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Thread: First Attempt at Dry Distillation

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
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    USA
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    First Attempt at Dry Distillation

    And finally, I work up the time and nerve to give this a shot.

    Sorry, no pics. I bought a stainless 16 quart thing at walmart (maybe it was 16 pints, don't remember, don't care) and drilled a hole in the side. I drilled a corresponding hole in one of those giant pickle jars, and fitted a pretty long threaded pipe section between the two, which worked out surprisingly well.

    The stew pot went on a propane grilling thing for outdoor use, the pickle jar in a cooler full of ice. Cedar needles went in the pot if you care, this was more of a general set up to see if it works, and those trees are everywhere. (Red Cedar, not true cedar. It's the evergreen that gin berries come from)

    First thing, this pipe was pretty long, about five feet (1.7 meters), and the angle wasn't very steep at all, which could be part of my problems that I'll mention in a moment.

    Okay, so, smoke right away, straight down the pipe, and very little water. I don't know how much I was expecting, but I didn't really see any, which was a little weird but I went with it. Then the Water started coming over, all was going well, then it dried up, so I turned up the flame. My Fire started trickling out very slowly. This was about an hour after starting (little fast?)

    But for some reason, no matter the temp, the fiery water would stop coming out. I'd fiddle with the setup and get a few more drops, then it would go again for a while, then repeat. I turned the fire up more, but still slow as molasses. Is this normal? I guess that's my first real question here.

    I didn't have all day, and my propane tank is about spent, so I shut everything down after about 3 or 4 hours and finishing my other tasks at the property tonight. I checked the pipe, no clogs (it's small, I think the hole is about 1/2 an inch[1cm]). The plant matter was charred up good and proper, and then I saw what I was looking for. All of the tar stayed in the pot.

    This leads in my first real question. Should the tar go over the head as well? The pipe was punched through the side of the cook can, so maybe the tar steam won't go like that? Anyway, it's all over the lid and walls of the pot. I can go back for it if needed. I only got a tiny amount of the red oil, but it floated above the yellowish water as expected. The layer was pretty thin, but enough to be obvious. Does all the red have to come over before the tar starts its journey?

    The other thing is more of an insight than a question. I dumped the pickle jar back into the pot, hoping that it would help clean up the mess a bit (experiment over at that point, the setup sort of works and that's all I wanted to know). Once the water and oil mix filtered through the charcoal plant matter, of course it clarified, but I noticed something. The clear water had a funny nature to it. It didn't look like it was wetting the charcoal at all, if anything it appeared to be running from it. It was also high viscosity and beaded up very easily, just like a clear quicksilver.

    I saved what was left, dumping charcoal and all into a mason jar to sit while I ponder. I also scorched the fluid when I poured it in because the bottom of the pot hadn't cooled all the way, so there was a decent cloud of steam that erupted. So, I lost most of the end product, but what I have left is the water fraction and whatever the coals absorbed. Anyone try filtering their Mercury through the dead corpus to purify it? It seemed like a very fast acting method. When I get back out there I may decant the water and filter it just to see what it looks like.

    So that was my fun. That tar question has me vexed. Digging a thin layer off the sides of a pot doesn't sound like much fun, so any suggestions are welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Okay, I'm somewhere I can upload images.

    Here's the setup:


    Here is a blurry photo of the dragon's fire starting to come across:

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    299
    Quote Originally Posted by Dragon's Tail View Post
    Okay, I'm somewhere I can upload images.

    Here's the setup:


    Here is a blurry photo of the dragon's fire starting to come across:
    Here's a quick reply. I will get to more later as I am busy today. Your steel pot needs to be in a housing to keep the heat of the burner all around the pot. Then the tar will distill over starting at about 450F only if the whole pot is hot enough from bottom to top. Your pipe is too long when the tar starts to come over it will cool in about two feet and clog your pipe.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    594
    Man, you really need to cut the lawn

    Nice pictures! I always enjoy shared practical work and especially DIY low budget equipment! It looks really cool!
    What z0 k says makes sense. A round incapsulation -like an old chimney- of some kind of brick stones would look cool imo and it's more efficient and nice to your wallet in the long run. But then you'd lose the "portable" feature of your setup.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    USA
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    526
    Quote Originally Posted by Florius Frammel View Post
    Man, you really need to cut the lawn

    Nice pictures! I always enjoy shared practical work and especially DIY low budget equipment! It looks really cool!
    What z0 k says makes sense. A round incapsulation -like an old chimney- of some kind of brick stones would look cool imo and it's more efficient and nice to your wallet in the long run. But then you'd lose the "portable" feature of your setup.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Thanks. I was hoping this would be enough for plant work before I started designing a chimney. This is in the middle of the woods, so lawn maintenance is kind of optional at this point. Some of the stuff you see growing actually doubles as produce for my soup pot, hehe. I still have a ways to go before I start regular trimmings, and I need to find a cheap mower that I can tear up without feeling too bad (lots of little stumps and rocks to clear out).

    The upshot is that I can build pretty much whatever I want without restriction. A big stone furnace is on the list. For now maybe a piece of tin wrapped around the pot would work?

    Z - I had that feeling once the red started coming over, that I went overboard on the pipe. Looking forward to your other comments. I think I'll get another day out there this week, but will likely be running the chainsaw all day. Even so, I can get another distillation going. It's not like I need to babysit it. At some point I'll have a nice little alchemy hovel out there, which could be fun, hehe. So when I build my basic earthy kiln/furnace, that will probably serve as the center of that site.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    594
    I'm afraid wrapping tin (aluminum foil?) around your pot won't help here. You need to find a way to effectively use as much heat as possible and heat the sides of the pot as well without losing it on the sides of your fireplace.
    Last edited by Florius Frammel; 05-14-2018 at 04:23 PM.

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