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This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

January 22, 2016
Last updated

Lead Free Solder and Copper Distillation Equipment

Chief Operating Officer at Clawhammer

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Will the Lead Free Solder on a Copper Still Melt When Heated with a Propane Burner?

We get a few emails each week asking this same question. The short answer is no. Heating a still, which has been built with soldered seams, on a propane burner, fire, or an electric hot plate will not cause the solder to melt. However, the still must never be completely emptied during the distillation process. There always needs to remain some liquid inside of still during operation. Operating a still without liquid inside is called "dry firing" which will cause the solder to melt. Also, if an electric heating element is being used, dry firing the element will destroy it.

Even though a fire or a propane burner won't melt the solder on a copper still we always recommend using an electric heat source. There are a few reasons we prefer electric: 

  • It is easier to regulate the amount of heat being applied to the still with an electric heat source. It is possible to fine tune the electric output to get the perfect amount of heat on the still. It is a lot more difficult to dial in the exact amount of heat needed with a propane burner.
  • It is safer to use electric because there is not an open flame as there is with a propane burner.

Always check the label on the solder to verify the melting point, that it is lead free, and that it meets the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

**Always use lead FREE solder and water soluble flux when assembling a copper still kit**

Emmet Leahy is the Chief Operating Officer and lead product developer at Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company. He loves the process of developing new equipment for making beer at home just as much as he does using it to brew his own beer. He's also passionate about teaching people how to use distillation equipment to produce distilled water, essential oils, and with the proper permits, fuel alcohol and distilled spirits.

  • Can you use silver solder for ur joints ? Or does it have dangerous metals in it? I have brazed up potable water lines before but not sure on this application thank u

    Posted by Grizz on April 05, 2023
  • you are playing with the gods when you distill. if you don’t know exactly what the materials are that you are using to make a still the gods may not be pleased and may smite you.
    use new material that you know the source of, with recommendations from knowledgeable people

    Posted by mike on June 13, 2022
  • So how would I know if the solder used for my copper tubing is leaded or lead free? I salvaged the copper tubing off my old water heater system from home and don’t know if I should use it in my still. I’d appreciate any helpful advice. Thanks

    Posted by St1llv1rg1n on March 30, 2021
  • Hey I’m just wondering how you go about repairing copper stills example resoldering cracks ? What process do you take ?

    Posted by MItchell on July 09, 2018
  • Smooth……..ARwapaho, Says Keep On, KEEPING ON,

    Posted by Donaldo on January 17, 2017
  • This site is awesome. I’ve just started exploring it and I’ve already learned so much. Thank you Kyle brown and your team. I think your doing an excellent job. Keep up the good work.

    Posted by DRew on February 07, 2016

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