This doesn't work very well, feel free to try to improve or elaborate on the idea. I think I'm going to get started on a copper based model next weekend.
Why would you need a steam distiller?
-Steam distillation is the main method of separating essential or volatile oils from plant material, however commercial steam distillers cost around $400 and essential oils cost a lot too. With this Instructable you can start producing essential oils for less than $40.
Step 1: Introduction
Steam distillation is a process that uses steam to distill essential oils from plant material.
Basically steam goes through plant material, where it absorbs the essential oils, then is condensed and the oil is separated from the water.
Step 2: Materials
To build the distillation apparatus you will need,
-A teapot (or any vessel that will generate steam)
-A piece of pipe that will fit over the neck of the teapot.
-An elbow joint (same width as the neck pipe).
-Reducers (I'm not sure what the actual name for these is, they make the width smaller, these aren't necessary if the condenser pipe fits with the elbow joint).
-Another wide tube or pipe (this will be the outside of the condenser and needs to be shorter than the condenser pipe)
-A pipe that will fit inside the wide tube (this is the condenser pipe)
-Lots of innertube or some cement (for sealing the condenser
-Bronze wool (or some other filter material)
-Thread tape (not necessary but helps)
-A coat hanger and weight
All of these except the outside of the condenser should not leach in steam (use galvanized pipe),
To distill essential oils you will also need the material that contains the oil, this can easily be bought, found or grown. And something to collect the oil in.
(Sorry that there are no pics of the condenser stuff)
Step 3: Modifying the Teapot
Take off the whistle part of the teapot, (there should be some screws holding it in place) and put the piece of pipe over the neck of the teapot. (A mallet helps in this step). You should be able to take the pipe off with a little bit of tugging.
Then attach the clothes hanger so that it will hook up with the weight in order to stabilize the teapot.
It should look like this,
Step 4: Building the Condenser
This is probably the hardest part, and it takes a lot of patience. The idea behind the condenser is to cool down the steam and condense it (turn it back into a liquid). In order to cool down the steam we are going to force it through a pipe cooled by ice on the outside.
-Take the condenser pipe and put it inside of the condenser tube
-Seal one end with cement or inner tubes
-Fill the condenser tube with water (This is the frustrating part, because there always seem to be some leaks.)
-Stick it all in the freezer.
Step 5: All Together Now
-Put some bronze wool in the neck pipe (this is too keep the plant material from falling into the teapot)
-Put the plant material into the neck pipe
-Attach the elbow joint and reducers
-Attach the condenser
Step 6: Distilling
-Put the teapot on a stove or other heat source and turn it on
-Wait for the distillate to drip into the vessel.
When I tried it the Condenser melted very fast and there were many leaks. (I think I'll rig up a copper coil condenser).
The distillate didn't separate very easily and is supposed to be dark blue while my liquid is pale white.
It should work fine for my purposes (I'm using it as a mosquito repellent) but it would be nice to get a pure essential oil.
Step 7: What Next?
Since the condenser didn't work very well I think that I'll build a copper coil condenser (and edit this instructable when done.)
I might also try find a way to isolate the essential oil from the hydrosol (like in the kitty crack instructable)
Check out this instructable for something to do with catnip extract https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Kitty-Crack%3a--ultra-potent-catnip-extract/
Also a lot of herbs that can be distilled can be found growing in suburban areas, for example I've found pounds of yarrow and catnip in the middle of my town.