A Retort

As a former science teacher, it is no surprise that I have collected a few odds and ends over the years – items that schools had and then deemed of no further use.

One such object is a retort – the piece of glassware that led to jokes about chemists and the replies they made to people – invariably they offered a retort and quite possibly a rude one.

Here is my retort.


A retort is a simple, elegant piece of glass with a perfect fit ground glass stopper. The idea is that you can put a liquid in it, hold it in a retort stand and heat the liquid. Vapours produced can only pass along the tube which is well away from the heat source and so they cool, condense and drip out of the end of the tube where they can be collected. You could use one, for example, to get pure water from salt water since the salt won’t boil.

I just love the simplicity of the retort and, having done a bit of laboratory glass blowing and bending myself, I admire the skill of makers who can produce such a device.

Retorts can still be bought. They cost around £30.

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One Response to “A Retort”

  1. magnocrat Says:

    I remember them well many were used for distillation of fermented grape juice illegally. Damp cloths placed on the long stem to condense the precious fluid.

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