Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Skilcraft ChemLab 1100

We opened our first chemistry set last weekend. I don't how long we've owned this thing, or even where we got it (probably the grandparents). But I knew we hadn't had much luck with inexpensive science apparatus before (the Toys R Us microscope and telescope, for instance) and besides ... it looked intimidating.

Now that I'm getting used to the idea of working with chemicals, however -- and especially because The Joy of Chemistry suggested raiding your kids' chemistry sets for hard-to-find ingredients -- I decided to set aside an afternoon last weekend and give it a try.

Having done a fair bit of research into the pitiful state of chemistry sets today (more on that in future posts), I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the punch-out plastic scale looks useless, there's no key telling you what some of other items are supposed to be, and the instruction booklet has been reprinted so many times it's barely legible. But sure enough, the kit contained at least one chemical I've been searching for (sodium carbonate, sometimes used in place of lye to make pretzels crispy), and a few others that look handy. The booklet, if it can be trusted, contains some neat-sounding experiments. And I thought it couldn't hurt to try out the equipment as the book suggested, practicing placing drops of uniform size on a plastic-covered sheet of graph paper with the enclosed disposible pipettes. (No glassware, of course; not only because of the danger to kids, but probably also because anti-meth laws have made test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks illegal.)

Having looked it over, I told the kids they could use the chemistry set on their own, with my supervision. Not today of course. But soon.

UPDATE: If you're looking for directions for the Skilcraft ChemLab 1100, contact Nancy Kopec at Chartpak, the company which manufactures the kits. Her email is: nkopec@chartpak.com


Becky said...

Kathy, I was so happy to find out about your new blog this morning, via the Times-Union article.

I had the same sort of epiphany / realization earlier this year about teaching science to my kids (ages 7, 8, and 10). Using curriculum, and concentrating on *just* chemistry or *just* biology for the year was killing their interest in the subject. So we pitched the dry stuff for hands-on experiments -- a K'Nex simple machines set and a few books, including the out of print and notorious "Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments".

In a few years, I'd like to the Thames & Kosmos Chem C3000 kit which I've been drooling over,


By the way, if you check places such as Edmund Scientific (at
http://scientificsonline.com/ ) you can find Erlenmeyer flasks and test tubes.

Happy experimenting!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that this kit is worthwhile! I had a kit growing up with which I was fairly mischievous, and these "labs" seem very hard to come by. I found one in a hobby shop.

I actually bought it for my neice as a birthday present (I'm a chemical engineering student and am hoping to recruit her... or at least encourage her to explore scientific options). She was excited, but when we opened it, we found that it was lacking the instructions/manual. I saw on amazon that the manual (I think) includes reorder info. Could you email me any information on the manufacturer so that we can get get the manual and start some learning? My email is warrendgray, followed by an at gmail, and dot com (trying to reduce spam).


Anonymous said...

Hello Kathy,

I just picked up this kit through Craigslist, but it lacks the instruction manual. Any chance you might xerox it and send a copy to me? Or pdf file it to my email? I was hoping to refurbish the kit from my lab for my daughter's holiday gift.

My email address is: jlh256@gmail.com

if I could go offline to give you my address, given that you might agree.


Anonymous said...

Hi! I just picked up the ChemLab 1100 at a church sale, and my 5 yr. old can't wait to use it. I have no chemistry experience, though, and mine also didn't have a manual. Is there anywhere I can obtain it? I've tried googling for the company, but haven't been successful.

Kathy Ceceri said...

I apologize to all the commenters I never answered about the instruction booklet. Right now my kit is up in the attic, but when I get a chance I can pull it out and see if there's any good contact info. (It probably predates websites, though.) If it's not to difficult to scan in, I'll do that and post it somewhere for you to access. The printing on it was not very legible, however.

Most of the experiments involved color changing. If you go through the links in the sidebar, I'm sure you'll find many of the same experiments. I suggest doing a search for simple experiments the same way you would with a recipe -- plug in some of the "ingredients" you have in the kit and see what comes up!

Stephen said...

About 20 years ago I received a Skilcraft chemistry set for Christmas. Well, technically it was the, ahem, Young Astronauts Pilot I Chemlab Set. It was manufactured by Skilcraft, but was licensing the YA name.

Anyway, the set came with 6 chemicals and claimed "over 380 experiments". The problem was that I lost the instruction manual when I was in junior high, which was also almost 20 years ago. :)

I've been looking for the company website in the hopes that they could send me a replacement manual. I was considering donating this with other used toys/games, but I don't want to do it without a manual. Of course, after reading various blogs about the kids of today just not into chemistry sets, I might just keep it after all. :)

The set came with the chemical rack, 2 test tubes, the manual, test tube rack, eyedropper, clamp, measuring spoon and 2 neutral litmus paper sheets.

The six chemicals that it came with are as follows:

-9: Calcium Chloride
-10: Cobalt Chloride Mixture
-19: Ferric Ammonium Sulfate
-32: Phenophthalein Solution
-36: Sodium Carbonate
-42: Sodium Ferrocyanide

Any suggestions? Would it be possible to have a Xeroxed instruction manual? Is there a number where I can reach Skilcraft?

Anonymous said...

In the United Kingdom it has become almost impossible to obtain chemicals for private individuals, for amateur chemistry use. The state of chemistry sets available is also pathetic. (I am however looking at the C3000 set with some interest from the USA).

So, I have an 11 year old son, how do I instill the excitement that I had as a child with chemistry.

I found an easy solution. In the 1970s - 1980s we had a wonderful set of chemistry sets under the name 'Merit'. These came with a wide range of chemicals and yes - glassware...

I spent a couple of years previously in preparation picking up these gems on ebay until I had the best part of 4 complete sets of their top ranges.

I then combined these into a seriously impressive chemistry set that even has myself at 42years drooling.

Ad-on a hot-plate mixer, misc glassware, quickfit, retort stands etc and he now has a chemistry set that will last for years, engage his imagination, and with some supervision enable him to experience chemistry away from the excessive safety conscious environment our children have to endure.



Kathy Ceceri said...

No, I still haven't scanned in the manual which came with our kit. But it wasn't terribly legible, either. If you have a kit and don't know what to do with it, I suggest trying what I do when I have a bunch of ingredients and need a recipe: enter the chemicals into Google along with "kids experiments" or something similar and see what comes up.

When I finally get around to scanning that thing in I'll probably get more hits than I can handle. Someday.

E.M. said...

Kathy, I also am missing the instruction booklet. Do you have suggestions for where to get another? Thank you.

elisabeth said...

i'm looking for an instruction booklet too, got this set at a garage sale without a booklet too. So if anyone finds anything...

elisabeth said...

here's a good link: http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/ht/alumcrystal.htm

Kathy Ceceri said...

For everyone looking for directions for the Skilcraft ChemLab 1100, I have news! You can contact Nancy Kopec at Chartpak, the company which manufactures the kits. Her email is: nkopec@chartpak.com.

Anonymous said...

any news on chemlab 500 instruction manual? i bought it an auction for my son's birthday.. but to his disappointment, the instruction manual is missing :(. Please help.. email me at: