The last time the kids came, we spent a lazy weekend playing games and watching TV, as Queen Marie was sick. “This weekend,” I thought, “we’re doing stuff!”
The plan was to have Birdy & kids join us in the afternoon, so we started our day with a ‘big kid’ activity. I had a whole list of possibilities and the kids had settled on building alcohol stoves from cans. I had seen many designs, and had wanted to do the ‘best’ one, but spent so much time trying to help the kids, I got discouraged.
Once we got the materials out, their interest was peaked. (I had saved some of Queen Marie’s “Peace Tea” cans for this.) Glad as I was for their eagerness, it didn’t help the process. They had no interest in learning, or following steps, or waiting. They were going off a YouTube video of the easiest design they could find.
Queen Marie’s was tall and wide, with bigger holes. TBear and I used smaller 7.5oz cans & holes. My theory (without taking the time to consult a detailed article) was that as the alcohol evaporated up the sides, it would get stopped by the rim, and forced out the jets. Time to find out!
We took the 3 stoves out to the garage, along with a fire extinguisher. Not wanting to open ‘the good stuff’ I used some first-aid quality Isopropyl alcohol. A whole bottle of this ‘rubbing alcohol’ can be had at the dollar store, but doesn’t burn as clean or hot. This also translated in to difficulty lighting & staying lit.
TBear’s rimless design lit okay, but just burned a yellow flame in the middle, no jets. Mine did the same, eventually. Using the same jar lid of fuel, we got over 10 minutes of meager flame. Queen Marie’s had the most pronounced rim, but just wouldn’t stay lit. We tried adding a paper towel as a wick, but that didn’t work, either. Utterly defeated, we decided that there’s more to stove building than “monkey see, monkey do.”
I let the kids have some free time before lunch, while I tried to relax and figure out what went wrong. I found an article on basic design principles that helped. However, I wanted to know how they worked. Being a visual person, I found this page that diagrammed different types of backpacking stoves. I learned that we had tried an Open Vented/Chimney stove, but our opening wasn’t in proportion to the height, so it didn’t work well. Vent holes are for stoves that have an inner/outer chamber. Armed with this information, the kids are up for another try, another day.
I prepared for our next adventure by covering my table in newspaper. In retrospect, I should have done this before the first project! After a year on the shelf, we’d finally dig into the crystal growing kit TBear got for his birthday.
With 5 kids participating, I tried to break things down into “duties.” Queen Marie would operate the sink, and help Princess be “the measurer.” Mr. Cheezy was our resident “Stirer” and TBear was in charge of administering food coloring. The first project produced squishy ‘thirsty’ crystals that absorbed all the colored water we gave them. We made observations with our magnifying glass, then moved on.
The next project was a “Crystal Competition” where 4 petri dishes would showcase 4 solutions in a race to see which grew first & fastest! I’m glad I chose to do a Kosher salt solution too, as this was the fastest & most impressive.
Lastly was a blue Alum solution, which was to produce a ‘saphire sparkle.’ We shall see. As of writing this, it’s been a couple days, and the petri dishes have matured, but the cup of ‘saphire’ solution is taking its sweet, ever-loving time to evaporate. Hopefully, there’ll be something impressive the next time the kids come over.
I have to admit, I got a little “frazzled” throughout this project. Looking back, I think I spent my patience quota on the morning project, and was merely trying to safely survive the second one. Perhaps one is enough, if you’ve never done it before? We cleaned up, and stowed our samples for evaporation.
I was able to calm down after all those chemicals were away, and we enjoyed a movie and casserole of leftover Mexican cuisine. The kids took turns rotating interest between a movie, toys, and pretend. Later, we added a game of cards.
In all, it was a lovely (albeit hectic) day. I’m looking forward to another, but that’ll have to wait. See you next time!