Where do I get my chemicals and glassware?
(Oct. 12, 2017)
Let’s start off by talking about my glassware.
The first piece of lab glassware that I ever bought was from Ebay. It was a Chinese made complete distillation kit for $80 CAD. Initially, I was a little skeptical about the quality, but it turned out to be great. From then on, I started using Ebay as my main source of glassware, sometimes using AliExpress.
About a year after this, I started working in an organic chemistry lab. This lab allowed me to take home any glassware that was chipped or damaged. I looked up some tutorials on how to fix them and I was able to salvage a whole ton of beakers, grad. cylinders, erlenmeyers, etc. On top of this, they also gave me glassware that they didn’t need and were going to throw out anyway. This included condensers, round bottoms, and much more. This is how I got most of my “brand name” glassware. After working there for almost a year, I was pretty much set on glassware and I had to stop accepting the donations.
Over the next few years, I would occasionally need to buy specialized glassware or replace something that I broke. Every time, I just hopped onto Ebay. I would say to just look for sellers with good feedback and reputation and make sure that it’s 3.3 borosilicate glass.
If you look at my Mercury Distillation video, the entire setup was made from Chinese glassware. This is probably one of the most intense things that the glassware would ever have to be put through (high temp and vacuum) and it performed very well.
Now for the chemicals.
Again, I use Ebay for most of my chemicals. It is really a surprisingly good resource. You can find a lot of obscure and useful stuff there.
Now, where do I get my “harder” to get things? Well, for a long time had a seller on Ebay who would sell me things outside of Ebay. This way, he could sell chemicals that Ebay might not allow (nothing illegal). I was able to get large amounts of things like aniline, phenol, etc. One day though, he disappeared from Ebay so I lost contact. I think they might’ve caught on to his sketchy activities.
I went for several months having to either make everything myself, or scouring the internet for it. Luckily though, I eventually met another chemical supplier and now I can get chemicals from places like Sigma. Although it is not much more expensive. I still make most of the chemicals myself though.
Anyway, that’s about it. The average person won’t be able to just find a chemical supplier, but I would say that for most projects, Ebay and local pharmacies are good enough. Sourcing out chemicals from online and local sources is a skill and you get better and better the more you do it.
Getting started with your own projects
(Oct. 12, 2017)
Over the years, I’ve received a lot of questions from viewers about how to get started with experiments and science projects at home. A lot of people seem to think that you need to drop a lot of money and buy a huge array of tools and supplies.
Every time though, my advice is the same. You just need to choose something that interests you and focus on that. If you want to extract capsaicinoids from chili peppers, then do that. Or maybe you want to make some “instant ice” (sodium acetate). I would recommend starting with something that only requires over-the-counter chemicals and easy to get equipment.
Once you have your project in mind, you just need to figure out everything that you need. You don’t even need to get proper glassware in the beginning. I remember using various kitchen supplies and cups. Then, you can get to work and have fun!
When you’re done, you’ll have both more experience and you will have started your chemical and equipment collection. From then on, you can just keep working on things that interest you.
The only thing that I have to emphasize though, is proper safety and waste disposal. Doing science at home like this takes responsibility and this should not be taken lightly. Many chemicals are quite dangerous and small mistakes, like getting in your eye, can be extremely costly. Always wear at minimum some safety glasses and gloves. Depending on the project, a lab coat might be needed as well.
On top of this, most waste cannot be poured down the drain. It can be highly damaging to wildlife and the environment in general. It must be stored and disposed of properly. It is an unfortunate downside to this hobby, but it is something that must be taken seriously!