Porter Chemcraft Master Chemistry
Lab No. 616 featuring Atomic Energy
Porter Chemical Co., Hagerstown, Md., 1950s
“Modern Plastic Experiments. Outer Space
Radioactive uranium ore
See Gilbert No. U-238.
Carbon tetrachloride, CCl4
Nickel ammonium sulfate, Ni(NH4)
Both are likely carcinogens, banished from chemistry sets today. Neither is particularly dangerous
to handle, says Thompson, if you take proper
precautions to avoid fumes or dust, prevent skin
contact, and so forth.
»DIY: Readily available from chemical suppliers
such as Elemental Scientific and Home Science
Tools — see Resources, below.
Calcium hypochlorite, Ca(ClO)
A strong oxidizer, it’s been known to undergo
self-heating and rapid decomposition, releasing
toxic chlorine gas. “Frankly, I see little use for this
chemical in a home lab,” says Thompson. “For most
purposes you can substitute the much safer sodium
hypochlorite solution sold in grocery stores as
»DIY: Sold as pool and spa “shock” treatment;
use bleach instead.
Sodium ferrocyanide, Na4Fe(CN)
Ferrocyanide salts react with iron(III) (ferric) ions
to produce the intense pigment Prussian blue, so
they’re a great test for the presence of ferric ions.
“Despite the ‘cyanide’ in the name, these salts are
relatively nontoxic and safe to handle,” says Thompson. “Heating them to decomposition or treating
them with a strong mineral acid does produce
hydrogen cyanide gas, which is deadly in significant
» Chemical and equipment suppliers:
Home Science Tools
42 Make: Volume
amounts. Technically, these salts are considered
poisons, but they’re not really dangerous if handled
with normal precautions.”
» DIY: Chemical suppliers. For most purposes, you
can substitute the more readily available potassium ferrocyanide, K4[Fe(CN)
6], also available
from photography darkroom suppliers.
» Alternative sources for chemicals:
» Chemical Heritage Foundation:
» Reproduction manuals for vintage Chemcraft
» Top 10 Amazing Chemistry Videos, from Wired
Photography courtesy of Chemical Heritage Foundation (top); by Dustin Fenstermacher (bottom two)