There are a lot of things in vintage photography that can harm you. Either slowly in the form of exotic chemicals, or rapidly in the form of a racecar barreling toward an ill-alert photographer at a racing event. But have we ever given consideration to shards of flying glass from defective flashbulbs? Doing a vintage photoshoot requires a lot of preparation, and attention to detail. Not only scheduling and script work, (which is immensely important) but proper care and maintenance of equipment and consumables. With that said, I always thoroughly check a case of flash bulbs before using them on a shoot. Many examples readily found on eBay have been sitting 30 to 40 years, or longer. Bulbs with a damaged lacquer coating like example pictured, should be immediately rejected. The lacquer coating on the outside kept the bulbs from shattering, and sending shards of flying glass everywhere. It is worth the extra time spent! A damaged coating will show signs of peeling and flaking, and will be easy to spot. Other bulbs may not be as easy to spot. It is highly recommended to check for air pockets beginning to form between the bulb and coating, this will be visible as a cloudy discoloration on the coating. This air pocket means that the coating has basically dis-bonded from the glass bulb surface, and its safety function might be compromised. Toss it! I would highly suggest finding one of the aftermarket reflector shields available back then for your reflector, although they have become a bit scarce. As always, enjoy your photography but safety first!
VINTAGE FLASHBULB HAZARDS