DIY





Mother's Six Inch Alcohol Fuel Still

Tinkerer and MOTHER EARTH NEWS researcher Clarence Goosen has created a functioning still with a six inch column that produces as much as ten times more fuel than his original three inch design.

| January/February 1980

Produce eight gallons of alcohol fuel per hour at a minimal cost.

Mother's Six-Inch-Column Still! 

Bigger may not always be better, but where the alcohol fuel still is concerned, it does pay for the small farm or homestead to take advantage of the production benefits that size can offer. That's why—after designing this publication's first practical alcohol distillery—researcher Clarence Goosen immediately began working on a new, bigger apparatus . . . which, as it turns out, not only utilizes all the best features of the original three-inch-column still and improves upon them, but Is capable of producing between eight and ten times more fuel than could the initial model!

Now you might think that—because the new still has a capacity that's 1,000% greater than that of the old one— it would cost that much more than its predecessor, too. However, because of the fact that the larger version was purposely designed to use less copper and—for the most part—common (or scrap) metal stock in its construction, you can probably build the entire unit for about $500 if you're a capable scrounger! (And this figure Is, of course, barely twice the cost of assembling our smaller still.)

MOTHER EARTH NEWS'  latest alcohol-maker is wood-fired, and has a mash capacity of 275 gallons (the storage vessel is no more than a salvaged fuel oil tank). Like its smaller relative, the new model has a stripper and a reflux column ... however, in the most recent design, both are made from inexpensive 6" thin wall tubing rather than costly copper.



Also, the still's efficiency has been Increased by replacing the marble packing—used in the three-inch column model—with commercially available 5/8" "Pall rings" (they're about 25% more effective than marbles), which provide 131 square feet of surface area per cubic foot and allow for 90% free gas space. (In effect, this means that the rings give us a near-perfect balance of two desirable features ... since we need plenty of surface area to "strip" as much water from the alcohol vapors as possible, yet we must also provide a fairly large volume within the column to achieve a high capacity flow rate.)

Another reason MOTHER EARTH NEWS' six-inch-column still works so well Is that it was designed to maintain temperature equilibrium. In other words, even though the distillery's volume-per-hour output is increased—since more alcohol vapor is forced into the column than it can handle on its own without overheating—the correct temperature balance is accomplished (from the variable boiling point of the mash at the bottom of the column to 175°F at the top) because the column contains two heat exchangers which remove much of the warmth but leave the alcohol distillate within the column.






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