Today, we’re going to talk about gear. Most posts are about how little you can get away with as not to scare off the beginners, and those posts are amazing! (A pot dedicated to dye work, a couple of spoons, a scale. That’s pretty much the minimum. Go forth and be awesome.) This is not that post. This post is about the gadget fond dyer, the one who likes too much information. The water project (I talked about it back in this post.) is pretty much using all of my fun gear beyond the basics, so let’s have a look at what I’m using there.
Alright, let’s break this down by bits. The first thing we’re going to talk about is the weird cylinder thing at the top of the photo. That is my sous vide. It is basically a very fancy aquarium heater, capable of holding a pot of water at a specified precise temperature for a very long period of time. When I am doing large sample sets, I put my samples in jars and then place the jars in a water bath. That lets me do 10 or more samples at a time.. which is a whole heck of a lot faster than one at a time! It is not fast, I will say that about water bath dye work. It takes a lot longer for things to get to temperature than it would if I plunked a pot on the stove, but I also can walk away for hours and know that it will hold at exactly the temperature I’ve set it for, because that is literally what sous vide appliances do. (Not shown: The plastic bin I plan to use to hold my water bath. It’s a short rubbermaid tote. You all know what those look like. Also not shown, the glass jars that hold each sample. They are clean spaghetti sauce jars. You also all know what those look like.)
In the second row of things, starting from the left is a tube of iron test strips. (For things I got off Amazon, I’ve linked to Amazon. No affiliation, no kick backs, no promises that I picked well.) These measure soluble iron, so the Fe molecules that are hanging around waiting to cause trouble (aka react) with things we dye with. They measure in parts per million (ppm) and while I am not fond of colour compare (more on that with the pH strips), they’ve worked fairly well for me in other experiments to this point.
Next in the lineup are my pH strips. This was not the plan. I have a perfectly nice pH meter, acquired from the brew store, and I was all excited to use it. Except that the probe got damage (poor storage at the store mixed with no better storage at my house.. it’s fubar). That’s fine, this pH meter has a replaceable probe for exactly this reason! Probes do not last forever, this is a known thing! Awesome! Oh wait.. it’s only available (right now) in Australia, from a company that does not ship outside the country. Chatting with the Canadian distributer, he asked me to call him if I found any in Canada that he could get his hands on. Right. Thank you supply chain issues. No pH meter. Alright then, pH strips it is.. I hate them. I find them hard to read, the colours are hard to distinguish, and I eternally question their accuracy. Better than the nothing I was facing, but know I am not in a happy pH place.
Next up is my newest gadget.. a TDS meter. Total Dissolved Solids, basically it gives a measure of the hardness of one’s water by looking at the conductivity. Salts and minerals increase the conductivity of water, and so can be measured. Does it tell you WHAT salts and minerals are there? Nope, it sure doesn’t, but it does give a general idea on how much. Not a perfect measure, but gives us a ball park to play in. Which is, honestly, not half bad for kitchen chemistry. I am not set up in a lovely lab with a handy procurement clerk down the hall that I can go request all the bits my heart desires from.. I have amazon and my kitchen. So we’ll manage.
I’m going to hope that everyone reading recognizes a basic thermometer. It clips on to the side of a pot, and lets me keep an eye on the temp of the dye bath. You can tell that it’s seen hard use based on the colour, but it still works fine.
Last but by no means least, are my scales. They are the overlap between basic kit and this one and yes, there are two pictured there. The bottom one measures in grams, and is crap less than about 10 g, but can manage a chonk 7 kg. The top one is my delicate little scale, it measures 0.00 grams, and gets the vapours if you go over 200g. When you work in sample sizes, the tiny little scale is a necessity. (A 6 gram skein would want about 0.6g of alum. None of this is possible on my chonk scale, but the teeny one thinks this is /fine/.) Everything else is fun information gathering, the scales are required equipment.
So there you have it, the extras that I’m growing fond of (other than the pH strips, those are a necessary evil). Questions? Comments? Let me know some of your favourite gadgets!