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August 9, 2016
Last updated

How to Make a Moonshine Still

Kyle Brown
Owner of Clawhammer Supply

If you're looking for instructions on how to make a moonshine still or if you're simply trying to find a copper still for sale, you're in the right place. I've been building stills for almost 15 years and have a lot of experience in this area.

First, you need to decide what type of still you wan to build. The type of material is the first thing that needs to be decided upon and it's either going to be stainless steel or copper. I'd recommend making this decision based on what you intend to distill, how good you are with upkeep of your equipment, and what level of skills you have with metalworking.

Stainless Steel Distillation Equipment

Stainless steel is very rust resistant and it's extremely durable. However, stainless steel is difficult to cut and form without heavy duty tools and machinery. It also requires special skills to weld.

Stainless steel equipment is really multi-purpose and can be used to distill anything. For the most part, stainless is non-reactive and won't likely react with anything it's being used to distill. All types of distillers use stainless to distill a variety of products, though for some applications, like distilling essential oils, it's preferred over copper.

Copper Distillation Equipment

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, tequilla, vodka, and more... Basically, copper is the preferred material of choice for distilling most spirits.

Copper stills also have a storied history in the United States. Although they're actually multi-purpose and can be used to distill water, essential oils, fuel alcohol and more, we call small copper stills "moonshine stills" because of how they were used during prohibition in the United States. So, naturally, copper stills can be used to make moonshine as well. If you've ever been to a modern moonshine distillery, you're definitely going to see a copper still (but quite a bit larger than the ones we're talking about here).

Timelapse of a Moonshine Still Being Made

The entire build process is shown using time-lapse photography. In reality it took about 2 hours to build this 1 gallon copper still. If you would like to purchase the parts needed to build this exact still, check out the 1 gallon copper still kit in our online store.

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.

Materials Selection

Always use C-110 food grade copper when building a copper still. Note: all still parts sold by Clawhammer Supply are 100%, C-110 food grade copper. 

Additionally, make sure you choose the correct solder and flux. Solder and flux do not come with Clawhammer kits since you'll need to buy those to assemble our still kits. Always use water soluble flux and lead free solder when building copper stills. 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.

Material Preparation

The very first step of the 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. 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.


So what I'm doing in this first part of the video is riveting all of the parts together. If you rivet everything first, it makes things go a little faster once you start soldering. Essentially, you can just roll with it once you get to that point.

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 Copper 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.

Soldering The Copper Still Column

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!

Additional resources

This entire process is completed in detail, in much greater detail and in real time in our 7 video series on building stills. You can find a link to that series at the end of this video or on our website.

Here's a link to the 1 gallon copper still kit featured in this article.

Kyle Brown
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.
  • 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.


    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

    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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