Poor Man’s Still

In a few files on this system some of the recipes need a still, well here is how to make a still:

Once you get the chemicals, ingredients, or whatever, you set up your still. It is small, efficient, and safe. In it you can make things like tear gas, prussic acid and occasionally distil some alcohol.

First, a flask is fitted with a one-hole rubber stopper. A short length of thin glass tubing is inserted into the hole. A five foot length of thin rubber tubing is fitted over the glass tube and coiled into the ice bucket and out through a hole near the bottom. The end of the tube is fitted over another glass tube which is in a two-hole stopper stuck into a bottle. The other hole contains another glass tube to which is attached another length of tubing long enough to reach outside to get rid of any noxious or poisonous fumes.

The equipment for a still is cheap and simple to get. Most of it can be bought from your local drug store. They carry tubing, stoppers, glassware and many chemicals which they freely sell to doctors, students etc. If you get on good terms with your druggist and he doesn’t know you are crazy you can buy most of your stuff from him.

A ring stand or tripod for the flask is more handy than the can in the illustration (see below). But a tin can with strips cut out of it for ventilation and for the removal of the lamp is usually adequate.


<1> alcohol lamp.
<2> ring stand, tripod or tin can.
<3> 500 ml or larger flask
<4> assortment of one and two-hole holeless rubber stoppers of various sizes.
<5> about six yards of 3/16 of an inch (inside diameter) rubber tubing.
<6> about a foot of six millimetre (outside diameter) laboratory glass tubing.
<7> child’s plastic bucket <8> receiving bottle.

The hole in the bucket for the tube is made somewhat smaller than the tube so it will fit snugly and prevent leakage. Full strength wood alcohol for the lamp can be bought at the drugstore. Rubbing alcohol, although 30% water will burn in the lamp but not so well. You can distil the purt alcohol off the water from rubbing alcohol.

This is best done over a gas or electric stove. First a large pan with a couple of inches of water in it is put on the burner to be used and the others are turned off.

The still is set up as the illustration except the receiving bottle is larger and doesn’t need a stopper or tube going outside. The flask is filled with rubbing alcohol just under the neck and set in the pan of boiling water.

In this setup a coat hanger wire with a loop in its middle is put over the neck of the flask and fixed on the sides of the pan. This is necessary because as the alcohol distils off, the flask gets lighter and b would rise in the water and fall over without support.

Another consideration is to make sure the tube does not flop over and collapse. This can be prevented by hanging a string from the ceiling by which the tubing is held above the flask.

The tubing should be further supported so it does not touch the hot edge of the pan. If it is allowed to lie over the edge it will melt.

When the action starts the alcohol will fairly flow into the collecting bottle. When it stops all that is left in the flask will be water. If left alone water would start dripping, much slower than the alcohol, but this is not wanted.

This is the only case where you should distil over a stove. A stove is harder to control than an alcohol lamp. It is also harder to clean up than a table in case of an accident.

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