Chester, the copper still boiler, dresses up
Chester, our copper still boiler, has gone from being a few pieces of 1.2mm thick copper to a rather well dressed lad in a very short time. It was only 18 February 2018 that a guy asked me to customise an old water boiler he had picked up at an auction (see here for the story) and it was after I had completed his job that I had a longing to see more of these copper boilers. To be honest, I was jealous. If he had such a nice boiler, surely I ought to have one too. I also realised that since I was making copper distillation components it just didn’t seem right to put them on a stainless steel boiler. I’m not knocking stainless steel boilers, I just think that for those of us who really like the superior functionality of copper and the antique look, it seems the obvious choice of boiler.
I had to get a product out to the market. I have been tripped up by many obstacles in my quest to make the copper head gear but I have always found a way. I have found people who can make some of the tricky pieces that require precision and I have learnt the skills to put it all together. But the boiler seemed like it might be taking too big a bite. So I investigated how big a bite it was that I ought not to take. In the last 3 weeks I have learnt how to dislocate my jaw and take a huge bite and the result is unbelievable if I may say so myself. I am biased I know; I think a sheet of copper looks great on its own, so a sheet moulded and soldered with interesting bits sticking out, well, I have to say it looks great. The manufacturer who made it possible is Shane, the last of the hard core metal spinners, who holds his shaping tool by its 1m handle and puts his whole bodily force behind it with dexterity and feel to make the most amazing products.
I designed the boiler the way I would like a copper still boiler to be, practical with the right equipment in the right places. If there is going to be a thermowell it should be in the liquid so know how close you are getting to boil. A boiler with only one thermowell in the vapour space means you never really know when the boil will come until it comes. I have put 2 themowells, one in the liquid and one in the vapour – the best of both. And they are on the same side so when you look at them you look at both from one side only.
If you have only a small volume to boil, maybe you have done your stripping run and you only have 20 litres to boil, you don’t want your elements to be above the liquid at the end of the boil in your copper still boiler. I have offset the element ports to ensure they are as low as possible but still close to each other so you have access to them on the same side for the power supply.
The drain should be big enough that when you’re giving it a good clean, or draining a high solid wash, you don’t have to wait ages for the liquid to flow out. So I have put a 2 inch tri-clamp port with a 1 inch ball valve. For normal use with low solids the ball valve will suffice, but throw in a few grape skins and you may need a bigger diameter. Just whip off the tri-clamp and watch it all flow out.
Sometimes you want to charge your boiler by hand, or maybe that’s all you can do, you don’t have a pump. No problem! The boiler has a 4 inch pouring port that doubles as a sight glass so you can watch how you wash foams and control the power appropriately to keep the foam down. But wait…what about those folks who have a wash with no solids and are equiped with a pump. Once again, no problem – there is a 2 inch pouring port with a tri-clamp end cap with a valve on. You can take the tri-clamp off and pour with a funnel through here or connect your plumbing to the valve and pump straight in.
You won’t find a copper still boiler quite like Chester anywhere, except right here. Soon to be added the Shop at around the AU$2,100 mark (excl taxes).