D.I.Y bubble tubes

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Downunder35m
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D.I.Y bubble tubes

Post by Downunder35m »

As I kid I had one but no clue where it came from or how they work.
Just a small glass tube, sealed on both ends with some liquid and crystals in it.

Turns out they were and still are used as xmas tree decorations in the USA.
No one makes them anymore, so just a single vintage one that still works sells these days for over 50 bucks.
Considering they were dirt cheap when they were "in"...

I recently found a nice video on Youtube showing how to make these tubes using some rock salt and Methylene Chloride.
Not for the faint of heart person but I need some fresh chemicals to treat my PLA parts anyway.
No clue when I will find the tie to source some thin flourescent tubes for free and how hard it really is to seal them with a blow torch.
From previous experiments with I do know that certain brands just don't like messing with the tubes - paper thin glass....

Let me know if this would be of interest to you and when time comes I will post some first hand experiences on this matter.
Exploring the works of the old inventors, mixng them up with a modern touch.
To tinker and create means to be alive.
Bringing the long lost back means history comes alive again.
Jack A Lopez
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Re: D.I.Y bubble tubes

Post by Jack A Lopez »

This is an artifact I was unaware of, and I have still never seen one IRL. Although I have seen hand boilers,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_boiler

and dippy drinking birds,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_bird

which are in the same family, I guess. That is to say, these are all sealed glass containers, containing methylene chloride ( aka dichloromethane, aka CH2Cl2) as a liquid in equilibrium with its own vapor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dichloromethane

Actually, the Wikipedia page for "Dichloromethane" links to the Wikipedia page for "Bubble light"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_light

which links to the Wiki articles for "Hand boiler" and "Drinking bird."

Anyway, with Youtube veterans like Ben of Applied Science, and Big Clive, both authoring videos on how to make these things... I dunno... how hard could it be? Or, I mean, if you wanted someone to explain how to make one, those guys seem to me like they'd be qualified to do the explaining.

I can link to those YT vids, but I have not watched them yet.







In response to your actual question, "would this be of interest to you [?]..." uh, well, I dunno. I am not sure why I would want a homemade one of these things.

But I am hopeful that someone else is interested. I know the expected answer to every question of the form, "Does someone want to see this?" is "Yes." That was the so-called "Kiteman's Law." I.e. it was silly to ask if someone wanted a tutorial (or another tutorial) on some topic, because, of course, someone out there wants it.
Downunder35m
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Re: D.I.Y bubble tubes

Post by Downunder35m »

Well, those videos are nice and vital to keep something old alive ;)
And I have to agree that it is not that hard to put some salt and liquid into a tube.
So I was more refering to the glass part here.
I know from experience that working with things like blank neo tubes or glass rods is quite easy - there is little to no tension in the material.
But, these are far too thick for the purpose here, hence, like in the video, me trying to use floursecent tubes instead.
And there comes the tricky bit....
Not only conatain most still heavy metals in the powder coating but these tubes are also very fragile.
There is no need to make sure the glass free if stress zones as the tube won't be changed anymore.
Just cutting them is a pain, even with a thin diamond wheel, melting them together without them cracking while cooling is what I still struggle with a bit.
If the stuff would not be so volatile I would like the ide of a long tube as decoration but won't risk it.
Exploring the works of the old inventors, mixng them up with a modern touch.
To tinker and create means to be alive.
Bringing the long lost back means history comes alive again.
Jack A Lopez
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2020 5:10 pm
Location: Former United States
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Re: D.I.Y bubble tubes

Post by Jack A Lopez »

At the risk of telling you things you already know... some kinds, or maybe most kinds of glass, require some kind of annealing step, after the working step.

Years ago, I had a neighbor who built a glassblowing studio in his garage, and I recall he had built a special annealer oven, that could slowly, over several hours, change its temperature, and allow the, whatdoyoucallit, bound stresses in the glass, to slowly unwind themselves.

The Wikipedia article for "Lampworking", briefly mentions annealing briefly, and it points to another article "Annealing(glass)" which is kind of stubby.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lampworking

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annealing_(glass)

Regarding kinds of glass, if you can get some tubes made of borosilicate, that kind of glass seems to be more forgiving to thermal stress.

I have seen some popular Youtube chemists, including CodysLab, NileRed, and Nurdrage, sealing things into so-called, glass "ampoules." So, you know, "ampoule" is the word to search for.

In particular, Cody was making ampoules filled with compounds that are normally gases at standard temperature and pressure. There was even one scene where he is using a blowtorch to seal a tube, that has its other end submerged in liquid nitrogen!

My point is, Cody seemed to be using some glass that could take some serious thermal abuse without breaking, and I think that glass was some kind of borosilicate, intended for lab use. He did have some problems with these ampoules exploding later, and at least one of explosions was included in that video.



Regarding glass tubes from old fluorescent lamps... I dunno. I think maybe that glass might require annealing after working, to keep it from breaking.

Also there are other things that need to be cleaned out of the tube, including a small amount of mercury, and a larger amount of that white phospor stuff. I think the mercury is the only part that is really toxic, and the Wikipedia page for "Mercury" gives some hints for what will work to clean it up, including powdered sulfur, powdered zinc, activated carbon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_( ... and_safety

Regarding the white phosphor coating, I think it will just wipe off from the inside of the glass, like dust. The Wikipedia page for "Phosphor" has a table that maybe gives some hints as to what that white dust might be. Naturally, I was wondering if it might be useful for anything.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphor# ... phor_types

One certainly attractive feature of fluorescent tubes is they are really cheap, and easy to find. I see them all the time in thrift stores, and dumpsters too. I probably have dozens of them in my junk collection, including various shapes and sizes. They are likely going out of fashion due to the availability of LED light sources.
Downunder35m
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Re: D.I.Y bubble tubes

Post by Downunder35m »

Well, I knew about the annealing part but I don't really have anything suitable for the purpose.
It is not like I do this stuff a lot.
With the tubes for neon lights I had no problems in the past but the stuff is slowly disappearing thanks to LED lights.
I am wondering though how a small flour would like like with bubbles.
You know these twisted ones to replace old light bulbs ;)
Exploring the works of the old inventors, mixng them up with a modern touch.
To tinker and create means to be alive.
Bringing the long lost back means history comes alive again.
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