How To Make A Still | Self Reliance

By on May 9, 2014
How To Make A Still | Self Reliance 4.00/5 (80.00%) 43 votes
Still_Feature

How To Make A Still

Would you really like to know how to make a still? A DIY still certainly has its uses.

Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself on a desert island with nothing but 20 feet of refrigerator coil, a 5-gallon bucket, and a stove? (And a mason jar with an amazing custom logo on it? – Ed.) (What is this, some twisted version of the show Lost?) Using only these and a few other simple supplies, however, we will show you how to make your own DIY Still. Stills can be used to purify saltwater into drinking water…as well as turn other stuff into a drinkable concoction we’re not legally allowed to talk about. Don’t go blind on our account, okay? And, as always, drink (water) responsibly.

How To Make A DIY Still | Self Reliance

Supplies for making a DIY Still:

  • (1) Aluminum pot with an aluminum lid (we used a tamale steamer from a place that rhymes with Target…Doh!)
  • 5 Gallon bucket
  • (1) Drill
  • (1) 1/8 inch drill bit
  • (1) 3/8) inch drill bit
  • (1) Cooking Thermometer
  • (1) Teflon Tape
  • (1) Hot glue gun with high temperature hot glue sticks
  • (1) Metal File
  • (2) 3/8-inch to 3/8-inch compression adapter (found in plumbing section
  • (1) 20 ft. Refrigerator coil
  • Ice
  • A stove or other consistent heat source (when using the still you need to keep whatever you are boiling at a very even temp)

DIY Still How To Make A Still02

DIY Still How To Make A Still01

Step 1: Drill a 1/8 inch hole in the lid of the aluminum pot

Throw the lid over a piece of scrap wood to make it easier and drill a hole a few inches back from the edge of the lid. A Drill making a hole in an aluminum lid

Step 2: Wrap the thermometer with Teflon tape

Originally, we were just going to wrap the thermometer with Teflon tape to create an airtight seal, but decided we wanted to secure this thing in place even more with some hot glue (rated for high temps). You could probably get away with just using hot glue at the end of the day and ditching the Teflon. Teflon wrapping around a thermometer.

Step 3: Place the thermometer in the hole

Thread your cooking thermometer through the hole so it sits nice and flush on the top of the lid.

A thermometer going into a lid

Our Teflon-coated thermometer

The thermometer going further into the lid. The thermometer is in the lid.

Step 4: Secure the thermometer with hot glue

For those concerned that hot glue is a bad choice for this project (since it will be in direct contact with hot steam) it’s important to note that high temperature hot glue sticks have a melting point well above the melting point of water (100 C). This is also true for the melting point of “other liquids” (78 C). There are other adhesives you can use, including high temp silicone and even high temp resins. Just make sure whatever you use is rated for heat well beyond what your liquid’s steam will be creating.

Still_28

High temperature hot glue will be fine for this project.

Step 5: Drill a 3/8 inch hole in the pot lid

Begin by drilling another 1/8 inch hole in the lid. This will act as a starter hole for the much bigger 3/8 inch drill bit. Put it roughly opposite from the thermometer across the lid. Still_17 Drill a 3/8 inch hole with the 3/8 inch drill bit. Still_18

The nasty burrs are hard to see but they need to be filed off.

The nasty burrs are hard to see but they need to be filed off.

Step 6: File as needed

If there are any burrs, this could cause some problems when inserting the compression fitting. Take a file and grind the burrs down until they are gone. Still_20

Step 7: Insert a compression fitting into the lid

Insert the male threaded nut of the compression fitting into the hole by twisting it through from the bottom of the lid. The fit won’t be perfect, but don’t worry if it jiggles around a little bit. Still_21

Still_22

The fit won’t be perfect, but that’s okay. We aren’t perfect either, but our mom still loves us.

Step 8: Seal the fitting with hot glue

This seal needs to be air tight to prevent steam from leaking through it. It’s time to bust out that trusty glue gun again! Make sure you put hot glue on the other side as well, working well around the seams. Still_26

Step 9: Attach the copper coil to the lid

Take the female-threaded nut that came with your compression fitting and place it over one end of the refrigerator coil. Still_23 This end of your compression fitting has a part called a “ferrule” that comes with it. It’s a small circular ring that looks kind of like a grommet. The ferrule helps create a tight connection between the female and male ends of your compression nut.

Still_24

Pretty sure the little thing is called a ferrule. Also, one of my favorite movies from the 80s was “Ferrules Bueller’s Day Off.”

Still_27 Screw the female-threaded nut onto the male-threaded nut that is protruding from the lid. Still_29

Step 10: Drill a 3/8 inch hole in the bucket.

Use a 1/8 inch drill bit to begin a pilot hole in the 5 gallon bucket. Put it about two inches above the base. Still_02 With a 3/8 inch drill bit, drill a 3/8 inch hole where the pilot hole is.

Still_01

Yes, you are supposed to drill a hole in your brand new bucket.

Still_03

Step 11: Insert second compression fitting into the bucket

Screw the male-threaded nut of the other compression fitting into the bucket. Still_04

Step 12: Make the seal water tight with the hot glue gun

Just like you did with the lid, seal this dude in nice and tight with the glue. Still_25

Step 13: If needed, tighten the refrigerator coil

If your coil is currently too big to fit snugly in whatever bucket you are using, you want to close down the coils first. Use something cylindrical to help you reshape it, like this coffee can we grabbed from the kitchen. Anything with a cylindrical shape will do the trick. Work fairly gently so you don’t ding up your tubing, pressing down on the coil rings to collapse the system to fit.

Still_05

Anything cylindrical will work.

Still_06

Step 14: Attach the coil to the bucket.

On the other end of the coil, place the second female-threaded nut over the coil and insert a ferrule into it. Still_07 Still_08 Place this end of the coil into the bucket and thread the female nut onto the male nut that is sticking into the bucket from the outside. Still_11 Your simple DIY Still is now complete. We threw a bungee cord over the top of ours since the pot we used doesn’t lock down, making it easier to carry. Don’t worry about getting an actual locking pot, however, as this system will not be building up a lot of pressure when you use it, it’s simply allowing the steam from whatever you are boiling to be captured in our orange bucket. Still_30

A note on use:

Do not distill alcohol with this still. It is illegal to distill alcohol without a permit and is also very dangerous. Methanol has a lower boiling point than alcohol, and if you are distilling alcohol, the first portion of your distillate will have a high concentration of methanol. In small amounts, methanol will make you blind. In larger amounts, it will kill you. If you want to read more about the safety hazards of distilling alcohol and how to avoid them, you can read more on it here.

A note on temperatures:

You need to look up the boiling point of whatever you put in your still before you use it. Water, for example, has a boiling point of 100 degrees Celsius, so if you were distilling salt water into drinking water, you would put it in the pot and bring the water to a boil, keeping the heat source at a level that maintains a thermometer reading of 100 degrees Celsius. This will cause the water vapor to turn to gas and travel through the copper tubing.

Step 15: Add ice

Okay, you don’t need quit this much: ice But you are going to need to cool the gases you create in this still so they condense back into liquid. For testing purposes, ice is the easiest way to go, and you only really need a small bag if using a bucket like we did. Other options are to build a closed system with your bucket so the gas cannot escape, but in the interest of keeping anyone from potentially blowing themselves up with compressed methanol…our lawyers told us to leave that step out.

Enjoy your….um…fresh water and stuff.

DIY Still How To Make A Still33

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11 Comments

  1. Pingback: How To Make A Moonshine Still | Survival Life - Survival Life | Preppers | Survival Gear | Blog

  2. Pingback: 36 More Weekend Preparedness Projects | Self Reliance - DIY Ready | DIY Projects | Crafts

  3. Ben Miles

    May 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    My family has a few old time moonshiners among it’s members. I remember a talk I had with my grandfather back in the 70’s and he specifically told me that the only kind if metal to use on a still is copper or stainless steel. An uncle told me that many metals (including aluminum) would leach poisons or other harmful contaminates into your finished product when applying steam, pressure, heat and alcohol. He said it was a chemical reaction that could kill. What was told to me could be just their opinions but I saw a video on YouTube that was giving instructions on making a still and whiskey and it gave the same warning about using aluminum. Have you done any research as tot eh safety of using aluminum?

  4. Al

    May 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Interesting project,to make things a bit easier use epoxy to secure the thermometer or expansion fitting,in the winter leave the heat in the shelter and use snow or ice

  5. Pingback: 36 More Weekend Preparedness Projects | Survival Life - Survival Life | Preppers | Survival Gear | Blog

  6. Richard Hunter

    May 19, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I suggest you call it a cooling coil (not refrigeration) & tell readers to only use plumbing copper as refrigeration copper has an oil coating inside (that is toxic) to prevent CFC bleedthrough under pressure. Just sayin ;))

  7. Pingback: How To Make A Homemade Still — Homestead and Survival

  8. richard1941

    May 25, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    When I was in high school I made such a still. It worked great! The first thing I distilled was beer. I don’t know what the distillate was, but it burned with an almost colorless flame and tasted awful.

    Instead of a 5 gallon bucket, I had two copper tubes in contact. Tap water flowed through one, the vapor through the other. That made it much easier to position on the stove because the water could be supplied and drained through flexible hoses. If you do it this way, make the water and the vapor pass through the heat exchanger in opposite directions.

  9. pen15

    June 11, 2014 at 1:26 am

    this is a good guide, but there’s one glaring issue and two other small ones. the big one is that you should absolutely not use an aluminum pot. stainless steel or copper ONLY. as for the smaller issues, using hot glue on something like this is a very poor idea. use high temperature silicone sealant instead. also, if you’re making moonshine, and if you’re reading this you probably are, you probably want a seal between your pot and your lid, unless you want your alcohol vapors to leak out and possibly explode. probably.

  10. Janet

    July 19, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Am reminded of a Bob Dylan tune: “Get you a copper kettle. Get you a copper coil. Fill it with new-made corn mash, and you never more will toil.” http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobdylan/copperkettle.html

  11. Dave

    August 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

    From what I’ve read there are 4 things that you should be concerned about:

    1.) If you live in a residential area your neighbors are going to be alerted to what your doing by the smell. They may not know that it’s coming from your house, or know exactly what you’re doing, but they’re going to be alarmed and could potentially call someone on it.

    2.) Distilling is very dangerous. Although you might see people in videos doing it in their house, it is highly combustible. You should be doing it in a well ventilated area.

    3.) Once the Still starts producing there is a certain amount that should be discarded. It’s equivalent to Acetone, and can cause serious damage if ingested. Do your homework before attempting this on your own!

    4.) Distilling, even for private use, requires a Federal permit. I’m just pointing this last one out. You’re your own person. Do what you want.

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