Sorry for the rather short title. This thread on here came originally from the “12angrymenblog” (see our blogroll) some time ago. I don’t mind promoting it again now, because the side of this bolg gets hit by chemistry sets so often.
Apologies; I got called away. Here is a list of chemicals which would once have been common in early, which is to say early/mid-20th-century, chemistry sets.
I remember being able to buy potassium dichromate, in a high street chemist, in Epsom, Surrey, in 1967, for ninepence – not much but I got some, about an ounce or 28 grams, in a little cardboard cylinder with a plastic clip-top. The pharmacist, after informing me that it was a “schedule 2 poison (which I knew anyway, doing A-levels) told me; “now then, careful with that on the bus, sonny!”
I’ve thought of everything that either I found in my first set, or that with hindsight as an experimental young boy, I would have liked. Further suggestions would be welcome, especially from American readers, who I gather in some states are now prevented from owning scientific apparatus and some chemicals, for “terrorist” reasons (is this actually true?)
No particular order of importance:-
Phosphoric acid, flakes.
A “Woods metal” ingot (Bi, Sn, Cd, Pb alloy, melts at 55C)
Potassium permanganate, solid.
Iron oxide powder
Calcium carbide (so cheap once, you couldn’t giv it away.)
Potassium dichromate (or potassium chromate would do.)
Manganese (IV) dioxide
Potassium or sodium nitrate
Mercury (II) Oxide
Aniline (cryptically referred to as “phenylamine” in the trans-planetarily-wierd and outlandish British A-level syllabus…did you know that they have to represent a benzene ring as a single hexagon with a circle inside it?)
Ammonium (V) vanadate or (VI) molybdate
Iron sulphide sticks
Magnesium metal, ribbon
Calcium metal in naphtha
Iron (III) nitrate
A DECENT spirit burner, capable of running about 30 mins or more and with a big wick
Glass rods and tubes, for bending; capillary (1mm) and standard about 3mm bore
A good sharp cork-borer for same
Proper glass test tubes and corks/bungs to fit
Salicylic acid or benzoic acid crystals
Carbon charcoal powder (fine)
A year later aged 16, I was allowed to buy a litre of concentrated sulphuric acid, from Messrs Gallenkamp in North London somewhere, having forced my mother to drive me there. The receptionist was surprised, but I got the stuff. I recall that she was a woman of about 28-32(ish), in a tight pink wool (sort of) mini-skirt and a black top that we would now call a “t-shirt”. Goodness, she must be about 70 now…wonder if she remembers the strange boy who wanted REAL chemicals in 500g and 1-Kg lots, and apparatus (and who did the paying) and his stranger mother? (And, re t-shirts, Che Guevara WAS a murderer, and no, your T-shirt is EVEN LESS COOL than it was last year. So take it off, burn it, and get a proper one with Bush on it, looking dreamily off-camera somewhere. Towards Venezeuela if you like. Pretty girls there.)