A Fun Recipe for Kitchen Chemistry
Chemistry is all around us every day. And now, it’s all over my father-in-laws refrigerator, too.
My father-in-law is a chemical engineer and a kitchen chemist in his free time. My wife and I thought that the chemistry equivalent of poetry fridge magnets would be the perfect Christmas gift for him. The concept is pretty simple, find a set of molecules that are interesting, then imprint their molecular model in some aluminum flat bar and stick some magnetic strips to the back.
In honor of the kitchens they end up in, here is our recipe:
1 – 1″ x 1/16″ aluminum bar, cut to length
1 – Sharpie marker
1 – polymer magnetic strip, cut to length
1 – 1/8″ letter/number metal stamping set
Find a set of molecules that you find interesting and figure out their molecular models. Draw them out to scale on a sheet of paper to make sure they fit on the bar stock.
Cut each medallion to length from the aluminum bar with a hacksaw. Leave yourself a little extra around the edges for a cleaner look. Make sure the cut is square to the bar stock and be sure to debur the edges with either a file or a deburring tool.
Plan out the lettering on each medallion by drawing the letters out with the Sharpie marker. My wife figured out this cool trick: press down on the aluminum with the stamps and it will leave the slightest ghost of the image, then trace that with the marker.
Imprint the letters on the surface of the medallion with the metal stamps and a hammer. Use a steel bar as a backing when stamping to make sure the aluminum doesn’t stretch and draw. (drawing is when the edges of the metal curl upward and the spot where the die is struck forms a bowl shape). Wash the marker off with rubbing alcohol or nail-polish remover.
Finish the surface of the medallion whichever way looks good to you. Aluminum can be worked with fine-grit sandpaper to make a brushed finish, hit with a steel wire wheel to give a rough finish, or polished until it shines.
Stick the self-adhesive side of the polymer magnet to the back of each medallion. Make sure the magnetic strip doesn’t delaminate by stacking the finished medallions in width order (widest on the bottom) and clamp the stack to a table for 24 hours or more. Use cardboard to keep from marring the surface.