Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Perforated & bubble cap plated columns

Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Dunnonuthin » Sat May 16, 2020 11:17 pm

Must of done reasonably well at keeping the head cook on Mother’s Day. Got a few hours each arvo last weekend to cut the holes in the walls of the 4” for the sight glasses. All back together and ready for todays spirit run. For a few Looooong tense
minutes I really thought I’d wasted my time, and yours, for reading this far. All plates where loaded, but not a bubble anywhere :shock: . All vapour was blowing straight up the downcomers. Then one after the other the downcomers filled up, and in rapid succession plate after plate started bubbling. :happy-partydance:

Took bugger all pics of building the plates and weirs, so will try and keep this shorter than the last post.
I decided at this point to go with 4 caps per plate rather than 3. Purely to keep the open area percentage around 8%. If your interested in such details refer to the cap slot area in the page of scribble posted earlier.
Plates were marked out on flattened pipe. I only partially annealed these as I didn’t want them Bend In Your Fingers soft. Made it a a PITA to get flat. Not sure if it was worth the effort. Dead soft would word ok I think.
Here’s the 3 hole prototype marked out.

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My build wasn’t going to be modular in the current style, I figured almost everyone uses, as a minimum, 4 plates. I drink dark and white spirits, so I figured the plate section on my build would one module of 4 plates, on a tree. Rather than threaded rod for the tree, I figured a stick of 3mm 2% silver solder up the guts would be strong enough for the job. That meant no big hole in the middle for a bolt to spin these in the drill press, so had to be done by hand. Centre punch the plates, scribe the circumference, reduce most of the perimeter with snips and the belt sander. Take down the last half millimeter to the scribe line with a file, check frequently in the actual column. If your column is squashed out of round and you can’t get it back to perfect, punch a witness mark on the edge of the plates. Don’t forget to offset your downcomers! Gently punch the column with another mark. Now file the plates to fit, align the marks each time you fit the parts together and being out of round won’t matter, just keep these clearances close.
The next job was the weirs themselves. I cut these from spare column stock, then cut a section out to reduce the diameter. These cuts I made at 45 degrees to give the solder a bit more to stick to rather than a plain butt joint. Cut a strip or two of shim stock I had, and used that as a spacer to set the clearance between weir and column. These need to be a close fit, so took a bit of fiddling to get the length and therefore diameter right. With the parts made it was time to solder them up. I just needed to hold them in position while I did it. I cut a spare ring of 4” pipe about the same height as the weirs. Lined the inside of the ring with the shims, and drop the cleaned and fluxed plate inside followed by the weir. Clamp it down so it can’t move and flatten any wobbles in the plate. Preposition solder and heat evenly until it melts and sucks into the joint. Solder the scarf joint last.

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I was worried I’d solder the lot into a useless lump, but scrubbing the bits I didn’t want soldered with a carpenter’s pencil, and being very careful with where and quantity of flux, I had no issues. The solder came in contact in places, but didn’t really stick to the dirty copper ring or shims.
Note the deep centre punch hole in the plate. I did these on some endgrain pine, just drive the ouch in until the hole was a tight fit on the tree. Purpose is to give the solder a lot more purchase area on the silver solder rod.

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Next up I’ll assemble the plate tree. Got some decent pictures for you too!
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Lesgold » Sun May 17, 2020 7:16 am

Looking really good. Can’t wait for your next post.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Dunnonuthin » Mon May 18, 2020 8:32 pm

I’m jumping ahead here with the plate tree. It was actually one of the last things built, but it makes sense to cover it now rather than come back to it.

I’m jumping ahead here with the plate tree. It was actually one of the last things built, but it makes sense to cover it now rather than come back to it later.

As described earlier, my column wasn’t dead round, but the plates were fitted to it, with a punch mark (latter a notch filed in the top edge of the weirs). It’s not far off round, maybe 0.3mm difference measured at 90 degrees, but the fit was tight enough that if I put one in and rotated it, it would bind up. The only trick with soldering the plates onto the 3mm silver solder rod was maintaining alignment along the axis of the column. So I soldered on the bottom plate first, using a 600mm square to get it pretty close. I then cut the stop ring (a ring of spare column pipe, when a section was cut out it sprung open, and inserted into the column it wants to expand against the walls. The bottom plate rests on this ring. Friction is enough to support the weight of the tree.) so I pushed the ring down far enough that the next plate was at the right spacing when it was flush with the column end. Double check the downcomers are indeed offset, then solder the plate to the rod, filling the dimple around the rod with solder. Repeat for the remaining two plates. Just to be certain the bottom plate was in alignment I slid the tree to the bottom of the section to where I could get at it and heated the rod to plate solder until it just melted then let cool.

Time for a citric acid cleanup. Built a trough with house bricks just big enough for the column and lined it with concrete underlay plastic. Mixed up the solution and soaked all long bits of the build (told you I was jumping ahead) one by one in it. Done the parts for the caps in a bucket at the same time. A rinse off and cleanup with steel wool had everything looking schmick. Except inside the downcomers and risers. Still flux and crud in there. Cut a slot in the end of a dowel, jammed some steel wool in there and chucked it in the cordless drill. Made short work of that problem.
Now I finally get to put this baby together :happy-partydance:

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A bit of vegetable oil makes sliding the tree in and out effortless. Without it the weirs drag a little, then tilt sideways and want to lockup. Here’s a pic from the future;

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Think I’ll go over the blockhead next issue. Till then.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby vovo » Sat May 30, 2020 6:44 pm

Do you think your Weir design would work reasonably well as a friction fit in a modular system? to get the plate out of the join?
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby woodduck » Sun May 31, 2020 9:08 am

nice build mate, I like where it's going :handgestures-thumbupleft:

Glad your tree worked well. Mine was a total pain in the ass, I got mine stuck and had to use jacks and destroyed plates etc :laughing-rolling:

Good luck with the rest.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Dunnonuthin » Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:38 pm

Cheers Woodduck.
Vovo, I guess you could get it to work. I’d flare the top edge of the weir just slightly, or centre punch 3 pimples (from the inside out) to grab on the module walls.

Again, this is out of sequence with the actual build but who’s gonna care. The blockhead design was chosen purely to keep the height down as I still downstairs in the garage, and the ceiling is 125mm of concrete! So I’m stuck with 2400 clearance. I briefly considered a gin basket, but no way am I gonna be big enough batches of gin to warrant that. I like variety, and my 10L pot fills that role it also saved a fair bit on a 100mm reducer and two elbows. I found the 2” elbow at the tip shop, still firmly attached to an old two bowl stainless sink. It was the bit that joined one waste to the other. Think I got ripped off, they stung me $10 for it, I had to pull it apart myself and it was putrid. Rude. Swear I took photos of it in its original state, but you’ll have to believe me it was gross. A good clean out with hot soapy water, then soak in citric acid, rinse, steel wool scrub, back into the citric...Repeat a couple times and then I could work on it. Considering the weight of a shotgun condenser, parrot and cooling lines would hang off this soft solder joint, for strength I wanted a flange on the 2” where it would butt into the 4” block. So I came up with the idea of contouring the end of the 2” as if I was going to butt solder it to the column. Then to get a nice even flange, I made a tool from some 5mm thick flat bar. Using a grinder I cut a notch in it about the same depth as I wanted the flange wide. I rounded off the corners a bit so the sharp edges wouldn’t ding up the copper badly. Clamped the bar in the vice and proceeded to bend the flange. Pushing the pipe hard into the bottom of the notch as I went.
As always, go slow, bend a section only just enough that you can tell it moved, rotate the pipe a tiny bit, bend the next section so it blends in with the last and keep working your way around. And around. And around. Came up really good. Minimal distortion, even width, stayed square to the block head.

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Happy with the flange, next up I added the easy flanges to both 4” and 2”. Then cut in the takeoff port.
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Didn’t take any pictures of setting up to solder the takeoff on, but made a ring of solder wire and fitted it inside the 2”. Propped it in the right position with a bit of futzing about, and applied heat to seal the deal. Did have to touch up a couple spots but worked out ok.
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Then last up cutout a cap from flattened pipe and solder it in. This pic taken after a few runs.
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Now after a good cleanup;
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby dans.brew » Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:49 pm

Very nice work there mate!
That elbow is joined onto the 4" beautifully.. top job keeping that solder in the right place too :handgestures-thumbupleft:
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Dunnonuthin » Tue Jun 02, 2020 10:05 pm

Cheers Dan, that’s the beauty of the pre-positioned solder method. I know I keep saying it, but it makes soldering so easy and neat.
Righto, now for the reflux condenser. This bit is what caused the build to drag out to 7 months. Not because it gave me grief, but because I’d read all the horror stories about how hard they are to solder without leaking like a sprinkler. I don’t have the means to silver solder such a large piece and so many people have reported it is the only way to do the tubes. I though about for too long, until it all got pushed to the back my impeccably neat bench, and left till later! Then along came the ‘rona and I could see a need to get it finished. So in mid February I dug out the bits and started tinkering again. Decided I was gonna use what I had and at least try soft soldering it. With that decision I reasoned I wanted a flange pulled in the end plate holes. Reason was to increase surface area for soft solder to seal around the tubes and avoid the leaks!
So out came the sockets and washers again.

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Just used the shoulder on the right size socket to form the flange. Is flange even the right term?
Anyway, this distorted the plate in every which way. Took some patient panel beating to get them back to decent shape. Made the holes as close a fit as I could on the tubes. Idea being to make everything a friction fit so the thing would hold itself together during soldering. Next flatten the easyflange rings;

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Then fit the end plates,
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Being a rather short RC, I didn’t want a large air pocket at the top. So the first thing soldered in was the drain tube, put a 90 degree elbow on the inside facing up with just 2mm clearance to the underside of the top plate. That reduced the bubble in the top of the RC by about 15mm I reckon.
Fit the over length tubes and she’s pretty much ready to solder.
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Pre-positioned rings of solder round all the tubes. Used the lead pencil trick to keep the solder from running freely out the bottom of the easyflange and then hit it with the heat. Just enough heat. Working from inside out.
Flipped it over while it was hot and did the other end. Looking good at this point, but a leak test was required so had to hook up the plumbing. I wanted the hoses to hang straight down without tending to kink. So added elbows before the hose joiners.
Then had to prop everything in place again and soldered them on.

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Only the outlet side to go so hooked in. Getting excited for the sprinkler reveal, I grabbed a gate valve and scre...
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Thinking on my feet, I pulled the gate valve apart so I could screw the valve body on, then reassembled everything with
thread tape. So I now the real moment of truth, I hooked her up to mains pressure and the only leak was the bloody gate valve stem threads. :happy-partydance:
Right then some mates turned up, gifting a 6 pack of mixed craft beers! I took the rest of the arvo off!
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Lesgold » Wed Jun 03, 2020 6:52 am

Well done. I reckon this is one of the neatest and most accurate builds that I’ve seen. You obviously spend a lot of time ensuring that every component fits perfectly before soldering. I noticed that your flanges look as though they are rolled or pressed rather than hammered.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby scythe » Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:56 pm

Nice work, I wish I flared the end plates on my RC, would have make the joins stronger.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Dunnonuthin » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:17 pm

Thanks Scythe. Did you soft solder yours? I don’t know if I seen your build. I’ll look it up.
Jeez Les. Enough to make a bloke blush. But the easy flange rings are hammered. There was scratches on the blockhead to prove it.

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How I do it is keep the hammer turned out at the right angle for the bevel on the ring. Get your wrist and elbow down low so the hammer face hits flat on the ring. You don’t want want the heel or toe of the striking face to leave dints. Then all it is is tappitytaptap with the hammer all the while turning the whole rig with your other hand. These blows are all from the wrist. Start and stop at the silversolder joint so you keep track of where your at and keep the thickness even. When you think your close try another ring with clamp and seal for fit. Note that after silversoldering there will be different levels of hardness in the ring. I actually think I can feel it in the hammer blows, but I might be kidding myself cause I can see the joint, and either side of that is softer while the silversolder itself is pretty hard. So some places need more taps than others. Leave those adjustments till last. But its easier to do than explain it. By the third or fourth ring you won’t even be thinking about it.

A quick note on the hose connectors I use. I thought I invented this, but there’s almost nothing new under the sun and I’ve since seen someone else doing almost the same thing. These have been my default Hose connection on two Liebig’s and a 1/4” coil before this build. Love ‘em.
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Here’s another pic from the future, about 90% cleaned up;
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Next time I’ll cover the PC.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby scythe » Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:17 am

Yeah I soft soldered mine a couple of times so far, because I either didn't prep and clean it properly or because I used oxy/acetylene and not enough attention at work and melted the tubes and plates just a bit, so had to remake the internals.

I've got my build journey in my welcome thread "greetings and salutations", careful it's pic heavy.
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby hupthomas » Thu Jun 04, 2020 5:50 pm

Beaut job mate wish I had your skills :text-coolphotos:
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Dunnonuthin » Tue Jun 23, 2020 8:46 pm

Decided on a 500mm shottie, 1/2” internals and no baffles. Pretty straightforward build this one after the practice so far.
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Next up I needed to fabricate a reducer for the transition from 2” to 1/2”. Found the tutorial on this site on how to mark one out. Made it too easy. I made a stepped lap joint where the cone joined on itself and silver soldered it. I just didn’t think I could soft solder the lap, cone to 2” and cone to 1/2” all in one go successfully. Pretty proud how it turned out.

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About time I got around to the column. Next time!
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Re: Big Nutz. The bubbler build.

Postby Lesgold » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:15 am

It’s coming together now. Can’t wait to see the finished “toy”
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