Finished Stills and Current Builds

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MidnightThunder
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Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:01 pm

Just a posting of pictures of my finished and ongoing projects. Leave me some feedback!

Current Stills:

Boka Slant Plate. Just put into action with a simple water-leak test. No product condenser yet
Baby Boka.jpg
Close up of the keg connection. Keg has a 6" Tri-clamp welded to what was the bottom. Copper cap is just a plate of spread out 2 inch pipe with a 2 inch EZ flangesoldered on and is held on with binder clips and sealed with flower paste. Temporary...
6 inch cap.jpg
Close up of the Boka's Condenser. 3/8" wound around a cold finger.
Condenser.jpg
This is all brand new, just finished equipment. I will post pics of my others later.

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Danespirit
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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:21 am

He,he...I see I'm not the only "bath room stiller"... :ebiggrin:
Looks good, but you may want to add a packed column beneath for higher ABV.
I see you run two elements, what's the wattage of them..?
Probably you run both for heat up and have only one hooked up to your controller..?

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Hound Dog » Sun Aug 14, 2016 7:38 am

I was wondering about the two elements on a pony keg too. That's a lot of power if they are full size.

I had also made reducer for 6" to 3" by taking a copper plate and silver soldering a 6" ferrule on one side and a 3" on the other. Just soldering the ferrule flat onto the plate is plenty strong. I just found over time that a large heavy column could flex the plate a bit so I just bought a reducer from brewershardware.com . This one is $40 and solid as a rock.
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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Aug 14, 2016 7:48 am

All this time and I still don't have a controller! One is 4500 watts and the other is 5500 but until I get a controller, I'm just running them on 110, giving me a total of 2500 watts. I plan to up the wattage by using 220 as I dread heat up times, and then cut back the wattage for the rest of the run. I have another full size keg that I will fix up for both elements eventually. Anyways, Enjoy some more pics

Pot still (Decommissioned), fire heated:
Old Pot.jpg
VM Head and 18" extension with EZ flange connectors:
VM head.jpg
One of 2 identical kettles used for mashing:
Brew Pot.jpg

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Danespirit
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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:55 am

That mash kettle is a beauty..
With 2,5 KW on a pony keg, heating up should be no issue at all.
I see your VM is just partly insulated, it will benefit from being insulated all the way to the tee...but that's just a detail.
Does it have it's own reflux condenser, or are you using the RC from your boka..?

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:37 pm

The 2.5 kW does work well, I just wanted overkill since before I had been using a 1500 watt element on a full keg. Put a foul taste in my mouth about sitting around waiting for it to heat up. Even though takeoff can be slow with the VM, I'm patient since I know that's a matter of quality. And at that point I have something to watch!

As for the insulation on my VM, you caught her naked! I had it insulated all the way to the tee and just removed that section as I was resoldering. Where there is now the 2" x 1" reducer and threads for the takeoff valve, I recently had a copper solder-on tri-clamp flange to a 2" TC x 1" male thread that fit into the valve. After getting my mash and boil kettles welded up I am short of funds, so i realized I could save some by moving that flange to my new boka head and the 2" TC by 1" male thread to my pony keg as a drain. It still has the sankey fitting on what is now the bottom to be used as a drain. In the photo above, it is just capped off with a 2" end cap so it doesn't need it's stand.

I got 2 identical 8 gallon kettles for $40 each a few months ago and had them sitting around for months. Just got them in and welded while I was having the keg welded too. Each kettle was $40 for the welds so I have $80 and some personal man-hours into each. Came out pretty good for such a low price!

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:42 pm

And yes the VM has it's own coil. 3/8 CSST wrapped in a double helix about 8" long. While the rest of the Boka was just made, that copper coil was one of the first I made, and the last from copper. Copper coils are beautiful pieces of work, but they are too much of a PITA for me to make only to put it INSIDE the column where it is rarely seen. CSST is super easy to work with and can be rebent if you have to use it for a different application. Also since it's corrugated, the heat transfer is magnificent.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:35 pm

Hey members. Hope everyone enjoyed the first part of the holidays. My disappearance can be attributed to starting a new job with a long commute as well as some other things competing for my time. However I have made some advancements so this post will be rather long to share many of them.

From the previous photos, my boiler has since progressed to a much more refined and solid version.

I first made a stand for it from an old propane burner I had laying around that wasn't getting much use, and added a drain from some of the pieces for my pot still head. I also replaced the copper plate adapter, and went with a 6 x 4 conical and 4 x 2 bowl reducer. Not the cheapest route by a long shot, but I much prefer the look it gives, especially with the pot head
20160930_081848.jpg
I then spent some time on my brewing gear, starting off with a copper manifold for all grain, fly sparging. The manifold sits so low that the mash tun dead space is now reduced to only 8 ounces!
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I then salvaged some oak floor boards from work that I cut down with beveled edges, and strapped together with aluminum bands and S.S. screws.
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After moving the boiler around once or twice, I was fed up with the crappy stand it was sitting on, so I whipped up these leveling feet from some carriage bolts laying around, and some aluminum stock also salvaged from a job. The aluminum block was surplus hand rail.
20161120_214058.jpg
A little before making the feet, I ran a water run through my bokabob head to see how it would do and ran into the common issue of vapor falling uncondensed down the takeoff, so I hacked up my oldest liebig, that hasn't seen use in a while, to make a smaller liebig solely for this head. I realize the half inch takeoff is too large, but this one is intended to be run only as a potstill head, with the valve just acting as a nice on/off for the product takeoff.
20161126_200401.jpg
I intend to build another boka head soon, with a 1/4" I.D. takeoff and needle valve to be run on my VM column for a VM/LM combo.

Finally, I have started on another boiler that will double duty as a boil kettle for brewing, and maybe down the road end up as my mash tun. Nothing has been welded on yet, as I intend to go 8" TC for easy addition/stirring/removal of grains when playing the part of mash tun.
20161204_190017.jpg

Moving forward, I have some plans. Following up on my thread about the idea of a Spiral Prismatic Packing competitor, dubbed Copper Helical Packing, I am slowly making a large amount of this packing to fill my column. It isn't too time intensive too make, it just has not been at the top of my priority list.

I also intend to move up to a 4" column packed with this stuff, if all goes well in the 2", using a 6" Sanitary filter plate at the base of the column to keep it suspended. Above the column, I intend to have a 4" Tee splitting off to an equally matched takeoff, with a large CSST condenser in a 4" TC pipe above the Tee to function as a CCVM head.

The boiler right now is intended to have an 8" ferrule welded on top, two 2" ferrules down low, and possibly three 3" ferrules along the vertical axis to use as sight windows.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by BoisBlancBoy » Thu Dec 08, 2016 4:25 pm

Great work buddy! I especially like the mash tun drain. Gotta make me one of those someday when I start doing more all grains.

How the column been producing for you?

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Mikey-moo » Fri Dec 09, 2016 4:01 am

Some tidy looking builds there... puts my meager effort to shame! Good job :-)
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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:40 am

Thanks Mlk man. I can't take any credit for the welds though. I have them all done at a shop. Costs me a little bit per weld, but i can get 3 of em done for less than a roll of Harris Sta-brite 8, so I've avoided trying Bellybuster's method for soldering stainless. My first still was 6 years ago, made from a 4 quart pressure cooker with a worm in a play sand bucket, quickly upgraded to a liebig. I also built a still a year later, more just for proof of concept that operates exactly as RAD's concentric, albeit from a galvanized supply pipe, a glass jar collection chamber, and a plastic jam jar coolant reservoir, with liquid nails to seal it and a plastic takeoff tube. lol. Pretty much broke every rule this site has, but this was a small rig only used for proof of concept. NEVER USED IT FOR DRINKING SPIRITS, and rather just burned everything it produced. Seeing the level of craftsmanship on builds from the most active members of HD made me strive for a higher level myself and as my skills improved, I've been able to produce less macgyver looking rigs, and more legitimate stills.

Three B's, the manifold or the keg boiler drain? If you are talking about the copper manifold, it's really easy and inexpensive to make, just gotta find the time for it.
I've had mixed results with the column, only really ran it a handful of times. I'd say I have more time building my rigs than actually running them. But hopefully that will change soon, as I finish up a more permanent spot with dedicated water and electric for precise control, up to 10kw. I expect that once I am able to supply the column with the proper amount of controlled power, I will see much improved, consistent results.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by BoisBlancBoy » Sat Dec 10, 2016 9:01 am

Yes sir I was talking about the mash tun manifold.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:11 pm

Cut the ring off the top of the keg, and ground the ridge smooth on my pony boiler. Looking less like a keg and more like a still!
IMG_20170102_213851564.jpg
Here is my latest project, Euro keg with a 6" ferrule, 2 heating element hookups. On top is a VM head, 1/2" take-off arm, 36" S.S. packed column. Set up in pot still mode, top cap is just loose fit so in the event that the valve is shut while being used as a pot still, it will just pop off before dangerous pressures build up. This one is being sold, so safety was the priority.
IMG_20170102_213551286.jpg
Lastly, this is my current build.
IMG_20170102_213816591.jpg
Yes that's a 12" ferrule you see! Yes, they are expensive. But this is gonna double as a brewing vessel so I can downsize, and I wanted to be able to fit a steam basket in it for Brew In A Bag sessions, so 12" was the only option. Plus I have some crazy plans for it in the far future.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:31 am

Beautiful work..! :clap:

I love that boiler...you are a skilled metalworker.
Do you plan to make a stand for it? I assume the rectangular mild steel tubes are just temporarily mounted, so the boiler won't rest on the drain at the bottom.
I think you are the first distiller to use a 12" ferrule.
Please keep the pictures coming..

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:17 pm

Those legs are the permanent solution though I will get shorter carriage bolts for a less intrusive look. I considered having a legs welded but came up with those as a low cost and more effective solution. The black part is actually hollow aluminum stock with two nuts inside that the carriage bolt runs through. It is bolted to the keg with S.S. nuts and bolts. These allow me to level out the boiler and column wherever I run. The first ones on my pony keg were a crude version but it is very sturdy and functions good so I took the next 2 sets I made to the drill press for a more accurate fit.

You never realize how much time it takes to grind off that stupid ring until you are well committed to doing so. I dig the appearance though so I'm not upset about the time spent. A flap disc for the angle grinder really helped.

At least the first to post pics! I thought of going with an 8" or 10" for some cost savings, but the 8 wouldn't have given me much more of an opening while brewing, and a 10 wouldn't have been much cheaper. Not to mention 12" fittings seems to be more available than 10", and I already have the basket to fit in the 12". Hoping to make a false bottom from the top of the keg that gets cut out. That alone would justify the price of the ferrule, since a false bottom would be around $75.

Next I'm thinking of buying a ProCap plate and ProCaps to go between the 6" ferrule and the 6" reducer. I know I wouldn't have any way to see the plate in action, but I've heard that's not so much of an issue with the ProCaps as they are "unfloodable". Thoughts on this? If it will help speed and purity with the column on top, maybe I will order a 4" plate and caps to go in between the other reducer too.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Wed Jan 04, 2017 1:18 pm

I can't comment on any personal experience with ProCaps, but what from I've read they are a good choice.
They look well engineered and I've seen them in action at a high power input.
Maybe other members have some hands on experience with them..?
A 4" bubble plate beneath the column, will definitely "turbo charge" your column...it will give you another distillation before the column.
I run a sieve plate beneath mine and I'm very pleased with the result.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:26 pm

That's the idea, but will it work better with a 6" AND a 4" plate under the column? I've read that the plate feeds it with higher % alcohol vapor, and kind of axts as a buffer to slow vapor speed when applying more power. So with that logic two would charge the column with roughly 85%.I'm just concerned about the aspect of stacking two plates, especially with the 4" possibly restricting the vapor path.

Dane, how does that plate affect your take-off percentage and rate? I think I could make one easily enough and it sure would be cheaper than the ProCaps.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:50 am

Two plates will raise the ABV substantially, as each plate gives one more distillation cycle.
However, the take-off rate is determined by the diameter of your column.
There is only so much one can feed into a column of a given size before flooding occurs. The diameter of a column determines the potential limit for the take-off rate, the height determines the purity.
In that case, we speak of the " Height equivalent to the numbers of theoretical plates". So with one or even two plates beneath the column, it can be shorter and still deliver the same purity.
Of course, the take-off rate also relates directly to the power input...further to the heat loss in the whole system.
When I run my pot still with a plate in it, the ABV is raised substantially compared to a run without a plate.
For my reflux column...I can run a little faster without the ABV dropping all that much, even though I have a relatively short column ( 2", 750 mm).
A sieve plate will be a cheaper alternative for you than one with ProCaps...it should be easy enough to build one/two.
Running with two plates is feasible, the only culprit is the plate spacing.
You'll have to keep an adequate spacing, to prevent entrainment (the splashing of liquid from the lower plate up under the plate above).
This situation will cause the upper plate to loose efficiency or even be nonfunctional in an extreme case.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by bronctoad » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:57 am

MT what is the actual i.d. and o.d. of that ferule? my homemade one comes in @ o.d. 12.750" i.d. 11.875". I'd be interested in a coupler to go with it. :oops: or how much modification I'd have to do to get one to fit. your rig looks similar to mine, and multi use was part of my original plan. cool rig either way

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:10 pm

bronctoad, it's 11 11/16" ID and 12 5/16" OD.

Danespirit, I'm familiar with HETP's and their relation to purity, and the column diameters' relation to take-off. I may move up to a 4" VM column with some plates beneath it, but I want to get a better idea of this beast before upgrading. I made this VM column close to 2 years ago but haven't run it as much as I'd like to admit. Reading about PrairiePiss's Fu Man bubble ball led me to believe that he was able to significantly improve his take-off on a 2" column while maintaining high purity because of the plate. I suppose I'll just make a plate or two and test it out.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:38 pm

Based on your boiler capacity, I would say a 4" with a plate or two beneath is the upper limit....I'd even say it's too big.
Think about it..the column would almost suck your boiler dry before the column comes online..
My take on it would be a 3" column with plate/s beneath, it will be more suitable for the boiler size you have right now.
The thread about PP's build is certainly interesting. He shows some talented skills and I enjoyed reading it back then.
I can tell you right now, it will work on a 2" column too...mine is the same size and runs fine with a single plate under it.
My plate has 1,5 mm holes in it, but after a few test runs, I consider drilling them up to 2,5 mm (that would be on my pot still setup).
It's not that it doesn't do the job, but I could use a little more power.
A "standard" size of hole seems to be 2,38 mm or 3/32" for a sieve plate
I would suggest to make one plate and do a test run...you can always make one more.
Be aware of the height of the downcomer determines how much liquid you'll have on the plate.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Danespirit » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:38 pm

Based on your boiler capacity, I would say a 4" with a plate or two beneath is the upper limit....I'd even say it's too big.
Think about it..the column would almost suck your boiler dry before the column comes online..
My take on it would be a 3" column with plate/s beneath, it will be more suitable for the boiler size you have right now.
The thread about PP's build is certainly interesting. He shows some talented skills and I enjoyed reading it back then.
I can tell you right now, it will work on a 2" column too...mine is the same size and runs fine with a single plate under it.
My plate has 1,5 mm holes in it, but after a few test runs, I consider drilling them up to 2,5 mm (that would be on my pot still setup).
It's not that it doesn't do the job, but I could use a little more power.
A "standard" size of hole seems to be 2,38 mm or 3/32" for a sieve plate
I would suggest to make one plate and do a test run...you can always make one more.
Be aware of the height of the downcomer determines how much liquid you'll have on the plate.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:21 pm

Latest progress includes almost all work to the boiler is finished and some playing around with homemade pro-caps.

12" ferrule welded on top, with the other tri clamps silver soldered. This is my first time silver soldering the stainless and I'm glad I finally attempted it. The guy who welds my kegs wanted another $75 to weld these three so I decided for the same price, I'd try my hand at it and I'm very pleased with it. Now I can fab pieces up without having to pay and wait, and it's extremely strong and easy. Clean well, properly flux, and heat evenly is about all there is to it. Thanks to those with guides on how to do it. Easier than soldering copper.
20170212_213441-450x800.jpg
The welds are extremely clean. This is the only way Tigged stainless should look if you are paying for it. I used to accept mediocre welds from the same shop that does these, thinking that's just how it looked before grinding. On the previous keg they welded, I figured I'd just ask if they could do a cleaner weld, and they delivered.
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As this will also be a boil kettle for brewing, I have a stainless basket that fits in the ferrule, and is centered when the tri clamp is in place.
20170206_205332-450x800.jpg

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:58 am

Here's a pic of my updated VM still. 4" copper packed column 8" high over a 6" Pro-Cap plate with 2" gate valve takeoff and 9kw of power to blast through stripping or spirit runs. Should produce 2-3 gallons of azeo an hour with a little extra packing. Boiler holds about 18 gallons total and runnable with 15 gallons.
Yet to come is a slant plate attachment above the VM tee and a larger bore condenser for better RR adjustment, plus a slightly taller packed section.
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20200831_175538.jpg
20200831_175514.jpg

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Sep 13, 2020 4:19 pm

This rig is looking good and should have some solid performance. Just doing cleaning runs at the moment. Wanna give the inside of this condenser a good cleaning with a vinegar run
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Next updates to include a double kegger boiler mated with 12" tri-clamps, to run this full column with a 1 bbl boiler. Also will add my own special packing, that ensures plenty of copper in the vapor path, in a 24" column, to make the cleanest drink around.

Excited to have stuff to age finally.

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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by Chauncey » Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:25 pm

Those are some huge clamps. Guess your packing is real efficient to just have the 1 plate and 8"
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Re: Finished Stills and Current Builds

Post by MidnightThunder » Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:19 pm

Chauncey wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:25 pm
Those are some huge clamps. Guess your packing is real efficient to just have the 1 plate and 8"
I do believe it has a similar efficiency to SPP as it is similarly dense, but the goal is to make a relatively clean drink in one pass from some caramel wash I have fermenting away, so I want to leave some light notes of the fermenting flavors, by not using too tall a column on this first run.

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