I’m always amazed by the price of some bits of lab equipment. Things like aluminium heating blocks are way overpriced and as a result most academic labs make do with oil baths. Obviously these have a number of problems that are highlighted by suppliers but their arguments still don’t justify spending 300 GBP on a heating block for a single round bottom. They argue that they pay for themselves over one or two years due to the price of silicone oil. I don’t know how often they think the oil in baths gets changed but I hadn’t found a single chemist who would agree with this.
Having said that, I’m not a fan of oil baths. They are a real pain when carrying out small scale reactions in parallel. At the beginning of my last year of my DPhil I somehow found time to learn how to turn and mill metal thanks to our in-house workshop and friendly engineers. I made myself a heating block to hold 8 CEM microwave tubes. This thing made life so much easier. No more slippery oil coating and contaminating everything. All for 2 hours of work and a chunk of scrap aluminium worth about £20.
Now our workshop here has made me a heating block to hold 25 mL vials as disposable reaction vessels. I also asked them to turn some B14 to vial adapters so I can attach condensers or any other quickfit glassware to them. Andrew in the workshop designed a beautiful thing made from 2 pieces of PTFE. Connected to the vial it easily hold a vacuum <1 mmHg, so vacuum purging and inert atmospheres are all good (not that I'd recommended using vacuum on parallel sided, non vacuum rated vessels without a proper shield).
Anyway this is the prototype and the heating block is getting anodised. It's going to be beautiful. I would encourage anyone to get to know your lab workshops if you are lucky enough to have them.