Chemistry Experiments

When I was in Junior High school, I became interested in chemistry. I am not sure what really got me into it, but I remember getting a giant chemistry set I think it was for Christmas. Actually it was "used" as it was my uncle Corky's but I don't think he ever used it for most everything was untouched. I remember looking in the Christmas catalog at the chemistry sets and wanting one. There were several different levels from a basicche one to the super giant one. I remember picking out one in the middle for I knew my parents could not afford the super giant one so I was really surprised when I got Corky's for it was the biggest and best. I remember doing most all the experiments in the book that came with the set and then getting books from the library and doing more. It didn't take me too long that I out grew the set but I was fortunate, my dad worked at the University Chemistry department. Dad was the manager of all the labs and supply rooms.. I remember making up a list of chemicals and him taking me into the chemistry store room and walking up and down aisle after aisle of chemicals to find the ones I wanted. Then we would go up and down the glassware aisles and get beakers, test tubes and other glassware. These were always wonderful, magical trips for me going into the dark and gloomy store rooms filled with all sorts of strange and interesting things. 

Dad new a few things about chemistry himself and he sometimes would show me things and add a few chemicals of his own. I remember when I was in elementary school I had to do a science project and I made a volcano and dad got me this orange chemical that I put in the top then lit with a match and as it burned it made a hissing noise, shot up sparks two or three inches, and a green "lava" flowed down the sides. 

1967 Year Book Page Many years later I was looking though my year book and found that Bill Howell commented about giving Explosives to Jimmy Carpenter. <click to enlarge>

After a while I got into making fireworks, rockets and explosives. Nothing much really but I did run across and interesting formula for making a contact explosive from iodine and ammonia. I only made small amounts, barely enough to coat the bottom of a beaker. By "contact explosive" I mean that the stuff is so sensitive that it would explode on contact. I would keep it under water in a beaker and siphon off a little at a time to "play" with. I remember one time while siphoning off some I touched the bottom of the beaker and BLAM the bottom of the beaker blew out. After that I kept it in plastic container. Another "fun" thing I would do is siphon some into a syringe and then take it to school. I would then put a small drop on the sidewalk and put a penny on top of it. When someone would go to pick up the penny, POW it would shoot up into the air. Well one time I had about a half an inch in the syringe and it was starting to dry out and I knew this much could be dangerous so right before gym class I dumped it out next to the gym building. Well Jimmy Carpenter was there and he picked it up on a piece of paper and spread it out all over the gym room floor just before class. When all the guys came it everywhere they walked were small crackles, pops and an occasional bang. The teacher then got everyone together and asked what was going on, fortunately, no one said anything.

Then there was the time I got a gallon glass jug and mixed up some chemicals in it to explode. I put one chemical to make acetylene, others to make hydrogen and others to make oxygen. I took this out to the lake, which at this time was mostly a mud hole and sank the jug into the mud. I then ran a plastic tube from the top of the jug to a board which my brother and I crouched behind. After a few minutes to let the gases build up I lit the end of the tube with a match and…..nothing happened. Well I was surprised. I tried again, this time a little blue flame shot through the tube and again, nothing happened. Well I thought just let the gas build up and try again. After a few more minutes I looked over the edge of the board, lit the end of the tube and BLAM it exploded big time and a piece of the glass few out and hit me just below my right eye on my cheek and embedded there. Man was I surprised, I fell back and put my hand to my cheek and there was blood everywhere so I got up, keeping my hand to my cheek and walked-ran home which was probably a half mile away from the lake. When I got home my dad looked at me, got a washcloth to put over the wound and then drove me to the emergency room where I had the several stitches put in. When we got home dad took all my chemicals away and hid them from me. That was pretty much the last time I messed with explosives. I still have a small scar on my cheek from that experience and I was really lucky I didn't loose an eye.

Larry Mixson Jan 3, 2001