Monday, February 18, 2013

In which sewing and science collide once again.

I work in a lab without a gas line, which is pretty much essential when you're working with microorganisms.  You need to keep a flame going on your workbench to sterilize the area and your instruments, otherwise you end up with so much bacterial / fungal contamination and your experiments are ruined.

Since I don't have a gas line, I've been making due with an old alcohol burner.  The problem is, wicks are incredibly hard to come by these days.  I mean, who uses kerosene lamps anymore?  Who uses alcohol burners?  I've had the lab manager scouring the supply companies for weeks, while my poor old burner was coughing on its last wisps of wick.

Then I was at Fabricville the other night, looking at twill tape, and the light went on.  Twill tape is 100% cotton.  It's strong and cheap.  It will fit in a burner.



There ya go.  Sewing saved my science.  And at $1/metre, it's about the cheapest scientific supply you can buy.


ps:  please don't forget to get involved in the Map the Sewintists project!  Click here for more info and here for the map.


11 comments:

  1. You are a genius! That is wicked smart!

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    1. You want to talk about genius? Try working in a lab with people from developing countries. They can turn anything into anything else. I saw a group of students from the Phillipines turn a table fan sideways and drill holes to make a minicentrifuge; the Columbian students laughed at my wick dilema and told me to steal strings from the janitor's mop; the African students reuse disposable pipets until there are no graduation marks left on them. We have it easy around here.

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  2. You're so creative! I think camping supply companies might sell wicks for kerosene lamps because there are definitely still people who camp with them.

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    1. That's a great idea - but the hole in an alcohol burner is small and round, so I needed something like a cord or something that could be rolled into a cord shape. I'll check there next time.

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  3. GENIUS! Seriously a great idea. My Mom keeps trying to give me oil lamps with no wick. I might just take those off her hands after all.

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    1. I always pride myself on finding solutions to problems (duh,isn't that what scientists are supposed to do?), but sometimes I get functional fixedness and get stuck for a while. Don't we all sometimes?

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  4. I don't think I will ever look at twill tape again and not think about using it as a wick...fantastic idea! By the way, your Sewintist map is so much fun! Thanks for starting that.

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    1. I just saw your pin - you're really on Manitoulan Island?! How's the fabric shopping situation? ;)

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  5. That is very interesting and way cool! Love it when two different crafts/media/arts/whatever work together. And I did add myself to your map!

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  6. That is very interesting and way cool! Love it when two different crafts/media/arts/whatever work together. And I did add myself to your map!

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  7. Aaah I love this! Isn't it great when sewing and science overlap? And just so you know, I've taught in a couple of schools with no lab facilities to speak of, so we used alcohol burners when we could since, like you, we had no gas line for burners. Flinn Scientific has wicks, but they're definitely not cheaper than twill tape, and I think they might only sell to schools and universities.

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