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Chemistry Primer


#1

For a variety of reasons, I’ve written a chemistry lesson for
beginners. Part of the reason was seeing so much dis-mis-information
right here. And a couple of — well, frankly, Bozo off-list things
that said, like “No, you’re wrong, the sky is green.” I’m not saying
it’s the greatest thing in the world, just a paper. I would gently
suggest that a very great many readers could use it, or something
like it… I’ll call it finished, but after a time I’ll probably go
back and tweak it some more. Just the basics. It’s posted in the
links page on my website, or a direct link is here:

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com/links/Chemistry.html


#2

John, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

In my classroom at SRJC I actually have a HUGE periodic table of
elements on the wall.

It takes a while for the students to “get” that there are no science
classes taught in our classroom and that metalsmithing involves
chemistry, math, physics as well as passion, and patience.

You might consider adding Pewter to metals list?

Also, BTW - I have heard of cases of “metal Fume Fever” for as long
as a week - one from extensive, continuous time (in one day)
soldering 18k gold. - no cadmium in the solder, no fluorides in the
flux - using Oxy-propane mini torch. Another from extensive,
continuous time (in one day) casting sterling silver w/acetylene
-Smith torch (Each metalsmith did visit Dr who specialized in
occupational health)

These may be anomalies - but I thought they may interest you

Cheers, Linda


#3

I just took a look at John’s Chemistry Primer for Jewelers and it is
awesome.

Anyone with a question about the metals, chemicals and reactions we
work with, will find the answer, and a lot more, right here. Print it
out and read it at your leisure. Thanks, John.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com/links/Chemistry.html 

Alan
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, Inc.
760 Market Street Suite 900
San Francisco California 94102


#4

I got many great responses from posting this - thanks and good luck
to all. I just wanted to let those and everyone know that i’ve added
quite a bit of content to it since I posted it originally. Some by
request and some because I just was there writing… So, as of
Monday
evening it’s probably in a final state for some time. Again, it is
here:

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com/links/Chemistry.html


#5

Hi John…like the new piece even better…

I did notice on typo… In the section of REDOX reactions…

It’s right after the principle of reduction of iron example and
understanding it…

“When you put sulfur with liver, the silver tarnishes…”

I printed out the new one also…

Regards…
Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)


#6

John,

What was your source for the section on HF acid? I use HF acid a lot
as well as others in the lab. The better informed we are, the more
likely an exposure will be just something we read about instead of a
life experience.

Cheers!
Jeff
Jeff Simkins
Microelectronics Engineer


#7

This primer is a great thing! Thank goodness I’m not a
hypochondriac! And on that note… Where I work we have a can of
cyanide eggs. Both myself and our other jeweler agree we will never
use them. Any ideas on how to dispose of this scary item?

Thank You,
Candy


#8

Hi,

Where I work we have a can of cyanide eggs. Both myself and our
other jeweler agree we will never use them. Any ideas on how to
dispose of this scary item?

Candy. Sounds like you have a hot potato - I didn’t mean to scare
anybody, really… By the way, I went looking around before I
replied to you, and one thing I found was that a lethal dose by
ingestion (it’s less if inhaled) is 2.8mg/1kg. That means that for a
120 lb. person.15 gm will do it. The way to neutralize what you have
is with sodium hypochlorite - household bleach. For myself, I might
do that with some plating solution, but I wouldn’t attempt it with
500 grams of eggs - the potential for disaster is too high. The only
right way is toxic waste disposal - they’re going to give you a real
hard time, and it might be really expensive, too. I am one who might
dispose of some acid out in the woods, carefully. But I couldn’t
sleep nights doing that with cyanide, and I wouldn’t suggest it
either… It’s just a “Now that we have it, we’re stuck with the
consequences.” sort of thing. Unless some colleague of yours is
interested in having it - it’s very useful for those who make use of
it.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#9
What was your source for the section on HF acid? I use HF acid a
lot 

Hi, Jeff. The quote that I put was straight out of Wikipedia. I have
also looked elsewhere-MSDS sheets for one, and it all more or less
confirms the quote. I just felt the quote put it all together pretty
well. And I didn’t mean to create a panic (you don’t seem
panicked…),
but I’ve found many people take it pretty casually, because it
doesn’t “seem” so bad. I found they’re using it a lot in car washes,
for instance - truck cleaners use it a lot because it gives the whole
vehicle a gleaming shine. But the chem suppliers are not really
interested in participating in the whole thing, because of
liabilities and worker safety and all. Here is the pertinent OSHA
page:

http://tinyurl.com/247ybv

Note that is says that ingestion of 1.5 grams causes sudden death.
That’s about a teaspoon or so.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#10
Sounds like you have a hot potato - I didn't mean to scare anybody,
really... By the way, I went looking around before I replied to
you, and one thing I found was that a lethal dose by ingestion
(it's less if inhaled) is 2.8mg/1kg. That means that for a 120 lb.
person.15 gm will do it. The way to neutralize what you have is
with sodium hypochlorite - household bleach. For myself, I might do
that with some plating solution, but I wouldn't attempt it with 500
grams of eggs - the potential for disaster is too high. The only
right way is toxic waste disposal - they're going to give you a
real hard time, and it might be really expensive, too. I am one who
might dispose of some acid out in the woods, carefully. But I
couldn't sleep nights doing that with cyanide, and I wouldn't
suggest it either.... It's just a "Now that we have it, we're stuck
with the consequences." sort of thing. Unless some colleague of
yours is interested in having it - it's very useful for those who
make use of it. 

Yes, but unfortunately, giving it to a collegue can be a problem
delayed.

For several years, a good friend of mine, in whose shop I had my own
bench, collected chemicals, including cyanide, that other jewelers
decided they didn’t want. He used it very, very infrequently, as he
already had lung damage stemming in part from a cyanide incident a
number of years ago. When my friend Randy died suddenly, his heir,
his daughter, didn’t want the chemicals. The landlord informed me
that if there were any problems with moving out, trash left in the
space, etc, they were going to hold me liable, even though my name
was not on the lease.

I took the chemicals, some of which really wanted, with me to avoid
the wrath of the landlord. Now I have one full can of eggs, two
partial ones, and a glass bottle of soduim cyanide powder. I can’t
afford the approximately $1000 minimum it will take to dispose of
this material locally. There are no other older jewelers locally to
pass this stuff on to! I seem to be it!

Now I too am looking for a safe, hopefully semi-legal, way of
disposing of this material for a reasonable cost, hopefully free.

Any suggestions? (I mean SERIOUS suggestions!)


#11

Hey Marrin, I guess I’m one of those old fogeys that still have to
use it about once a month for a particular product that I make for a
local jewelry store. I have tried all the strippers etc. and have
never found anything that gets into the impossible to reach areas
and brightens them as well. I am curious where you are located, I am
in Nevada. Let me know.

Thanks


#12

Hi Marrin,

Now I too am looking for a safe, hopefully semi-legal, way of
disposing of this material for a reasonable cost, hopefully free. 

Have you considered contacting the chemistry department at your
local university? Maybe they have a use for it and proper storage
facilities.

On a related note - a Chemistry Proff at our local University
started an online chemical exchange for adult individuals and
businesses that are in need of chemicals and a place to donate
chemicals that are no longer needed. He monitors the requests, stores
the chemicals at the University, and has an arrangement for picking
up the requested chemicals. This is all at no charge. I have used
this service for aquiring various chemicals for patination, etc.

All the best,

Donna
Donna Hiebert Design Inc.
http://www.discoverseachange.com


#13
Now I too am looking for a safe, hopefully semi-legal, way of
disposing of this material for a reasonable cost, hopefully free. 

Any suggestions? (I mean SERIOUS suggestions!)

Hi Marrin- I’ve never disposed of cyanide, though I have worked
around it. The book says that sodium hypochlorite neutralizes it -
This is a quote for a J.T. Baker MSDS sheet:

Cyanides must be oxidized to harmless waste before disposal. An
alkaline solution (pH about l0) is treated with chlorine or
commercial bleach in excess to decompose cyanide. When cyanide-free,
it can be neutralized. Whatever cannot be saved for recovery or
recycling should be handled as hazardous waste and sent to a RCRA
approved waste facility. Processing, use or contamination of this
product may change the waste management options. State and local
disposal regulations may differ from federal disposal regulations.
Dispose of container and unused contents in accordance with federal,
state and local requirements.

Now, you have enough material to gas a small town if it’s mishandled.
But bleach in excess is the method of neutralizing it. Just be very
careful if you do it, and do it outdoors. I’m really not sure I’d do
it, myself.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#14
Now I too am looking for a safe, hopefully semi-legal, way of
disposing of this material for a reasonable cost, hopefully free. 

Maybe a possibility… I’m wondering whether you could find a
business that regularly uses these things. Something like an
electroplating firm that uses it to mix plating baths (a common use)
or to clean precious metals, or the like. Perhaps they’d take the
donation, since they could put it to it’s normal use, saving them the
money of buying it. Not much money for them, but still perhaps not a
major hassle for them. Now, you may not have such a firm locally. So
if not, then this would not be free, since then you’d have to go to
the trouble of packaging it so it can be legally shipped, and then
paying hazardous shipping rates. I’d guess your cost would be closer
to a hundred, or that neighborhood, than the thousands you fear.
Almost any bigger electroplating firm likely uses at least some
cyanide baths, and the simple chemical is used now and then to adjust
and replenish baths in use. Also, firms like Hoover and Strong or
Krohn, manufacturers of baths such as that, and friendly to jewelers
who’re their customer base, might also be willing to take the stuff.
And if you’re anywhere near anything resembling a major university
system, one with a decent chemistry department, they’d probably be
well equipped to safely destroy the stuff for you.

Barring that, go do some digging on the I Shor web site (or call
them). I recall seeing detailed instructions somewhere in that
amazing site for safe cyanide destruction. It IS possible to do this,
converting the stuff to something you can then just pour down a
drain, I think… (check first) As I recall, it’s a bit of a bother,
but not costly, to do.

Peter


#15

First of all, I’ve worked with cyanide, but I don’t qualify as some
sort of cyanide expert - I do understand it, though. Second, I’m
pretty casual about safety when casual is called for. Here on orchid
there are these posts about polishing dust, and putting in huge
systems to avoid breathing even a bit of dust. Jeez, it’s dust
fercrissake. Cyanide is the real thing, though, and there were a
couple of posts about disposal, lately. I don’t recall the posters
name, but today was someone with a lot of it. First this, from
Inchem, about human health:

In humans, whereas slight effects occur at exposure levels of 2040
mg/m3, 5060 mg/m3 can be tolerated without immediate or late effects
for 20 min to 1 h, 120150 mg/m3 may lead to death after 0.51 h, 150
mg/m3 is likely to be fatal within 30 min, 200 mg/m3 is likely fatal
after 10 min, and 300 mg/m3 is immediately fatal. The lowest
reported oral lethal dose for humans is 0.54 mg/kg body weight, and
the average absorbed dose at the time of death has been estimated at
1.4 mg/kg body weight (calculated as hydrogen cyanide).

Understand that 1 mg =.001 gram 300 mg is about the amount you could
scoop up with a fairly long fingernail. m3 is a cubic meter - about 1
person. The last bit, the.54 mg part, means that a 220 lb. man would
get it from 1/2 gram of cyanide. Just to be clear here - I don’t want
any misunderstandings laid on me or the world, for that matter - let
us supppose that you wanted to dispose of a pound of sodium cyanide
without using the authorities. I don’t say this to be alarmist, it’s
reality. If you were to take one egg of sodium cyanide, which is
maybe 20 grams (and it’s 95%-98% cyanide - plating solutions are more
like 10% or 20% I believe - don’t quote me), and put it in a beaker
of vinegar in your living room, every living thing in your house
would be dead in 1 hour - the ants in the basement, the roaches,
probably the bacteria in the air, I imagine. If you threw the
quantity
mentioned in the post in the river - say the Mississipi - you would
have a zone of death of maybe several hundred yards around - every
living thing. That’s a guess of area, but probably not too far off.
If
you put it down the drain, it would kill everything in the sewer
system, including all bacteria, your city water system WOULD detect
it, they WOULD trace it, and they WOULD track you down, and you might
do jail time. If you buried that amount in a hole in the woods, it
might be ok if nobody every dug it up - pity them if they ever do.
Worst case would be a lingering cloud of cyanide gas for a year. If
you pick up an egg with your bare fingers, you’ll probably get sick,
but you might live. If your fingers are wet, you probably won’t live.
If you were to lick your finger, touch an egg, and then lick your
finger, that’s it, you’re done. Sodium cyanide deomposes in the
presence of carbon dioxide, and forms Hydrogen Cyanide, otherwise
known as cyanide gas. So if you crack open a can (it comes in cans so
it won’t shatter if it’s dropped), stick your nose into it and take a
big sniff, you might not see the sunshine again. OK. Again, I’ve
handled it. It’s these white, powdery eggs, you pick it up with
tongs, you use good procedure, everything’s fine, right? Easy. Sure,
as long as you understand the limitations. It’s when you either
forget or don’t know that it gets serious. I think some people think,
“Sure it’s poisonous, so if I had a coffee cup full, I’d get sick and
maybe I wouldn’t make it, right?” No, I’ve heard it said that it’s
the most poisonous substance on earth. But then I’ve heard that about
a few things, but it’s certainly on the top 10 list. Don’t mess with
it. And if you do don’t take it lightly. If you have eggs of sodium
or potassium cyanide (sodium is somewhat more dangerous - an also
useful for those who use it), then you’re stuck with them. If you
know how to handle it and you have a purpose for it, then you don’t
need to read this, or maybe it’s just review. Otherwise, even though
I understand that it’s a HUGE hassle to deal with, you are taking
your
life into your hands in fooling with it chemically, and you’re taking
your community’s life in your hands by doing something foolish like
pouring it down the drain. There’s a reason why it’s regulated. It’s
damn dangerous stuff.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#16

I’m not sure how this works over here, but can you contact your
local fire department, health or agricultural department or EPA for
In some countries/places they usually have disposal
protocols and will happily help (at least with for
removal of these things.

Just a thought