Picture of DeskTop Steam Boiler
This is an instructable for my small sized steam boiler.  I wanted a solid boiler that I could use to run small steam engines, turbines or in this case a "steamfuser" which is a heated aluminum container that lets a scented liquid vaporize and be carried into the air with the rising steam...there are store bought units that will do this much more safely with flicking lights and scent infused paper, but lets be honest, fire, steam, copper and brass win hands down.

The unit was built entirely in my apartment with a hand drill and a rotary tool.  I used a small soup can for the boiler and some various hardware store fittings to plumb the system.  If your looking to make a little, attractive looking boiler to steampunk up your place read on!

Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts
The main parts you'll need for this build can be changed wildly depending on your available materials.  I picked up most of my parts from my local hardware store and a couple items from a hobby shop.  The main things you need are a soup can for the boiler body, some heat resistant tubing to carry the steam around (I used model airplane fuel line), and a little bit of sheet metal to form the boiler housing (I used brass sheet) and some 1/4" copper tube to make a few connection points and the heating coil.  A torch and solder are also needed to make a few connections...the one pictured is massive and while it did work I used a small handheld one for most of the connections.

Note : The vinyl tubing picture DOES NOT work which I soon found out.  Silicone is the way to go for the high heat resistance.
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BoolookN8 months ago

great! but why only small amount steam air coming out? how to make much more steam?

Try running pipes through the inside of the can for hot air to pass through, like in steam locomotive boilers.

Raccoon7715 days ago

Try running pipes through the inside of the can for hot air to pass through, like in steam locomotive boilers.

Raccoon7715 days ago

Be sure to burn off the plastic coating inside the can prior to use, or else you will have awful-smelling steam and possible spontaneous fires/explosions. A way around this is to use a pineapple can (they don't have the internal coating due to pineapple's acidity).

joey.heider.110 months ago
Cool building one my self
mr1vizio2 years ago
What's that tube on the side of the can do

i found this in the comments below.

to quote the author :

The tube on the side of the boiler is a makeshift sight glass that lets you see the water level of the boiler.

itri452 years ago
Is it possible to run a steam engine such as this: http://www.instructables.com/id/Hardware-Store-Steam-Engine-full-instructions/
without having to use some sort of pump?
foggy34 itri451 year ago

not sure what u mean by pump, but all you would have to do is run the output (step 7 above) to one of the inputs on the link you mentioned. ask if you need more explanation. foggy34

nsager itri451 year ago
I'm Wondering the same thing..
joshabgvghn2 years ago
Maybe have it nearly all copper tubing but add a small amount of silicone tubing to connect the boiler up
[corosive]2 years ago
will copper pipe cleared to 65 Degrees Celsius work? Does it need to be rated for higher?
mase21502 years ago
how dud you bend your copper tubing did you heat it up or what
jaksjerky3 years ago
Great project! To easily bend copper tubing, fill it with water and freeze. Then bend by hand. Works great.
Click7962923 years ago
How dee do ( ^ ^ )
I was browsing the internet for good steam projects and man, this one caught my eye. I'm afraid that I may not have any of the materials for this project in my current possession, so naturally being new to this, I wanted to know if you had an estimate to how much this project would cost all together. Where I live we have quite a few hardware stores and hobby shops, but I wanted an idea of how much cash I should have in my wallet before I go running around.
myakka3 years ago
Hey i was wondering if enclosing a boiler would keep the heat in longer and therfore make it run better?
longwinters3 years ago
I certainly like your project, but I must confess there is not nearly enough potential for injury or death.

When I saw the steam coming out I thought of a superheated fuel reheating the boiler and the excess being used for a mantel lamp or stove, in other words put fuel in the boiler and use half to heat it, and the other half to cook or produce light.( never mind the fact that that defeats the purpose of driving a turbine.)

Come on isn't the idea of flaming fuel and metal shards blowing in all directions more exciting than just scalding water and shards?

This concept can be seen in the pop can stoves that heat their own fuel and burn quite well on alcohol.

Your soldering seems quite talented so why not but in a smoke stack up the middle and get rid of the wandering flames, maybe a peice of 1/2 copper.

Don't ya just love after the fact advise? Thanks for posting I love these types of projects.
Confounded Machine (author)  longwinters3 years ago
Haha, many thanks for all the kind words. I completely agree with your comments on danger and destruction :).
Falkenzz3 years ago
I do hope that base wasn't made out of wood...
Falkenzz3 years ago
I think this creation calls for some random gears to be glued onto the side!
This might be a dumb question, but how much water is recommended in the can?
Never a dumb question.

I usually fill the can about half way and shut the unit down when its nearing the bottom of the slight "glass". Filling it more then half will just lead to a longer boil time...no damage is going to ensue if you fill er up, might just get some water coming thru the steam lines if you reach a rapid boil and possibly a smaller area for a good head of steam to build.
Trooper5553 years ago
I still dont understand what is the tube on the side of the boiler for? is it really nessasary? i still love this design, I'm just curious.
Confounded Machine (author)  Trooper5553 years ago
The tube on the side of the boiler is a makeshift sight glass that lets you see the water level of the boiler.

Thanks for the kind words :).
Thanks! I hope you make more Instructables.
cramsey23 years ago
How much did it cost for all the materials?
Confounded Machine (author)  cramsey23 years ago
Going off memory it had to be right around $50 assuming you buy everything pictured.
kingbirdy3 years ago
so has anyone built any kind of "add-on" to theirs? It seems like it should be more than possible with the modular nature of the system.
dbanbery3 years ago
I think its a hydraulic valve or microbore central heating valve
viktorg4 years ago
I have now also build my boiler and it works fine, but it is only the boiler that is ready for now. =)

I have used a solder that is for 235 degreas Celcius, and I hope this is enough?

I haven´t tried the boiler at full capacity jet because I dont want to do this inhouse. I have used a "saftyvalue" that is orginaly used on Wilesco toy steam engines. I have built it with my multi-knife, and mini-burner when I had all the tools in the boat.. but it worked well. :)
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sam D4 years ago
This is a great instructable. I like the 50psi test method - very handy.

A question - what was the wattage of the electrical soldering iron that you mention please?
Confounded Machine (author)  sam D4 years ago
Many thanks!

I actually only used a butane torch for the soldering work on this boiler. The soldering station pictured in the background of the parts photograph is one I use for electronic work and its the weller WESD51.

Baronrc4 years ago
i love this little boiler! I have been thinking of building a basic steam engine for my son, a little father-and-son project. I was thinking of a wheel/turbine that's rotated by a jet of pressurized steam. I think your boiler is perfect for my needs.
wow! i like this. it's very simpel! i think i am gonna make this.
Many thanks, my goal was to keep is simple for everyone to construct.
x-tian4 years ago
Rubber tubes mostly don't like fire, so you might want to put a small copper tube between the boiler and the rubber, to keep it out of the flames.
Confounded Machine (author)  x-tian4 years ago
Actually the tubing is silicon tubing which can handle much higher temperatures then rubber or vinyl tubing can. However a length of copper tubing would probably look better at the expensive of being a little more difficult to connect.
techno guy4 years ago
Where can I get alcohol to use as fuel? Can I get it at a store because I will not buy online.
you can buy it at the super market.
You can buy the 91% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) from the store, if you prefer the grocery store or pharmacy over the hardware store. It's not quite as clean burning as denatured ethanol or methanol (HEET), but at around $2 for a quart bottle, it's inexpensive and does work. Like those lighter alcohols, it will burn without a wick, but you'll get a cleaner, more concentrated flame if you build a burner with a piece of cotton clothesline or similar for a wick.
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