The Alchemy web site on

John Reid's Course on Practical Alchemy - II. Chapter 1.

Back to main page of Course.

Chapter 1
Lab Equipment Needed

Let us move now onto the Practical Applications of the information presented in part one. First, we will need to outfit our laboratory with the proper materials and equipment, The following are lists of supplies, materials, and equipment you will need to do all the experiments in this book.

Supplies     Quantity     Approximate Price

Coffee Filter Paper       3 Pkgs      $5.00
Cotton Balls              1 Pkg       $2.00
Kimwipes                  1 box       $5.00
Labels                    100        $10.00
Notebook                  1           $2.00
Parafilm                  1          $20.00
Plastic Spoons            1 pkg       $3.00
Stop Cock Grease          1oz        $20.00
Total Supplies                                         $67.00

Materials     Quantity     Approximate Price

1 Quart Amber Bottle/Cap          12       $40.00
5 Quart Corning Glass Pot         1        $20.00
Clamps & Stands                   4       $150.00
Coors Porcelain Crucibles 100ml   24      $150.00
Faucet Adapter                    1        $30.00
Funnels Assorted Sizes            4         $5.00
Glass Stir Rods                   3        $20.00
Graduated Glass beakers           4        $50.00
Mason Jars                        24       $20.00
Plastic Tubing                    30 feet  $20.00
Pyrometer (thermometer for kiln)  1        $50.00
Sand                                       free    
Stainless Steal Screwdriver       1         $7.00
Thermometer Distilling 150° C     2        $30.00
Universal Thermometer Adapter     1        $30.00
Materials Total                                        $622.00
Equipment     Quantity     Approximate Price

Adapter Bent Distillation 24/40         2     $60.00
Adapter Connecting 24/40                2     $60.00
Adapter Distillation 24/40              1     $60.00
Adapter 24/40 Top, 75/50 Bottom         2     $60.00
Condenser Lieber 24/40 Joints           2    $120.00
Condenser Reflux 24/40 Joints           2    $120.00
Double Joint Expansion Bulb
24/40 Bottom, 75/50 top                 2    $200.00
Erlenmeyer Flask 2000ml 24/40 Top       4     $80.00
Food Processor                          1     $35.00
Funnel Separatory                       1     $60.00
Kiln                                    1    $200.00
Large Back Heating Pad with Thermostat  1     $20.00
Large Styrofoam Container               1     $15.00
Mortar & Pestle                         2     $30.00
Round Bottom Flask 2000ml 24/40 Top     4     $80.00
Round Bottom Flask 5000ml 75/50 Top     1     $70.00
Portable Electric Stove                 2     $40.00
Soxhlet Extractor Complete 300ml        1    $200.00
Triple Beam Balance                     1    $150.00
Misc                                        $1000.00
Equipment Total                                        $1760.00

Grand total                                            $2449.00
When you buy your items for the lab, things like the bottles, tongs, food processor, electric stovetop, filterpaper, kimwipes, etc., can be purchased from your local hardware store. The prices at the hardware store are a lot cheaper than those at the laboratory/chemical supply store. If you live near water you can generally get sand off the beach for free, or else you can buy it cheaply from a pool supply house. The crucibles need not be Coor's porcelain kind, which are very good but expensive. I have found that the Corning Pyrex muffin forms work very well in the kiln, as long as the temperature does not exceed 600°C. The plastic tubing can generally be bought at a pet store. For your glassware purchases, here are two scientific glassware manufacturers, who can customize your glassware to fit any specifications: Kontes Glassware, P.O. Box 729, Vineland N.J. 08360 (609) 692 - 8500; and Reliance Glass, P.O. Box 825, Bensenville IL 60106, (708) 766 - 1816

The list of materials and equipment on the preceding page is pretty comprehensive. I have listed only those things that I have found to be utterly necessary in my day-to-day operations in the laboratory. Each individual will of course add to this list as they improvise and come up with their own procedures. Because many flasks have been broken, I also suggest that you have at least four extra of those that are used most often. The most aggravating thing that can happen is not to be able to continue with the experiment because you broke your one and only flask. One can also collect a nice assortment of pots and pans of all different sizes from the local Salvation Army thrift store; they make great water and sand baths.

You should, of course have a water supply in the laboratory where the work is taking place. You should also have access to electricity.

Let me warn you that this work is not without risk, though the dangers stem from ignorance on the operator's part rather than nature's. Therefore, go slowly; patience ought to be the motto of every aspiring alchemist. I can remember clearly how when starting in the lab, immediate results were desired. One night in particular I had been working very late, it must of been two or three in the morning. The spirits of wine had gone through five rectifications already. I had been filling the distillation flask two-thirds of the way all night. This was a big no-no, but I was so tired. To make a long story short, my fractionating column launched off the distillation flask as if it were a rocket. A beautiful blue arching flame etched out the fractionating column,s trail through the air. The ceiling of my lab as well as my first six months worth of notes caught fire. I was able to save the lab but the notes are in the ether now. Patience, therefore, is the prime watchword. These few hints, if heeded, will help you.

1) Distill slowly and fill your distillation flask at least one-third but no more than one-half full.

2) Never distill to total dryness; your flask may break because of the heat.

3) When distilling alcohol from wine use a water bath. Never use an open flame or bare electric element to distill any flammable liquid.

4) Keep a fire extinguisher rated for putting out electrical, grease, and alcohol fires near by.

5) Always keep notes. Never trust anything to memory. I have lost much time and money trying to figure out what I was sure would never be forgotten.

6) ALWAYS! ALWAYS! WEAR PROTECTIVE EYEWARE. Also a lab coat and protective gloves are good.

7) When handling any caustic substance be sure you can get plenty of cool running water fast in case of a spill onto yourself.

8) While no formal schooling is necessary to do this work, it sure does not hurt to have it either. A first year college course in chemistry is excellent to familiarize one with the uses of glassware.