Old-school chemistry set mimics one made in 1936

The BenchMark Legacy Chemicals kit on Kickstarter lets kids unleash the awesome power of chemistry without watering down the experience.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Heirloom chemistry set
This sweet chemistry set is a welcome throwback. John Farrell Kuhns

When I was young, I found my father's old geology sample set from when he was a kid. One of the rocks had a faintly yellowish look to it and was labeled "uranium." Ah, those were the good old days. Liability worries and an overly protective society have taken a lot of the fun out of science kits for kids. The Heirloom Chemistry Set Kickstarter wants to bring the magic back.

A quick look at chemistry sets on Amazon finds a lot on offer, but few that sound compelling. Most have a token number of bland chemicals to work with, not the sort of mad-scientist, chemistry-explorer type of environment that really gets kids excited.

The BenchMark Legacy Chemicals kit, on the other hand, contains all 56 chemicals originally listed in an A.C. Gilbert chemistry set manual from 1936, along with 8 additional chemicals. The chemicals range from aluminum sulfate to sulfuric acid. You can pick up that set for a $175 pledge.

Move up to the $225 level to get a complete set of chem-lab equipment and glassware. This set includes beakers, flasks, a crucible, and plenty of other fun gear. The sets are geared for kids 9 and older with adult supervision. It will also appeal to adults who either remember this style of kit, or who never got a chance to play with one in the first place.

The set comes from John Farrell Kuhns, owner of the H.M.S. Beagle, a science-focused store in Parkville, Mo. He has more than 50 years as a chemist under his belt and a mission to bring science education to both children and adults.

Kuhns is happy to work with parents who have concerns about certain chemicals. "We understand the hesitancy of some parents to allow their children to have access to certain chemicals and while every chemical we offer is safe when handled properly we will offer those who have pledged at those levels, where appropriate, to request substitutes for any given chemical or chemicals," the Kickstarter reads.

This BenchMark Legacy Chemicals kit is a welcome throwback in a culture that has tended toward sanitized science for kids. This isn't about coddling, it's about curiosity. Think of it as fuel for future scientists.