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  • Robbing Science to Pay Art

    Disclaimer: this is quite a specialized article and likely will only apply to a small percentage of readers - namely, those who work in a biology or chemistry laboratory. In fact, I only know a few other painters who have access to all these goodies. But I suspect many more of us work in places where handy and unique items, which can be repurposed towards our painting, are available. So the alternate title for this article is:

    Now that we've established our moral basis, let's get to the useful part of the article. YOUR WORKPLACE MAY CONTAIN SMALL, SPECIALIZED ITEMS AND TOOLS WHICH COULD BE HANDY ON YOUR MINIATURE PAINTING TABLE AT HOME. Many of these items are quite valuable - small power tools and so forth. DO NOT TAKE THESE. Getting fired for actual theft will cut into your miniature buying budget and make people very unhappy with you. We want the cheap, disposable and consumable items that you can't get anywhere else, but which are thrown away every day at your job.

    I work in a molecular biology laboratory. In a nutshell, we study the DNA and proteins of plants. Here are some of the handy things that have come home with me in the last few years:

    This is my "wet palette". It's a 96-well polystyrene microplate, used to perform 96 very small chemical reactions at once (this one was unused). I use it to temporarily store small quantities of custom paint mixes. When kept in a tupperware container with a wet sponge, this will keep a fraction of a ml of paint usable for well over a week. Many biology labs will use these up like mad, so they're pretty easy for me to acquire once I use this one up (it may be possible to "strip" this one with brake fluid but it's likely not worth the effort).

    Some plasticware I found handy. The small bottles are polyethylene sample bottles, 1 oz. each. I transferred a bunch of GW paints into them from the old screw-cap bottles which dry up so quickly. The TINY conical tubes are handy for storing a ml or less of a specific wash or paint mix used for multiple figures. The others are plastic "weighing dishes" and disposable beakers, which I use for mixing plaster etc, or could use for making terrain pieces if I was into that. These items aren't very exciting, but (except for the weigh dishes) they are made of durable, solvent-resistant polyethylene.

    Nitrile rubber gloves. These ones are a free sample that came with a supply catalogue. Nitrile is extremely durable, chemical-resistant, and unlike latex, non-allergenic. I use these for mixing green stuff and handling any other toxic or messy substances. They are cheap (about 20 cents each) and disposable (I go through at least 3 pairs a day in the lab) but will last for many uses so I don't have to keep sneaking more pairs home.

    Kimwipes are lint-free wipes used in science and industry. A little pricey to use for cleaning brushes, but they are handy for polishing, or any application where paper "lint" is unwelcome.

    My undergraduate dissection lab scalpel is still a useful knife... since I can get blades for it! The other item is a pair of disposable plastic hemostats. They're not very strong, but their grip is quite gentle and so they're good for immobilizing small, fragile things.

    Like I said, most people won't have access to these specific items, but hopefully there are some interesting throwaway things at your job that can find a new life in your hobby space. Remember, don't "steal" anything that'll get you into trouble - if in doubt, go without! In fact, ask - if it's being thrown away anyway you'll likely get explicit permission to take it. And obviously don't take anything home which has been used with hazardous/infectious materials, etc.!

    Happy scrounging!
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Moradin's Avatar
      Moradin -
      I also use stuff from the lab I worked in. But I had no qualms about it because most things were used once and discarded to avoid contamination, so I picked up a lot of small plastic containers, pipettes tips, tubes, etc.. just had to wash them!
    1. cpyke's Avatar
      cpyke -
      I used one of those Styrofoam containers that they pack all the stuff that has to be frozen during shipping as a bunker. The rounded edges look just like an old German bunker from WWII. It works great with Imperial Guard. and since there were a ton in the lab that no one was ever going to use again, nobody minded if I took one. Science rules!
    1. Mr. Biggles's Avatar
      Mr. Biggles -
      I used to work (didn't get fired - just finally retired) in a hospital supply room, and needless to say, tons of disposable (and sometimes not so disposable) supplies followed me home!
    1. Humanitarian's Avatar
      Humanitarian -
      I work in an ink and coatings lab. All sorts of neat stuff there, plus all different pigments, surfactants, etc.
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