Sciencemadness Discussion Board
Not logged in [Login - Register]
Go To Bottom

Printable Version  
Author: Subject: What were your first experiments when you got in to this hobby?
National Hazard

Posts: 282
Registered: 19-8-2015
Location: New York
Member Is Offline

Mood: Buzzy

[*] posted on 1-11-2017 at 05:30
What were your first experiments when you got in to this hobby?

As I'm typing this, I'm in lab at my university, doing a variation of my first amateur, at home experiment; single displacement of copper using aluminium and copper sulfate. It was crude, the products contained possibly a yellowish (Cu contamination) Na/Al chloride double salt, and some Cu metal(that I was quite proud of, and I still have).

Now this begs me the question; what were YOUR first experiments?

Check out the ScienceMadness Wiki:

I collect elements! I'd gladly accept any element gifts(please U2U me)!

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
—Arthur Schopenhauer

"¡Vivá Cristo Rey!"
—Saint José Sánchez del Río
View user's profile View All Posts By User

Posts: 6217
Registered: 20-8-2005
Location: Netherlands
Member Is Offline

Mood: interested

[*] posted on 1-11-2017 at 07:46

My first experiments were when I was 15 or so. I really was impressed by my first chemistry demo at school, which was igniting a mix of sulphur and KClO3.

My first experiments were actually quite kewlish. I bought KNO3 and sulphur and made charcoal myself from wood in little fires. I used this to make very crude black powder. I also used powdered sugar and KNO3 to make small rockets from paper, which I rolled myself. The rockets never came higher than 5 meters or so, but it was really fun. This was in 1981/1982, well before the era of the internet.

Soon, when I started to understand more things, I purchased other chemicals, such as copper sulfate, sodium hydroxide, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, nitric acid, potassium dichromate, potassium permanganate, methanol, sodium sulfite, iodine. All of them I could buy at a drugstore. When I was 17 I had 50 chemicals or so, every chemical which I could buy at a drugstore, hardware store or supermarket. Online/remote ordering or ordering from special chemical supply houses was well beyond my reach, I only could buy what I could get locally.

With these chemicals I mostly did aqueous chemistry, and some somewhat kewlish pyrostuff. I never had any accident though, even then I know what I did with the pyrostuff and I used small amounts when I did not know what could happen.

In this period I had a lot of fun with the chemicals, but it was a lonesome hobby. No forums, no online documentation, no internet! When I started with my studies (electrical engineering, which also was one of my passions and became my profession as well), my activities with chemistry were suspended, but I picked up these activities again around the year 2000. At that time I had a stable job, more money, a family, and our own house. Soon I had my own internet connection, and this opened up endless possibilities.

The art of wondering makes life worth living...
Want to wonder? Look at
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User

Posts: 6
Registered: 23-11-2017
Location: Rome-Italy
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 26-11-2017 at 02:31

even dough im just 20 years old my memory is quite bad...
from what i can remember i really liked science and started doing "stuff" at age 4. when i did my first chemistry experiments i was 7 or 8, a family friend gave me a chemistry kit as a gift (those kits for kids, all plastic stuff and just 2 chemicals, copper sulphate and cobalt chloride). the kit had a really small "guide" with a dozen of experiments. after doing all the avaliable experiences i got bored, so i started messing aroung with the chemicals (poor cobalt chloride i miss it) not knowing or understanding what i was doing. i had my first internet connection at home when i was already 12, kinda late i know, but before using the internet to learn how to synthesize various compounds i had Encarta, an offline enciclopedia for pc, and i used it like i use now google. on Encarta i learnt how to make black powder (i see a common line with a lot of amateur chemists hahahah), whitch i tried to make but i didn't know how or where to buy saltpeter (remember no internet?) so reading from the enciclopedia i found out i could scrape it from old walls, and indeed my old house in the countryside had terrible walls covered in white fluffy stuff, saltpeter. meh at the end that gunpowder didn't even burn (powders too coarse i suspect). from the time i got an internet connection it got better for me and worse for my parents hahahaha, they were scared to leave me home alone because they knew i would start experimenting making my home small bad or ruining something :D. i made copper(II) chloride and iron (II) chloride (turned iron (III) in air) using copper wires, nails, muriatic acid 10% from the store and 3% hydrogen peroxide from the pharmacy, all done in diy beakers made from cut glass bottles hahaha. i made copper sulphate from electrolisys of copper metal in dilute sulphuric acid (following nurdrage's video) and ending filling my house in sulphuric acid vapors while isolating the salt boiling down the solution on the stove(i got distracted and left all the water evaporate until only sulphuric acid was left ). my noob amateur chemistry experiments continued for a few years, then i decided to get serious so i bought real glassware and a few chemicals on the internet, and now i'm studying chemistry at university :D
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Others

Posts: 172
Registered: 30-3-2017
Location: Somewhere in the UK
Member Is Offline

Mood: Free Radical

[*] posted on 26-11-2017 at 12:09

Not strictly my first experiment, but fairly close: I used to make these little 'hydrogen bombs' as I referred to them in my second year of high school, the mischeivous days of my chemistry interest. Small plastic bottles that contained about half sodium hydroxide solution, and when I wanted them to go, I'd throw in a couple of aluminium foil balls then toss the capped bottles somewhere. After about half a minute and undergoing expansion, the bottles would explode with a fairly loud bang, letting off a puff of hydrogen gas which thankfully didn't ignite.

In chemistry, sometimes the solution is the problem.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 2473
Registered: 28-12-2011
Location: The Known Universe
Member Is Online

Mood: Molten

[*] posted on 26-11-2017 at 12:30

My very first experiment was trying to isolate iodine from its tincture using H2O2 and HCl. Problem was, I had no source of HCl at the time. Being a young, spry lad of 14 years old, I found that the can of Lysol in our bathroom was about 3% or so HCl (on the ingredients label), and decided to use that, instead.

What I ended up making could best be called 'demon blood' - a viscous, black-purple, foul-smelling liquid with an oily purple sheen to it. Still, I thought it was pretty cool at the time.

Elements Collected:52/87
Latest Acquired: Cl
Next in Line: Ge
View user's profile View All Posts By User
National Hazard

Posts: 360
Registered: 27-11-2016
Location: Minnesota
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 26-11-2017 at 12:35

Chemistry set, age 11 or so. The first one in the manual I really still remember is Ca(OH)2 + FeSO4 = CaSO4 + FeO + H2O. Thought doing 2 reactions at once , with 2 insoluble products was pretty cool.

When I first used the chems on my own outside the manual, I made HCl, because I was reading how the alchemists first did so.
FeSO4 + 2NaCl + H2O + (heat) = 2HCl + Na2SO4 + FeO. Detected HCl by aroma.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Forum Drunkard

Posts: 6376
Registered: 25-3-2014
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 26-11-2017 at 15:19

I'm probably of the same generation as woelen, as my first thing was also gunpowder, mainly because a friend was into that.

The chemistry shop across the road from the lower school was happy to sell us stuff.
It closed quite soon after we got what we could afford, despite being in the University area of the city.

We both bought S and KNO3 but he had more money and got some pot permanganate as well.
Soon after, he had less facial hair after trying to make gunpowder with it in a pestle and mortar.

Somehow electronics/computers got me age 13 so i kinda lost interest in chemistry.

Weird that Chemistry came back after a week of no booze, decades later.

Maybe because electronics/computers became a Job, hence Less interesting after a while.

Madness is thinking i'm not drunk.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 1116
Registered: 26-4-2008
Location: Neon Thorium Erbium Lanthanum Neodymium Sulphur
Member Is Offline

Mood: pyrophoric

[*] posted on 26-11-2017 at 15:23

The first things that I'd really consider true experiments were around 13 years old. I tried very hard to make magnesium metal after witnessing it burn. I tried and tried, but failed (didn't understand electrochemistry at all then).

In the years that followed while I was in high school, I most vividly remember making sodium, all kinds of fireworks and pretty crystals. I spend a huge amount of time building and improving chlorate and perchlorate cells. But so many other things too. I'd try some kind of experiment pretty much every day to get my chemistry fix.

Because the internet (even computers) were not commonplace, I absorbed every book I could find and it took quite a bit of studying and work to make the chemicals I needed. This eventually became a hobby in and of itself.

These days, it is easy to take for granted that we have fora like this, but it is hard to overestimate its value. I've lost -years- in my youth to futile experiments, trying things that wouldn't work because I did not have a good source of information.

In hindsight, it was clear that I was going to study chemistry well before I was 10, even though surprisingly neither me nor my parents seemed to realise it at the time.

[Edited on 26-11-2017 by phlogiston]

"If a rocket goes up, who cares where it comes down, that's not my concern said Wernher von Braun" - Tom Lehrer
View user's profile View All Posts By User

Posts: 35
Registered: 22-4-2011
Location: Way out near the edge
Member Is Offline

Mood: wondering why

[*] posted on 27-11-2017 at 11:58
primary cells

As a young boy I took a keen interest in electricity.
When I was in about the 3rd grade I was given a copy
of the book "The Boy Electrician" written by Alfred P. Morgan.

I spent as much time as I could down in our basement
doing experiments. In those days, most of it involved
making various types of primary cells.

My very first set of (3) cells made which actually worked
(somewhat) were the LeClanche type. The electrolyte
was a solution of distilled water and ammonium chloride.
The plates were carbon and zinc.

Those cells worked but would quickly polarize from
tiny hydrogen bubbles forming on one of the plates
and this essentially cuts off most of the current.

I learned then that the addition of manganese dioxide
to regular carbon-zinc flashlight batteries is put there
as a depolarizing agent.

Next on the list were some Daniel cells. These quickly became
my favorite form of primary cell, and they still are my favorite.

The first ones I made used a porous cup containing
the zinc sulphate solution and the zinc negative electrode.
This cup was made of plaster paris globbed onto the
outside of a toilet paper tube. After it hardened, the
cardboard tube was removed and the resulting plaster
tube was then set down in the bottom of a large diameter
jar with about half inch of wet plaster in the bottom.

The result was that the jar ended up with two compartments
for the two different electrolytes: Zinc sulphate solution
inside the plaster cup with the (-) zinc electrode, and copper
sulphate solution in the jar around the outside of the
plaster tube, with a cylindrical sheet-copper (+) electrode.

After about 24 hours of soaking, the cell would start
to produce current at about 1.2 volts. One such cell
barely makes a #49 lamp glow faintly red.

Three such cells in series makes the #49 lamp glow
fairly bright. This continues for many days until the
copper sulphate solution begins to loose its pretty blue
color. The zinc electrode also begins to disappear, being
eaten way.

Easy to maintain: Simply add more copper sulphate
crystals to the solution to replentish it, and when the Zn
electrode gets severely eaten away, replace with a fresh one.

The reaction uses up copper sulphate and zinc metal.
It plates copper onto the copper electrode, and it strengthens
the zinc sulphate solution.

Every few months these cells would have to be dumped,
cleaned, and fresh electrolyte made and put back in.

Many years later I finally got around to making the "gravity"
cell version of these where there is no porous cup.
The solutions are separated by gravity alone.
CuSO4 solution on the bottom of a large jar, ZnSO4 on
the top with electrodes suspended in each.

Anyway as a young boy experimenting in my basement
after school, this is what I was doing. :D

[Edited on 28-11-2017 by sodium_stearate]

"Opportunity is missed by most people
because it is dressed in overalls and it
looks like work" T.A. Edison
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 1255
Registered: 29-5-2016
Location: UK
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 27-11-2017 at 15:53

My first experiment was putting out a oil bath (veg oil) fire with water. it was a great success, a perfect demonstration on what happens when adding water to hot burning oil. Fortunately the scale was small.

My first planned experiment was steam distillation of orange peel, however i skipped that half way through in favor of the oil experiment :D.

After that I did a great of experiments using a microwave and/or non heated experiments. That was also one the few experiments i dont have much in the way of lab notes on :P
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Others

Posts: 194
Registered: 21-4-2017
Location: Western US
Member Is Offline

Mood: extreme heating needed

[*] posted on 27-11-2017 at 17:36

My first experiment was the distillation of denatured ethanol (No, I was not trying to make potable ethanol :D). Since I didn't own a distillation apparatus back then, I used two Erlenmeyer flasks and some rubber tubing. Even though my yield wasn't good (~200 mL of 70% ethanol to about 150 mL of 82% ethanol), I was able to grasp the topics of azeotropes and distillation. I do admit, I was clumsy back then and spilled quite a bit of ethanol during the process.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 1731
Registered: 26-1-2011
Location: USA - NC
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 27-11-2017 at 18:08

It's hard to know quite where I started. I always liked chemicals, but had access only to a simple chemistry kit, almost every part of which is now banned or illegal. So one day I heard about a small company that was friendly to budding chemists. I ended up buying a few surplus chemicals from my friend Ed, who helped recycle chemicals for companies. That lead me to learning to make rocket engines, pyrotechnics, and lots of unknown messes. But it got me started. Then, after a few experiments, one involving making and burning acetylene (which made lots of black soot on the white curtains) and mixing some oxidants with fuels that spontaneously ignited, my mother made me do my experiments all outside. I learned how to make zinc/sulphur rocket motors (also known as energetics if you mix them incorrectly...) from a book fro the library.

Later I moved on to more real chemistry, when I got a copy of Fieser and Fieser as well as some other chemistry books, and tried to make Luminol. I was able to get some 3-nitrophthalic anhydride from Ed, then react it with hydrazine (which I got via mail order) to make the 3-nitrophthalhydrazide, then react that with sodium dithionate (from some rust remover product) to make luminol. The fact that it worked well enough to glow some was a miracle to me. Eventually I ended up working summer at Ed's small chemical company, mostly doing grunt work, building shelves, sorting chemicals, making lists, running GCs on an ancient Gomac, and then integrating the peaks by cutting them out and weighing them on a Mettler. Eventually I started making Freons, distilling reactions, and learning about fluorination reactions.

View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 721
Registered: 29-8-2010
Location: Mars
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 27-11-2017 at 18:59

tried to make red nitric fumes that eventually would lead to the making of nitric acid.i accidentally burnt a glass coffee carafe full of sulfuric acid and potassium nitrate on a crock pot warmer fumes shot out everywhere and next was to attach a pvc tube to the coffee carafe to channel the fumes but never succeeded.i kept using coffee maker glass and lantern tubes pieced together until i purchased real glassware.potassium nitrate and sulfuric acid in one end of a glass enclosure and nitric acid condensing in the other end of same enclosure.

[Edited on 11-28-2017 by cyanureeves]

[Edited on 11-28-2017 by cyanureeves]
View user's profile View All Posts By User

Posts: 7
Registered: 1-12-2017
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 14:15

I was about 10 and made gunpowder I didn't have a clue about ballmilling and was upset it only burned instead of exploded like on tv.... This was like 1970
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 839
Registered: 26-7-2004
Location: Middle Earth
Member Is Offline

Mood: Full of B12 - YIPPEE!

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 14:34

I started with one of those kids chemistry sets, back in the early '70s when they had interesting stuff in them. Also my grandfather told me the formula for gunpowder, and gave me some potassium nitrate from his tomato growing business! And like justdusty I knew nothing about ball milling, or that it was parts by weight, not volume, so my early attempts were a complete disaster. I built a knife-edge balance later on, and that improved things no end!

[Edited on 5-12-2017 by Twospoons]

[Edited on 5-12-2017 by Twospoons]

The wife thinks I\'m with the mistress, the mistress thinks I\'m with the wife - so I can go to my workshop and get a few things done!
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Others

Posts: 100
Registered: 1-9-2017
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 17:58

My first experiment was making copper acetate with hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. I was maybe 12 or so and used kitchen jars. What got me into amateur chemistry was a segment in TV about sodium metal. Being the action now, questions later, person I am I went about looking up on Youtube how one makes sodium. The first YouTube chemistry video I watched was about making NaOH from NaCl by electrolysis. The funny thing is that I still haven't ever made pure sodium after five years.

“Keep a goverment poor and weak and it's your servant; when it is rich and powerful it becomes your master.”
―H. Beam Piper

"Well thats funny" is the most important phrase in science.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 2351
Registered: 1-2-2013
Location: The tiniest college campus ever....
Member Is Offline

Mood: Semi-victorious.

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 18:23

Electrolysis of water was my first experiment. I also tried making copper sulphate, but I didn't understand redox potentials back then, so it didn't work.

Please remember: "Filtrate" is not a verb.
Write up your lab reports the way your instructor wants them, not the way your ex-instructor wants them.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Others

Posts: 136
Registered: 18-6-2017
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 19:52

The first thing I think I really did that constitutes chemistry, even though I had technically done chemistry experiments before then, was the electrolysis of water to make little balloons of hydrogen that I could light of with a lighter. I was probably 11, and did this in my best friends bathroom. It barely worked, to say the least.

In amateur chem I think the first thing I did was make Copper oxide, and the first thing I did with proper apparatus (ground glass) was DCM distillation.
View user's profile View All Posts By User

Posts: 7
Registered: 1-12-2017
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 21:32

Tho not true chemistry, as in trying to create something at 5 or 6, I would go into the bathroom and mix all my moms hair color and shampoos and stuff together, got in lots of trouble for that.....
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Others

Posts: 136
Registered: 18-6-2017
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 5-12-2017 at 22:05

Quote: Originally posted by justdusty  
Tho not true chemistry, as in trying to create something at 5 or 6, I would go into the bathroom and mix all my moms hair color and shampoos and stuff together, got in lots of trouble for that.....

I think we've all just mixed stuff as little kids. I remember getting in serious trouble for wasting an entire bottle of shampoo by mixing it with a bucket of sawdust to make "Paper". Yeah it didn't work.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Self

Posts: 66
Registered: 8-6-2003
Location: USA
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 6-12-2017 at 06:21

My first experiment was testing acids and bases using cabbage water as the indicator.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
International Hazard

Posts: 2630
Registered: 15-10-2015
Location: the nitrate nodule (aka the batcave)
Member Is Offline

Mood: phosphorus

[*] posted on 6-12-2017 at 06:45

I remember doing the red cabbage experiment as a child but didn't really get into it until I was in college. One of the first things I tried was extracting iodine from tinctures.

In high school I remember doing things like trying to dissolve red phosphorus in carbon disulfide, mercury amalgam reductions, and mixing uranyl nitrate with egg whites.

View user's profile View All Posts By User
Hazard to Others

Posts: 114
Registered: 30-9-2016
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 6-12-2017 at 08:55

Ah ha! A thread I can answer accurately. My first experiments were only a few years ago. I believe the first official chemical reaction I performed was the production of copper sulfate by heating a test tube that had copper metal and sodium Bisulfate in it. Shortly after, I made copper (ii) chloride. I did a bunch of copper chemistry starting out.
View user's profile View All Posts By User

  Go To Top