Procure an ordinary carbon-zinc, sal-ammoniac battery and remove the zinc rod. If the battery has been used before, it is better to soak the carbon cylinder for a few hours to remove any remaining crystals of sal-ammoniac from its pores.
The truncated, conical zinc required is known as a fuller's zinc and can be bought at any electrical supply dealer's, or, it may be cast in a sand mold from scrap zinc or the worn-out zinc rods from sal-ammoniac batteries. It should be cast on the end of a piece of No. 14 copper wire. Amalgamation is not necessary for the zinc one buys, but if one casts his own zinc, it is necessary to amalgamate it or coat it with mercury. This may be done as follows:
Dip a piece of rag in a diluted solution of sulphuric acid (water 16 parts, acid 1 part); rub the zinc well, at the same time allowing a few drops of mercury to fall on a spot attacked by the acid. The mercury will adhere, and if the rubbing is continued so as to spread the mercury, it will cover the entire surface of the zinc, giving it a bright, silvery appearance.
Next procure what is known as a wire connector. This is a piece of copper tube about 1-1/2 in. long having two thumb screws, one on each end on opposite sides (Fig. 2). The upper screw is to connect the battery wire, the lower one to raise and lower the zinc. The battery is now complete, and the solution (Fig. 1) must be prepared. Proceed as follows:
In 32 oz. of water dissolve 4 oz. potassium bichromate. When the bichromate has all dissolved, add slowly, stirring constantly, 4 oz. sulphuric acid. Do not add the acid too quickly or the heat generated may break the vessel containing the solution. Then pour the solution into the battery jar, until it is within 3 in. of the top. Thread the wire holding the zinc through the porcelain insulator of the carbon cylinder and also through the wire connector. Pull the zinc up as far as it will go and tighten the lower thumb screw so that it holds the wire secure. Place the carbon in the jar. If the solution touches the zinc, some of it should be poured out. To determine whether or not the zinc is touched by the solution, take out the carbon and lower the zinc. If it is wet, there is too much liquid in the jar. The battery is now ready for use.
To cause a flow of electricity, lower the zinc until it almost touches the bottom of the jar and connect an electric bell or other electrical apparatus by means of wires to the two binding posts.
This battery when first set up gives a current of about two volts. It is useful for running induction coils, or small electric motors. When through using the battery, raise the zinc and tighten the lower thumb screw. This prevents the zinc wasting away when no current is being used. --Contributed by H. C. Meyer, Philadelphia.
Fig.1 Details of Homemade Battery