Old-school wooden ball-and-stick models

At one time or another, several American companies offered wooden ball-and-stick model kits that were nearly identical.  Industrial and Scientific Instrument Co. (ISI) out of Philadelphia, LaPine Scientific in Chicago, Macalaster Scientific in Nashua, NH, and Sargent-Welch (Chicago), each had 1-1/4 inch (3.2 cm) diameter C atoms with 1/4 inch (64 mm) holes.  The sticks were wooden pegs 2-1/8 inches or 1-1/4 inches long, and for strained or multiple bonds, there were tension springs that were 2 inches long.  Hydrogen atoms were characteristically yellow (a color usually reserved for sulfur in most schemes instead of the usual white.)

Sargent-Welch's model. You can buy this particular set for $296.25 at  Urban Remains .

Sargent-Welch's model. You can buy this particular set for $296.25 at Urban Remains.

These models were intended for rudimentary organic chemistry. They're inaccurately dimensioned for structural studies, and the pegs aren't tight enough to support large molecules.  However, they are certainly beautiful and have attained a fan base attracted to their "mid-century modern" aesthetic.  Assorted parts gathered from flea markets and other vintage sources are often available on Etsy (for example, see here, here, and here.)  

Sargent Kit resold by Stansi Scientific (purchased by Fisher Scientific in 1967).

Sargent Kit resold by Stansi Scientific (purchased by Fisher Scientific in 1967).

A few years ago, a Danish company called Ferm Living began selling a molecular model kit as a design product.  Sadly, they were discontinued, but as you can see below, the color scheme was gorgeously mid-century. Obviously, the pegs were chosen for artistic purposes, but I find it interesting that the kit included trigonal bipyramidal (black and white balls) and T-shaped (blue) geometries. Is a tetrahedron that difficult?  Anyway, there seemed to have been some manufacturing problems, which is inexcusable for a product that retailed for $80.

Molecular Building Set from Ferm Living.  Discontinued.

Molecular Building Set from Ferm Living.  Discontinued.

Today, if you want the classic wooden ball-and-stick aesthetic, you can, of course, contact me.  Also, there's still one manufacturer who's continuing to build large quantities of these kits and components.  There's also the DIY method, but holy cow, clamping a ball in a cardboard-lined vice seems like a very bad idea!