Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Tragic Glassware

Cyrus - 25-5-2004 at 20:06

I just dropped a glass Erlenmeyer flask
onto my concrete floor. :( Now I only have five left...

To make matters worse, it was filled with HCl, Cl2, and HOCl. :mad:

And I was very very tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was sweep up broken glass shards.

This prompted me to ask you all to tell the tale of your most aggrevating (or spectacular) labware failure.

Also, if there are any of you who have never EVER broken any labware at all :o,
please brag about your superior skills...
(or lack of labware:D)

yes... I lack pyrex...

Saerynide - 25-5-2004 at 20:15

My cookie jar broke when I was distilling acetone using the "little beaker in the big beaker" method. I picked up the cookier jar by the rim and raised it to eye level to see how the product was coming along. The bottom of the cookie jar fell off (mustve been a hairline crack in a ring around the bottom), everything fell with it, everything hit the counter, and all the liquids splashed back at me in face. Nothing got in my eye thank god - acetone in your eye would not be fun :P
And I had alot of cleaning to do.

Edit: 400 posts :D

[Edited on 26-5-2004 by Saerynide]

The_Davster - 25-5-2004 at 20:33

I was sublimating some impure iodine crystalls in a Bomex(low grade Pyrex rip off:P(in my opinion)) 125mL erlenmeyer flask. There was a test tube duct taped to the mouth of the flask to act as a coldfinger. Anyway, a drop of the water/ammonium nitrate cooling solution fell onto my workbench. Unfortunatly I did not notice. When the iodine had all sublimed and collected on the test tube I took the flask and accidently set it down in the drop of water. The flask spiderwebbed from the point of contact with the water and the bottom fell off. Iodine fumes went everywhere and forced me to temporarily evacuate the lab while I went to get my gas mask. Iodine vapour is painfull. :(

madscientist - 25-5-2004 at 23:59

I can't even mention my most aggravating lab accident (don't even ask... I have good reasons :P). My second worst, however, was the time I was so tired (hadn't slept in a day or two, and was averaging around 2-3 hours per night of sleep before then) that I apparently couldn't think straight and decided to make a go at producing Pb(N<sub>3</sub>;)<sub>2</sub>. I proceeded to add a solution of Pb(NO<sub>3</sub>;)<sub>2</sub> (that had been prepared from Pb metal and HNO<sub>3</sub>, forgetting the obvious fact that there was going to be plenty of HNO<sub>3</sub> left over in solution) to a solution containing my entire supply of NaN<sub>3</sub>.

...I let the area air out for 12 hours after sprinting from the resulting volcano.

The biggest nuisance was probably the time I added a couple nickels (as in, the American currency) to a solution of H<sub>2</sub>SO<sub>4</sub> and 27.5% H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub>. When I returned the next day, I found dots of blue solution splattered *everywhere* - ceiling, walls, bench, floor... the cleanup took forever (nickel salts are extremely toxic, so I had to be very careful).

Broken glass and chemical burn/irritation events were nearly as regular as my state of delirium was.

[Edited on 26-5-2004 by madscientist]

vulture - 26-5-2004 at 10:56

My most frustrating accident was when I dropped the measuring cylinder containing 10ml of precious destillate which required 6 hours of meticulous fractional distilling. :mad:

Needless to say, I became a Tourette syndrome patient for a few minutes...:P

hodges - 26-5-2004 at 14:52

I had a rather annoying one once, although it didn't really hurt much.

I found a test tube that appeared to be glass but had a label on it that said "Do not heat". I assumed that if I tried to heat it in a flame it would break. It was the largest test tube I had, so I decided to use it to nitrate a small amount of tissue paper with some newly acquired nitric acid. I had a cup of cold water that I was going to put the test tube into to keep things cool. Anyway, I added the acids and tissue paper, and immersed the tube in the cup of water. As I was stirring the tube in the cup, I noticed that the tube appeared to have more acid in it than I had remembered using. Curious, I lifted the tube, and the acid gushed out a hole in the bottom of the tube! There was no broken glass - the acid had actually eaten through whatever the test tube was made out of.

Theoretic - 27-5-2004 at 05:02

Tourete syndrome? What's that? The Chemical Rage syndrome? :D
The test tube eaten through by sulfuric/nitric acids probably had a high sodium silicate content.

P.S.: as you may have noticed, I'm in a flood mode right now... sorry about that :)

Haggis - 27-5-2004 at 07:39

My most interesting glassware mishap involves a compound also...imagine this, if you will.

I sit there in the lab with half of a broken beaker in my right hand, a razor blade in my left, and a lap full of potassium cyanide and glass shards.

It was a very odd situation at best. I just prepared some KCN, and then heated off the remaining water, leaving the KCN caked on the bottom of the beaker. Here I go with my razor blade, scraping off the stuff on the bottom, which was cooked on pretty well. Suddenly, there was a little 'tink' and the bottom half of the beaker just falls off onto my lap. I luckily had a friend in the next room, whom helped me clean off before I could accidentally shove a shard in my thigh.

My best explanation is that the Bomex was weakened by the heating contrasted with the cold water. Then, the scraping of the razor blade matched the natural frequency of the glass, similar to wine glasses shattering due to high pitched noises.

No matter what, it was a quite surreal experience.

Cyrus - 27-5-2004 at 15:23

Now THAT sounds a little dangerous, and is a good reason not to buy bomex.

I have bomex beakers too.:P

BromicAcid - 27-5-2004 at 16:26

Maybe one of the reasons I actually don't have some terrible tragic story about using glassware is because I don't use bomex ;)

The absolute worst things that have happened to me involving glassware failing are:

  1. Added Na to H2O, Na did not ignite the H2 gas formed like it normally does until an explosive concentration was present, at which time it detonated and shot glass everywhere, mind you this was no fault of the glassware, that specific beaker was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  2. A few days ago I was heating NaNO3 with Fe2O3 in a flint glass test tube when I heard the sound of glass getting ready to break. Heating with the propane torch was discontined and I inspected the test tube visually and noted a hair line crack developing so I stopped heating it. Later though I was heating the same mix in an iron crucible and when I went to dump it onto a sheet of steel the little grabby arm thing fell off so I grabbed it with my gloves and turned it over, molten NaNO3 got on my glove and promptly set it on fire in that place so a test tube of it suddenly having the bottom giving out would have been a bad thing.

The_Davster - 27-5-2004 at 17:09

The only reason I used Bomex was because a local science store sells it no questions asked and I do not have to put together an order for the usuall suppliers and wait for it to arrive.
It is now clear what must be done..... Boycot Bomex:P

Mumbles - 28-5-2004 at 10:28

As I look back, I was really stupid for this. Side comment, but the only reason I use bomex is for the cheapness. I have no reason, the local chem shop caries pyrex, but I'm not very deep pocketed. I have pyrex test tubes at least.

I was distilling some nitric acid. I use a deep-fryer with sand as my heating bath. It couldn't for the life of me figure out how to keep it upright. Then I had the stroke of genius to put rubber bands over the 3 way adapter and hooked on the handles of the fryer.

I let it distill and check this board for a bit, the flask filles up with NOx like always(still need a vacuum pump to this day). I go and check on it about a half hour later, and it's tipped over, one of the rubber bands broke. Being the competent smart person that I am put more rubber bands on to replace the one that broke. I return to the house and let it go some more.

I hear this snapping sound through the window and see that it has tipped again. I go to set it back up, but notice the strong smell of NO2. I see that the male end to my condenser is not attached to the rest. This begins one loud "fuck" that would take up a good 17 lines if I typed it out. After the anger relieving yell, I begin to clean it up. By the end I used a box and a half of baking soda to neutralise the patio, my hands looked like a leopard with yellow spots, and my clothes looked like swiss cheese.

glassware quality

Magpie - 28-5-2004 at 21:11

Dear Colleagues:

I am in an expedited glassware buying mode due to some paranoia. When Fisher Scientific refused to sell me, as an individual, some glass beakers I began imagining a worst case scenario: "Al Quida launches second major attack on US, this time using homemade chemicals. John Ashcroft promptly issues emergency order banning the purchase of all glassware in the US."

So I have been researching the secondary suppliers and ebay. Like Hermes says I believe in purchasing good tools. I feel comfortable with Corning products (Pyrex) and Kimble-Kontes products (Kimax). But I'm also seeing a lot of United Glass Technology (LabGlass), Bomex, and some Simax. These last three I am unfamiliar with. But from what I have read on this forum I will not buy Bomex. Forum reports on LabGlass have been good. Simax (Czech?) I have not heard anything about on this forum but internet searches indicate that it is of high quality.

I would like to get other opinions, warnings, experiences, recommendations. Thanks.


S.C. Wack - 28-5-2004 at 23:07

I have a large glass collection. They get some use. About 40% Pyrex, 40% Kimax, and some Bomex(non-distillation) and Ace(equalized addition funnels) products. The Ace products look to be very well made. The Pyrex and Kimax pieces have survived much abuse, with two exceptions.

The Bomex vac flask is used a lot. It is very sturdy and I recommend it. I use their fbf's for storage, but on occasion, they have come in handy for boiling down solutions, placed on an old skillet right on the gas flame. No problem. Just wanted to say that they can be used some. They are thicker and heavier than the usual brands.

Only broken two pieces. A Kimax addition funnel was in use as a sep funnel, sitting in a glass, when the glass was knocked over. Not its fault. It had top and bottom 24/40 joints, and broke off at the skinny part below the valve. So its just a sep funnel now!

The Pyrex incident was something. It was ovenware, however. A casserole dish at 200C was taken out and placed on top of the sink. This was a convenient place, as it fit perfectly across the top. Then a single drop of water leaked out of the faucet. Broke into about a hundred pieces. So another cautionary tale of thermal shock for ya'll. I make very sure not to spill any drops of anything anywhere when hot glass is around now.

I've passed on United Glass pieces for some reason. I see "Borosil" on ebay and am leery of this as well. But best of all on eBay: Pryrex. This was a deliberate attempt to mislead people into buying homemade retorts. Log in, search for Pryrex, checking the "completed items" option and you will see. You will see that no one fell for it, either. Not that there is anything wrong with homemade retorts, just not from this guy.

Off topic but funny- did a member here just buy that 19/22 setup+, for a huge price? Hope he emailed the seller to make sure of a certain thing. A Hive member for sure.

Cyrus - 29-5-2004 at 11:51

Bomex isn't that bad for the price.
I figure use pyrex for things that you heat and cool, and bomex should work for everything else. Does everyone else have a problem with random spontaneous shattering of test tubes? :mad: Mine love to shatter for no good reason!

I have had some interesting glassware "saves" - I dropped a dropping pipet onto the concrete floor, but it landed on the rubber end, and then bounced back up onto a shelf!:o

tom haggen - 29-5-2004 at 20:51

The saddest failure of equipment I have had, was with my 1000ml beautiful beaker that I stole from my little sisters french press. I was purifying KNO3 and some of it spilled on the side of it, and crusted in between the hot plate and the beaker. When I started cooling down my beaker The KNO3 in between the beaker and the hot plate cracked my beaker. I almost shed a tear. The dumbest accident I've had is when I was filtering hot KNO3 and the mason jar collecting the filtrate cracked on the bottom. When I picked the mason jar up the bottom stuck to my counter top, and presto I had a hot KNO3 solution all over my shoes, my counter, my floor, my pants.... 20mins later my whole kitchen was one big damm crystal. I was extremely pissed.

[Edited on 30-5-2004 by tom haggen]

[Edited on 30-5-2004 by tom haggen]

unionised - 31-5-2004 at 16:13

A coleague of mine made an error with a hand-made, 5 litre, jacketed, pyrex, multi ported chamber. His error was to assume it wouldn't roll off the bench. It did. Pyrex doesn't bounce adequately well.
I'm glad it wasn't me. (I have made plenty of mistakes but that one was more interesting)

Mumbles - 31-5-2004 at 19:39

I've found standard glass food containers hold up better to impact than pyrex. I knocked off a container from an edge. It bounced a good 6 inches before hitting again and being smashed violently.

Recenly I knocked a 100mL graduated cylinder off too. It landed in the 1 spot the plastic stoppers couldn't save it, the lip. I now have a 30mL graduated cylinder and a stabbing tool all in one.

Saerynide - 1-6-2004 at 02:15

If theres ever a bar/lab fight, you'll be prepared :D

I once accidently dropped my glass dish from about chest-height. It hit the floor, and bounced back up to about waist-height and I caught it. It didnt even chip :o

fvcked - 1-6-2004 at 04:50

I didnt know they had chem labs in the psych ward :P *padded rooms*

Saerynide - 1-6-2004 at 05:20

Are you talking about me?? :o


MadHatter - 7-10-2004 at 14:11

I had a hairline crack develop in an 800 ml Bomex beaker while crystallizing
some potassium perchlorate. From now on, I'll use pyrex or kimax for anything
that requires heating. Magpie, simax glass is considered to be better than
kimax or pyrex.

Organikum - 8-10-2004 at 00:19

Yes, SIMAX is czech and its quite good quality. Best IMHO is Schott-DURAN german), but it is terrible expensive.

Most glassware I lost to the cooling down with different expansion effect, like with making benzene where the NaOH/carbonate cake solidifies and bakes to the glass. On cooling down this breaks at least Erlenmeyers and flat-bottom-flasks, thick walled RBFs may do it, I will NOT try it.

I came to the belief that glassware is not perfect for many reactions and I am going to get me copper and ironvessel which are often superior. Found out that it is astonishing hard to find them though.

neutrino - 8-10-2004 at 19:40

Here is some info on simax and pyrex.

Before I had some decent beakers, I tried heating a solution in a glass jar on a gas stove. It proceeded to break in several seconds, spilling all of the precious solution!

I have been using borosil recently and the quality seems good (although I don't really have a benchmark). I can fill my 600mL beaker with water, put it on my gas stove at a setting where the diameter of the circle of flame is equal to that of the beaker (a pretty high setting), and leave it until it starts boiling without worrying. Btw, Borosil is Indian glass.

vulture - 9-10-2004 at 05:53


Best IMHO is Schott-DURAN german), but it is terrible expensive.

What qualifies as terribly expensive for you? It's more expensive for sure, but replacing a burst piece of glassware with something you just made is always going to be more expensive in the long run. Not to mention physical injury because of glass flying around.

Organikum - 9-10-2004 at 06:26

I pay more than twice the price for DURAN than I pay for SIMAX whats already high-quality glassware. I talk here first.choice quality and not from EBAY of course, where lots of the offered glassware is actually second choice or even worse.

So this doesnt pay out. Also I break a good deal of glass by plain stupidity (TM) and this breaking is no matter of quality.

If you have glass-shards flying around you made something wrong anyways, if one does a possibly very violent thing one should place the flask in a pot for example to prevent this. Wrapping the flask in some glassfiber or metalfabric is also suitable. Blast shields are nonsense (some exceptions exist though) as it is to prevent the shards gaining velocity and thats done directly on the surface. Look at these old CO2 powered Soda-Bottles wrapped in steelfabric to get the idea.

thalium - 3-11-2004 at 23:28

from my glassware I broke only a petri dish, but from school I broke about 4 test tubes and two beakers (without any regret :D, except for the solutions that were in them:()

UhhKaipShaltaBlet - 3-2-2005 at 12:15

Hmm, About 10months ago. I have made Hydrogen generator. It was with HCl and Al foil. With Water washer to remove HCl Vapours. I added Al foil. And Poured all HCl(30%). You can guess what happend next. Tubing ID was too small , too high pressure. All HCl , Al Mix Shot in 1,5m on the ceiling(sp?), splashed in all directions including me...
I was making Cu(OH)2 with CuSO4 and NaOH. I boiled some water in big 3l jar to dissolve CuSO4 then Poured NaOH. And guess. It Cracked and All mix poured off in all directions ...

neutrino - 3-2-2005 at 14:21

Why did it crack? Did the addition cause a temperature rise big enough to crack your glass? If so, you need to get some real lab glass (no old jars, wine bottles, bomex…).

Darkfire - 3-2-2005 at 15:03

This thread is wonderful. Nothing beats seeing incredibly smart people do incredibly dumb things.

Worst thing that happend to me was recrytalising a certain yellow substance. I broke rule number one on things a chemist should never do. I heated the flask of alcohol with a flame:( and wouldnt you know it, flask breaks some fairly expensive chemical is lost and my table is lit on fire. Quickly put out but needless to say that was the end of me trying to make do with what i had just to finish up something quickly.

And well the small beaker in big beaker method of distilling has been a major bitch. Ive broken 3 beakers that way. Luckily i noticed the cracks before they broke the glass and saved the distilate. The problem was that the heating coil caused a big diferance in temp of the glass. So if you use on of those wal*mart stlye hot plates make sure you use a thick bottomed frying pan or some sort of sand or oil bath. Dont be a moron liek me and put the glass on the heating element...

Chris The Great - 3-2-2005 at 17:52

Hmmm, I've 'distilled' acetone out of a solution of it and acetone peroxide (150 grams) in a jam jar, with plastic lids and hoses under pressure as the receiving jar was the condenser as well, with a gas burner.

If not having a disaster doing that itsn't skill, well, :P

I should point out it kept leaking fumes, so I had to tape up the lid with duct tape, but other than that it only caught fire once and I blew it out, wiped it off, retaped and started right up again.
And because it looked so pitiful and useless, here are some pictures.
The setup.
In Operation.

Other than that, I've spilled stuff (alot), but never broken anything. Of course, chances are as soon as I get some labware, it will be dropped, shatter, etc.

Oh, thought I'd point out the acetone was boiled off until there was 400mL solution left, not to dryness. That would have broken my glassware, to say the least.

Darkfire - 3-2-2005 at 18:44

Let me just say those pics are without a shawdow of a doubt the dumbest thing i have ever seen on this board. Ever...

Your first big mishap you will learn.

Never ever heat solvents with flames. A Liter of acetone in a shitty mason jar is dumb enough. Even w/o the AP. One little crack and you have a huge fuckin puddle of flames engulfing....

Chris The Great - 3-2-2005 at 19:37

Sheesh, the worst that could happen is that it could explode, I'd be on fire, my lab would be on fire, my chems would be on fire, then on me, the AP would start exploding, I'd have shrapnel in my flaming skin, and I'd die a slow agonizing death before the roof collapsed onto my blackened corpse.

Oh, and the fire extinguisher would be just outside my reach during this demise, and would explode and blow my hand off before I died.

And that's why you don't do what I did there (was some time ago though, as you can see by the near lack of stains on the laboratory bench). I've since learned from doing stupid but surprisingly accident free things and now am highly unlikely to do anything extremely likely to end in pain and suffering.
That, and I won't buy Bomex! :D

neutrino - 3-2-2005 at 19:44

Agreed. At least he had the sense not to boil it to dryness. What I think what we have here is another future Darwin Award winner.

Chris: Not to scathe, here are the various reasons for my conclusion:
-Mayonnaise jars are soda-lime glass, which is very prone to thermal stress.
-Heating any glass directly with a torch is asking for cracking. At least Bunsen burners have fiberglass pads to disperse the heat.
-You <b>never</b> heat a flammable solvent with an open flame.
-If the glass had cracked (very likely), it would have sent a liter of boiling, burning acetone all over the place. The acetone dries up, the AP starts exploding, and you have a big problem. The burning acetone heats up the cheap can of propane -> even bigger problem. The can explodes, sending shrapnel everywhere and a huge fireball engulfs everything. The only thing that would stop you from receiving a Darwin Award in this case is the low likelihood of investigators being able to piece together exactly what happened (no pun intended).

And I thought I did some stupid things!

Cyrus - 3-2-2005 at 22:39

That picture is quite unsettling to say the least.

No I'm not going to lecture you, you already know what you did was stupid. (I hope) Why the name "Chris the Great!"? :o But I digress...

[Edited on 4-2-2005 by Cyrus]

guaguanco - 4-2-2005 at 11:00

'Chris the Miraculously Still Alive' is more like it.

[Edited on 4-2-2005 by guaguanco]

Jome - 4-2-2005 at 12:59

I managed to smash my 1l Schott-duran beaker while I was boiling down a KNO3-solution.

I was removing it from the heat when I managed to put my finger on the hot plate, which of course led to a reflex, and since my arm was on the other side of the beaker my hand smashed my beloved beaker into tiny pieces.

FUCK! I was swearing continuosly for the next 45 minutes. My dad went outside for a walk to (as he said) save his ears.....

I dont find schott-duran to be that expensive. 40skr (like 6$) for the rest in pieces 1L beaker. I have access to cheaper glass but its not that much cheaper.

neutrino - 4-2-2005 at 14:44

$6!!! That really is cheap. Even Cynmar doesn’t have anything cheaper (except for one piece of Kimax which is no doubt mislabeled and Bomex, which I don’t consider real glass). Does your source have a web site by any chance?

Jome - 4-2-2005 at 15:12, a swedish company selling the simplest types of labware.

And here is the beaker. Actually, it more like 5$
Good thing I bought 2 :D

Chris The Great - 5-2-2005 at 03:22

"Chris the Prone to Greatly Stupid Things Without Having Accidents" probably fits best for me, but that it too long to use I think. Personally, I'm quite amazed myself that I'm still alive after all the stupid things I've done.

Fortunatly, most of that is over, and I am fairly safe in my lab nowadays.

I'm off to examine the runaway nitration of large batches of nitroglycerine, and their effects and stresses on laboratory glassware, while wearing only my underwear to protect my clothing from having acid burns in it. :D