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Ryefarmer

What copper should I use for a 300 gal still?

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Hi all,

It looks as if we are going to be building a 300 gal all copper pot still for our up-and coming distillery. We have a good shop, welding equipment and welders. What we don't really know is what type and gauge of copper we need to use for this application. Any advise would be appreciated.

Thanks

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Not to quash your hopes and dreams, but you may want to check with your local fire inspector and possibly permitting office to ensure you can get your COA with a home-rolled still especially if you're going to be heating with steam (lp not direct injection).

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I am no expert in fabrication by any means, but this post reads to me something along the lines of 'I want to build a house, what kind of lumber should I use?'. 

Your question is a question of engineering not of fabrication. Beyond the quality and thickness of the copper, the construction of a safe and proper designed still is done after proper engineering is done on the drawing board. We do a lot of custom designed tanks here and while it is rough sketches I submit to the fabricator, they have an engineer trained in these things actually draft and engineer the things. They make sure that the quality and gauge is appropriate to the application and the physical stress of the situation. They also ensure proper venting and relief valves for the system. 

I'm sure some will disagree with this, and give examples of what you need to use, but I argue for your safety, the safety of your employees and customers that you hire a professional to design and build your still. I'm not saying it can't be built in house by qualified fabricators, but I am saying it should be engineered by someone who is qualified as well.

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9 hours ago, Ryefarmer said:

Hi all,

It looks as if we are going to be building a 300 gal all copper pot still for our up-and coming distillery. We have a good shop, welding equipment and welders. What we don't really know is what type and gauge of copper we need to use for this application. Any advise would be appreciated.

Thanks

I used mostly .093 copper plate on my build.  The steam kettle itself was stainless, but the dome walls, column and top condenser where all rolled copper pieces tig welded together.  The spun dome top was .125 thick.  It took a very large slip-roller to roll the .093 plate into a 4' long x 11" diameter tube that became the main column.  Using .125 plate would have been better but was not really practical for the machinery I had access to at the time.  If I recall I purchased "half hard" plate as well.

I am currently considering building a 300 gallon still myself and will probably try to go with .125 plate.  

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Hi Ryefarmer,

 

The best copper to use for a still is alloy 122, Also known as alloy C12200 deoxiginated high phosphorus.  Never use alloy C110 electrolytic tough pitch copper or Alloy 103 oxygen free copper.  There are several small still manufacturers that don't know any better and they use alloy C110 because it is the easiest to get.  If you would like someone to do the design work and engineering on your still, just let me know.  We can give you a really good price on that.  If you would like to know were to get the alloy C12200 copper let me know and I can help you with that as well.  paul@distillery-equipment.com http://distillery-equipment.comhttp://moonshine-still.co

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Hey Highlander,

Could you elaborate on why you dont suggest C110 or 101 or what benefit the 122 provides?  The only distinctions I have been able to find between them is in the hardness, psi rating and machinability.  Are there other distinctions as well?

Thanks!

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HedgeBird

C122 has been deoxidized with phosphorus.  This process leaves between .015% and .040% phosphorus in the metal, so this copper is still considered a commercially pure copper.   Because of this process copper alloy 122 is not susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement.  

 

Below is a list of the Characteristic of copper alloy 122.

forgeability rating = 65

machinability rating = 20

solderig = excellent

brazing = excellent

Tig welding excellent

cold working = excellent

hot forming = excellent

Butt welding = good

 

Common Uses for C122

Distillery/brewery tubes 

Plumbing pipe , plumbing tubing and plumbing fittigs are all made from C122

Chocolate Kettles, Still pots, Still columns and heat exchangers

Condenser tubes

Medical gas-oxygen lines

Gaskets

 

Also the heat transfer in C122 is superior to that of C110

 

Copper C110 (ETP) Electrolytic Tough Pitch Copper

C110 has not been deoxiginized with phosphorous.  It is considered a commercially pure copper.  This copper has a much better electrical conductivity than c122, and it is used much more than C122 copper.  Also it is great for roofing and other applications because of it's toughness and corrosion resistance.  Since it is used for roofing and architectural it is much easier to find in sheet form which is why distillery equipment manufacturers who don't know any better use it.

Below is a list of the characteristic of copper 110

forgeability rating = 65

machinability rating = 20

solderig = excellent

brazing = good

Tig welding= fair

cold working = excellent

hot forming = excellent

Butt welding = good

Common uses for C110

Electrical

Telecommunications

Architectural

Antimicrobial

 

It is not that you can't build a still from C110, you can, however it is not the best copper for the job.  Also it does not tig weld well at all and if you want the best still it should be tig welded with alloy 122 copper welding rod.  Brazing is the 2nd best method but c110 does not braze nearly as well as 122.

Tig welding copper is very hard, because if you do not weld it right the first time you may not get a 2nd chance.  You cook off most of the phosphorous when you weld it the first time and the heat changes the chemical nature of the copper, so that it may not weld well, or even at all if you have to make a 2nd pass and if you try to make a third pass you might as well forget it.

I had a mechanical engineer tell me once that copper and stainless could not be welded together.  We tig weld copper and stainless together with 308 stainless rod here almost every day with great results.  We have never had a copper to stainless weld fail, however we never do that weld where there is going to be vibration.  We can also tig  copper to brass, copper to aluminum, stainless to aluminum but those are not for distilling application.

 

There are several other forms of copper that also do not work well with distilling, but I will not go into those as they are not commonly made into sheet.

paul@distillery-equipment.com  http://distillery-equipment.com    http://moonshine-still.co

 

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Thanks for sharing this great info Paul.  I wish I had read this six years ago as it sounds like it may have made my life a little easier!!

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You are welcome Ryefarmer, thank you for the compliment.

 

Navonjohnson please email me paul@distillery-equipment.com

 

Happy Holidays!

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Does anyone know a stocking supplier of this c122 tubing?  I've called around the Bay Area and everyone says it is not in stock and has to be milled at multiple unit cost.

 

 

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mendodistilling

 

That's strange.  All of the standard copper plumbing pipe and tubing that is used in the US is alloy c122.  You should be able to get it in sizes up to 2" or 3" at your local hardware store, however the salesmen at the store probably do not know that it is alloy c122.  They only know it as copper plumbing pipe and tube.  Alloy 110 is never used as plumbing pipe and tube for obvious reasons.

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Where can you get alloy 122 copper welding rod?  What is it called?  I can't seem to find it labeled like that.  Does anyone use airgas or blue demon on amazon?  Do they carry this?

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We get ours from Farmerscopper.com

They have anything you could want.

If you have never tig welded copper before you are in for a real treat. You have to use deoxidized copper tig rod.  Welding stainless to copper is easy if you know what your doing, but the stainless will melt before the copper because the coper sucks up so much heat. Seem welding is easy, but you can't let up. I weld 4' seems all the time, the trick is to make sure you have a board or something to lean up against because the metal will get so hot it will be 500-700f 2 -3 feet away. When you grab another bit with your tig rod keep the heat  going on the torch or it will cool off instantly.

We use 1/8" or thicker. 122 alloy

I have some pics of the columns we are working with on our instagram page, follow us at dehnerdistillery

 

Anyone with any question please call anytime 515-559-4879 

Thanks: Joseph D.

Below is a 18" dia column 4' long, 1/8" thick. with 8- 6" sight glasses 180 degrees apart. with color changing LED lights This will be hooked to a 550g still, We are building 2 units like this. Also, we are building a 29' tall continuous still.

IMG_0329.thumb.JPG.d63039c5b7340fba87ec50d86a366d17.JPGIMG_0320.thumb.JPG.dda156e4e18259a3c0be2193eba772d3.JPGD78BBC58-1A3A-43B8-B40E-B7E4F5907AB4.thumb.JPG.48ea697362e1fd57042958b523c0c632.JPG

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Dehner Distillery said:

Welding stainless to copper is easy if you know what your doing, but the stainless will melt before the copper because the coper sucks up so much heat.

Yeah, that's the funny thing with copper.  You can throw amps and amps and amps at it, and it seems you've never got enough power.  Meanwhile, 3 feet away, your glove is starting to smoke.

Does AC work better?  Pulsed?  Or is my 150 amp DC box just a kids toy.

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DC works best for copper. Yes your 150 amp dc box is just a kids toy when it comes to welding copper.  It won't touch 1/8" copper, and you will have trouble welding even 16 gauge copper if you are using argon.  If you are working with any copper other than deoxygenated high phosphorous copper, you won't be able to weld it at all.  Also you had better be a pretty dam good tig welder, even if you have a big enough welder.  I have one Miller Syncrowave 200, two Miller Syncrowave 250 DXs, two Miller Syncrowave  300s and one Miller Syncrowave 500. I have several other welders but they arent Millers, so they don't really count :D The 500 puts out 625 amps max.  It  will weld 1/2" copper in one pass running helium.  But you have to be running the water cooler or you can't stand the heat coming off of the copper for more than a few seconds.  The other thing about copper is that you better get it right the first time, because you will cook off most of the phosphorous the first pass.  I have so many welders because we not only build distilling equipment we also build equipment for the pharmaceutical industry under one of my other businesses.

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Is the biggest trick with copper welding using helium to get the output you want into the metal?  I'm about to do some of these simple repairs, I'm a super rookie tig welder.  I've been through probably 10 1 hour classes at the community college.  I'd say every single person I've talked to dissuades me from trying this.  The problem is that no one seems to be able to do it for me either.  I sent it to a shop, its been really hard, he broke the copper pipe I gave him to bend the swan neck, said it work hardened on him, he didn't anneal it... which is scary bc I googled a few things and almost all of them say, work it a little, it will harden, anneal, then keep working it slowly but surely.  If you guys have any good tips I'm all ears.  I've been watching weldingtipsandtricks on youtube and that guy is pretty helpful, Jodi I think is his name.  He seems to be a dictionary for all the vernacular.  I love his technical profiling of each project.  I really enjoy playing around.  I have a miller 350LX I bought from someone who worked for me to use to help me build some stuff.  I have a miller big blue 400 for arc welding and rural/ mobile work.  

Would brazing a cap on the end of the pipe and filling it slowly and tamping it down with sand work for kink free bending with something like a JD-2 bender or the like?

Do you guys use any kind of preheating equipment or just start up and get comfortable to make as long a pass as possible? 

Do you need to blanket gas the interior / back side?  If so, what do you like to use?

Thanks for all the help so far.  I saw on home depot's site you can buy mueller 10' type M copper rigid pipe.  I hope that is the right stuff, I'm trying to find it on their site to find out for sure. 

 

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