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Inline thumper column

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Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:32 am

Hello,

Ive been having problems controlling the output of my HP gas regulator, I am only able to turn it down so far, and that is too much for my 3" column. Instead of buying a new reg, I decided to try and harness that power for faster runs, building a wide diameter inline thumper column.

DSC_0008.JPG


I got the pots from Ikea, these are the 3 and 5L versions 7 1/2" and 8 1/2" diameters respectively. the lid from the pot below is connected to the pot above using 2" threaded brass tubing, with 2" copper tubing soldered inside. I use 2" brass nuts soldered to the bases and lids to hold it together.

DSC_0012.JPG


The whole assembly is held together with stainless threaded rod

DSC_0009.jpg


I assembled what I had today to see how it all fit together and how stable it was. although the lids are soldered to a 2" brass nut, the thin steel still has a bit of flex. I found that wrappping a bit of silicone tubing in the space between the lid and the pot above stiffenned the structure considerably. You can see it between the 3L and 5L pots.

I still need to build the caps and complete the downcomers. Watch this space for further updates
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby Rockchucker » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:39 am

Cool! Kind of like Larry's old humper thumper!
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby emptyglass » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:26 pm

10 points there mate!
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:36 am

Thanks guys! Im looking forward to taking it for a spin! You can see that it is heavily inspired by Larry, only I used $15 pots. They have pretty thick bases, a laminate of stainless and aluminum, but the stainless solders fairly easily to the wide flange on the brass nuts.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby flyingdutchman » Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:36 pm

Hi StillOnFire,
I would love to see a diagram of how they are plumbed inside and your reflux return setup (to prevent flooding). I see some posts by others suggesting problems with equilization which puzzles me. Provided you are not using boiler pressure to mechanically lift the thumper cap (like a fermentor air lock)I am guessing that the resistance to equilization between internal boiler pressure and atmospheric pressure would simply be a function of liquid level in the thumper. I think fresh water is relatively low with something like 0.43 PSI for a vertical column 1 foot high (stp).

PS how do you attach the lids?

Thanks
FD
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:06 pm

flyingdutchman wrote:Hi StillOnFire,
I would love to see a diagram of how they are plumbed inside and your reflux return setup (to prevent flooding). I see some posts by others suggesting problems with equilization which puzzles me. Provided you are not using boiler pressure to mechanically lift the thumper cap (like a fermentor air lock)I am guessing that the resistance to equilization between internal boiler pressure and atmospheric pressure would simply be a function of liquid level in the thumper. I think fresh water is relatively low with something like 0.43 PSI for a vertical column 1 foot high (stp).

PS how do you attach the lids?

Thanks
FD


This should help explain what is going on inside. Everything but the cap has been hard soldered, and is therefore very ugly at the moment. I eventually worked out how to soft solder the brass threaded section in place, but this is my only complete-ish section.

DSC_0002.jpg

The nuts shown in the picture are actually soldered one to the inside of the lid, and one to the inside of the pot above. Though they wouldnt have to be soldered, you could just use a gasket. I am trying to reduce the number of places that need seals. The bubble cap is not in place, and the vapor holes are not drilled yet. The vapor holes would go around the lid.

DSC_0005.jpg

You can see the 3/4" downcomer here, as well as the path for the threaded rod which holds everything together.

DSC_0007.JPG

This shows the cap. My next step is to solder the "L" through the side of the cap where it can connect to the downcomer.

I hope these pictures answer your questions, let me know if you have any more.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby flyingdutchman » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:57 pm

Very nice! Thanks for the pics it looks great.

FD
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby jake_leg » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:41 am

I'm loving it. How are you sealing the lids to the pots? Is that a sight glass on the bottom pot, can I see a pic of that?

Reminds me of this

Image
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:21 pm

Did a vinegar run tonight with the two big pots. The top was a bit wobbly, still have flexing issues on the top pot lid. The main problem was the seals on the pot lids.

DSC_0061.JPG


I made the O-rings with 3/16" silicone tubing. I cut off a 1" section of hose, and sliced off a thin lengthwise bit to act as a spline. Then I measured and cut enough hose to make the O-ring. Then I squirted some silicone into each cut end, and stuck the spline into it. I gooped a bit more silicone around the join and let it cure. Once cured I trimmed as closely as I could with a knife, then wrapped the join with Teflon tape.

On the vinegar run, the seals on the pots both popped out of place right at the joint on the tubing. I dont know if it was the tape, or the fact that the joint was not as squishy as the rest of the seal. I am considering doing a permanant RTV seal on the pot lids, forming the silicone by putting cling wrap on the pot and joining them lightly. Has anyone tried this and had it work ok? Does anyone know where I can get an affordable 9" ID alcohol tolerant gasket?

jake_leg wrote: Is that a sight glass on the bottom pot, can I see a pic of that?


DSC_0059.JPG


Ordered the 3" SGs through Stilldragon. Thanks Punkin!
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:10 am

I bought two 9" silicone cake pans and cut out gaskets for the lids, and did another trial run last night. They worked very well. I still have a slow leak on my sight glass, even after changing the gasket. After the trial run I spent some time with a file making sure the face of my easy flange was very flat. One thing I'll mention is that if you are using SD sightglasses on easy flanges, make sure you hammer them very thin. I left mine a little too thick, and I cannot fit my regular 3" gasket between the glass and the flange in a triclamp. This leaves only very thin gaskets, and they aren't as forgiving. On the plus side, the SD SGs are pretty sturdy, and I haven't broken any even when making the clamp fairly tight.

It takes a surprisingly long time to fill one of those thumpers using only reflux, about 20 minutes per thumper running the gas flat out (120kPA). The volume of each of the large thumpers is about 3L to the top of the downcomer. Does anyone have any thoughts on precharging the thumpers with feints or anything else?
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby Tracker » Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:41 am

I used the silicon and cling wrap method on two stockpot lids about 4 years ago and they still seal up fine.

Just don't clamp them too tight while the silicon is curing.


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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:02 pm

Yes, forced reflux. Well, 100% reflux, zero takeoff, not sure what exactly is meant by forced.

I was thinking that the takeoff rate could be pretty fast. My only worry is a puking rum wash at that rate of heat input, and I bought some antifoam stuff to help with that.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby chill » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:16 pm

Love your ingenuity! Keep the posts coming!
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:19 pm

Had a disaster of a run today. I had leaks all over, and they didnt much want to seal up. I ended up aborting and dumping out 30L of great smelling rum wash.

I had a small leak on the head gasket. I shut off the gas, and replaced the seal. It mostly fixed that leak, it still dripped every 5 seconds or so.

The main problem was the SG gasket. I was getting a slow drip, which was becoming a fast drip. So I turned off the gas and replaced the SG on the hot still. Since the SG is on the bottom thumper, the cooling caused by opening it up sucked out enough liquid from the top thumper to make the liquid level even with the SG, so I had wonderful smelling hot distillate splashing around as I tried to tighten up my alternate SG and seal. It leaked even worse upon startup and actually caught on fire a little bit. It was the bottom thumper leaking, so the distillate wasnt that flamable. I splashed it out with some water, and tried replacing the seal again, dabbing a bit of flour paste on it. It still leaked like crazy, so I shut her down.

It was disapointing, but there were some good points. The still itself seems to work just fine. I was DUMPING heat into it, and the rum wash did not puke even once, so Punkin's anti foaming agent worked a treat. It was a very dry wash, which probably helped with that.

I have since fillled in the ez flanges with soft solder and am in the process of filing them flat. This should fix the leaks. That is one reason to always use hard solder on your ez flanges. That way if they dont seal well, I just build up a layer of soft solder on the sealing edge and file it flat as anything. If you use soft solder on the easy flange, it is much harder to do this, as the solder leaks everywhere.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby FullySilenced » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:11 pm

Looks like a teflon gasket as well... i bet a silicone one would seal much better....
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby Tracker » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:18 pm

I thought the seal on those fitted between the flange and the glass. What is the seal for on the outside of the glass?


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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:36 pm

For the water trial run I wrapped Teflon tape about 15 times around the edge and I got a pretty decent seal. It didn't work so well for the real run tho. I'm sure that a proper silicone seal would do the trick.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby Tracker » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:57 pm

Ahhh, the set-up on mine is an 'o' ring which locates in the groove of the flange. The glass then sits flat against that then the clamp just holds things together.


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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:43 pm

Conclusion:

I wanted to try the inline thumper column using Ikea pots because it looked like an inexpensive way to get a pretty large diameter column. In the end, it wasnt cheap or easy, and it didnt work very well. While the pots were cheap, the cost of the fittings required to make it work got expensive fast. Additionally, the stability of the column depended on the rigidity of the pot and lid, and while the pots were sturdy, the lid flexed too much, and the top of the column swayed at the slightest push. I was worried that the lids would eventually crack where they were being flexed. I also struggled getting a good seal between the pots and the lids, as well as at the sight glass.

This setup might work if you had a lightweight condensor on a single pot and lid. The weight on the lid would not be so great, and you wouldnt get so much flex.

It is a dissapointing finish to an exciting beginning. I would advise against using a "stack of pots" configuration for a distillation column, the metal is very thin and hard to work with. For almost the same cost you can buy 6" copper pipe, which is a proven material and easy to work with.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby Googe » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:14 pm

10 points for trying mate, that's what it's all about, if ya don't build it and try it you'll never know!. I'm sure you've learnt alot by doing this is you'll carry it over to your next build and everything will be easier :handgestures-thumbupright: . So what's the next build?.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby StillOnFire » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:38 pm

4 plate 6" bubbler :D
I was so dissapointed after this build that I took 6 months off the hobby, but I only have two bottles of rum left. Time to get back on the horse.
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Re: Inline thumper column

Postby Yummyrum » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:36 pm

Well hell ,its a shame the thumper didn't work out but
StillOnFire wrote:4 plate 6" bubbler :D


Dude ,you need to post pics of that Here
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