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Author: Subject: Homemade and Repurposed Lab Gear
radiance88
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Homemade and Repurposed Lab Gear

In Robert Bruce Thompson's book, "Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments", he says that when someone sets up a chemistry lab at home, cohabiting members of the household may wonder why some things mysteriously go missing.

In our pursuit of science (and madness), we often have to become creative to be able to do experiments at home that otherwise would need a professional lab to do. So we become very creative in obtaining materials and equipment, crafting them ourselves, or repurposing things for our experiments. Sometimes we find things just lying at home, or things that were broken, being thrown out, or sometimes we can't simply find what we need, and we find have to make them ourselves.

Things like glassware for the lab, fridge pumps for vacuum pumps, homemade Leyden jars, power supplies, geiger counters, electrolysis chambers, are all just very few things of the total number of things that we collectively on this board have repurposed or created, at one time or another.

What I want us to do in this thread is the following: Let's post things that we have "repurposed", created or modified for use in the lab, and talk about them. Nothing is too mundane, on the other hand, the crazier stuff is posted the more interesting our thread becomes.

I want to see the whole range of things that we've created or used.. anything goes.
radiance88
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Since I started the thread, I'll go first.

What I have here is a Carlos I Spanish Brandy bottle. I was at my friend's birthday party last night, and I couldn't help but keep eying this bottle which seems to have great similarities with your typical flat bottom flask in the lab. This too has a (almost) flat bottom, and the glass is thick. It's probably not borosilicate, but I think that it should do fine and make a good addition to my budding science lab. The bottom says that the glass is 77mm thick.

It may not look like much, but comparing this free find with some local chem supply companies who want to charge me around $75+ dollars for a simple 500ml flask, it's a happy thing to have it. Jylliana Hazard to Others Posts: 126 Registered: 3-10-2014 Location: The Netherlands Member Is Offline Mood: Bubbly ^-^ What an awesome thread idea! The only thing I can contribute now is that I throw almost no glass stuff out. I store chemicals in jam jars, wine bottles etc. If the jar can handle it, of course. For the more corrosive or volatile kind I use professional glasware. Does it also count that I make ampoules out of test tubes and glass pasteur pipettes? Because I work at a school, I have roughly 1000ml of each solution in stock, divided over 32 eye-dropper bottles(30ml each). I repurposed those Ferrero Rocher chocolate cases (http://tinyurl.com/osxfpbf) to store those little bottles so my cabinet stays organized. I remember one time, I bought a litre of 3M hydrochloric acid and the bottle(cap) was so childproofed that I couldn't get it to open. I used a saw to cut it in half and stored the remaining acid in a wine bottle afterwards. [Edited on 13-3-2015 by Jylliana] 24/f/nl Analytical Chemistry. Al, Br, Cu, Hg, S, C, Ag, Na, Pb, I, Cd, Ga, P, Mg, Fe, Be, Au, Bi, Si. radiance88 Hazard to Self Posts: 64 Registered: 18-12-2014 Location: underground volcano fortress Member Is Offline Mood: a little less evil than usual  Quote: Originally posted by Jylliana What an awesome thread idea! The only thing I can contribute now is that I throw almost no glass stuff out. I store chemicals in jam jars, wine bottles etc. If the jar can handle it, of course. For the more corrosive or volatile kind I use professional glasware. Does it also count that I make ampoules out of test tubes and glass pasteur pipettes? Because I work at a school, I have roughly 1000ml of each solution in stock, divided over 32 eye-dropper bottles(30ml each). I repurposed those Ferrero Rocher chocolate cases (http://tinyurl.com/osxfpbf) to store those little bottles so my cabinet stays organized. I remember one time, I bought a litre of 3M hydrochloric acid and the bottle(cap) was so childproofed that I couldn't get it to open. I used a saw to cut it in half and stored the remaining acid in a wine bottle afterwards. [Edited on 13-3-2015 by Jylliana] Ampoules out of test tubes and pasteur pipettes? That seems pretty crafty and inventive. Can you post some pics of them? Would love to see them! Ideally this thread would have plenty of pictures, maybe a few YouTube videos of the items in question.. I want to see what everyone has made or repurposed! Zombie Forum Hillbilly Posts: 1700 Registered: 13-1-2015 Location: Florida PanHandle Member Is Offline Mood: I just don't know... I have a few projects going on to build a new lab. At the moment I don't have a camera to post picts but I can show you one of the cooler re_purpose ideas... My wife Loves candles. They are all over the house. So, she did not mind at all when I found that Yankee Candle Company makes a three wick candle in perfect crystallization dishes. Our local dollar store had some on the shelf, and I had to ask "How much for a case?" I bought 48 candles for 3 bucks each. My wife has her beloved candles, and I have 48 dishes... Pyrex dishes retail for 50.00 bucks each. They tried to have me "put to sleep" so I came back to return the favor. Zom. Hellafunt Hazard to Self Posts: 65 Registered: 2-12-2014 Member Is Offline Here is a$2 paper towel holder from the thrift store that makes a great lab stand!!

Hellafunt
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And this is the top of a plastic supermarket hummus container turned into a bumper for a 500 ml graduated cylinder

Magpie
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Mood: Chemistry: the subtle science.

I have made several items that fit this category. This stir bar retriever is one of my favorites:

In the thread below I tell how to make it.

http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=13156&...

The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
smaerd
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I actually copied your instructions for that retriever magpie. Use it all the time!

Zombie
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What's the idea of the "bumper" on the graduated cylinder, Hellafunt ?

In case of tip overs?

They tried to have me "put to sleep" so I came back to return the favor.
Zom.
Hellafunt
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response to zombie

exactly. they keep the cylinder from breaking if it topples. commercial bumpers are available, but they come in sets and I didnt need all sizes. I think if one buys a cylinder new a bumper is included, but i avoid new equipment whenever possible.
Texium (zts16)
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One of my first posts on here over a year ago was about temporarily turning my bike into a makeshift centrifuge. Not super interesting, but I was certainly excited about it at the time! Not sure why I didn't post any pictures of the actual thing. Also, looking back it seems pretty silly what I used it for. It does work pretty well though.

Come check out the Official Sciencemadness Wiki
Have a particular topic you're really interested in currently? Why not make a page for it? The wiki can always benefit from more contributors.

My (now defunct) YouTube Channel: Texium
My blog: Texium
Zombie
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I thought that "bumper" was a quick guide for measuring???

I wonder what else I will learn today?

I guess you really can't eat those little bags of Silica Gell either.

From Fisher I bought a pack of absorbent "bench mats" because I was worried about breaking or spilling things.

http://www.fishersci.com/ecomm/servlet/itemdetail?storeId=10...

They tried to have me "put to sleep" so I came back to return the favor.
Zom.
Jylliana
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Quote: Originally posted by radiance88
 Quote: Originally posted by Jylliana (...) Does it also count that I make ampoules out of test tubes and glass pasteur pipettes? (...) [Edited on 13-3-2015 by Jylliana]

Ampoules out of test tubes and pasteur pipettes? That seems pretty crafty and inventive. Can you post some pics of them? Would love to see them!

(...)

I didn't get this idea myself, to be honest. Nurdrage has a video on it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cve_D3tWlzE
It caused me burns and cost me a few cracked ampoules from heat shock, but now it's easy to do.

The same applies for test tubes, but you need to heat those longer and with a hotter flame because they are often made from borosilicate glass.
Really cheap(thin glass) Fiolax test tubes 'melt' in a Bunsen burner, but it takes a lot of work and time to seal them properly. Pipettes are much easier.
You can use tongs/tweezers(preferebly preheated in the flame for a bit) to squeeze the soft glass together so it's easier to seal.

[Edited on 13-3-2015 by Jylliana]

24/f/nl
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Al, Br, Cu, Hg, S, C, Ag, Na, Pb, I, Cd, Ga, P, Mg, Fe, Be, Au, Bi, Si.
The Volatile Chemist
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I made a magnetic stirrer. Doesn't put out much, but it keeps a solution of metal carbonate from settling. (Heh heh, whoops, that's a BIG picture.... just go to the webpage.)
You can find a little info I wrote about it here:
http://ptp.x10.mx/weeklyr.htm
Be warned, it's a really old page from an idea I had a while ago.

[Edited on 3-13-2015 by The Volatile Chemist]

I made it from a tin box, a computer fan, a broken magnet, a 9v battery, and some alligator clip wires.

[Edited on 3-13-2015 by The Volatile Chemist]

My write-ups are on here...
http://www.MeltThe.Ga or http://ptp.x10.mx
Zombie
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I have been considering a plain stirrer unit for about $100.00. I have also considered building one under / into my lab bench so that I could simply set a beaker over the spot, and let it stir away. Are these computer fans strong enough? I mean do they have the torque to spin 1000Ml beakers with anything more viscous that water or anything w/ solids? They tried to have me "put to sleep" so I came back to return the favor. Zom. Magpie lab constructor Posts: 5595 Registered: 1-11-2003 Location: USA Member Is Offline Mood: Chemistry: the subtle science.  Quote: Originally posted by Zombie I thought that "bumper" was a quick guide for measuring??? I use it for that too. The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem battoussai114 Hazard to Others Posts: 220 Registered: 18-2-2015 Member Is Offline Mood: Not bad.... Not bad.  Quote: Originally posted by Zombie I have been considering a plain stirrer unit for about$100.00. I have also considered building one under / into my lab bench so that I could simply set a beaker over the spot, and let it stir away. Are these computer fans strong enough? I mean do they have the torque to spin 1000Ml beakers with anything more viscous that water or anything w/ solids?

Not sure if it's strong enough... but you can always make an adapter with a couple belts and pulleys and use a Dremel to spin the magnets
Zombie
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That;s just a bit more than work. I can deal w/ screwing a fan to the underside of a bench tho.

They tried to have me "put to sleep" so I came back to return the favor.
Zom.
j_sum1
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Welcome to my lab.
Seriously, just about my whole lab is cobbled out of whatever I had available. I will take photos later. But in the meantime, here is a list.
• I use Pasteur pipettes and 16mL test tubes for ampoules. I have regular ampoules also but sometimes a wide neck is helpful (such as when I wanted to store a sample of Cd rod.)
• I have a magnetic stirrer that consists of a 5V cellphone charger, a PC fan and a couple of Nd magnets. It is good for thin liquids and beakers up to 250mL
• I have a bunch of bungs of assorted sizes. These are rubber covers for chair legs that I bought from the hardware store. Some have had holes put in them for tubing etc.
• My condenser is a repurposed broken burette about 450mm long. I made a jacket for it out of 1½ inch plastic pipe. To help keep it in the right position there is a spiral of 3mm plastic pipe between the two. The ends are sealed with epoxy putty. I run water through the jacket with a water-feature pump. It is a bit gutless, but it works. I don't think I will try anything too ambitious with it -- that will wait until I buy a ground glass set. I am limited by my chair-leg bung connectors.
• My retort stand is some lengths of reinforcing steel that fits into holes drilled in my bench and bolted to the rafters. I had to paint them with rust-proof spray paint though.
• Shelving for my gear is constructed with whatever I could find. An assortment of timbers and two Ikea Lac tables that were hand-me-downs from my kids.
• I have a food processor that I have used for grinding aluminium foil for thermites. It doesn't quite get fine enough and so I have a partly constructed ball mill made from PVC downpipe and fittings and a packet of marbles. I must finish that one day soon.
• I have a 40 piece crockery set that failed to sell at two yard sales. It is now a collection of disposable crucibles, evaporation dishes, thermite vessels and whatnot.
• Stirrers/spatulas are disposable coffee stirrers. I have a hundred or so 80mL paper cups that have been put to a large number of different uses as well. Plenty more of these from my neighbour if needed.
• Evaporation dishes are glass dishes designed for serving olives and dips etc.
• My bushner funnel comes from a stainless steel stove-top espresso maker. I haven't had occasion to use it yet.
• I have a piece of wooden dowel that I have rounded the end of with sandpaper. It fits snugly inside my test tubes and is perfect for cleaning test tubes.
• I have a silicone cupcake oven tray. I use it as a mould for setting samples in resin.
• My chemicals are generally stored in plastic peanut butter jars and jam jars if they didn't come in appropriate containers.
• I also have a little bottle-shaped steel reaction vessel that came from a confetti cannon.

I am sure there is more. But the bulk of my lab is repurposed somehow. Actually the building itself started life as a chicken coop. There are big chicken footprints in the extremely un-level concrete floor.
The general intent is to make do with whatever I can find and then replace with the best quality proper equipment I can afford as soon as I wear something out, or it becomes unsuitable. It seems to be a good workable practice so far.

I'll post some pics sometime soon. But they might go in the "Tour my lab" thread.
Sulaiman
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Homemade dual burette stand,
shown with just one burette to show drilling/cutting detail.
The black things are rubber 'O' rings for a little extra clamping force.

On the wooden base (with a thick protective coat of polyurethane varnish) are

Repurposed Maggi seasoning bottles
containing phenolphthalein, silver nitrate solution and Lugol's iodine solution,
the dark glass with PE leak proof dropper tops are quite useful.

[Edited on 14-3-2015 by Sulaiman]

[Edited on 14-3-2015 by Sulaiman]
j_sum1
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That is quite tidily done Sulaiman.
Sulaiman
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Thanks,
there is one oversight though,
the horizontal bars can rotate or slide up/down or on/off,
but I should have made the vertical dowel removable from the base for easier storage.
It was made quickly from various bits of wood that were in my shed and I don't have a tap/die of suitable size.
I thought of using a tapered wood screw in the base of the dowel to make it removable but I was lazy so I just glued it in.

P.S we used to use Maggi seasoning occasionally,
but when I started chemistry last year my consumption went up
All home chemists should use Maggi Liquid Seasoning!
http://www.maggi.co.uk/products/world-foods/liquid-seasoning...
nice on egg, pizza and most meats, hotdogs, burgers....
(I hope maggi send me a free bottle after all this free promotion ! )

Breaking news: global consumption of Maggi Liquid Seasoning inexplicably rises !

[Edited on 14-3-2015 by Sulaiman]
battoussai114
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I have a cheap magnetic stirrer too. Mine uses a 12v power supply from my old home phone, a 12v PC fan and 2 savaged neodymium magnets.
I'm currently working on a hotplate. Got a stainless steel plate from a local metal shop, some nichrome wire and a potentiometer. The only problem is that my only available power supply output a max 6W. I'm not sure if I'll bother trying to add temperature control (even though I have some spare MCUs laying around), probably I'll just estimate the temperature based on the voltage drop across different positions of the potentiometer wiper.
Sulaiman
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6W would be enough to just warm stuff up unless very well insulated.
As a rough guide, when convection cooling is involved,
rise in temperature (C) = (power in mW / area in cm2)^0.833
e.g for power = 6W = 6000 mW and area = 78.5 cm2 (4" dia circle)
T = 37C rise (98.66 F)
Add the area of whatever it is you are heating and maybe 20C to 30C temp rise.

for comparison, the heat output of a tea light candle is 30+ Watts !
and tungsten filament lamps produce about 98% as much heat as the electrical power input.

[Edited on 14-3-2015 by Sulaiman]
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 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Fundamentals » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition » Homemade and Repurposed Lab Gear Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication   » References Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues   » Whimsy   » Detritus   » The Moderators' Lounge