All liquids when placed in a burette form what is called a meniscus at their upper surfaces. In the case of liquids such as water or aqueous solutions this meniscus is concave, and when the liquids are transparent accurate readings are best obtained by observing the position on the graduated scales of the lowest point of the meniscus. This can best be done as follows: Wrap around the burette a piece of colored paper, the straight, smooth edges of which are held evenly together with the colored side next to the burette (Note 1). Hold the paper about two small divisions below the meniscus and raise or lower the level of the eyes until the edge of the paper at the back of the burette is just hidden from the eye by that in front (Note 2). Note the position of the lowest point of the curve of the meniscus, estimating the tenths of the small divisions, thus reading its position to hundredths of a cubic centimeter.
[Note 1: The ends of the colored paper used as an aid to accurate readings may be fastened together by means of a gummed label. The paper may then remain on the burette and be ready for immediate use by sliding it up or down, as required.]
[Note 2: To obtain an accurate reading the eye must be very nearly on a level with the meniscus. This is secured by the use of the paper as described. The student should observe by trial how a reading is affected when the meniscus is viewed from above or below.
The eye soon becomes accustomed to estimating the tenths of the divisions. If the paper is held as directed, two divisions below the meniscus, one whole division is visible to correct the judgment. It is not well to attempt to bring the meniscus exactly to a division mark on the burette. Such readings are usually less accurate than those in which the tenths of a division are estimated.]
If accuracy of results is to be attained, the correctness of all measuring instruments must be tested. None of the apparatus offered for sale can be implicitly relied upon except those more expensive instruments which are accompanied by a certificate from the !National Bureau of Standards! at Washington, or other equally authentic source.
The bore of burettes is subject to accidental variations, and since the graduations are applied by machine without regard to such variations of bore, local errors result.
The process of testing these instruments is called !calibration!. It is usually accomplished by comparing the actual weight of water contained in the instrument with its apparent volume.