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Stillin' Safety

I would expect this topic to have multiple posts by the same person showing us how to do something. If there are pictures, let pint_o_shine know and he can host them for you.

Postby triggernum5 » Mon May 07, 2007 10:31 pm

Kind of off topic, but I was watching the Good Eats episode on deep frying a turkey, and even though its a totally different beast, alot of general rules of thumb applied directly to stillin'.. Kinda wants me to get a camera and set up all wrong out in the hog's back for this thread.. Aparently you can become "Johnny Human Torch" deep frying a turkey too:)
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Postby stillvodka » Fri May 11, 2007 12:57 pm

Best bit of advice, i recon is, just use your common sense.

You can have all the Education/Brains in the world , but you can become over confidant, brainy people have no space left in there heads to acomidate common sense.

Advice is, slow down and think about what you are doing.
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Postby triggernum5 » Fri May 11, 2007 1:28 pm

I think I know that notion as "Nobody ever cut off their finger the first time they used a table saw.."
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Postby stillvodka » Fri May 11, 2007 2:10 pm

See a chap with a couple of fingers missing, i bet he worked in a saw mill.
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Postby mtnwalker » Fri May 11, 2007 8:39 pm

stillvodka wrote:See a chap with a couple of fingers missing, i bet he worked in a saw mill.


I have, a professor teaching at a college with a saw mill, and have seen the stubs.
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Rudi's potstill modifications

Postby Rudi » Sun Jul 15, 2007 4:42 am

Here is a picture of the new liebig and the angled down column[img][img]http://i137.photobucket.com/albums/q226/rudi33_2006/DSC_0425.jpg[/img][/img]
The liebig is only dry fitted. I have converted my boiler to electric using two elements.I have also sourced all the parts for a sight glass, a length of borosilicate glass tube and two stainless bulkhead compression elbows.I plan on going back to gas but will use a burner mounted in a wheel rim on a stand about the hight of a keg.Once again thanks for the heads up.
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby eternalfrost » Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:23 am

ive a question about the whole element running dry business...

for sure it would be a disaster to run one dry, would easily melt the element probably leading to secondary shorting problems and who knows what else.
im not sure it would actually explode though...
there shouldnt be any oxygen inside the boiler as the heavier etoh vapors would have pushed them all out.

anyways, not to say that you shouldn't worry about running dry as it would certainly kill your rig, just dunno about the explosion bit...
any actual evidence for this for curiosities sake?

in my imagination i would see a still as an enormous fire hazard, especially with propane heating, but explosion? i dont see it.

the only first hand explosion info ive seen is water boiling inside the nearly sealed curled edge on the rim basically making a slow-pressure bomb... a la a CO2 bomb
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby Tracker » Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:31 am

I wouldn't worry about an alcohol vapour explosion from running dry because if your pot boils dry, the alcohol has well gone.
Shouldn't be any worse than having an electric kettle boil dry on ya in the kitchen.
Probably smell a bit but thats about all.

Cheers.
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby eternalfrost » Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:54 am

Tracker wrote: if your pot boils dry, the alcohol has well gone.


spot on point

Tracker wrote:Shouldn't be any worse than having an electric kettle boil dry on ya in the kitchen.


i think it would be much worse, there would definitely be some serious hardware damage. especially for higher powered elements, they are enough to flash-boil cold water, there is some serious power there, essentially a giant short-circuit submerged in water...

id be pretty sure that a element run out in the open would easily melt any plastic bits holding it together, and very likely melt itself up in the process.
3-5kW into a few ounces of metal would liquefy it in short order.
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby Tracker » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:53 pm

essentially a giant short-circuit submerged in water...


Eternal, the over-riding criteria is "boiling dry", the element should be no longer submerged.

Yes, some kettles also melt around the elements but my comparison point was that there would be no loud BANG!! :wink:


Cheers.
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby dixiedrifter » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:55 pm

If you take an element apart you will see it has a small gauge wire coil running thru it. When dry fired, standard density elements will get red hot and go poof in short order and hopefully short themselves out. However afterwards you may find you have an electrified keg which is NOT a good thing. More than likely it would trip a breaker, provided the cord did not overheat. You really need an arc fault breaker to run a still, but damn those things are outrageous in price... I can't remember exactly but I think I priced a 50amp one and it was over $100... maybe closer to $200. Some low density elements such as CAMCO "sand hogs" can actually withstand being dry fired, at least for short periods of time. Best thing to do with any still is to load it near max capacity every time and keep track of how much distillate you take off.

IMO the most dangerous thing about any still is a coolant supply failure. A busted coolant line can cause a flood indoors and hot alcohol vapors coming out. Standard vinyl tubing gets awful darn soft on recirculating systems and has a nasty tendency to come off if not securely clamped. The resulting hot alcohol fumes coupled with a propane burner and you got a recipe for disaster.
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby eternalfrost » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:25 am

dixiedrifter wrote:IMO the most dangerous thing about any still is a coolant supply failure.


+100

the only problem ive ever run into was this. luckily i was right there when it happened. now i use tube clamps even on the barbed fittings.

if you use electric too, water spraying about is a baaadd idea....
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby Harry » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:20 am

Several years ago in Distillers Group we had a member (long-timer) who loaded a still (keg) and thought he had covered the elements. However he miscalculated the load amount (for whatever reason) and the elements were in fact still exposed (not submerged). So he fired 'er up & about 10 seconds later he had launched the boiler top, column and condenser through the roof of the shed, and demolished 2 walls in the process. Then he spent an agonizing 3-4 minutes putting out the spotfires in the other shed gear.

He contacted me very concerned, and we figured out that he had in fact misread the load volume. Easy to do when you're a bit under the weather (need I say? DON'T DRINK AND DISTIL!!!).

The most dangerous time in distilling is when you fire up an internal element. It's a potential fuze! You have not yet purged the oxygen in the column and you have ethanol vapors in the column due to evaporation (doesn't need heating to do this). If ethanol & un-purged oxygen mix , all it needs is an ignition source (exposed red-hot elements, the fuze) and you've got a real problem (instant over-pressure, aka BOOOOM!).

The bottom line here, if he had fitted a level gauge (simple clear tube & fittings) on the boiler, this would not have happened. Visual indicators are better than guess-work.

Epilogue: 'er indoors forbid our member from ever playing with alcohol distillation again. Seems she valued his, hers & family's lives & possessions above a couple bottles of cheap booze.
.


Slainte!
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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby punkin » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:33 am

Hookline has a very well thought out response to this problem.

First, pour in enough water to cover your element.


Then charge your still.






Obviously no good for midmounted ones, but good enough for us mortals.




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Re: Stillin' Safety

Postby eternalfrost » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:37 am

Harry wrote:...


thtas a good point, if uncovered from the beginning, it would for sure be a bomb.

thats why you should put your element as low as possible. on mine you only need about a gallon or two to cover things so its practically impossible to expose.
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