Friday, September 28, 2012

Quicklime 1

I gathered 60g of chalk (more or less pure, dry calcium carbonate)
I put it in the kiln (cone 05) for 8 hrs at top temp

  • The result weighed 34g
  • That is almost exactly the 33.6g we expected
  • The remainder may be unconverted chalk, absorbed water, or reabsorbed CO2

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saltpeter 1 (human urine)

I gathered
  • 4.4L of peat moss
  • 4.4L of pumice pea-gravel
  • 2L of urine
  • 2L of water
  • 2 ceramic garden boxes
I put a 50/50 mix of moss and pumice in each garden box
I poured 1L of urine into one of the boxes, and 1L of water into the other, and labelled them
Conditions are warm and dry outside

Saltpeter and control troughs, environment
Day 1

Day 2:
  • Both are "wet"
  • Conditions remain warm and dry
  • Turned the containers
Day 3:
Both are "damp".
  • I added 1L of urine and 1L of water to the respective boxes
  • This was a mistake. This was far more than the urine box could absorb, leaving a pool atop the moss
  • I turned everything
Experiment (urine) and control (water) troughs
Day 3
    Day 5:
    • Still small pool in urine box
    • I removed 1/3 of the "water" moss/gravel mix and put it in the "urine" side
    • Turned everything
    Day 6-10
    • Turned every other day or so
    Day 12:
    • Everything dry
    • Added another liter to both containers
    Day 13:
    • Turned earth.
    • It's obvious now why they called it 'black earth'... even when dry it's much darker than the watered soil
    Day 16
    • May have observed the "white crust/crystals" mentioned in some texts
    • Almost completely dry, no odor whatsoever
    • Added another (4th) liter of urine, making it very wet... not quite pooling.
    Day 17:
    • Turned earth, very very wet. Maybe need to switch to 5 day cycle?
    Day 18:
    • Ditto. Looks like we need to slow down delivery. 
    It appears that the timing (20-ish days) was short but reasonable, that the aeration was reasonable, but the carbon content may have been too low, and the containers neither large nor sufficiently insulative enough to maintain the required temperatures for rapid decomposition. Future tries should:
    1. Scale up the carbon content (sawdust, straw, etc)
    2. Add all the urine at once
    3. Make some concession to keeping the mass temperature high.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Ethanol 1 (mead)

    I started this on Friday, 21-Sep-2012.

    Pretty much directly out of "Caveman Chemistry" for this one:

    * 16oz (300cc) of honey
    * 1500mL water
    * 1 packet of yeast
    * Wake the yeast with water & sugar
    * Mix in 2L drink bottle
    * Cap

    Progress Report
    Check regularly! The book says "check every day" I'm pretty sure that if I had waited for 24 full hours, the bottle would have burst. There was a slight exhalation after 8 hrs, and after 16 it gave a serious "pop", then foamed & frothed for a couple minutes.
    Day 2: Airlock (bought a cheap plastic "inverted cups" airlock and a rubber cork)
    Day 4: Bubbled more or less continuously for 2 days (so far)
    Day 7: Still bubbling away.
    Day 12: Bubbling seems to have stopped. Will check again tomorrow.
    Day 13: Bubbling completely stopped. Decanted.

    Nota Bene
    The ambient temperature throughout this endeavor has been on the order of 80 degrees F, sometimes warmer. This is around 10 degrees warmer than is recommended, which may account for the rapid transtion into and out of carbon dioxide production.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Tallow 1 (beef fat)

    My local market advertises "hand trimmed meat", so I asked the butcher if I could have some of the trimmings. He was happy to oblige, for no charge! I got 40 oz of mixed trimmings.

    I estimate the composition at about 40% hard fat, 50% soft fat, 10% connective stuff.
    • I chopped it as best I could into cubes between 1cm and 1in in size. The connective tissue I just tossed in straight.
    • I added 60oz of water to the fat, and boiled it (low boil) for several hours. Suprisingly, it didn't make much of a change in the fat.
    • I set it aside for the evening
    • I boiled it more vigorously for 2 hrs in the morning, and it clearly began to separate.
    • I kept a little water in the bottom of the pot the whole time, but it boiled away rapidly, so I was replacing it fairly frequently.
    • After another 2 hrs, the fats seemed to be mostly dissolved.
    • I set it inside a sink with cool water, and once it was cool, I put it in the fridge overnight.
    • The next morning I broke the tallow cake and emptied out the water underneath, which was crowded and clouded with various material
    • I cleaned the pot, put in some more water, tossed the tallow chunks back in, and repeated
    • The tallow came out cleaner the second time, as did the water
    • A third pass was yet better

    I've become convinced that a little judicious scraping of the water-side of the tallow cake does a lot to improve the purity of the next iteration of the cake.

    Beef tallow in pot, and showing detritus
    First rendering

    Before, rendering, after: less detritus
    Second rendering

    A light scrape after the 3rd render made the 4th one dramatically whiter.

    * MATERIALS 40 oz beef trimmings, 2-4 gallons of water.
    * PROCESS I did 4 renderings, including the initial one.
    * PRODUCT The tallow stayed soft at any temperature above refrigerator temps (40 deg F) which is a bit of a bummer.
    * YIELD I ended up with 19.5oz of tallow from my initial 40oz "beef trimmings" sample. Not sure if that's good, bad, or typical.