Help Crowdfund an Heirloom Chemistry Set


John Farrell Kuhns got a chemistry set in Christmas of 1959 and it laid the foundation for a career as a research chemist. As an adult he wanted his daughter and nieces and nephews to have the same experience, but came to realize that the beautiful Gilbert Chemistry Set of his youth no longer exists. He and his wife opened their own science store, the H.M.S. Beagle. Building on nine years of operating the Beagle, Kuhns developed a chemistry set that recalls those glory days. He’s crowdfunding the set through Kickstarter with a $175 set offering all 56 chemicals found in the 1936 Gilbert set as well as 8 other chemicals he feels are important. The $225 level also includes glassware, while the $900 level also includes a heirloom-quality wooden box that you can see in the photo.

Eight Hacks from Breaking Bad

Spoiler alert and warning: we know that in this fictional TV series, many of these hacks were used to hurt or kill people; we trust makers to use their powers for good.

That being said, Breaking Bad has featured some ingenious hacks in its five seasons. Here are eight that were particularly memorable. Please scroll through the video slideshow to see the best moments.

What IF…Festival of Innovation and Imagination

Colorado Springs What IF... Festival

Colorado Springs What IF… Festival

Only three days left until the What IF… Festival in Colorado Springs!  Yes, my family and I have been counting down all summer, and finally we are in the home stretch.  Hopefully this post will reach makers in the Colorado Springs area that may, for some reason, not yet know about this special event.  Even if you are a little farther away and can make a day trip—do it, you will be glad you did.

Saturday, Sept. 7 at 10am is when the fun begins. There will be something there for everybody, and it is FREE!  With over 100 interactive experiences, the hardest part will be trying to narrow down which ones to visit.  We have set our sites on the 3D Printers, Slingshot Water Balloon Catapult, Artful Robotic Contraptions, Tesla MagicTinker Station, Clayfest, and Giant Bubble, exhibits, just to name a few.  I can almost hear the joyful squeal from my 2 year old as he tries to make a giant bubble.

Local non-profit, Cool Science, will have a Ping Pong Particle Physics exhibit, which is also a must see for us, and will surely have my older kids saying, “Sic!”.   I could go on and on about all there is to look forward to at the festival, but really every one should experience this first hand.

Just a taste of festival fun

Just a taste of festival fun

For music lovers, or music makers you will not be disappointed.  There will be live music, on four stages, all day long.  You may also want to checkout the Indy Music Awards on Thursday night, and the First Friday Downtown Concert, Friday night for some pre-festival entertainment.

If you are looking for a little exercise, don’t miss the Fun Costume Run.  Or just watch the run to see the many hysterical costumes that will surely provide entertainment of their own.

What IF...

What IF…

Toolsday Hangout on Air, Live and Online Tomorrow at 2pm PST/5pm EST

Tomorrow is Toolsday here at MAKE, so you know what that means – a live Google+ hangout where we will be discussing our favorite tools and workspace essentials. Tune in at 2pm PST/5pm EST on the +MAKE page, or if you’re busy you can catch it later on the MAKE YouTube page.

The main topic of the hangout will be part finishing. We’ll discuss the tools and techniques required to protect and decorate your part with paint, varnish, anodizing, powder coating, and more. If you’d like to make your projects look nice or protect them from the weather and extended use, but don’t know where to start, join us to learn more. Participate by leaving your questions, comments, and opinions on MAKE’s G+ page.

The Chemistry of Snowflakes


The American Chemical Society has a great two-minute video explaining the basic chemistry behind snowflake formation, including how each degree of temperature difference adds to the branches of the flake. Are no two snowflakes really alike? It depends on if we’re talking about big snowflakes or little ones.

On a side note, the incredible snowflake photo above is the work of master snowflake photographer Ken Libbrecht, author of The Art of the Snowflake: A Photographic Album and Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes, both treasured books in my little library. Geek out some more on snow and read more about his special photography rig.

How-To: Glass Klein Bottle

Klein Bottle


Dutch glass crasftman Ramon Vink runs a studio called Poelgeest Glass. Using modern lampworking techniques and tools, he makes scientific apparatus and artistic pieces like this Klein bottle, the forming of which he has documented in a series of five YouTube videos. The videos themselves are pretty raw, with minimal post-production and no narration, but taken altogether they do a good job of documenting not just the general process of forming a Klein bottle from stock glass tube, but the specific tools and skilled manipulations required for each operation. If you were to just watch one of them, I think part 4, in which the interior portion of the bottle’s neck is installed inside the bulb, is probably the most interesting.

Klein Bottle Key Step

  1. Making a Klein Bottle pt 1/5 (bending the neck)
  2. Making a Klein Bottle pt 2/5 (forming the bulb)
  3. Making a Klein Bottle pt 3/5 (bending the interior tube)
  4. Making a Klein Bottle pt 4/5 (attaching the interior tube)
  5. Making a Klein Bottle pt 5/5 (attaching the neck)

Scientific glassblowing is not a skill that most people can pick up without a fair amount of practice, but if you have the basic tools on your bench and the basic skills under your belt, already, following along with Ramon’s Klein bottle videos could be a rewarding challenge.

Poelgeest Glass

Flexible “Willow Glass” Sheeting

MOnA- RHP-Sunbeam

SkillBuilder-GlassLaunched this summer, Corning’s Willow Glass is an ultra-thin (0.1mm), flexible, roll-processable glass sheet intended for use in next-generation display devices. From an applications point of view, it offers the possibility of curved displays and/or interfaces that wrap around objects or devices, and from a manufacturing point of view, the possibility of producing displays using continuous “roll-to-roll” assembly, kind of like how bulk paper goods are processed. This (rather dry) video illustrates the idea.

Willow Glass is available with or without a coating of indium-tin oxide (ITO), the ubiquitous transparent conductor used in the manufacture of flat-panel displays, solar panels, organic LEDs, and other optoelectronic devices. Chemically, it is a borosilicate glass, kind of like Pyrex. Unlike Pyrex, however, Willow Glass is “alkali-free,” meaning it has been specially formulated to contain none of the periodic table’s Group I elements—no lithium, sodium, potassium, etc.—which are undesirable in device manufacture because of their relatively high chemical reactivity.

Corning Display Technologies | Corning Willow Glass

December is Glass Month

Caption goes here

Glass Triple Klein Bottle by Alan Bennett, 1995.

What!? December already? We were just warming up!

SkillBuilder-GlassWith November behind us, we’re wrapping up our 2012 Year of Materials theme, this month, with a focus on glass. Glass, in the broadest sense of the term, does not imply any particular type of atomic or molecular composition, but rather a particular kind of ordering of atoms or molecules in space. Or rather, a lack thereof. In understanding this it is helpful to contrast glasses with crystals, in which atoms/molecules are arranged in repeating rows, columns, or other identifiable patterns, like cannonballs stacked on a courthouse lawn. Glasses, on the other hand, are more like dice poured haphazardly into a jar. Materials characterized by a lack of spatial order at the atomic scale are often described as glassy, though amorphous is now often favored, for this purpose, to avoid confusion with the common sense of the word.

But even in that more common sense—hard, brittle, silicon-based materials that are often transparent—glass includes a veritable galaxy of materials, full of amazing properties and stories. This month, we’re going to bring you just a few of them.

As always, if you have suggestions for particular content you’d like to see covered under this theme, please do let us know, below. Thanks for reading!


Making Paper Bricks in India

paper-brick-1 At MAKE we have covered a type of paper brick before, but it was used simply as a fire starter. Professors Rahul Ralegaonkar and Sachin Mandavgane of the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in India (VNIT) have come up with a process to make paper bricks designed for creation instead of destruction.

It started when they visited a paper recycling plant in 2009. They learned that 15% of the material that went through the plant was piled up into an unsightly sludge and sent to a landfill. For those not familiar, this is a prime example of one of the perils in recycling as opposed to upcycling. Recycling results in materials being turned into products of a lower quality than their predecessors, while upcycling preserves the quality of the product through many generations. For more about this subject, I recommend the book Cradle to Cradle. paper-brick-2 Raleganokar and Mandavgane decided to take some of that sludge back to their lab and play around with it along with students over the summer. What resulted was a brick made of 90% recycled paper mill waste (RPMW) and 10% cement. The slurry is mechanically mixed, pressed into molds, and left in the sun to dry.

The bricks have seen practical use so far in false ceilings and partition walls. They are also experimenting with a waterproofing coat for use in exterior walls. The materials used in their process are not just limited to RPMW. They have also successfully used cigarette butts, fly ash, textile effluent treatment plant (ETP) sludge, polystyrene foam, plastic fiber, straw, polystyrene fabric, cotton waste, dried sludge collected from an industrial wastewater treatment plant, rice husk ash, and granulated blast furnace slag. The bricks are half the cost of conventional ones, much lighter, and could be a boon to the Indian construction economy, which currently has a 30% deficit in brick supply.