Introduction: How to Hunt for Radioactive Objects in an Antique Store

Picture of How to Hunt for Radioactive Objects in an Antique Store

DONT BE ALARMED BY THIS i am a nerd who collects this stuff so dont be scared (this is nothing compared to flying in an airplane)

Step 1: The Usual Stuff You Will Find Is Depression Glass

Picture of The Usual Stuff You Will Find Is Depression Glass

it uses uranium ore to color the stuff and thus it fluoresces bright green LIKE CARTOON RADIATION GREEN

Step 2: Second Thing You May Find Is Fiestware

Picture of Second Thing You May Find Is Fiestware

fiestaware used to use uranium oxide which was highly radioactive. it was a glaze which meant DONT EAT ACIDIC FOODS OR UR GONNA BE RADIOACTIVE. it emits pretty much pure beta with no gamma or alpha but the radiation is detected at about 1.7 to 2 feet away.

Step 3: And If Ur Lucky, Maybe Some RADIUM

Picture of And If Ur Lucky, Maybe Some RADIUM

radium clocks used radium with activated zinc sulphide which would glow when hit with alpha radiation. that stuff is long since gone but with radium-226 lasting 1600 years, it will stay radioactive and fluoresce bright green!!! (forgot to upload the pic of only it but with the festaware works too!!)



go to your local antique store and freak out the owners so that you will do them a favor (and yourself)! hope you have fun with all your things (please dont be scared)


Hightechk (author)2011-01-02

this is cool, only one question what does this meter measure in? i've been looking for a geiger counter and am not sure what unit of measure for radioactivity i should get.

Gravity Boy (author)Hightechk2011-03-16

Radiation given off by a nuclear power-plant would be alpha if that is what you want to test for. Geiger tubes are simple devices usually made of a tube filled with a low pressure gas, normally neon, argon or helium. The tube has an anode rod in the center and a cathode shell surrounding the anode.

There is a potential difference in voltage between the anode and cathode of usually 400 V with zero current. As the particles enter the end of the tube they ionize the gas causing the ions to accelerate towards the cathode and electrons to accelerate towards the anode, as the ions and electrons accelerate towards the electrodes they collide with more of the gas creating a cascading effect.

This creates a pulse of current from the cathode to the anode which is then amplified and played as audible clicks. The detector above can detect beta and gamma but the alpha particles cannot go through glass so mica is used to make detectors that sense the alpha particles. Gravity Boy

gaieb (author)Gravity Boy2015-05-24

True but they also emit gasses that contain radioactive elements that release beta and gama rays also, I did a report on it back in the 70s, wish I could find a copy of that report now.

Kiteman (author)gaieb2015-05-25

What type of reactor did you do your report on, and what was the report's focus?

absolutekold (author)Hightechk2015-03-31

Geiger counters usually measure in counts (discharges) per minute. Most of the newer computer controlled ones do some very rough math to come up with milli-Rem or milli/nano-Sievert which is a measure of energy absorbed by living tissue but these numbers should be taken lightly because unless the detector is capable of being energy/type calibrated, and you take into account what inside of you is getting the dose the math is a bit weak. Fun to play with but not something to worry about. So unless you work with REALLY radioactive stuff you'll never get to a place where the amount of exposure would override the math errors.

recordcousin (author)2009-05-23

I take it you have read the book "The Radioactive Boyscout." He bought a bunch of radioactive antiques and such and ended up with a Superfund cleanup of his shed in the backyard.

Great read but I would like to point out he had built a neutron generator and was breeding fissile material with no thought to shielding or material controls. No reasonable amount (including a few unreasonable amounts) of collecting of radioactive artifacts will bring that kind of nightmare down on you. For all intents and purposes uranium trapped in glass/ceramic and radium trapped in gauges and watches are pretty safe to handle provided you don't eat it, sleep on a bed of it, or have your underwear made of it.

Denger (author)recordcousin2010-01-29

That is an excellent book; I highly recommend it!

ddonovan3 (author)2013-06-06


mrmerino (author)2012-05-31

Electrons in my salsa? Where do I sign up!

robotman3 (author)2010-05-23

it had a lot of those

robotman3 (author)2010-04-29

hey polonium9 are you from youtube?

polonium9 (author)robotman32010-04-29

 yup, have not been on here in a while. anything cool and radioactive?

robotman3 (author)polonium92010-05-02

so you got a drsb-88 geiger counter?

polonium9 (author)robotman32010-05-02

 ebay is the place but i have not seen them in a while.

also, your icon, it says "caution contamination area do not enter." i have a sign on my door (solid metal) saying the same thing only with radiation signs and no "do not enter".

got it from a rad nerd nearby...

robotman3 (author)2010-05-02

i have a drsb-01 it rocks.

robotman3 (author)2010-05-01

im doing good.I want to make a cloud chamber

KahlZun (author)2010-03-26

This was meant to explain "how" to find them, not "what" they are.

I presume you get a Geiger counter or something?

conrad2468 (author)2010-01-25

 I had a lunch the other day with my aunt and the rest of the family (shes just visiting) and i saw a dark green pitcher, so i borrowed the car and went home to get my DRSB-01 and came back to find it non radioactive. But since there is this rumor going around that there are ghosts in the house. So they were automatically convinced that it was a "ghost detector" :) that was my entertainment for the week...

cheezstake (author)2009-05-23

How often do you get funny looks walking into an antique shop with Geiger Counter? I used to give speeches to high school classes about nuclear power. I enjoyed sharing the sources of radiation found in nature and in everyday objects.

polonium9 (author)cheezstake2009-05-23

a lot, they dont know much about it which means that i freak them out and i teach them GOOD FOR ALL I GUESS (sorry but i like to capitalize things). i would recommend getting a drsb-01 due to its smallness and playing with (it only has 1 button and 2 LED's) thanks for commenting, i use a CDV-700 in this instructable.

miiwii3 (author)polonium92009-10-07

and again "I"

lemonie (author)2009-05-23

This is interesting, but you could inject a bit more "how" into it. Such as how to identify (these things) from (other things that look the similar)? L

polonium9 (author)lemonie2009-05-23

well its very simple, when things click, you buy

lemonie (author)polonium92009-05-23

I got the idea that you're using a G-M tube and counter, but you haven't made any mention of this - add it in? But knowing what sort of thing to point at would make life easier. Also if you haven't got the equipment (with you).


polonium9 (author)lemonie2009-05-23

i need to, it does use a geiger mueller tube

miiwii3 (author)polonium92009-10-07

and again "I"

lemonie (author)polonium92009-05-23

As another thought, it might be useful to people if you told us where you got the kit (someone is probably going to ask)
How much of this stuff have you collected, and is it expensive (if vendor knows it's radioactive, and you're giving it away a bit with the equipment!)?


Holden_vy_s (author)lemonie2009-05-23

Scare them into selling it to you cheap, Say it can cause cancer...

lemonie (author)Holden_vy_s2009-05-24

Yeah could blag it like - "you can't sell this stuff! but I'll get my containment-unit and safely dispose of them for you". L

polonium9 (author)lemonie2009-05-24

i would rather get a hazmat suit and really freek them out

lemonie (author)polonium92009-05-24


polonium9 (author)lemonie2009-05-24

YAY FOR FREAKING OUT PEOPLE i do scare people with my knowledge and freak them out with how radioactive those things are.

amethyst18 (author)2009-06-15

Huh, fancy meeting you here. lol

polonium9 (author)amethyst182009-06-25

hello young man hows you doinz?

welder guy (author)2009-06-16

hey polonium i didn't know you had a instructables account. just never woulda thaught. sincerly, outatime1955

polonium9 (author)welder guy2009-06-25

well hello!!!

Ikearat (author)2009-05-23

What a great idea! It never occurred to me to go prospecting in a re-sale store. I have some clocks from my parent's time (post WW2) and several old aircraft panel gauges... but no consumer products like plates and such. Thanks for the tip! I use an Aware RM-60 for detecting. I want a counter like yours, but can't bring myself to spend the money :)

polonium9 (author)Ikearat2009-05-23

if you bid on them, you can get them cheap. i have never heard of your geiger counter yet i have many. your stuff probably has radium so check it out!!!

pdub77 (author)2009-05-23

forgive my ignorance here, but once you find things that are radioactive, what do you do with them? and when you talk about fluorescing, do you use a UV light? thanks.

polonium9 (author)pdub772009-05-23

for anything radioactive is an antique which is beautiful and majestic. things like depression glass and radium-226 do fluoresce which i use a black light but i use an LED mainly for that stuff:)

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