How to Build a Still - DIY Still Building for Water and Fuel Distillation

Knowing how to build a still is an essential part of survival. With a still, contaminated water can be distilled for drinking purposes, ethanol and methanol fuel can be produced to run an engine and salt can be removed from sea water.

still
Photo courtesy of jdparker

A simple still for distilling water can be made from:

  • A test tube
  • Small rubber tubing to fit stopper
  • Heavy rubber hose or a metal tube for repeat uses
  • An ordinary bottle

Seven Easy Steps to How to Build a Still

1. Fit the test tube with a stopper

2. Bore a hole in the stopper and insert a small piece of tube

3. Fit the bottle with a stopper and insert a small piece of tube

4. Connect the bottle and the test tube with the rubber or metal tube

5. Fill the test tube part way with water

6. Support or hold the test tube over a flame

7. Set the bottle in a cold container of water

When the water begins to boil, the steam will pass over to the bottle and condense. Keep the water in the basin cold in order for the steam to cool and turn back into a liquid.

How to Build a Still Using a Pressure Cooker

To make a more permanent still the process is slightly more complicated and on a larger scale. A pressure cooker works best because the lid already has a hole in it for steam to escape and the lid is designed to lock so it won’t pressurize and explode. To make the attaching condenser you will need:

  • Plastic bucket
  • ¼” soft copper pipe (8 feet)
  • Wine bottle cork, brewing cork
  • Plastic adhesive glue like Blu-Tac

Tools needed:

  • Drill
  • ¼” drill bit

Make a coil out of the soft copper pipe leaving an extra foot of straight pipe at each end. Wrap it around something approximately the size of a large juice can about ten times. Be careful not to kink the pipe.

Drill a ¼” hole into the side of the bucket approximately ½ inch from the bottom. Slide the coil into the bucket and feed the straight end of the pipe into the hole in the bottom of the bucket. Seal the opening around the copper pipe with the plastic adhesive glue.

Raise the bucket above the level of the pressure cooker and place a bowl or other container under the end of the copper pipe to catch the liquid that comes out. Keep the coil submerged in cold water and maybe some ice to allow the vapor to turn back into a liquid.

Drill a hole in the cork to allow the copper pipe to fit through it and seal the seams around the cork and copper with the same glue. Place the cork into the vent of the pressure cooker allowing the end of the copper to project about an inch into the cooker. Fill the pressure cooker up to four fifths capacity. Make sure the lid of the pressure cooker is locked and cook over low to medium heat.

Other Alternatives How to Build a Still

In desperate times, other containers will work as a base in place of a pressure cooker like:

  • two stainless steel stock pots welded together
  • old keg
  • ordinary stock pot with the lid sealed with flour and water.

You can also boil the liquid in a glass jug submerged in a pot of boiling water. This type of jug can withstand the high temperature. Fit the tube into the screw on lid of the jug and seal to make sure it’s air tight. Copper tubing is preferred; however, plastic tubing will also work but it won’t last as long. The size of the container only depends on what you want to distill in it and copper stills are only necessary if you are going to drink the final product.

If you know the basics of how to build a still then you and your family can adapt and survive in an emergency situation.




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