Making your own bismuth crystals is relatively easy, and relatively safe. Relative being a
relative term: It definitely won't work the first time you try it, and it's certainly
possible to get hurt any time you're dealing with molten metal. But if you're careful,
wear long-cuff welding gloves, long pants, and sensible shoes, and you're patient and
willing to keep trying, you should be able to produce crystals similar to those in
my Popular Science article.
The equipment required includes:
Two clean (brand new) stainless steel measuring cups.
A pair of leather welding gloves or at least heavy oven mitts.
A pound or two of high purity (99.99% or better) bismuth metal.
A stove or heating element.
A moderately insulating, fireproof surface to set the cups on.
The only one of these items not commonly available is the bismuth, so I'm listing here a few places
you can get it from.
United Nuclear, Inc (Don't be alarmed by the name.)
eBay seller "arizzo"
eBay seller "kellysurplus"
eBay seller "emovendo"
Some of these sources also sell large already-grown bismuth crystals, but if you're lazy and just want to buy a big beautiful
crystal, try these sources:
eBay seller "kskt4", also known as Ken
(see his eBay listings
or his website)
Frankly, the crystals they make are much bigger than can be made using the method I described. On the other hand,
their methods are much more complex and time consuming: I think the most fun thing about bismuth crystals is how
quickly you can get something quite beautiful.
For more about the technique I used see my Popular Science column, or
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All text and images on this website Copyright (c) 2003 by Theodore W. Gray.