I am always trying to think up projects I can do with mercury. A few months back I thought it would be neat to take an ordinary hourglass and replace the sand with mercury. It would probably look beautiful. I did a Google search to see if anyone has done this before so I could see what it would look like but did not find anything.
A week or so ago I started to actively look for an hourglass on ebay that would work for this project. The problem with ebay these days is that a LOT of stuff comes from sellers in China or Hong Kong. I tried to buy from a Chinese seller one time, one of those keychain cameras, and that did not go very well. I never got the camera so I promised never to buy from a seller in China again. Stick with U.S. sellers and avoid the high shipping costs and scams.
I found a perfect 30 minute hourglass that was actually affordable. The seller was located in California so that meant quick shipping. The hourglass I found was $10 with $7 shipping so I bought one. It looked nice, mounted in a square wooden frame and stood about 7" tall or so. In less than a week it arrived in a neat, well-packaged box- unbroken.
When I tapped on the hourglass, it sounded like it was made of plastic. That meant it would be easier to drill a hole in the end if it was plastic. I figured out a way to break apart the wooden frame without damaging it using a bit of clever leverage. I had to be careful not to break the hourglass or damage the frame since I needed to remount it in it.
Once I had the hourglass free, I started to file on the end of the hourglass and discovered it WAS made out of glass afterall. I had to switch from the fine mill file to my Harbor Freight diamond files. It probably took close to an hour of filing before the glass was thin enough to pierce it with a piece of metal. I originally planned to buy some small diamond drills and drill it but after some thought, I thought it was safer to take it slow and file it. The glass is quite thin an it would be a shame to smash the thing.
Next step is to drain the sand out. I will probably put around 32 ounces of mercury in the hourglass. I need to clean the mercury well to remove the dross that is on top of some of my mercury. If I don't do this, it may deposit the oxides and other contaminants on the inside of the glass and ruin the look.
I'm really curious how fast the mercury will fall through the hourglass. The sand took 30 minutes. I think the mercury will be closer to 30 seconds. Well see.