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Heirloom Chemistry Set (kickstarter.com)
346 points by fr0sty on Nov 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 142 comments

As a resident of Kansas City and having visited John's store many times, I can tell you that this guys is amazing. He does hands on classes for kids (minimum age 7) on chemistry, archaeology, botany, geology, robotics/ electronics, wood working, etc. Just like this kit; he doesn't dumb down anything.

I turn into a kid every time I go into his store.

Indeed; I tend not to find too many kickstarter projects that I'm interested in, but as I continued to read this one I continued to be impressed. John obviously has a gift for bringing sciences to the masses.

My favorite is the "spitfire kit": "Each kit will allow users to kindle a ...fire... by using two chemicals and a drop of spit."


I'm in Kansas City too, I'll have to stop by!

I wish I lived near enough to visit. Very inspiring story.

I see a lot of reactionism on this thread regarding "kids and chemistry sets". I agree but disagree. With the right supervision, it's awesome. The latter is key.

I had multiple chemistry sets and am not dead and have all my fingers. In fact I was always, with the aid of reference books, mixing various things together purchased from every day shops, purchasing piles of fireworks and doing things frowned upon.

At my secondary school in the early 1990's we were allowed to help ourselves to stuff in the chemical larder as long as we told them what it was for and did the lab safety test first. It was stuffed full of small chunks of Uranium, sodium (under oil) and all sorts of nasty shit that could easily kill you without much notice.

Inevitably we passed that as too dangerous and proceeded to stock up on fumic nitric acid, formaldehyde and ammonia. This was done with supervision.

About two hours later, in a fume cupboard, we had 50g of RDX (C4 precursor) which was considerably more dangerous than the above. We carried this in a metal flask on a public bus to local GSK labs where they did NMR spectroscopy on it. People were interested and quite helpful there. Then we took it to the school field and blew 10g of it up with a magnesium taper. The rest was disposed of by the lab techns (probably by doing the same because they were slightly nuts).

We extracted Aspirin from willow, made RDX, various plastics, thermite, did glasswork, extracted our own DNA, made fireworks and countless other things I can't remember now that were cool.

Now we would be branded terrorists.

Chemistry was awesome and no one was hurt. My understanding for the universe from a physics and chemistry perspective is pretty good due to this.

I would buy this chemistry set in a second.

The kids who grew up with this kind of chemistry sets in the 1920s to 1960s were the kids who grew up to be the scientists and engineers who built the internet, landed on the moon and split the atom.

When I was a kid, as a part of my education I learned how to use a band saw, did chemistry experiments and learned how to weld with MIG and solder with an oxy-acetylene flame, even do some radioactive experiments. Yes, there was adult supervision but only one adult per 15-20 kids.

This was less than 15 years ago, and during that time we've seen a huge shift in the mentality. One lost thumb was deemed acceptable if the rest of the kids learned how to use the band saw. These days kids live their sheltered lives and are not exposed to dangerous situation they have to learn to deal with.

Technology is getting more, not less, complicated and learning to deal with the basics - like chemistry, electricity and radioactivity - at an early age will become more important, not less.

The world out there is dangerous in many ways, learning to manage risks and deal responsibly with dangerous materials and tools is an invaluable skill.

PS. I, too, would like to have this chemistry set but unfortunately they can't ship it outside the US.

I recall lighting the dinning room table on fire with one of these. Yet... I too still have all my fingers. Luckily my grandmother was over that day to put out the fire before the house burned. Supervision is a good idea.

At the age of 8, my grandmother gave me a box of matches, some newspaper and told me to play in the garden. Shortly afterwards her shed and fence were well on their way to being no more and I knew how quickly fire spread. Couldn't agree more.

I want to go to your school. Will they take a 45-year-old?

As a synthetic chemist, it really surprised me to see carbon tetrachloride featured prominently in one of the pictures on kickstarter. The use of this chemical is essentially nonexistent anymore due to its toxicity, carcinogenic properties, and danger to the environment. I'm all for letting kids learn with all manner of chemicals, but why bother with one that both academia and industry have essentially deprecated?

Agreed. Carbon tetrachloride is commonly used to induce liver injury because it does it so reliably.

Also, it's expensive as hell now due to the ozone-depleting regulations. Last I saw it was over $100/L.

The rest of the chemicals look pretty innocuous [1]. The KMnO4 has some hazards associated with it, but the risk isn't that high.


I think it's because they are being completist, including all of the chemicals from the original A. C. Gilbert chemistry set from the 1930s (plus a few extras that they think are particularly useful). If you take out carbon tetrachloride, where do you stop? Lots of these are considered unsafe, and are well labelled as being poisonous.

You should raise this issue to the guy doing this kickstarter project, and not only comment about it in HN. In fact, I will email him if you don't do it. I would rather you (or an other chemist) do it as you probably know much more about this than me, and can maybe suggest an alternative.

The only thing I saw that would be of any interest is reproducing the Appel reaction. I agree with you, not necessary. I wonder if the inventor is including this simply because it more closely mimics the legacy chemistry sets. You know, for collectors.

Yeah, I think he wants to reproduce the original kit as closely as possible, even if some chemicals have been discarded in modern uses.

If one weren't going for nostalgia, what chemicals would one put in a modern chemistry kit?

It would probably look a heck of a lot like a Thames and Kosmos product.

The thing about chemistry, is people who aren't chemists think its all about randomly mixing solutions, so the more chemicals the better.

The actual metric for doing interesting reactions is the number of tools, measurement devices, and apparatus you have. The actual chemicals are almost secondary.

I really enjoyed my undergrad quant class. So a "kit" that would entertain me would involve a ridiculously precision balance / scale, and a spectrophotometer, and a chemistry desiccant / dehydrator vessel thingy and several burettes and graduated cylinders. And the usual array of glassware. Vacuum sep funnel, distillation set, that kind of thing. Oh and I got a huge kick out of electrochemical machinery, I mean at least a precision pH meter but more advanced stuff would be cool. I'm not asking for an NMR or a FTIR spectrometer but who knows what a devoted makerspace could pull off.

Given that kind of gear listed above, I could find chemicals laying around a perfectly normal kitchen or basement to entertain me.

Number and type of chemical is a bad metric. Its like saying the best CPU to program on is the one with the largest instruction set, so a IBM360 is precisely exactly 9.1244 times "better" than a PDP-8. Well it just doesn't work that way. On the other hand a metric of tools and apparatus actually is a pretty good metric.

You're right, it actually may be more fun and interesting to provide you with all of the tools, and instructions on how to use those plus various common household substances to produce the chemicals that you need. Perhaps along with a few samples that are either impossible, difficult, or dangerous to produce yourself, but are useful for various reactions (since I haven't touched chemistry since junior year in high school, I don't necessarily know which those would be).

How much of that is realistic for including in a set designed for beginners who have zero to little formal chemistry experience though and have a budget in line with that.

I see you're getting my point that sets designed for beginners are not teaching chemistry.

Its like giving a kid who wants to be a chef an easy bake oven and some prepak mixes. It technically involves cooking, so ...

Or giving a kid who wants to learn about computers an ipod. It does have a CPU inside, doesn't it?

I basically listed what I remember of my lab drawer contents from undergrad quant class. I could see having a lot of fun with less stuff.

Another aspect of hacking / startup / makerspace type activities is making a moderately crude instrument. For example a spectrophotometer with bad but usable specs could probably be made as an arduino shield using a light tight box, an incandescent bulb, a log converter feeding the A/D of the arduino, and a glass prism sitting on a servo controlled by the arduino. And some software.

Or instead of burrets, a digital model using a syringe (no needle needed) and a screw and nut hooked up to a stepper motor driven by arduino. So given a syringe of 1M vinegar or whatever you can squirt out any precision volume.

A PH meter shield for an arduino sounds too simple and obvious to even mention. There are more elaborate potentiometer systems where you measure the voltage required to shove a certain current thru a solution and so forth, stuff I don't remember as well.

As far as budget goes, I don't think you can do "real" chemistry without at least a decent scale and some kind of volumetric measurement tool (a grad cylinder if nothing else? A set of volumetric flasks?)

If you insist on "chemistry without numbers" you may as well just mix different colors of kool aide powder for all you'll learn.

But the idea isn't to teach kids chemistry - it's to get the kids interested in chemistry.

I was given something very similar to this as a kid: http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-MX-907-200-Electronic-Project/d... (in fact, I think it was that, 20 years ago!)

It didn't teach me anything about electronics, I was too young to really grasp what I was doing. It taught me that with sufficient knowledge you can make something out of individually useless bits of electronics.

You're right to be more demanding of your undergrad quant class but this might be just the thing to get your 8 year old niece/nephew interested in science.

And now we've closed the loop on the original debate that kids can't have dangerous chemicals, if they're not going to learn the difference anyway, may as well use perfume instead of carbon tet and koolade powder instead of chromium compounds.

That isn't how it works.

The Kosmos chemistry kits in the late 1960's were awesome. Shoot, I had a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

I think it's would be mostly the same with just a couple substitution. Even though some of the chemicals aren't used anymore and are considered harmful overall that doesn't mean they don't belong in a chemistry set for learning purposes.

I'm just thinking of the first time I saw a piece of sodium dropped in water. So I can imagine that just because its a waste at the professional and real world level doesn't mean it's necessarily a waste at the toy level.

But as for this specific chemical I have no idea if this is true about it or not.

"a piece of magnesium dropped in water"

You probably mean sodium for the first, or vinegar for the second. Although neither are harmful the way carbon tet is.

As far as letting noobs play with dangerous stuff for training (or maybe Darwinian selection?) thinking back to my undergrad years the worst stuff we messed with for training purposes was various ionization states of chromium, lead, and mercury. We did at least have multiple marked hazmat buckets, didn't just flush down the drain. That was a long time ago and that kind of stuff might not be acceptable labwork in 2013.

If you ever get to work with aqueous chromium some of the ionization states are beautiful. Incredibly toxic, sure, but you can see why people wanted to use them in paints.

Carbon tet isn't that bad. For generations, it was in everything from refrigerators to cleaning supplies, and we all came out OK.

The big risks come when you huff it, which people used to do because it gives you a high. It just also happens to melt your liver.

But if your standard for danger is "unsafe when huffed", then most things in this set are pretty nasty. It's all a matter of perspective.

You make a good point, but there is a faint odor of survivorship bias in "we all came out OK".

It's a decent solvent.

Growing up in the '80s as a chemistry nutcase, I did quite a few experiments with CCl4. My liver is still alive and kicking. :)

What would the carbon tet even be used for? I can't think of a time when I ever used it during my chemisty degree, so for most things it could probably be replaced with another more sensible solvent.

For one thing: It was sold as a fire extinguisher agent both in pressurize-able canisters, and in glass bulbs as "fire grenades" and to be hung from the ceiling by lead or babbit fuses.



Yup. As lovable as John is and how cool the product seems at first... The truth is that the business model is extremely vulnerable on many fronts including: liability, copy-ability and efficient manufacturing.

The first suburbanite kid that may choose any of these fun adventures including: building a bomb, burns down the house with thermite or just turns their parents backyard into a superfund site will have their lawyers put John throughly out of business with legal costs and damages that no one will ever offer this kind of product again. [1] And that is before the CSPC decides which wheel of punishment to spin today.

And, I don't see a fume hood; or solid and liquid waste disposal instructions.

The next point is I don't hear about any design patents, so Joe's Evil Scientist Chemistry Set could be produced. Even if someone doesn't personally believe in patents, they still exist and are very much enforced.

If John gets thousands of orders how, when and where take on all the growing pains, not just cutting out panels. Unless John is an industrial process engineering genius, Asian manufacturers could do this for 1/10 of cost and in 1/5 the time.

Conclusion: All the best. Good luck, John.

[1] http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/issues/2007/december/thech...

I don't think an ounce of carbon tetrachloride is going to turn anyone's back yard into a Superfund site.

And if you understand what he's trying to do here, you'd understand that for other people to duplicate his effort would be seen as success.

>If John gets thousands of orders how, when and where take on all the growing pains, not just cutting out panels. Unless John is an industrial process engineering genius, Asian manufacturers could do this for 1/10 of cost and in 1/5 the time.

If the point isn't to strike it rich, but rather to spread knowledge; John might consider that a quite satisfactory result.

Why does he need to have a "business model"? This isn't a startup. This appears to be essentially a hobby business; something that can be sustainable for a single person and maybe a few employees but not something that can scale considerably. By using CNC routing to cut out the boxes, it can scale beyond what he could cut by hand, and thus he can offer a Kickstarter, but this doesn't really appear to be something that he's intending to scale up beyond the Kickstarter, just a way for him to be able to sell some of his sets to people who wouldn't be able to go there in person and buy them directly from him.

The liability concern is greater. He can personally talk to those who walk into his store about safety; less so those who order this over the internet. No one is going to be building a bomb however; all of these samples are in quantities of 30 ml or less. That's less than the 3 liquid ounces you're allowed to bring on a plane, and that limit was set because you can't actually build anything all that destructive with only a few ounces of material.

I'm not sure how you are determining that there are no solid or liquid disposal instructions; did he post the contents of everything that will be included?

Who cares about patents here? He's shipping a chemistry set that is identical to one from 1936, plus a couple more that he thinks are useful. How are you going to patent that? It's just a collection of chemicals, and an instruction manual. The patents on producing all of these materials have long since expired. There's nothing patentable here.

And sure, other manufacturers could do this for a fraction of what he's doing. As you point out, there is some liability concern; liability concerns are greater for a larger manufacturer than for him, doing this as part of his hobby business, merely because they are a bigger target. Asian manufacturers would probably have a hell of a time getting this past customs. And again, who cares? If someone else produces an awesome chemistry set, great! The whole point is to teach about chemistry, and get kids engaged by allowing them to experiment and explore rather than swaddling them and protecting them. The point is not to get rich. Despite what you may think reading about lots of startups on Hacker News, some people just desire to do a good job, not to build a scalable business that makes them filthy rich.

So, the two main concerns I see are liability, and his ability to scale if the Kickstarter is wildly more popular than he anticipated. Even if CNC machining the case cuts down on a lot of the labor, assembly and finishing will take time. However, I don't see this as being particularly more risky than the average Kickstarter; in this case, he's already been making these for a while for sale in person, so it's far past the prototype stage that many products do a Kickstarter at.

I don't understand the liability issue. He isn't selling it as a toy, it is a science kit. Anyone can walk into any store and buy stuff that is dangerous if ingested or misused... cleaning supplies, cooking knives, etc.

Parents should be responsible for teaching their children how to work with dangerous things that we encounter every day in a safe way. The chemistry set should be used to teach science. I don't see the issue, but I guess I'm not surprised in our litigation happy society.

and this whole time I thought it was deprecated because it allows you to cheat with yield since it's undetectable on 1H NMRs.

... I totally read "Carbon Tetrafluoride" and was really confused for a second since CF4 is awesome.

I'd always heard that children's chemistry sets got increasingly dumbed down because of a combination of direct regulation of common chemicals, under the rubric of both the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, and fear of tort liability.

Is that not the case?

The image shows sulfuric acid right up front. I can't imagine why they no longer sell those to kids.

However, if you think about it then as long as you provide the proper MSDS data-sheets and get the right waivers signed, providing a one-stop-shop chemistry set for educators/parents makes perfect sense.

It's 1.0M sulfuric acid. Much less dangerous than the concentrated stuff.

For a point of reference, a charged car battery's acid is about 4 times as concentrated, and there's a lot more of it.

But that's not a safe reference point is it? Should kids be allowed to handle the acid in a car battery?

My feelings about that are mixed.

On one hand, I try myself to avoid car battery acid as much as possible. It's legitimately nasty stuff, housed in a device where common use can lead to explosive venting of the battery's contents.

On the other hand, knowing enough about the acid to develop a healthy respect for it is vital to just about everyone in the US. Almost no one I know does jump starts correctly, and a starter battery explosion can permanently blind people.

Everyone ought to learn how to deal with things that are everywhere that can kill or permanently disable someone. Lead-acid batteries are everywhere, including children's toys. Knowing how to deal with them is vital knowledge in this society.

Is there some particular way I should be jumping a car? I only do it every few years -- and normally end up referring to the manual in the glovebox. Am I missing something?

Yes. You should make the connections in this order: 1) dead battery, positive terminal 2) live battery, positive terminal 3) live battery, negative terminal 4) dead car, unpainted steel on engine block bolt/alternator housing/chassis/etc, as far from battery as practical. This works because the negative terminal of the battery is the chassis ground anyway.

When disconnecting, break the connections in reverse order.

Lead-acid batteries release hydrogen during discharge (and may vent it if the discharge is rapid), or from overcharging (water can electrolyze). So the live battery is likely releasing some, and the dead battery might be if it's actually damaged and not charging properly.

So making the final, sparking connection (or first disconnection) is safest using the negative/ground wire (no potential), on the dead vehicle (avoiding the definitely-discharging live battery), and some distance away from the dead battery (mostly aviding the possibly-outgassing dead battery). This minimizes your chance of the spark igniting a cloud of hydrogen gas and getting a fireball.

And now that you know why the order is what it is, you'll probably be able to remember it :-)

No, the manual should be correct.

The key is to attach the last negative clamp not to the car's negative battery post, but to a grounded metal object away from the battery. This prevents sparking near the battery that can ignite hydrogen around the battery and cause it to burst.

The sulfuric acid I provide in the kit is only 1.0 M (= 2.0 N). And the quantity is less than 1 fluid ounce.

And Carbon Tetra-chloride! I'm not sure why I would want it, but I know I am going to have it. Do want.

That's a very dangerous chemical. I'm not sure i'd want a kid having access to it. I don't think I'd want it in my house. I have no problem with 1 molar sulfuric acid.

What's so dangerous about an ounce of it? They used to make fire extinguishers out of glass bulbs of the stuff.

Yeah, but the lack of chlorine trifluoride is a deal breaker. ;/


Ooh, that's fun:

"The ability to surpass the oxidizing ability of oxygen leads to extreme corrosivity against oxide-containing materials often thought as incombustible. Chlorine trifluoride and gases like it have been reported to ignite sand, asbestos, and other highly fire-retardant materials."

"Exposure of larger amounts of chlorine trifluoride, as a liquid or as a gas, ignites tissue. The hydrolysis reaction with water is violent and exposure results in a thermal burn. The products of hydrolysis are mainly hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid, usually released as steam or vapor due to the highly exothermic nature of the reaction."

HF scares the willies out of me, and this stuff burns you and then turns into HF. Lovely!

"Handling concerns, however, prevented its use. John D. Clark summarized the difficulties:"

"It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that's the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water — with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals — steel, copper, aluminum, etc. — because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminum keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes."

If you enjoy that sort of thing, check out "Things I Won't Work With" by Derek Lowe: http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/things_i_wont_work_with...

The FOOF entry is always amusing.

There's a new one! I absolutely love this set of posts, haven't seen something added in ages.

Any of the chemicals in the Heirloom Chemistry Set can be switched, before shipment, for any other. While carbon tetrachloride can be dangerous in large quantities and with long-term exposure if properly storage and used it can be as safe as any other chemical. No chemical is entirely safe if handled in an unsafe manner. All of the chemicals have QR codes on their labels that take smartphone users directly to each chemical's Safety Date Sheet.

Does the kit contain Methylamine? Red Phosphorus? Ergot alkaloids by chance?

PDF pp 2-3:


Any bio&|chem know what's likely to do singe eyebrows or suffocate?

Well potassium nitrate is a pretty strong oxidiser. Mill it with a pestle+mortar and mix it with icing sugar 1:1 by mass. Put 30-40g on some alu foil.

Setting fire to that will produce crap loads of smoke very quickly. I filled my entire garden up with smoke with one of them a couple of years ago.

Sure there are more in that list but that strikes me as the most obvious.

I was a chemistry nutcase in high school, and even I would draw the line at ergot.

I love rhetorical questions! No, no and no.

> The image shows sulfuric acid right up front.

It also has sodium hydroxide, which is nastier (imo) than sulfuric acid.

You can buy nearly pure sodium hydroxide crystals in large canisters from the supermarket.

Well, you could a few years ago. I haven't seen in on shelves in my area for some time. It is still easy to come by at stores that sell soap making supplies, and bio-diesel making supplies.

I see Caustic soda and sodium hydroxide quite often.

I don't see borax. I'm in the UK, and I think there's some cancer concern about it.

Yeah, the sulfuric acid was just the first thing I noticed. Looking around that same picture shows a plethora of chemicals that can do nightmarish things to the human body.

Most chemicals can do nightmarish things to the human body. It depends on the dosage.

(Heck, even human bodies do nightmarish things to other human bodies.)

That's true, and this set is probably not going to be used by idiots.

I have a strong reaction to sodium hydroxide because I've seen the results of burns with it.

Even plain old water can easily kill you.

Correct! The worst is hydrogen monoxide poisoning!

> Is that not the case?

It is the case, and is the reason this set is put together.

Here's a BBC article on the subject: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19050342

So wouldn't all of those reasons also apply to this chemistry set as well? What is it about this one that would mitigate the same concerns as applied to other sets?

That's the whole point of this set it to allow you to do the "dangerous" (read: interesting) experiments. None of it is illegal, but it just discards the last 50 years of increasing concern for allowing children to do dangerous things.

So yes it's a risk and it can be used to make illegal/dangerous substances, but none of it is illegal, just risky.

Just major companies don't want to take on the kind of risk that comes with it. Whereas boutique shops have a lot more freedom because they're selling to self selecting audiences, which (generally) understand they're taking on additional risks with the increased benefits.

Whereas boutique shops have a lot more freedom because they're selling to self selecting audiences, which (generally) understand they're taking on additional risks with the increased benefits.

They may take advantage of having the same freedoms that larger companies just don't exercise, but the idea that their audience is "self-selecting" likely won't hold up or protect them from the kind of litigation that means this is (in practice) a bad idea (from a business survival standpoint).

I see the set as a good thing, but I don't think saying they're protected in any way or that the concerns of larger companies don't apply is accurate.

The guy with the Kickstarter runs a science supply shop/museum called the "H. M. S. Beagle," in Kansas City. He's already no stranger to risk.

I need to do some more research to make sure I'm not supporting some sort of kook, but I like what I've read about him (and from him) so far. If he checks out at face value I'll participate in his Kickstarter at a higher-than-strictly-necessary level, just to support what he's doing.

I've met the guy; he's legit. My wife and I stop by every time we visit KC because it's such a neat shop. I've looked for a store like his in the NYC area without success.

That's exactly my point. Won't help them in the slightest, but they're willing to do it anyway and I applaud them for it.

They aren't as attractive a target for lawsuits because of their size.

Well, every major shop sells knives which will mess you up and you shouldn't let kids play with unattended without some training.

I don't see why the chemicals are such a big deal. Should be an opportunity to teach responsibility.

I don't think it was ever made illegal to have or sell these things, just very inconvenient to sell them.

I went to college not far from that shop and I shared a class with a former local police officer. We were discussing meth production (I can't remember how the topic casually came up in a Spanish class) and he said the cops almost always have people stationed outside the store. They are quite aware the place sells all of the needed equipment and some of the materials necessary for making meth.

I doubt the veracity of your classmates statement. Besides, laboratory equipment of all sizes and shapes are now sold through national hardware chains.

Unfortunately he's probably spot-on. In Texas, the glassware itself is illegal to own without registering it with the state Department of Public Safety.

Market shrunk, consider all the fun things kids could be doing instead of chemistry? In the 1950s there were no video games or computers. Now we live in the future.

Well it certainly does make some useful chemicals annoying to get.

> it needs to be noted that some states do frown on its citizens owning chemical glassware.

Excuse me? Glassware?

Yes. Texas requires you to have a permit to buy laboratory glassware, under the assumption that if you don't have a permit, you are going to use it to manufacture meth:


That's Texas style freedom for you!

As a Brit I'm totally baffled that Texas is happy for its citizens to own guns but baulks at them owing beakers…

…baffled and saddened.

Why baffled? Any arguments that you use to prohibit one can just as easily be used to prohibit the other.

When your laws target objects rather than actions, you can't avoid this kind of stupidity.

As an American, I am too.

I just want to make plain old moonshine.

Well, yeah, because clearly (sarcasm) anyone that owns chemical glassware will be using it to cook up meth.

And weighing scales. Same reason - the war on drugs.

Any source for that? I searched and didn't find anything about permits being needed to own weighing scales.

It counts as dealer drug paraphernalia. Along with small zipper-lock bags and glass vials.


It is probably easier to list the things that could not be considered "drug paraphernalia" by overzealous "drug war warriors" or by people actually interested in using drugs. I saw a pretty neat video about an apple and a ballpoint pen on youtube the other day...

It's not illegal to own, but it can be used as supporting evidence that your intent was to distribute drugs vs. use them yourself.

Finally, something "for the children" that I can get behind.

Here is a link to the text of the manual that came with the original sets (warning: Comic Sans):


EDIT: Found a PDF as well:


The full list of chemicals can be found in the final section of that PDF, excluding the 8 additional mentioned in the Kickstarter.

Ah, good. Sulphur, Charcoal and Potassium Nitrate -- the essentials!

"Chemistry for Boys" pg. 3. Old school indeed.

Page 46 reads : "It was not until the last World War that poisonous gases were demonstrated to be an important factor in modern military science."

It feels strange to be reading something like that in 2013.

Maybe I'm part of the problem, but I wouldn't let a kid to play with fully equipped chemistry set without supervision any more than I would let him/her play with loaded gun without supervision. Of course I also think that both activities are fine under supervision.

Anyways, I really really hope that anyone buying this for a kid is also prepared to spend time with the kid.

I agree, unless they're older, but I think that's half the point too. Doing something worthwhile with your kids.

That said I'm getting this for me.

Sometimes you have to let kids shoot themselves in the foot. It teaches character.

As long as you are talking metaphorically, yes, I agree.

But there is a certain amount of danger that they'd better avoid. And, the best way to avoid danger is by learning the safety procedures. That kit could be used to make the world much safer (and more interesting) for them, but one can't just give the kit to kids, and letting them loose.

The problem being that it's not always their own foot that gets shot. Stuff like lack of responsible disposal of projects does not directly impact the aspiring chemist, but can be hazardous for the environment. I doubt poisoning groundwater teaches anyone character.

I hope so too, but I hope that for those not buying the set as well. Seriously, parents should be looking for opportunities to teach responsibility and work with real "stuff".

This is not exactly as dangerous as a loaded gun. More like a kitchen knife, which is dangerous but parents should be teaching their older children how to use safely.

I am pretty sure the set pictured would be illegal in the state of Texas without registering with the state. Maybe these laws have changed in the last decade, but they don't allow all manner of glassware.

Yep, here is the list.

(A) a condenser (B) a distilling apparatus (C) a vacuum drier (D) a three-neck or distilling flask (E) a tableting machine (F) an encapsulating machine (G) a filter, Buchner, or separatory funnel

(H) an Erlenmeyer, two-neck, or single-neck flask (I) a round-bottom, Florence, thermometer, or filtering flask (J) a Soxhlet extractor (K) a transformer (L) a flask heater (M) a heating mantel or (N) an adaptor tube

It sucks telling your kid she can't have a chemistry set because of this nonsense.

Why not just register it then? (Also, he mentions on his website that he's shipped this set to all 50 states in the past)

Wow, I passed through Kansas City a few months ago on a cross-country move and wish I knew about this store (and stopped in). I don't often fund kickstarters, but this one I could get behind –– something about it resonates with me.

I purchased one of these years ago from this shop. It didn't come in a nice case or anything, but it contained great glassware and chemicals. It's stayed with me for years now. This is a great shop, and if you're ever in Parkville, MO (in the KC Metro Area), you should definitely check it out. The owners are very nice, and they're shop is full of wonder things.

I'm confused - he already has a store, already has demand for this product. There are even comments here from people saying they have already bought this set from this guy. Why does he need Kickstarter? He is not asking us to fund development of a new project, he is asking us to fund his supply chain.

He is already making the chemicals but isn't in the business of selling finished kits from his description.

So the difference between making a bunch of bottles of stuff and selling a whole box with various things as shown in the pictures.

I had the "plastic version" as a kid (11 years old)... so much fun! I ran all the experiments more than once, and felt like I was really learning something for the first time.

I had to wait till I got into computer science (at 18, pentium 75 era), to re-experience such a wonderful feeling.

There is a difference between using a chemistry set to learn something about the world through analytics and creation/change of matter, and to play around with it.

I agree with csmuk wholeheartedly that it is the supervision that counts. A chemistry kit can be a great learning tool, but it is not something that should be taken as a toy to play around.

We all play, make mistakes, and learn due to those mistakes. But with chemistry those mistakes could show in the form of a hospital visit, chemical pollution, or long term poisoning. I had the fortune to survive an explosion in a lab unscathed, and I will not forget the day I saw my collegue burn 2 meters from me.

Proper training in chemistry is important for reasons of safety and for scientific understanding and reasoning. But let us face it, most people do not like chemistry at all in school. But blowing stuff up and making drugs a la Breaking Bad is cool. When I read the words RDX, CCl4, conc. H2SO4, Methylamine - a bit of TiCl4 perhaps - etc in this thread I imagine the kid with sparks in his eyes who wants to blow stuff up on new years eve.

So, how can one include proper attitude towards the materials inside this Chemistry Set without proper supervision?

I saw this vintage chemistry set at an antique store in Bisbee, AZ. It includes a booklet called "Senior Chemcraft Experiment Book -- Instructive and Fascinating Chemical Experiments -- The Porter Chemical Company, Hagerstown, Maryland" and something labelled "Bryan Chemical Illustrators -- An Exclusive Chemcraft Feature".

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5477/10826914195_23dc191246_h.... http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5471/10826917855_dfe388f77c_h.... http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5478/10826957096_a0eec5199e_h....

I recall thinking how fun it would be to have that set, as well as how risky it could be. I probably should've bought it.

Oh man, this is rather tempting.

I took the plunge. This is a once in a lifetime chance for me. I've never seen a chemistry set I've actually been interested in before now (that's in production).

Especially the Baltic plywood box set, however the $900 Kickstarter pledge for that seems a bit steep.

I am SO tempted...

Wow - I love this, love both the aims of this project and the look of the finished product. Fantastic stuff!

Can't wait to see one of these recreated next:


The United Nuclear guys could put something like that together. Maybe they'll follow this fellow's example, since it looks like his Kickstarter effort is being well received.

This is the chemistry set I've always wished I could find. Growing up I had a huge interest in chemistry, but never got a chance to play with it at all.

Feelings of nostalgia are frequently observed in subjects discussing chemistry sets, however this observation may be subject to survivorship bias...

True, the millions of children killed by chemistry sets don't live to tell...

I just can't help but comment on carbon tetrachloride mentioned below. It has NOT been used in fire extinguishers or any other consumer use for decades. It is one of the chemicals specifically banned for consumer use by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. There are a number if issues with this kit that are likely to be a big deal someday for this company.

Can anyone fill me in on what he is likely using for this: "a "Spit Fire, Save Matches" kit. Each kit will allow users to kindle a minimum of 10 campfires, fireplace fires, or charcoal pits by using two chemicals and a drop of spit." (at the $45 reward level)

inches... the box dimensions are given in inches...

Only ships to the United States, sadly for me and my son.

I'm sure shipping these chemicals internationally is a nightmare.

I would order this in a second if it was available in South Africa

This is so nicely packaged. I am definitely going to snag one up for the sake of curiosity

This is so amazing, but probably dangerous.

is mercury included?

He sells mercury on his site.

Our project's greatest challenge has been producing the actual sets' boxes exactly to my specifications.

This sentence really rubs me the wrong way. It says to me that they really do not think about the possible consequences of distributing these to unsupervised kids. It's the "I just gave him the gun/alcohol, what he did after that is not my problem" point of view.

I'm not saying that all kids shouldn't have access to fully-loaded chemistry sets, but chemicals should be distributed with forethought, and this guy is clearly not thinking about what harm the chemicals can do. (He's thinking about how to design a nice case.)

I think you misinterpreted that section. It's a section all kickstarter campaigns have. Eg video game campaigns don't talk about the dangers of playing video games, they talk about the risks of the not shipping..

He's run a shop selling similar kits for years, I think he's got this covered pretty well already.

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