I'm a freshly graduated physics and math teacher moved into a small school from the late 1920s. The equipment here is old and confusing, at the very least. I have found many things which I have never seen before. I would like some help identifying what I have and what I can do with them, if anything.

(Click the images to view them at full size.)

Copper pots
1. A load of copper pots. For boiling something perhaps?

Boiling flask with bulb on top
2. Some sort of wash bottle? Why is the cork on there?

Another bulbed boiling flask, but different looking.
3. I managed to make out "unitized wash bottle" on the back. This serves the same function as the last one, I presume.

Tall cylinder with arms and frosted top.
4. It reminds me of a graduated cylinder until the frosted top and the "arms" that poke out the sides. What is this for?

Long glass pipe.
5. This reminds me of halogen bulbs. Again, I have no idea what this is for.

Coiled glass tubing with "trumpet" top
6. I've taken to calling this "trumpet" glass pipe. What is it used for?

Large bulb.
7. This large bulb has confused me since day one. I feel like it needs some sort of current passed through the ends. It reminds me of a cathode ray tube in a way. I'm completely lost on this one.

Ye Olde Poster
8. Here. Have a free safety poster! Not as good as old Carol, though.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice haul! (2) the cork is on there to act as a grip so your hand won't slip; and (5) looks like a condenser to me. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Feb 18 '17 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ I added answers for each piece that I could identify so that other could comment piece by piece. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 18 '17 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ @MaxW: It seems to me that, given that you seem to know what all the items are, you should combine all of your multiple partial answers into a single one that answers the OP's entire question. It's not like there's any point in people voting to determine which of your completely orthogonal answers is the best. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Feb 18 '17 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @MaxW I highly suggest you merge your answers. It makes it very unpleasant to read them right now because they're scattered and out of order. Also, it's kinda playing games with rep. $\endgroup$ – isanae Feb 18 '17 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ I am surprised that so many people are recommending the answers be merged, and not that the question be split. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Feb 20 '17 at 8:33

11 Answers 11


#4 is a collection vessel of some sort.

The ground glass fitting would have connected to some other ground glass fitting. A set of the ears would be on the connecting piece of glassware also. Then springs would hold the two pieces together.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you tell me why on earth you posted separate answer for each one? $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Feb 18 '17 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Mithoron - So that the comment about each different piece would stay together. I wasn't sure if anyone would have something more to add to the different pieces of apparatus or not. #3 I pretty sure about, but I've never seen that before. #4 I don't know if this would have some special use. #7 I'm fairly sure is a Crookes tube, but I don't know why the middle electrode is there. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 18 '17 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Mithoron and as a bonus, MaxW gets upvotes more times ;) $\endgroup$ – Ruslan Feb 19 '17 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ You do realise that if someone decides to up vote all of your answers here, the votes will get reversed because of the serial voting script? $\endgroup$ – Gallifreyan Feb 19 '17 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should combine your answers. Accepting an answer that corresponds to just one piece of glassware doesn't really make that much sense, because the answer is really all 8 $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Feb 20 '17 at 2:57

#1 is copper pot to make steam

The steam would come out of the metal neck on the side.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you know why a copper cylinder fits inside the hole in the top to seal it? Why not any other kind of stopper? It's just odd. $\endgroup$ – Jesuspowder Feb 18 '17 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ It would be heavy to resist the pressure of the steam. // The screw lids would hold themselves of course. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 18 '17 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Nope, that is probably because you could hang a container with material in there that would automagicly be kept at 100 deg C. $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ If you only wanted to seal it a screw top should be provided for, but probably all of them are lost by careless students... $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ No, I'm sure about the heavy weight "cap." With just the weighted cap you can easily remove if from a hot pot to refill the water. A screw top would really be harder to use. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 20 '17 at 19:05

#8 is a poster from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan

MTU started as Michigan Mining School because of all of the underground copper mines in the area.

Got my slide rule from what was then the mining school and a "toot bag." (The only engineers the locals knew about were train engineers.) Used the slide rule from high school through college and a year of grad school. Then I broke down and bought a TI scientific calculator with 8 digits (!!) of precision.


I've actually seen these in use (or at least most of them). I can't say that their use was exactly correct, but essentially (What I saw) it's a set to mix liquids by boiling then re-condensing them.

The two wash bottles are just that. Wash bottles, the first has cork so you don't drop it. The second, I think, allows you to control flow of the liquid by placing your finger over that air vent.

#4 is where the finished product goes. I'ts just a collection point nothing else.

#5 is a condensing tube, you run a cool substance (probably water) and in the outer chamber and then gas turns back to a liquid.

# 6 is Like the pipe under your sink. As long as there's no pressure it allows liquid to flow without letting gasses flow.

#7 is a Crooks tube. It is used to generate X-Rays. It doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the set. I have only seen one used once. It was used to demonstrate that you could "bend" X-Rays with a magnetic field.

#8 is a poster, to remind us that,even in history, the people making the safety posters didn't always choose their slogans wisely.

So what's missing is a bunch of tubing, but you basically end up with mad scientist looking way to mix liquids, or probably to condense a gas created in the copper pot.

For example, (totally guessing here) based on the history of the school,

  1. Place rocks in copper pots
  2. Use #2 and #3 to put a corrosive liquid onto the rocks.
  3. Use #6 to collect gasses from chemical reaction of materials in rocks + corrosive liquid. The rock/liquid mixture probably has to be heated.
  4. Use #5 to condense liquids to collect in #4. Play with X-Ray tubes while you wait, and make fun of old timey poster?

#5 is a reflux condenser.

The metal fittings would have hoses for water going in at top and out at the bottom. The top of the picture with the straight glass tube would fit into a rubber stopper which would go into neck of vessel which was holding the liquid to be boiled (the pot). So the condenser cools the vapor from the boiling liquid turning it back to liquid which drips back into the pot.

  • $\begingroup$ What is the purpose of boiling a liquid and immediately condensing it back into the same container? And at the bottom of the picture (the "top" of the tube where it flares out), the tube is open. So, something is meant to escape this vessel out the top, no? $\endgroup$ – Jesuspowder Feb 18 '17 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ You're "cooking" some sort of reaction. Typical in organic chemistry. So I add two solids to react to benzene. Boil benzene to add energy to make reaction go, and keep it boiling while reaction occurs. Maybe a couple of hours. Without the condenser the flask of benzene solution would boil dry. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 18 '17 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ It can be used in two scenario's: reflux and destillation. Take a look at this diagram. $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ reflux: "cooking" a mixuture for a prolonged period of time at the boiling point of the lowest one. This condenser makes sure that the compound with the lowest bp is condensed again and returned to the mixture. $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ distillation: separating a mixture. Same as above, but now you the condenser is after the watershed, so you will be able to collect it in a separate collector. $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:16

#6 is a thistle tube.

The loop would be a seal.

Let's say you wanted a low pressure stream of hydrogen gas. You put thistle tub and and glass tube through a stopper. The stopper goes into a container with Zn metal. You pour HCl solution through the thistle tube and hydrogen gas comes out of the other glass tube through the stopper. A bit of the HCl solution would stay in the loop sealing off that exit so the gas wouldn't escape there.

  • $\begingroup$ I was was inclined to say air lock too, but the amount of liquid is so small here that it would not really be effective so I think it might be something else. $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @RickyA - I just made up the H2 gas experiment, don't know if that would really work. I'm sure it is for a seal. You're right to question that it is a "pressure seal." $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 20 '17 at 19:01

#4 collector, but not an ordinary one

My problem with this one is that it has a male connector. There is a reason that male connectors are always on top of the female ones (no pun intended): it keeps liquids inside the apparatus. Do one the other way around and it leaks like crazy.

So this one is intended to be mounted upside down, but the elaborate foot also suggest a life in this orientation. Maybe it is used for gas collection like in the splitting of water in o2 and h2. Fill this thing with water, put a valve on it and place it upside down on your apparatus. Open valve, collect gas, close valve and put it aside.?


#7 is a Crookes x-ray tube of some sort.

Similar picture of a Crookes tube at Wikipedia.

  • $\begingroup$ It looks like something to make lightning through a gaseous mixture. $\endgroup$ – RickyA Feb 20 '17 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @RickyA - No, I'm sure that it is an x-ray tube. The middle electrode is an anode and it is slanted to direct x-rays out of spherical part of the glass bulb. I don't know why there are two anodes though. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Feb 20 '17 at 19:03

#2 is a simple distillation apparatus.

The cork is there to prevent too much condensation in the top part of the bulb. aka. to speed up the process.


#3 look like a wash bottle too.

Seem to be missing rubber stopper with glass tube that would go to bottom of the round bottom flask.

I assume black bulb on side can be pumped to inject air into the flask.

The top of the tube would be bent and have a rubber tube connecting to another piece of glass tubing drawn to a tip. The rubber connector is so that if the glass tip is bumped on something then it won't break the glass tube.


#2 does look like a wash bottle.

The cork would be for thermal insulation (to use with hot wash solution) and/or for better grip.

Looks like a bulb on side to pump to force liquid out.

The tube which is coming out of the top should extend all the way to the bottom of the round bottomed flask.

The top of the tube is bent and has a rubber tube connecting to another piece of glass tubing drawn to a tip. The rubber connector is so that if the glass tip is bumped on something then it won't break the glass tube.


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