylene back in my dry cleaning days. That's strong stuff. It feels like a grainy rubbing alcohol.

The house owner, like most people, probably wouldn't know what the chemical is exactly, but a good whiff might make someone think it' chloroform, especially if she's anticipating anything sinister. It's a controlled chemical, but it's not unrealistic to maybe steal some from a cleaners. But it's not something that will easily put someone unconscious. It will, however, sting your eyes and give you a headache, or a high. Kinda like what you get from gasoline fumes. I think perc is stronger, though.

Thinking about it, I really don't know why someone would have it on hand. Maybe to spot-treat some fabrics if he's afraid of getting the paint on curtains or other valuable fabric (but that's a bit of a long shot). I can't say if it'd be any good for cleaning brushes, but I wouldn't be surprised. But the stuff ain't cheap and wouldn't be a better alternative to what is used for cleaning brushes. Maybe adds it to his regular paint stripper for some strange reason.

Want to buy some? http://www.coleparmer.com/catalog/product_view.asp?sku=8806885&pfx= Just make sure you're licensed.

But really, even I might go with it in such a story because not even close to 1% of the population will have any idea. It's all feasible, at least.