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August 9, 2016
Last updated

How to Make a Moonshine Still

Owner of Clawhammer Supply
how to make a moonshine still

If you're looking for instructions on how to make a moonshine still, you're in the right place. I've been building stills for almost 15 years and have a lot of experience in this area. When I made my first moonshine still the smallest piece of copper I could find was so big that I actually had enough material to build three stills, so I did. I ended up keeping one and I sold the other two. That's how Clawhammer Supply was born.

Fast forward to 2023, and I am still designing and making distillation equipment. I still find it as entertaining and rewarding as when I built my first one. When I look back at that first experience, I am very appreciative of the information that was shared with me. It was extremely helpful, and I would not have been able to build my own still without it. So, i'm happy to pass on some information to you. I also sincerely hope that you find the resources below helpful on your journey, and that your efforts to build a still are successful!

Oh, and if you like this article, you'll also find this article on how to make moonshine absolutely fascinating.

Making a Moonshine Still

Here's our complete guide to making a moonshine still at home. It's is a multi-step process and we're going to break down each step below. Use the following table to skip to the section you'd like to learn more about. Oh, and we kick the entire process off with a time lapse of a moonshine still build that shows the entire process start to finish. Here is some information to get you started

Here are the step to building a still:

  1. Be Safe
  2. Gather moonshine still parts and material
  3. Prepare the still parts
  4. Build a moonshine still boiler
  5. Solder the copper parts
  6. Build a still vapor cone and lid
  7. Make a moonshine still condenser

What is a Moonshine Still

Before we get started, let's define exactly what you'll be building. Copper stills, also called "moonshine stills," have a storied history in the United States. The reason these types are called "moonshine stills" is that during the US prohibition, when alcohol was outlawed, home distillers made their whiskey at night by the light of the moon to avoid getting caught. Hence the term "moonshine." As bootleggers always used copper stills, small copper stills are generally referred to as "moonshine stills."

So, the phrase "moonshine still" doesn't refer to what the stills are meant to distill. These types of stills are actually multi-purpose; they can be used to distill water, essential oils, fuel alcohol, spirits, and with the proper permits and safety precautions, moonshine.

Although alcohol is legal again, making whiskey at home, and in some cases even owing a still, remains illegal. However, the name "moonshine" endures, and the name "moonshine still" has stuck as well.

Why Moonshine Stills Are Copper

Copper stills are corrosion resistant with proper upkeep, but it takes a bit more work to maintain copper stills than it does stainless steel stills. Though, on the upside, copper is widely available, affordable, very easy to cut, easy to form, and can be soldered with basic tools and materials. And soldering is something anyone can do with little to no experience, unlike welding stainless.

Copper has been the material of choice for spirits producers for centuries and it's used to make Scotch, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, Japanese whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka, and more... Basically, copper is the preferred material of choice for distilling most spirits

Time lapse of a Moonshine Still Build

If you follow the guide below, the following video shows exactly what you'll be getting yourself into. It's a time lapse of the entire still building process from start to finish. Though, in the video below I'm making a 1 gallon still. In the following tutorial I'll be making a 5 gallon moonshine still.

Ok, now that you have a rough idea of how it's done. Let's get into the specifics. but before we do, please note: 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.

Tools and Safety

Here's what we'd suggest having on hand before beginning the process of building a moonshine still. We'll start with the tools you'll need to build a still as well as the safety precautions we'd suggest.

Safety Equipment

You’ll need a pair of safety gloves. I’m using heavy duty welding gloves. This will keep your hands safe when you’re soldering and handling the copper still parts. You’ll also need to work in a well ventilated area and we would also suggest wearing a VOC mask. And you’ll want to wear some safety glasses to protect your eyes.

Still Building Tools

Ok, so as far as the tools go, you don’t need anything fancy, and you could definitely get away with less stuff than we’re using here. At a bare minimum you’ll need a plumbing torch, a pair of pliers and a hammer.

I’m using a Bernzomatic 8000 torch head but this is overkill. I’d suggest buying a Bernzomatic WT2301 basic self light torch if you don’t have one already.

Pro tip: Only use propane gas to solder the copper parts. Do not use map gas or oxy acetelyne - Those will get the parts too hot. Use propane only.

You’ll also need something to manually clean the copper still parts with. A wire brush and sandpaper will do the trick. 120 grit is what i’m using here.

A basic pair of pliers are required to bend the tabs on the copper still boiler. Sheet metal pliers work best but these are absolutely not necessary.

I do highly recommend rounding up a small pair of locking pliers or a small clamp for soldering the collar in place. You'll see this in video 7. This isn't 100% necessary and you could probably get the job done without the pliers, but it'll be about 10 times less likely that the piece will solder into place correctly on the first try with the pliers.

A small hammer will be required to install the rivets. Ball peen hammers work great for this. A dolly, a random hunk of metal, or even another hammer, like a sledgehammer head will be needed for setting the rivets. An anvil is handy as well, but it isn’t a necessary item. Though, if you don’t have one, you might ask yourself why not. They look cool as hell and can be used for all sorts of stuff.

Also, a vice isn’t necessary, but really comes in handy when soldering the copper column and condenser. This is another one of those basic items that everyone should own anyway, so consider picking up a small vice if you don’t have one already. Like i said, you can build a copper still with less stuff than this, but these are the tools i’ll be using in this video.

Consumables

You'll need a few consumables aside from the copper parts. Namely solder and flux. This part is very important: only use water soluble plumbing grade flux and lead free plumbing solder. In fact, you can buy both of these on our site by clicking on the links and i’d suggest that you do so to make sure you’re using the right stuff. While you’re there, pick up a couple of flux brushes too. If you don't use water soluble flux you're going to have a heck of a time getting the flux off of your still and if you don't use lead free solder then it's not going to be safe to distill anything with. So make sure you're using those two specific materials.

Moonshine Still Parts and Materials

Always use C-110 food grade copper when building a copper still. In the timelapse and in this video series i'm using parts from a Clawhammer Supply still kit. They're computer designed, machine cut, and make the building process go very smooth.

The list of the parts you'll need are as follows. This is also the list of part that come with the Clawhammer copper still kits.

5 gallon moonshine still
  • (2) 90 degree, half inch street elbows;
  • (2) ½ by ½ by ¾ tees;
  • (1) 45 degree coupling;
  • (2) small pieces of half inch copper tubing;
  • (1) larger piece of ½ inch tubing;
  • (1) piece of ¾ tubing;
  • A long piece of 1 ½ inch tubing;
  • An inch and a half to half inch reducer coupling;
  • Some solid copper rivets;
  • (1) large rectangle for the still boiler wall;
  • (1) thin rectangular piece of copper for the collar
  • A “C shaped” piece to serve as the still’s vapor cone
  • (1) slightly tapered piece of copper for the cap skirt
  • A 1 circular boiler bottom
  • And a cap plate, which is at least 17 gauge copper

Note, all material should be made with c-110 copper. We always suggest requesting to see the materials certificate from the manufacturer, which guarantees that the alloy is what it's claimed to be.

Prepping Copper Still Parts

The very first step of the actual build process is to bend the "teeth" at the bottom of the boiler so they are perpendicular to main body of the boiler. The circular boiler bottom will sit on the "ledge" you create by bending these teeth. So the closer you get these to a 90 degree angle, the easier it will be to solder the bottom together.

Next, before soldering, make sure to sand or score every edge and then apply flux to every seam before you solder. If you don't do this you're going to have a really difficult time getting the solder to stick to the copper. This is a really important step, so don't skip it. If you do, you'll more than likely end up with a big mess. It's possible to fix, but it isn't easy. So always sand or score every part before soldering and always use flux.

Building a Moonshine Still Boiler

So what I'm doing in this first part of the video is forming the parts together by hand and then riveting all of the parts together to make a moonshine still boiler. If you rivet everything first, it makes things go a little faster once you start soldering.

One thing to note about the rivets is that they do not need to be smashed flat. Really all you need to do is get the rivets in the pre-drilled rivet holes and tap them a few times just so they balloon out enough to secure the copper together. The structural support for the still is actually provided by the solder itself. Riveting the parts make it easier to solder the still together. It also looks cool. So, that's why we use the rivets.

Soldering The Still Boiler

I started soldering by sealing the boiler. Next I dropped the bottom in and soldered it to the boiler. After that, I move on to the vapor cone and then I solder the vapor cone to the boiler.Once the cone is soldered to the still boiler, solder the small "collar piece" into the top of the cone.

Note that the boiler, vapor cone, and the collar make up one part of the assembly. Nothing else gets soldered to this part of the still. The next step in the process is building the column assembly, which friction fits to the boiler, once it is all finished. Do not solder these two sections together or you won't be able to fill, empty, or clean the still.

Build a Still Vapor Cone and Lid

After liquid in a still begins to boil, it will travel through the path of least resistance to the exit point. To ensure that the vapor has a smooth trip, a vapor cone is built on the top of the boiler. And to make the interior of the still accessible for filling, draining, and cleaning, the vapor cone is attached to a lid. How to build both are shown in this video.

How to Make a Still Condenser

Next, assemble and solder the cap plate, the cap skirt, and the column, and the condenser parts. 

Begin by soldering the cap skirt together. Next solder the cap plate into the cap skirt. After that solder the column into the cap plate. After that assemble and solder the condenser parts and attach them to the top of the column.

Finishing the Copper Still

There is really no way to build a copper still without making a mess of the parts. They always need cleaned and polished once they're built. I like to kill two birds with one stone by cleaning and polishing at the same time. To do this, I use 100 grit sandpaper. Sandpaper will take excess solder, and carbon deposits right off. It makes the still look nice and shiny too. If you want a mirror finish, feel free to buff the still after sanding. Just keep in mind that if you're actually going to use the still, it will be very difficult to keep it shiny. That's just the way things go!

moonshine stills

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • WE want to build a a still to distilled water for our factory. Our wish is to distill 25 gal at a time. Is this something that you can assist with? Are you aware of commercial stills available for this application. Thank you. Rich

    Posted by rpounds@poundsofplastic.com on February 13, 2024
  • I built the upper part of with copper. I was going to use a 1/2 keg for the thump tank but decided I want it to be copper. The I.d is 2”. Can I just purchase the thump tank person and any couplers to connect?
    Thx

    Posted by Rick on November 22, 2023
  • Good day my fellow brew masters I have one heck of a silly question for you, is there anyway that I could buy a blueprint of your 1 gallon moonshine still I’m wanting to build one for my living room and I want it to look great that’s the reason I want something that good to go off of.. I have tried several times trying to shrink the 5 gallon stills online and can’t seem to be able to get it. I sure would appreciate it if you do. Hope to hear from you soon….
    Thanks, Vince

    Posted by Vince Corter on January 26, 2022
  • I am interested in building a still. can you send a list of the tools required and what is the best type of work table to use?

    Posted by Jeff on June 03, 2020
  • Good Day, I purchased a 1 gallon kit and I am looking forward to trying a new hobby. I am interest in a step by step process for my first run. I have no experience so no suggestions will be too basic.

    Thank you

    PS. I don’t know why this is all caps, i’m not yelling on line.

    Posted by Martin on April 23, 2020
  • Hello I am located in Dillon SC and I am interested in small still construction. I want to stay legal so what size still can I have without being illegal.

    Posted by Rodney on March 25, 2019
  • I am into model railroads. Presently I am building a layout with a country theme.
    I am wondering if you have a miniature still you would sell or know where one could be purchased.

    Thanks.

    Posted by Danny Brumfield on April 30, 2018
  • How much is the kit you assembled on this website?
    Do you sell the assembled kit? How much?
    how do you heat the boiler?

    Posted by Jim on April 08, 2018
  • I’m interested IN Purchasing a small copper still. I noticed your stills do n0t include a separate thumper and worm component. I’m all for minimization, as long as the end product doesn’t suffer. Please explain how your product works.

    Posted by Thomas E. Hires on January 25, 2018
  • I’m just curious about why you do not ship to North Carolina ?

    Can I buy an already assembled 1 gallon still ?

    Posted by Chuck Hembree on December 20, 2017
  • dO YOU SHIP TO cANADA?

    Posted by Brad on October 28, 2017
  • How do I buy your cooper kits and how much are they and what’s the largest container can I get

    Posted by Richard on October 09, 2017
  • How do I buy your cooper kits and how much are they and what’s the largest container can I get

    Posted by Richard on October 09, 2017
  • I want to build an essential oil still

    Posted by rose on February 17, 2017
  • Can you use a propane torch or does it have to be o&a?

    Posted by DIesel on January 26, 2017
  • Love the site, lots of good info, and a great resource for a guy who wants to build his own still.

    Posted by Red on August 28, 2016
  • I’m wanting to build a small still to make small batches. 1-2 quarts, nothing big. I’m wanting to go to my parents old place down on their creek. Wirth,Arkansas. Good ole mountain spring water. To make some in honor of my late father.

    Posted by Gary Mcgruther on August 10, 2016
  • In the distillation process could a person make their own alcohol to run their vehicles?

    Posted by Barry davis on March 27, 2014

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