Generating ammonia (NH3) gas

So I want to run some experiments that need small amounts of ammonia gas. I was already looking to use off gassing from ammonium hydroxide, when I ran across this video about creating small quantities of ammonia gas for lab experiments. It has a good explanation and a better procedure than I had intended to use.

Looking at the other videos from FlinnScientific, they have posted a few awesome demonstrations and experiments. Check out their “Whoosh Bottle” for one to get kids attention!

Dr. T explains our distillation setup, with our added ice bath

So as Dr. T showed in our earlier posts – we are using a distillation kit from Amazon to get us started.


The only problem is that the kit is supposed to be cooled from water running from a tap, through the Graham condenser, and down the drain. My not wanting to waste water aside, I don’t have a sink in my shop. So we rigged up a heat sink suitable for the same tubing running into and out of the Graham condenser, and added a thermos to act as an ice bath.

A small pump cycles the water from the ice bath, through the Graham condenser, through the heat sink, and then back into the ice bath. We add a few ice cubes to the bath to get it started and then let things cool from there. To that we added a
Peltier Thermo-Electric cooling module from Adafruit. That keeps pumping heat out of the system. We just grabbed the tubing from the hardware store.

Planing out experiments

Here’s video of Dr. T talking us through the setup we ended up using.

Dr. T explains the setup of our distillation experiment

In this episode Dr. T is explaining the distillation equipment we are setting up. The goal of the project is to use an alcohol powered distiller to create alcohol in order to re-load the lamp. The project is a two-for-one. This year we are learning about distillation and the states of matter. Next summer we get to use the same setup to look at conservation of energy.

So my degrees are in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, so working as Dr. T’s lab assistant, or Igor as he insists on calling me, is the first time I have been playing with “the wet stuff” in decades. As a result I didn’t already have the gear we would need. I went with a distillation kit from Amazon to get us started.

The kit comes with a boiling flask, a Graham condenser, and an Erlenmeyer flask ground to fit together. Just as important it comes with stands and hardware to hold them.

The only problem is that the kit is supposed to be cooled from water running from a tap and down the drain. My not wanting to waste water aside, I don’t have a sink in my shop. So we rigged up a heat sink suitable for the same tubing running into and out of the Graham condenser, and added a thermos to act as an ice bath. Dr. T will be covering that in the next post.

For now, here is Dr. T explaining the initial setup of our apparatus.

Dr. T explains the baking soda volcano!

The baking soda volcano has been a classic in the Tony house for decades. Basically you mix baking soda and white vinegar then watch things erupt.

The main component of vinegar is acetic acid CH3COOH. Baking soda is NaHC03. When you mix them you get:

CH3C00H + NaHC03 => (CH3C00-)(Na+) + H20 + C02

That C02 being released is the cause of the fizzing. The food coloring is just a nice touch to give things the color of lava.

Here is my nephew Dr. T explaining things.

Training Nukite on the Makiwara

The Makiwara has done more to clean up my strikes than anything else. It regularly teaches me new thigns and shows me how things I thought I understood were wrong.

Well karate has a number of finger and nuckle strikes that I have only recently gotten to the point where I have added them to my stiking practice. Only problem is even soft strikes just killed my fingers. My sensei showed me a neat trick to work on my finger strikes. Basically you hang a punching target from the makiwara, then do your strikes against the pad. After a few months I was able to work up to striking the naked makiwara.

Nuke strikes on padded Makiwara

The big problem I am trying to figure out currently is my pinky finger hanging out from my hand during the strike. It does not seem to impact the stike, but I cant help thinking that having the one finger separated from my hand has the potential for it to get hung up on the harget or broken.

Pinky problem

Now that I am regularly practicing Nukite, I can see how I am doing it wroge all over the place. Pinan Shodan for example has a Nukite strike to the throat, and I can now see I was just thrusting with a knife hand during the kata. My finger position was all wrong. So now I need to fix my Kata and my strikes.

Awesome Makeshift Makiwaras

The Makiwara is one of the tools of traditional Karate training that fell out of widespread use as Karate moved out of Japan. I would be surprised if 5% of the Karate dojos in the United States actually have a Makiwara in them, which frankly is unfortunate since the Makiwara is probably the single most instructive tool for learning how to strike properly.

Given how uncomment they are – I was pleasantly surprised to find “How to Protect Yourself with Karate” today in a used bookstore. I still need to read through it, but what caught my eye – and why I bought the book to read was their unusual use of Makiwara.

They book showed using an ironing board as a make shift Makiwara in the home. The book is old enough (1966) that I think the assumption was that women would be housewives, and need to train out of the house. Hard to believe that was only one to two generations ago.


I cannot even imagine doing technique in a set of high heals, but it was fairly common for the books targeting technique for women to show them that way. I especially liked the Nakiyama book on self-defense for women, where they demonstrate technique fighting on stairs while wearing heals.


The book also shows using a table as a makeshift Makiwara – though now that I think of it I am not sure a horizontal striking surface does not have a different name. I never use one.


While I love finding gems like this, and love the insight they give on the state of Karate looking back into the past, it is bitter sweet. A book as awesome as this one, it is awesome in part because it is unlikely to end up making the jump to being digitized. So who knows if it will be available for martial historians even 50 years from now?