Re: [Distillers] Instlling Heating Elements
- Nice, Robert!
> A couple of tips;One tip to add to that from me: not all drill bits are the same. Drilling SS
> (a) Buy a pack of 10 double ended 1/8" drill bits, their cheap and
> you WILL break and burn them out.
with a normal metal bit can be a real PITA, make no mistake. It *IS* worth
the extra money for a cobalt drill bit or two. The difference is chalk and
cheese when dealing with hard metals like SS as opposed to copper. I
remember sweating over the holes for a fifth of a 2" circumference in my
boiler for the second element, broke no end of normal metal drill bits. It
was quite confusing for me as a noob to metalworking, and only having dealt
with copper before. Went across the road, bought two cobalt tip bits,
plugged one in, and the rest of the job was over in half a minute.
Definitely recommend them for dealing with stainless steel. There may well
be better solutions out there, but these guys are off the shelf at your
local hardware store for an extra $1 (NZ) or so a bit.
- I went a different way and used two "screw-in" heating elements. I
used a bi-metal hole saw chucked into my 1/2" drill to cut the
holes. I then welded stainless steel 1/2 couplings to the keg for
the elements to thread into.
I have done a LOT of stainless work and have burned my share of bits
and hole saws. Like previous posts (Robert N, for one), I had also
learned a few tricks in my day:
1.) Cobalt bits for small holes, hole saws for larger ones. In a
drill, you can cut a pretty big hole in a beer keg. You can find
hole saws in the normal home center stores (Home Depot, my favorite
2.) Drill SLOWLY! I even fried Cobalt bits in my drill press
because I had it on the highest spindle speed. You'll know you're
frying a bit when it and the plate you're drilling starts to glow!
Interestingy, stainless steel and aluminum are exacpt opposites when
it comes to drilling..........aluminum prefers HIGH cutting speeds.
3.) Use plenty of lubricant! WD-40 is great, so is old motor oil,
for that fact. I use a solid parafin / soap lubricate (It looks like
a bar of soap) and dip the bit into it when drill kegs. Lubrication
also works breat on die grinding if you are using a cutter and not a
4.) De-burr holes........especially if you are using gaskets and
bulkhead fittings or they may not seal.
I have found the following tools handy when working with stainless:
1.) 1/2" Drill
2.) Die Grinder (with cutter)
3.) Hole Saws
4.) Cobalt Drill Bits (or "aircraft grade" bits)
5.) Solid Lubricant
7.) Grinder (with cutting, sanding, and polishing discs)
8.) 110V Mig Welder with .025" stainless wire and tri-mix gas
9.) Bandages ('cause I cut myself EVERY time I do a project!)
10.) Beer (probably why I need the bandages in the first place)
- Big +1 on the beer and bandages there Brian!
Can you tell me, and other metalworking-challenged types, some more about
the hole saws? I've found gear to cut larger holes in wood, but they look
like the sort of things that'd piss themselves if they stared SS straight in
----- Original Message -----
From: "Brain Solenoid" <brain_solenoid@...>
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 10:42 PM
Subject: [Distillers] Re: Instlling Heating Elements
> I went a different way and used two "screw-in" heating elements. I
> used a bi-metal hole saw chucked into my 1/2" drill to cut the
> holes. I then welded stainless steel 1/2 couplings to the keg for
> the elements to thread into.
> I have done a LOT of stainless work and have burned my share of bits
> and hole saws. Like previous posts (Robert N, for one), I had also
> learned a few tricks in my day:
Loved that analogy! Yeah........i recall the time when I used a
spade bit for making big holes in wood on a beer keg just for shucks
and grins to see if it would work. It died a tragic, bitter death.
Holes saws. The way they look here in the U.S. is a painted white,
hollow steel cylinder with big teeth on one end. On the opposite end
is the chuck portion that inserts to the drill chuck........usually
hexagonal in shape due to the cutting forces.
Attached to the chuck end and pass through the center is a 1/4 inch
pilot drill used to guide the hole saw and prevent it from wobbling
during the drill process. However, calling this pilot bit a "drill
bit" is an oxymoron, since I have snapped so many of these pilot
drills while drilling through stainless (and aluminum, just this
morning). I drill a pilot hole roughly the same diameter as the
Here's a link with a picture:
In the picture, the pilot drill / chuck end is removed.
I buy a lot of expendable tools from Harbor Freight since I can go
through grinder discs and drills like a Tijauna tourist goes through
toilet paper. It's a front for tools made in China, but hey, how
sofisticated does a drill have to be? Between there and Home Depot,
I can find about anything I need for project tooling.
These hole saws are kind of tricky to use and take a little patience
to become truly proficient, but the results are quite nice and
reliable. If I ever have problems with hole saws, it's due to the
pilot drill either snapping or bending, so use a pre-drilled pilot
hole. Just go slow and use lubricant as stainless drill generates
some heat that will destroy a bit in a single use.
Anders, I hope this helps!
--- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, Andrew Forsberg <andrew@u...>
> Big +1 on the beer and bandages there Brian!about
> Can you tell me, and other metalworking-challenged types, some more
> the hole saws? I've found gear to cut larger holes in wood, butthey look
> like the sort of things that'd piss themselves if they stared SSstraight in
> the face.
> All ears!
Thanks for the info. This is pretty much what I imagined things to be.
Now I am more confident.
I have a great welder available to me, so communmicating my needs are
easy. He likes goofy projects and in fact this is not so goofy.
My plan is to have two elements; a powerful one and less powerful. I'd
used both for bringing it up to temp. then turn off the large one and do
fine adjustments on the smaller element using a variac type transformer.
At 10:39 PM 1/31/04, you wrote:
>Hi Derek I have two boilers, both stainless steel kegs. Only difference isDerek Hamlet
>the wattage of the elements. Both elements are of the four bolt type.
>The way in which I have gone about fitting the elements is to measure the
>diameter of the part of the element that has to fit through the hole you are
>about to make. Decide where on the boiler you are going to place the
>element. Make sure the plastic junction box that you use to cover the
>element, has enough room to sit on the outside as well. (keep the element as
>low as possible and any angles in the element itself should be fitted to
>point down, this is down primarily so the element requires less fluid before
>it boils dry and burns out). I then scribe the circle on the boiler, using
>double ended 1/8" drill bits, drill through the boiler just inside the
>scribed line, leaving a minimal about of metal between each consecutive
>hole. Once you have holes all around, take to the metal bit holding the
>scrap to the boiler with a coal chisel or some other tool and remove the
>inner piece of scrap metal. Buy a few grinding bits to suit a die grinder,
>dremel or failing that use your electric drill (I don't recommend the drill
>as it will wear out the front bearing on it) and grind the hole out to the
>diameter that will allow the element to fit into it. Once you are happy with
>this drill the four mounting holes using bolts that are smaller than the
>holes will give you enough room for error in the fitment.
>Given that I was already going to have other parts (1/2" sockets to fit the
>drain tap and to mount a thermometer and a 4" triclover for mounting the
>column) TIG welded to the keg, I had the stainless steel bolts welded inside
>the boiler pointing out. When I got it home from the welder, it was just a
>matter of screwing things together; the plastic junction box received
>copious amounts of silicone to hold it to the boiler. For electrical
>connection, I used a gland seal, an extension lead with the female plug cut
>off and a great deal of caution. The junction box has four screws holding
>the lid on; periodically I remove it and check inside for leaks.
>Sure this way is time consuming and hard on you and your neighbours ears,
>but the end result is worth it and is achievable with patience, a packet of
>drill bits, a drill, a file and grinding bits.
>A couple of tips;
>(a) Buy a pack of 10 double ended 1/8" drill bits, their cheap and
>you WILL break and burn them out.
>(b) Use lots of pressure and cutting fluid on the drill bits when
>drilling stainless steel.
>(c) Use safety glasses and ear plugs etc;
>(d) While you are at the welder get him to weld a couple of bits of
>angle or plate etc to the base of the boiler so you can screw some castor
>wheels onto the boiler. Makes life a lot easier to manoeuvre a full boiler
>around the shed, especially when it's hot.
>Yours in Spirit
>From: Derek Hamlet [mailto:derekhamlet@...]
>Sent: Sunday, 1 February 2004 4:18 AM
>Subject: [Distillers] Instlling Heating Elements
>Today I am feeling particularly stupid so that means it's time to ask
>questions. My "boiler to be" is a 58 litre stainless beer keg.
>An *" diameter hole will be cut in the top to take the cover, flange, etc.
>This part I'm feeling reasonably confident about.
>I've looked at a friend's still. He uses a keg, but, heats with a a three
>ring (concentric) propane burner. His physical location does not lend
>itself to using electricity.
>So I cannot quite see how to attach these elements to the keg. The
>drilling of holes in the keg I understand. I've looked at the various
>kinds of elements. One kind seems to slide over four threaded bolts and is
>held by four nuts. I'm thinking NO. The other kind seems to have no
>threads at all and is held to a water heater tank via a rubber seal on the
>inner end and a largies nut that thread down onto some kind of housing that
>puts pressure on the element and then the rubber seal etc. I read somewhere
>(now lost) about a particular stainless nut that one has welded to the keg
>after drilling the hole. I'm a very visual person and cannot quite see this.
>Can someone lead me by hand on this one please? What kind of element, what
>kind of nut or other stuff, what kind of hole and the sequence of
>activities to make this happen.
>Any help greatly appreciated.
>Victoria, B. C.
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Victoria, B. C.
- the term for these SS cutting saw's are Bi-Metal Hole Saws. 2 I am familiar
with are the Lennox, or Milwaukee Brands, as states already use a slow
steady speed. they are NOT cheap, but if careful they will do the job.
----- Original Message -----
> Date: Sun, 01 Feb 2004 22:49:51 +1300
> From: Andrew Forsberg <andrew@...>
> Subject: Re: Re: Instlling Heating Elements
> Big +1 on the beer and bandages there Brian!
> Can you tell me, and other metalworking-challenged types, some more about
> the hole saws? I've found gear to cut larger holes in wood, but they look
> like the sort of things that'd piss themselves if they stared SS straight
> the face.