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Author: Subject: Where to Experiment?
hodges
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[*] posted on 7-1-2004 at 16:34
Where to Experiment?


I hope I have not missed a similar topic. I did not see one in the titles of this section, which is where I would expect it if there was one. I am curious as to where those of you who have apartments do your experiments.

Back when I was in high school and college, I did my experiments at my parents house. We were in the suburbs so we had neighbors - but still most of the time I could do things outside without really bothering anyone (if a neighbor was working outside I wouldn't do anything that involved smells, smoke, etc.). That was many years ago. Now that I live in an apartment, there are some reactions I can't do. Pretty much anything involving any significant quantity of gases, especially ones with odors. Pretty much nothing with fire. Sure, I can heat test tubes with a candle and heat small amounts of stuff with a butane torch. But pyrotechnics is pretty much out of the question.

One thing I was never successful doing when I was in high school was making thermite. Recently I obtained some aluminum powder so would like to try again. I have a friend with a house and he says "sure, bring it over here and do it in my yard!". But he has a rather small yard, and I can imagine attracting the attention of his neighbors. So where would I do something like set off a small quantity of thermite? Or if I was going to do a reaction that might produce gases like H2S?

It seems like there should be a place somewhere in the middle of nowhere where people could rent space for a day and do experiments (perhaps even with supervision, as is done when amateur rocket shows allow amateurs to display their creations on property they are renting). Someone should set up a Mad Scientists convention where everyone gets to bring their creations and test them without having to worry about neighbors.

I will probably end up making the thermite at my friend's place in the spring. Him and his neighbors have a serious problem with moles, and he has asked if I could make some kind of mix that would smoke them out. So, come spring, I should be able to do this and experiment with my thermite mixes at the same time. And if any neighbors see me and find out that I'm trying something to get rid of the moles, they would likely not be upset at all. But that's only going to do for one time. If I'm always there to "get rid of moles" people are going to start to wonder.

Anyone else who lives in an apartment who has solved this problem?

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[*] posted on 7-1-2004 at 16:58


First off, I just want to get this out of the way, a simple more-get-rid-of mix is simple smoke with added sulfur.

Now, there are ways you can experiment inside if it emits cases. One idea would be to make a glovebox out of plexiglass, or failing that, a Rubbermaid tub. Said tub would have a fan with a hose and fresh air coming in, and a fan and a hose (similar to dryer vent hose) leaving, pushing vapors out into the atmosphere.

If you're not wanting to vent it out the window on level with the houses or street, another option is to run it into a vent pipe for a stove or chimney. Either accellerate the gases out of the chimney with another fan, or let the wind venturi the fumes out of the top.

Another option is venting it into the bathroom with the fan running, drawing the fumes out the top. This may smell up your bathroom, and make it unusable, but it's the better choice if you don't have a chimney.

Also, another method would be running it through a series of scrubbers. Water for sure, then through a couple filters of charcoal for good measure. This should clean most smells emitted by a small scale amature chemist, and anything that needed something special could easily be rigged with another filter with, say, NaOH. This setup would need some heavy duty pumps or something else to pull the fumes through the scrubbers. Medical pumps are nice and quite sturdy. Mine has a half inch imput and half inch output, regular screw on attachment. It could be set between the water filter and the charcoal filters, pulling it through the water, and pushing it through the charcoal.

Perhaps some more hints about your apartment or layout could help us.




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[*] posted on 7-1-2004 at 17:11


Quote:

So where would I do something like set off a small quantity of thermite? Or if I was going to do a reaction that might produce gases like H2S?

In my opinion those are two very different things. I can see most people getting away with thermite, minimal smoke, little to no smell, no boom. But the hydrogen sulfide, poisonous foul smelling chemical that might attract attention due to some of its illicit uses. Personally I would look for a relative that lives outside of city limits. If that doesn't pan out and you're pretty heavy into chemistry you could always buy a small lot of land off somewhere. But like was just said, if you get a fume hood together with some scrubbers in place you've increased what you can do in your own home by a significant factor.




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[*] posted on 7-1-2004 at 21:56
where to experiment


This is a subject that has been heavy on my mind for some time now. I live a conventional life in the suburbs with a wife and kids - I just happen to also be an amateur chemist. So I'm struggling with the subject problem, facing many of the same concerns as the apartment dweller. My neighbors like me and so do the police, DEA, etc, and I'd like to keep it that way.

So I'm considering construction or purchase of an outbuilding in a private location. I also have decided that the city sewer system is the way to handle most all of the liquid/slurry wastes. This places me within the city limits. Wastes I can't/won't dispose down the sewer must be delivered to the city dump as hazardous/toxic waste or sent to a professional waste handler and considered an expense of my hobby.

Another fundamental decision is to go "open" or "clandestine." I would much prefer to go "open" but haven't decided on this yet.

Security of my building, equipment, and chemicals is another big issue.

The biggest problem with worrying about all this is I'm not getting any experimenting done. :(

Any more suggestions from those who have experience(s) in these areas would be most welcome. :)
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[*] posted on 10-1-2004 at 08:16


Quote:
Originally posted by Haggis
Perhaps some more hints about your apartment or layout could help us.


I'm on the 3rd (top) floor. I have two neighbors immediately adjacent. One lives below me - he works long hours and does not get home until after 9PM and is often gone on Saturdays as well. The other is a retired couple, their kitchen being adjacent to my kitchen. They are home a lot and I can't often tell when they are home or not since they are pretty quiet. I know both neighbors to say hi to and they seem reasonably friendly although I don't know a lot about them. There are six apartments in the building, but the others are not adjacent to me.

I have a cement patio off my living room. From the ground, no one can really see what is on the patio. The next building is relatively close however and presumably two of the apartments could see what I have through their window. The only thing I've ever done outside that has to do with chemistry is refilling my butane torch.

My kitchen has an exhaust fan above the stove; however I would be wary of using it because the pipe leading outside is shared with the neighbor aside of me. I have sometimes been able to smell things from my apartment when they are cooking and they turn on their exhaust fan. My bathroom has an exhaust fan with its own vent on the roof (not shared with any other apartment).

It is a white-collar neighborhood, although being in New York it is not real conservative like a similar neighborhood in the Midwest would be.

My interests are totally in inorganic chemistry - the closest to organic I've ever came was using vinegar for a reaction. I'm not interested in any kind of explosives, although I am interested in a few energetic reactions such as thermite.

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[*] posted on 11-1-2004 at 21:04


I live in a condominium. I usually crawl like soldier toward the balcony carrying beakers and stuff ...
but for complicated experiments I move the equipments to roof fortunately there aren't any higher flats around to see me




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[*] posted on 15-1-2004 at 19:31
Indoor Thermite


I've recently made and used small amounts of thermite-type reactions inside my apartment, without damaging anything and without arousing any neighbor suspicions (that I know of).

I've made thermite using the following combinations of oxidiser/reducer: Fe2O3/Al, CuO/Al, CaSO4/Al,CuO/Mg. In each case, I have made a very small amount - under 1 gram. I place the thermite on a piece of steel box that was part of a gas barbeque grill ignitor that I bought for $2 to use for producing sparks for another project. I then place this in the stainless steel kitchen sink, after removing any nearby flamable materials.

I've used magnesium ribbon to light the Al thermites, but I find that this procedure is not too reliable as the Mg tends to go out. What I have found that has yet to fail is to use a small quantity (around 0.5g) of Al/S mixture. I place a short (1 inch) length of thick string that has been dipped in KNO3 solution and allowed to dry. This will light with a lighter. People think this type of "fuse" burns unreliably. The rate is slow and uneven, but I've never had it fail to light the Al/S mixture. The Al/S mixture gets hot enough to light the thermite - even the CaSO4/Al type.

I find that the Al/S burns about 0.5 seconds and then ignites the thermite, which burns about 1 second. The Al/S mixture does not produce any SO2 like a black powder mixture would, and it produces little smoke. The only bad thing about Al/S is that the resulting product must be flushed down the sink fairly quickly after the reaction is complete or else it starts reacting with moisture in the air to produce H2S.

In each case of the metal oxides I've gotten small droplets of metal in the products. The steel box has developed a sag in the middle where the reactions have taken place but has not yet melted all the way through. Although the flame extends a foot or two into the air during the reaction, I have not had any problems with flying sparks outside the sink. I'm using pyro grade dark aluminum and I think these particles are too small to travel very far.

Once I am familiar with the speed of the reactions involved I will be ready to make larger quantities outside in a friend's yard.

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[*] posted on 16-1-2004 at 09:54


Quote:
Originally posted by Magpie

Another fundamental decision is to go "open" or "clandestine." I would much prefer to go "open" but haven't decided on this yet.

As a family man, you don't have an option: you have to be open about this. If the police discover a covert chemistry lab, they come down like a ton of bricks. Could be terrorists or Meth manufacturers. How long can you afford to be in jail until your innocence is (hopefully) established? To do this properly, you probably need to establish a small business and be totally out in the open. It sucks but it's reality nowadays.
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[*] posted on 16-1-2004 at 17:01
establishing a small business


Doesn't doing chemistry as a business of sorts (even an unprofitable one) open you up to more regulation? Ordinary, private users of chemicals (the general public using OTC chemical products) are subject to very little scrutiny. If you want to have a small business lab, is that something that you can still set up in a garage or outbuilding near the home? Or do you need to set it up in a properly zoned space, complying with health and safety regulations in the storage and handling of chemicals and general setup of the lab? The cost could be prohibitive. On the other hand, if small businesses aren't subject to too many regulations, it could be a great way to "go open" and indulge your scientific curiousity without too much suspicious skulking. It could even make ordering materials and equipment easier.
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[*] posted on 16-1-2004 at 20:43
open vs clandestine


To me the real question is to whether one should go "open" or "clandestine." Clandestine could be with a front hobby like color photography and/or beer/winemaking. Then couldn't you just go right down to the City Police and say "look, I've got these legal hobbies where I have some legal chemicals and legal glassware, so please don't come in and bust me in the middle of the night."? Would this be a dumb thing to do?

To go "open" would likely entail establishing a small business of some kind. I'm trying to find the answers to the very questions Polverone asks without tipping my hand unnecessarily or prematurely to the authorities.
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[*] posted on 17-1-2004 at 15:24


Quote:
Originally posted by Magpie
To me the real question is to whether one should go "open" or "clandestine." Clandestine could be with a front hobby like color photography and/or beer/winemaking. Then couldn't you just go right down to the City Police and say "look, I've got these legal hobbies where I have some legal chemicals and legal glassware, so please don't come in and bust me in the middle of the night."? Would this be a dumb thing to do?

To go "open" would likely entail establishing a small business of some kind. I'm trying to find the answers to the very questions Polverone asks without tipping my hand unnecessarily or prematurely to the authorities.

Well, I used to have a very nice chemlab and a very nice array of reagents when I was a senior in High School. I now have a house and a family. I cannot imagine a set of circumstances where I could setup a similar lab nowadays (without spending massive amounts of money and time), not legally. In my fantasies I would love to have access to all that fun stuff and be able to do lots of syntheses, but in the real world of regulations, paranoia and John Ashcroft I would never submit my family to those risks.
If you went the legal business route, you wouldn't march down to the police station and declare yourself. You'd just setup a business and go to work. Just dispose of things legally and don't try to buy restricted chemicals.
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[*] posted on 17-1-2004 at 16:09


Quote:
Originally posted by Magpie
To me the real question is to whether one should go "open" or "clandestine." Clandestine could be with a front hobby like color photography and/or beer/winemaking. Then couldn't you just go right down to the City Police and say "look, I've got these legal hobbies where I have some legal chemicals and legal glassware, so please don't come in and bust me in the middle of the night."? Would this be a dumb thing to do?

To go "open" would likely entail establishing a small business of some kind. I'm trying to find the answers to the very questions Polverone asks without tipping my hand unnecessarily or prematurely to the authorities.


No offense magpie...But..........yes.

Just be normal! Normal people don't worry about being busted, normal people definitely do not go up to police officers and ask them not to bust them.

That would be just plain weird.

The term "Clandestine" gets thrown around alot lately....

\Clan*des"tine\, a. [L. clandestinus, fr. clam secretly; akin to celare, E. conceal: cf. F. clandestin.] Conducted with secrecy; withdrawn from public notice, usually for an evil purpose; kept secret; hidden; private; underhand; as, a clandestine marriage. --Locke.

People forget that it's just a term slapped on by the authorities or whoever to add an impression of EVIL to a term that most people find innocuous.

"Laboratory" sounds innocent to the public, whereas "Clandestine Lab" sounds sinister.

I understand that most of you guys live in a fascist state (U.S.)

But if you're not breaking the law (and even if you are) the likelyhood of you getting busted from procurement or experimentation is actually pretty slim. The vast majority of "clandestine labs" get busted by being ratted out from the dopers who get a little greedy.

Alot of us foreigners follow the antics of the U.S. government's antics avidly, it helps to spice up a slow newsday with a "those crazy yanks!" story.

Something I've noticed is the US Gov'ts fondness for informants, it seems to be common for the Gov't to go to extraordinairy lengths to protect their pet rats. One technique is to lie about how they got the info leading to the search warrant leading to the bust.

They get a rat who drops the dime on a chemist, then they do the bust, THEN they sift through the lab records collected after the bust to find a "suspicious combination of items" and then they present that in court as justification. Often, if that seems particularly weak they'll throw in "neighbor's complained of smells and strange noises".

The fact is, with billions of domestic orders per year, there is simply no way the fed's are going to "get you" or even get a search warrant based upon orders unless you make up a laundry list of drug precursors and order them all from a single supplier at once.

So just buy small, and spread orders out.

I've got a bit of an interest in criminology and I have learned something from reading case account of big set-ups and stings and cases built against the really bad boys.

The american gestapo are frightening, but generally lazy and incompetent........its the american way! :D

And it always comes down to an informant in the end.

Not like Canada at all, alot of us still got taught as kids that no-one likes a tattletale and as a result we don't have any sort of witness protection program.:P




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[*] posted on 17-1-2004 at 20:15


Hermes: I see your point; doing a pre-emptive consult with the police would likely appear weird.

Guaguacano: I completely agree with you about the health and safety issue in regard to my family as well as myself. The older I get and the more I read this forum the more respect I have for the potential dangers inherent in experimental chemistry. I believe this is especially true in that we likely work alone most of the time thereby violating one of the fundamental tenets of working in the lab, i.e., "don't work alone." Unless I'm working with edible substances, my experimenting will be in an outbuilding.

I'm thinking now of 3 models synthesized from the opinions in this thread:

Model 1: Set up a small business with letterhead and tax number. Zoning and regulations would apply. The severity of these regulations would seem very dependent on your business plan. My car repairman generates hazardous wastes but he says it is not much of a problem. But I'm sure he has costs associated with waste disposal.

Model 2: Just do your chemistry legally and above board. Try not to offend your neighbors with loud noises, intimidating deflagrations, or noxious odors. Use proper waste disposal. If the neighbors ask questions give them enough truthful information to make them feel comfortable. Give them the impression that you are responsible and competent.

Model 3: Legal but somewhat covert using a "front" hobby. This might be smart if you think your neighbors would resent on principle you doing chemistry. Once you get complaints to the police being legal may not do you any good in today's paranoid world.

I would appreciate hearing any comments, additions, and/or improvements you might have to the above models. ;)
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[*] posted on 17-1-2004 at 20:36


I thoroghly agree with option #2 with one major change.

DO NOT tell your neighbors the truth. People are stupid, ignorant and blind as well as being easily spooked.

Just say, Its a darkroom!, I like black and white pictures. Don't bother elaborating and if someone does ask lots of questions, just lie. It's not against the law to lie!. And be noncommital if they ask to see inside, say...Yah I should show you inside sometime......Some OTHER time!

The only reason you would need zoning is if you started a business, and then the tax guys might come down on you, unlike the police they are efficient and ruthless and clever, if you start a business and don't declare some kind of a profit, they eventually WILL get around to riding you.

Just build a shed with a fume hood and a barrell of activated charcoal attatched to the outlet. You can make your own activated charcoal from the BBQ kind from the store and It works fine! Pot growers in B.C. use that trick to grow dope in apt buildings and it does the trick!

Finally,since you have a family, don't do anything illegal. 99% of chemistry is legal you know? They cannot arrest you for being a citzen scientist! If you really want to protect yourself from any possible trouble keep a lab notebook. That represents the PROOF of your innocence, just in case!




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[*] posted on 18-1-2004 at 20:27


Quote:
Originally posted by Hermes_Trismegistus


Finally,since you have a family, don't do anything illegal. 99% of chemistry is legal you know? They cannot arrest you for being a citzen scientist! If you really want to protect yourself from any possible trouble keep a lab notebook. That represents the PROOF of your innocence, just in case!


I admire your optimism. Nowadays, I would expect the police, if they discovered someone in a clandestine lab full of chemicals and equipment, to swarm over it like hornets, haul away whoever was inside, and let things slowly sort themselves out. Better safe than sorry, you know.
Someone braver than I will have to try this. I *like* seeing my wife and little boy every night.
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[*] posted on 18-1-2004 at 21:26
Safety?


More chemists are buried in smouldering peices than blasters.
More chemists are poisoned than toxic waste cleanup crews.
More chemists die on fire than fireman.

You want some measure of legal assurances, put a lawyer on retainer and tell him to make basic preparations.

If you desire freedom from danger or hazard; exemption from hurt, injury, or loss.

Put down your beakers. Take up fishing.




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[*] posted on 18-1-2004 at 22:26


Quote:
Originally posted by Hermes_Trismegistus

You want some measure of legal assurances, put a lawyer on retainer and tell him to make basic preparations.

If you desire freedom from danger or hazard; exemption from hurt, injury, or loss.

Put down your beakers. Take up fishing.

Bravely spoken! Alas, as the sole breadwinner for my little family, I don't have that luxury.
I have other hobbies these days.
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[*] posted on 19-1-2004 at 07:37


Quote:

Put down your beakers. Take up fishing.


I suppose you can always drown when you fish, or be eaten alive by piranas if youre fishing in the Amazon :D

But seriously, whats wrong with just working in the kitchen or garage if you live in a house?

Even if you live in a condo, cant you just work in the room with windows facing farthest away from the neighbors? That way, you can open your windows in that room and let any noxious gases escape. Place a fan blowing outwards by the window to dissapate gases faster.

But I guess if you live in a condo thats pretty much a linear rectangular block, and all the flats are lined side by side, then it might not work so good.
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[*] posted on 19-1-2004 at 14:30
There's Something in my Sink!



Reaction of 1g of Fe/Al thermite in the kitchen sink at my apartment. Frame from camcorder capture.

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[*] posted on 20-1-2004 at 00:42


Did the sink survive? :o
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[*] posted on 20-1-2004 at 03:44




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[*] posted on 20-1-2004 at 10:22


Wow, kitchen sinks are tough. Maybe ppl should build bomb shelters with them :D
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[*] posted on 20-1-2004 at 10:42


Remember to plan for the unexpected. Make sure that your storeroom will not kill everyone in the building in the event of a fire/earthquake/etc. Put a label on the door to assist firefighters in determining how to dispose of the wreckage. Label containers.
Also, always remember that fumehoods aren't magic. Sucking perchloric acid through your dirty activated carbon filter may not be very well advised.
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[*] posted on 5-2-2004 at 10:04


Maybe slightly off topic, but where do those of you that live in the city test "energetic materials?"
I dreamt of setting off 1lbs of blasting gelatin in an alley one time. It made a crater that could fit a basket ball and blew cement all over from a near by cement block from a fence post. 6 car alarms went off and some lady screamed(kindy freaky)
Obviously I didnt get caught but I wont be doing that again! Now adays, even out in the desert there are too many people for anything larger than 2lbs of HE.
Where do you all do your tests?

Hodges, before you burn anymore thermite in your sink, you might wanna make sure the firealarm wont go off anywhere in the apartments.

[Edited on 5-2-2004 by IgnorantlyIntelligent]




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[*] posted on 5-2-2004 at 10:51


I don't know what deserts you visit, but the deserts I visit are deserted enough to blow up just about anything. (SE Oregon, E California)
All I ask: please clean up your debris as best you can. Too many people treat the outdoors like a trashcan nowadays.
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