Wirecutter posts about his first chemistry set and how he built the mother of all stink bombs. Something similar happened to me when I was a kid. My parents had given me a chemistry set, and the experiments that came with the kit were deemed too boring by me.

One of the chemicals was labelled “DANGER: DO NOT MIX WITH ACID.” Well, being an inquisitive sort of lad, I decided to mix it with acid. Hiding in the bathroom, I mixed it with one of the containers of acid. As soon as I did, copious amounts of blue-green smoke began issuing from the test tube. It looked like I had rubbed the lamp with the genie inside.

I panicked. My bathroom had a door that led to the outside, and I rushed out there, quickly dug a hole, and shoved the test tube inside, burying it where my parents would never notice what I had done.

Until my parents moved out of that house some eight years later, my father could never get grass to grow in that spot. That bald spot in the lawn drove him nuts.

I didn’t tell either of my parents what had happened until I related the story at my father’s funeral, 17 years ago. My mother found the story to be uproariously funny, telling me that he tried everything to get grass to grow in that spot, but nothing ever worked. Even sod placed on that spot would wither and die within days.

I wish I knew the name of that chemical. It is a great weed killer. The people who live there now probably have cancer.

Categories: Me


Plague Monk · March 1, 2022 at 9:35 am

I was heavily into chemistry during my high school years, as opposed to my classmates being more interested in girls(I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 21). I mixed up some chemicals and made gunpowder, which I stored in a large glass bottle, conveniently next to a window.
The resulting explosion blew out the window and a good part of the wall. Fortunately, no one was hurt. My parents were furious, with good reason. When Mom died, her will noted that part of the reason I wasn’t left very much was this incident.
No regrets.

    Divemedic · March 1, 2022 at 10:49 am

    It sucks that she held a grudge over a childhood transgression.

      Plague Monk · March 1, 2022 at 6:23 pm

      The main reason that she didn’t leave me very much was that she never approved of my wife, who she believed was far below our class. My wife has been faithful and true for coming up on 43 years, although we could never had children.
      I love my parents, who did their best for me, but Mom carried grudges for decades. She was delighted when an old rival of hers from from high school died, some 70 years after their graduation.
      The best part of the story is that Mom came from an upper class family, and she married a man who came from a strictly blue collar background.
      I still miss both of them to this day, and always will.

ChuckInBama · March 1, 2022 at 9:49 am

My first belly-laugh of the day !!!!

SiG · March 1, 2022 at 11:06 am

I had my first chemistry set in 4th grade. I remember going off the book, too, but not what it was I put together. I just remember it getting hot and turning very dark. I was on the screened in porch, so I ran outside and dumped it in the grass. That’s where the similarity ends. We were in a rental duplex for one year while my dad switched jobs, and weren’t there long term. I have no idea if grass died.

25 or 30 years ago, we were looking at chemistry sets for my son and it seemed like all they did was make something like saltwater or something else that was completely, certifiably, nontoxic.

Jonathan · March 1, 2022 at 11:22 am

I bet you had a chlorine compound with the green smoke, too much of that will keep almost anything from living…
And yes, kits these days are very wimpy. You can be sure of that from how excited kids get over a baking soda vinegar volcano. I believe this safety over everything view is a large part of why there is so little innovation and creativity today.

BobF · March 1, 2022 at 5:47 pm

1. High school Chem II, class on esters. Cafeteria on one end and lab on other end of building. Someone got wise and played just a little too far — evac’d whole first floor and the cafeteria as worst stink you have ever smelled got into the A/C system.

2. I was into rockets in my youth, 1950s/60s. Made my own solid fuel. Mother found box of saltpeter in my closet and went nuts. Dad had gone to military school in HIS youth and had his own ideas of what I had it for. I finaly had to admit was using it to make fuel (basically gunpowder) in the garage for my rockets. Thought they would be relieved to find it was not as a sex drive suppessor. I was wrong. Dad finally realized where all those railroad fusees had been going, they being almost pure sulphur and all.

We never had a garage when my 3 sons were growing up. Thank God.

Plague Monk · March 1, 2022 at 6:33 pm

I also hung around with another kid who was really into chemistry; his parents gave him a distillation kit, which he used to make explosives. We would take his concoctions down to the local dump on Sunday mornings and set them off. The local cops were good about it, as long as we didn’t set them off before 8 am. This was in the mid-70s.
He went on to get his Masters in Chemistry, and went to work at Corning Glass around 1980.
One of the others in the group who used the explosives became a prominent local lawyer and later, the town judge. He’s still judge, but his views have completely changed; he sends people convicted of possessing fireworks to jail.

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