A Mad Science Prop…

A view of the whole Mad Science prop delivered to site with the red stone walls of the ex church building in the background, showing the black and oak plinth, the laboratory stand green liquid in the top flask, green liquid in the bottom flask, and blue lighting in the condenser.

…was required for the refurbishment of Big Heritage‘s Chester visitor attraction.
The general idea was some kind of mad scientist laboratory prop with flasks and coloured bubbling liquids.
Not being a thing we had done before some research was undertaken first to find out where the science stuff could be bought from. I ended up with a mix of Ebay for the glassware and a trade supplier, Rapid Online, for the laboratory hardware.

After a lengthy wait, due to the pandemic lockdown, in the hope the glassware would arrive intact it eventually did. The hardware was pretty much overnight in comparison and arrive first. A quick assembly in the workshop was needed to make sure it would all work out and in the end a third clamp was needed.

A laboratory stand, with a blue base, in the workshop. There are clamps attached to it. The background is a shelving unit under construction in the workshop

After the glassware arrived it was all set up to see how it would go together. A fish tank air pump would be used to blow bubbles through a clear silicone pipe.

 

To hide the air pump a plinth was made. It was made from four sides of softwood, painted satin black, and an oak top made from pre-finished oak floorboard off cuts. The oak boards have bevelled edge and the look is in keeping with other pieces made.
To fix the laboratory stand to the plinth without ‘visible fixings’ I decided to weld some nuts to the underside of the stand base. The heat damaged the blue paint so it was a good time to respray it in silver so it looked more like the stands I remember from school.

The laboratory stand, now with a silver base, mounted to a black and oak plinth.h

Underneath the plinth I hid the fish tank air pump. A hole was drilled through the plinth, and the stand base so that he air pipe would run up behind the upright of the laboratory stand.

The underside of the plinth showing an air pump installed, and the Maker of Things website, stencilled diagonally across the oak.

The power cord from the air pump was fed out of the back of the plinth and an inline on/off switch was added.

The back of the black and oak plinth showing the power cable with an in line switch and three pin UK plug top.

The prop was tested using green and red food colouring. The air pipe goes into the top flask through a bung and into the green water where it bubbles. The air is trapped by the bung and is pushed through the condenser coil where it enters the bottom flask. There is a pipe on the end of the condenser that blows bubbles in the red water. This had to be done in the kitchen so spills of food colouring wouldn’t stain other projects in the workshop.

The whole prop of the plinth, laboratory stand, and the flasks set up in a kitchen. The upper flask contains green liquid, the lower flask contains red liquid.

The prop needed ‘more’ though and as the condenser didn’t have coolant water running through it it looked unfinished. So some parts were designed and 3D printed.

A white 3D print in progress on a blue print bed with the black print head above.

The printed part is intended to give the impression of an electrical bolt terminal attached to the condenser. Some cloth wrapped flex, that would have been used for older electrical appliances like toasters and irons, was found in our stocks and used to provide power to a blue flickering LED inside the printed terminal bolt.

A whit 3D printed part that looks like a bolt stud with a big cable eyelet secured to it with a big hexagon nut. There is a thick cloth wrapped cable leading into the print from below, and the print is fixed to a glass spigot on the side of a glass condenser. It give the appearance that there is a cable bolted to the side of the condenser.

The 3D prints were then painted with gold and silver paint. They would be ‘weathered’ and ‘aged’ later to stop them looking so new.

Two 3D printed electrical terminals painted in gold with the hexagon nut in silver.

Two more of the printed terminals were used in the oak plinth as a way to terminate the LED supply wiring.

Two of the 3D printed terminals installed into the Oak top of the plinth, with fabric wrapped cables coming from them. Seen from above.

This gives the impression that there is some sort of high voltage, high power electrical supply going to the condenser.
There is an LED driver built into the plinth, adapted from a phone charger, to provide power to the LEDs. It is switched on with the air pump by the same in line switch.

Two of the 3D printed terminals installed into the Oak top of the plinth, with fabric wrapped cables coming from them. Seen from the side.

So with the LED wiring completed the condenser looks like this. The printed terminals were fixed in place with hot glue.

The glass condenser supported in a clamp on the laboratory stand with two 3D printed electrical terminals attached. There are cloth wrapped cables attached to the terminals.

And with the blue LEDs powered the glass in the condenser glows a little giving a sort of neon arc effect.

The glass condenser supported in a clamp on the laboratory stand with two 3D printed electrical terminals attached. There are cloth wrapped cables attached to the terminals. The terminals have blue flickering LED lights inside causing the glass condenser to glow blue.

The whole assembly looks like this. Once we were completely happy with the set up the plastic handled bolts were swapped for M8x40 bolts and the clamp for the condenser was thread locked to prevent tampering.
Only the two clamps for the flasks are operable now so the client can remove the flasks for cleaning and refilling when needed.

A view of the whole Mad Science prop against a white background, showing the black and oak plinth, the laboratory stand green liquid in the top flask, red liquid in the bottom flask, and blue lighting in the condenser.

There were some interesting effects as the green water bubbled through the condenser.

And when we tried reversing the direction of air flow, from the red flask to the green flask, this happened! A very interesting effect but resulted in a very rapid transfer of liquid from one flask to the other.

Prior to delivery we decided to reduce the liquid volume to prevent transfer and returned to having the flow from top to bottom as it meant easier access for refilling.
We also decided to only use a single colour as it reduces the chance of the colours mixing as bubbles pass through the condenser. Our test run resulted in the water just looking brown after a while.
We think it looks lovely now it is on site.

A view of the whole Mad Science prop delivered to site with the red stone walls of the ex church building in the background, showing the black and oak plinth, the laboratory stand green liquid in the top flask, green liquid in the bottom flask, and blue lighting in the condenser.

A last minute addition was our makers mark. 3D printed in relief using a bronze coloured filament, satin black spray, and then the surface sanded back. It was recessed flush into a 2″ hole drilled in the plinth.

A view of the back of the black and oak plinth showing the makers mark logo set into the black side of the plinth.

The Client is very happy with the prop. Topping up the flasks is easy, and it makes a soothing bubbling sound.

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