A Simple Retort
The need for a closed retort
Because of these dangers, it is very important to handle mercury extremely carefully. When
working with gold amalgam, the mercury should be distilled in a closed retort. This not only
ensures the health of those involved and protects the environment, but the mercury can also be
recovered for future use.
Fabricating the retort
Figure 2: Parts required for the retort
The retort's pipe and fittings, except for the wooden stopper (2e) should be made from ordinary
galvanised iron. Piping made from copper or other metals should not be used as these combine
readily with mercury.
- 20-inch length of 1/4-inch-diameter galvanised iron pipe (2a), with screw thread at one
end. (If 1/4-inch pipe is not available, then use 1/2-inch pipe, but note that the smaller
the pipe diameter the better)
- 1/2-inch to1/4-inch galvanised iron pipe reducing bush (2b)
- 1/2-to-1 &1/2-inch galvanised iron pipe reducer (2c)
- 1 &1/2-inch galvanised iron pipe plug (2d)
- a wooden stopper to fit the 1/4-inch pipe (or 1/2-inch) discharge end (2e).
- piece of tightly woven cotton cloth, about 3 inches by 5 inches, to be rolled into tube
connected at the end of the pipe to serve as final discharge outlet) . This is included to
prevent possible reverse suction of water when the retort is removed from the heat while
the discharge end is dipped into the water in the glass.