Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

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Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:43 pm

Hey, all. Here's the story of my keg conversion!

My first still was a 4 gal stock pot. Inadequate and unsatisfying.
Boiler - 1.jpg

So I bought a new keg from Gopher Kegs in Bend, Oregon and promptly cut the bottom chimb off with a metal cutoff wheel.
Boiler - 2.jpg

I smoothed the cut with an angle grinder.
Boiler - 3.jpg

Then I spent an insane amount of time polishing the whole thing. This was premature, but I sort of enjoyed it and I learned a lot.
Boiler - 4.jpg


(continued...)
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:48 pm

I knew I was going to be making holes in the side, lined up vertically, so I made a masking-tape line to align those holes. I don't remember how I scribed the circles or why, but I do remember I used a bi-metal hole saw for most of these.
Boiler - 5.jpg

Boiler - 6.jpg

Actually I think I resorted to a bi-metal jigsaw blade for some of the holes. Yikes!
Boiler - 7.jpg

Coming along...
Boiler - 8.jpg


(continued...)
Last edited by Badmotivator on Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:54 pm

Here I have my holes in the side made. From the top down, they are for sight glass, then thermowell, then sight glass, then element adapter. All Tri-clamp.
Boiler - 9.jpg

I wanted a large manway/column at the top of the boiler, settled on 8" Tri-clamp connection, so I needed to cut out an 8" hole. For this, i used a step bit and the jigsaw, and then a shirtload of filing and sanding.
Boiler - 10.jpg

Boiler - 11.jpg

8" ferrule sitting on the hole, not yet soldered or cleaned up:
Boiler - 12.jpg


(continued...)
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Nutmegmooner » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:55 pm

I don't know where you're going but I want more!
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:01 pm

Here's another view of the boiler top, and I have started to drill the rear-sight-glass/fill-port hole as well.
Boiler - 13.jpg

I built a little frame with casters to hold the keg while I worked on it. I'm not totally convinced that this is a genius-level idea, but it was nice at times.
Boiler - 14.jpg

Now I soldered on the Tri-clamp ferrules, after fish-mouthing them with a grinder. The keg's radius is pretty big, so I didn't have to take much material off off each ferrule to get a decent connection.
Boiler - 15.jpg

This was my first time soldering stainless with the silver solder, and it shows. I fussed with it a lot, and it'll never be perfect, but it'll do.
Boiler - 16.jpg


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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:04 pm

At some point I decided I didn't like the original Sanke ferrule, so I cut it off and ground it down smooth.
Boiler - 17.jpg

Boiler - 18.jpg

Then I soldered on a proper Tri-Clamp ferrule for the drain.
Boiler - 19.jpg

Now I could try a leak test. So far, so good!
Boiler - 20.jpg


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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:13 pm

I needed a stand for the boiler at least, but the real goal was to make a nice-looking cabinet. So I built a frame or carcase out of 2X4s, then cut out some bits that were not structurally needed. This was not the most efficient way to get it done, but now that the project is finished I don't have any hard feelings about it.
Boiler - 21.jpg

I got the Tri-Clamp element adapter and got it wired up, and tried it out. It worked (after a few boneheaded mistakes) but I grew uneasy about the look of that huge honking chunk of SS and fat cord sticking out the front. We'll return to that.
Boiler - 22.jpg

In the mean time I had to get a hole in the 8" Tri-Clamp end cap. This was ohmigod holy-cowpies insane. That thing is crazy thick. I would guess it took me two hours to get it cut out, and it ain't pretty.
Boiler - 23.jpg

Boiler - 24.jpg


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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby likker liker » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:17 pm

Wow you really put in a lot of time on it looks great
you should have bought two kegs and put them together just joking, :lolno:
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:20 pm

Eventually I got a 2" hole in that end cap and soldered on a 2" ferrule. This is a place-holder. I will be doing pot still runs for a while but the stretch goal is a fat plated column. When that time comes I will replace this 2" with a 4", I expect.
Boiler - 25.jpg

Remember that problem with the look of the element on the front of the keg? I decided I wanted to mount the element from the bottom of the keg to get it out of sight. And I wanted two elements. So back to the hole saw and the filing and the sanding and the soldering...
Boiler - 26.jpg

Boiler - 27.jpg

Another wrinkle: I accidentally ordered 3" sight glass holders instead of 2" for the front of the keg. Rather than return them and re-order, I decided to keep them and replace the 2" ferrules with 3" ones. This time around I soldered the 3" ferrules over the holes first and then used my Sawzall and another boatload of filing to clean up the inside of the ferrules. Couldn't lift my arms the next day.
Boiler - 28.jpg


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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:26 pm

This rotary sandpaper thingy from Harbor Freight was my friend and companion throughout the build.
Boiler - 29.jpg

Alrighty! 3" sight glass ferrules on the front, element ports on the bottom, more shining, and here's where we are.
Boiler - 30.jpg

The sight glasses on the front are the kind that you clamp onto the ferrule using 8 allen bolts. Not easily removable. But for the top sight glass/ fill port I needed a tri-clamp sight glass. This one is from Brewer's Hardware.
Boiler - 31.jpg

Okay, here's where we get crazy. I wanted gallon markings inside my boiler. I measured out gallons and marked each gallon with a scratch inside the keg. I printed out numbers and covered them with frisket, then cut out stencils.
Boiler - 32.jpg


(Continued...)
Last edited by Badmotivator on Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:32 pm

Then I electro-etched the inside of the keg using the scratch marks and the stencils I had cut out of frisket. This was a rare success: it worked perfectly the first time, just as I planned. Is it important? Or even useful? Yeah, probably not, but I like it.
Boiler - 33.jpg

View through a front sight glass:
Boiler - 34.jpg

View though the front sight glasses with a flashlight in that top sight glass:
Boiler - 35.jpg

Cabinet progress pics are kind of boring, but I'll put up a few. I cut the panels out of 1/2" oak veneer, and used oak trim.
Boiler - 36.jpg


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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:36 pm

Adding trim to the cabinet top piece, which will be removable.
Boiler - 37.jpg

We are in the home stretch: sanding and staining the cabinet.
Boiler - 38.jpg

Boiler - 39.jpg

Here is the underside of the keg, seen through the hinged door on the lower front of the cabinet. Electrical supply will come in the little hole in the back of the cabinet.
Boiler - 40.jpg
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:45 pm

I put in a floor for the cabinet interior. Hoses and cords and electrical controller box will store in there between uses.
Boiler42 - 1.jpg

One more look at the front. It's not a great shot, but I wanted to finish this story with the whole thing put together. :) Thanks for reading, and thanks to all those whose experience and advice I used on the way!
Boiler42 - 2.jpg


(END)
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby still_stirrin » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:55 pm

Dang...looks like furniture. Is the SOH going to let you run in the living room? She should you know.

It looks nice. Shiny too.

I wonder if you'll be limited by wash volume since you have your elements pointing into the bottom of the boiler. You don't want them uncovered so you may have to watch your wash so you don't run out of covering. That would (or could) lead to premature death of the element(s).
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby bearriver » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:03 pm

Sweet looking boiler. That thing is meticulously well designed. Congrats on a job well done.

I'm not seeing what SS is seeing... The elements look like they are in a standard orientation to me.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby hellbilly007 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:06 pm

That's a beautiful build Badmotivator
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:06 pm

Thanks, SS. It will be used in the kitchen, so acceptability-to-wife was a high-priority design goal. :) I built it to be moved by hand truck, and when not used it will be covered with a gas grill cover.

Sure, wash volume has to be above like 4 gal, but that's easy. I am even thinking about bending the elements to make it safer. We'll see. It'll be a cheap experiment; those elements are like $9 each.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Snackson » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:09 pm

Very beautiful and it looks like it took a lot of work! Nice job. Makes me jealous!
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby humbledore » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:19 pm

That is insanely polished, finished, drilled and ferruled! Wow, I love it. Wish I had seen this before I made mine, this is inspirational. I just might have to pull a spare keg out of the attic and try to put some of those big ferrules on it. Not so sure about the heating elements sticking up vertically... Hope it works out well. Love the build skills badmotivator.

Edit: can you post a link to that handheld spindle sander?
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:46 pm

Thanks very much for the kind words, everybody. I knew you all would understand. :) I should have mentioned that the story began in early February and finished in early June, so that's like... (Finger counting... Confusion...) kind of a long project. I wasted a lot of time waiting for orders to arrive, and more time when I discovered that I had ordered the wrong things, but the hands-on time was pretty darned substantial too.

Next up is a 3" shotgun condenser. My old one is completely unable to keep up with this boiler. Plus, hell yeah, new project!

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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby likker liker » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:58 pm

I'm ready to see the rest of your build :D
very nice you can work on my stuff when you're ready
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:01 pm

likker liker wrote:I'm ready to see the rest of your build :D
very nice you can work on my stuff when you're ready


I have in mind a similar story about the shotgun condenser when it gets put together in the next few days? Weeks? Months? :)
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Danespirit » Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:52 am

That is about the most beautiful boiler setup i have ever seen... :mrgreen:
Damned, that thing is cool...you are not doing your name justice here...i don't think you are a bad motivator at all.. :wink:
Sightglasses and etched markings...well,well...i will be looking forward to see the rest of your build..
Hmm...i must find time to finish my boiler enclosure..
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby bitter » Wed Jun 17, 2015 3:40 am

Purdy!!!! nice job!!!

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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Desvio » Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:13 am

Wow, incredible work and very inspiring!

Now I have some great ideas for my two kegs I have been saving for the next project. Where were you getting your tri-clamp hardware from?
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Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:27 am

Desvio wrote:Wow, incredible work and very inspiring!

Now I have some great ideas for my two kegs I have been saving for the next project. Where were you getting your tri-clamp hardware from?


Thanks! I don't generally need much validation for my goofy hobbies, but I sure am lovin' the love here for this one. Y'all are gonna give me a big head. :)

For most of the Tri-clamp stuff I shopped at Brewers Hardware. I'm pretty happy with their prices. Order fulfillment isn't super fast there, though. Time between order and arrival was usually a week or a bit more.

I really like their tri-clamp element adapters. (Shown in posts 7 and 12 of this thread) It's kind of a pity they ended up inside the cabinet because they're so solid and pretty.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby sltm1 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:44 am

Excellent workmanship and nice eye candy to boot!!! Looks like you've gat a bunch of soldering under you belt, got any tip's? I'm about to solder a port for my element and am a bit nervous about mucking it up.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Bushman » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:05 am

Like all the above posts, beautiful work! What caught my eye was the flashlight through the eye glass. When I was at the ADI conference in Seattle and toured different distilleries one of the stills had lights to see inside so that they can check each stage (pretty cool).
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:17 am

sltm1 wrote:Excellent workmanship and nice eye candy to boot!!! Looks like you've gat a bunch of soldering under you belt, got any tip's? I'm about to solder a port for my element and am a bit nervous about mucking it up.

Thanks! The good news about soldering is that nothing you do wrong will be unrepairable. You can desolder anything you do muck up, clean things up, and resolder.

I used a standard propane torch, Harris stay bright solder, and Harris stay clean flux. I think I'm messing up the names there, but whatever. :) I sanded every joint to rough but shiny, and then wiped it down with acetone to remove grit and oil.

A few tips:
1) buy a bag of acid brushes at harbor freight or whatever. Use a new one every time. They get melted and raunchy.
2) take a couple of SS scraps or unwanted SS objects and practice on them. That'll give you some experience and confidence.
3) when your flux is bubbling don't apply any more direct heat to it, as it will burn and then prevent flow. Instead, apply the heat to the two pieces around and near the joint, keep adding new fresh flux as you get close to solder temps.
4) on curved surfaces the solder will flow downhill with like no viscosity. I mean it really really wants to go downhill. Plan for this by finding the most level orientation for your joint before starting.
5) while you are at solder flow temps, if there is a place the solder isn't flowing into the joint, add more flux there and the solder may chase that flux into the spot, if there is liquid solder nearby.
6) stainless takes a long ass time to cool off, so give it lots of time before you grab it. :)

Good luck! Post your results and experience when you get it done.
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Re: Keg Boiler with Cabinet Build Story

Postby Badmotivator » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:13 am

Bushman wrote:Like all the above posts, beautiful work! What caught my eye was the flashlight through the eye glass. When I was at the ADI conference in Seattle and toured different distilleries one of the stills had lights to see inside so that they can check each stage (pretty cool).

Thanks! My hope for the lit-up interior is that it will help me goose the boil just right on all-grain washes so I can avoid puking, see the reflux, and watch the wash volume. There's also a certain amount of gee-whiz neat-o about a well-lit interior as well, I admit. :)
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