Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
Yes, sadly when Naomi and I moved to Canada in January my old kit wouldn’t fit in my luggage. So I did the only reasonable thing- I decided to do it all again as soon as possible. Except, this time I’d buy/make all the gear I’d always wanted at home. Massively inefficient propane burners? They look awesome and dangerous, let’s get it done. A beer fridge? Definitely need one of them. An automatic malt mill? Crucial. Shiny new stainless steel vessels? Of course.
With all that gear and prior accusations of “taking over the house” fresh in my mind, I realised I needed somewhere to contain all of my new stuff. So I made another totally rational decision. Of all the brewing kit I’d ever lusted after, without doubt top of the list was a dedicated stand to ‘contain’ all of my kit. A so called brewing sculpture. Now, I don’t have a sculpture in me- I can’t weld, didn’t own any tools and am a bit crap at DIY. But how hard could it be to drill a few holes and bolt some metal together, right? And could I really consider myself a dedicated homebrewer unless I had a permanent hulking shrine to the hobby taking up space in the garage? Answers on a postcard please.
Anyway, blissfully ignorant of the blood, sweat, tears and trips to Home Depot of the next two weeks, I started out with these very rough plans and an idea to make a weldless stand out of mild angle steel that would take three brew vessels, two of them powered by propane burners. For burners, I didn’t want to fuss with connecting up the cast iron ‘Banjo’ type burners along with the heat shields they necessitate, but wanted to be able to drop in a burner already connected to a stand and regulator such as this one. This was mainly for simplicity- I don’t know much about propane, and custom plumbing a gas line into the back of the stand seemed like a recipe for making an early departure from this mortal coil.
As for materials, I wanted something that would be sturdy enough to hold three full 10 gallon vessels, but also easy enough to cut and drill. The compromise I came up with was to use 1 1/4” angle stock like this. This is similar to the iron used in old bed frames, which I considered, but decided against due to the amount of angle grinding it would have taken to clean the average used bed frame up. It unfortunately wasn’t cheap however, as my design required four 6 foot pieces, ten 4 foot pieces and seven 4 foot lengths of straight iron such as this. To bolt this lot together took around 80 stainless 1/4” nuts and bolts, and I put the whole thing on Home Depot casters rated to about 100kg each. To do the assembly I also had to purchase a small angle grinder and a drill, which I’ve ended up using to power my mill. All in all, on day one when I had all of this in a pile on the garage floor, my only thought was- what have I done? It looked like I’d transported the set of Scrapheap Challenge into the house.
The first step was cutting the lengths of angle down to size. The ten 4 foot lengths became ten 70 cm and ten 44 cm pieces each, making up the height and depth pieces of the stand. The length pieces were cut to 160cm, the length I wanted to keep the burners away from my new plastic mash tun but without taking up a ridiculous amount of space. This involved my first experience of cutting using the angle grinder. Which, if you’ve never done before, I’m going to say now you haven’t lived. You’ll feel like a fire bringing God and like you are about to cut your own leg off all at once. Luckily the only damage inflicted was a hole in the back of my glove- next time I’ll definitely spring for leather gloves rather than polyester ones. You live and learn.
I built the base of the stand first, trying to keep the angles as close to right angles as possible before building the outer frame of the stand. When it resembled a 3D rectangle, I put the casters on so I could move it around before filling in the supports to hold the burners and mash tun. Finally I bolted in cross members on the base of the stand so that the vessels store inside the frame when not in use.
As you’ll be able to see, the two burner stations for hot liquor tank and kettle are the left hand and centre positions, with the mash tun sitting on top of the stand on the right. At this point the metal was left in its unfinished state, which I liked, but which would have unfortunately rusted. So I sanded it down using a rotary sander and then painted it. Another live and learn moment- I bought a sanding pad attachment for the angle grinder, but it turned out to not so much lightly sand as dissolve the metal. So that’ll be staying in the box from now on.
Painting the thing was a bit of an interesting experience too, as the can of VHT metallic black engine paint I bought turned out to not even coat half the stand. I rushed down to the local automotive store (the can says to paint all coats within an hour) and the assistant there recommended two cans of brake calliper paint by the same brand. On the whole this worked loads better, giving a pretty even coat which is apparently safe up to almost 1000 degrees C. The downside with any automobile paint on something like this is that it’s impossible to cure the paint as recommended on the can- I didn’t even have a heat gun to half arse it, never mind a curing oven. Despite this the paint is definitely functional- it gets a bit scratched when sliding the stainless pots around, but isn’t soft enough to mark with a finger nail. On the whole I think I’ll live with it, and have a bit of paint left for any touch-ups if I can be bothered.
To give a better idea how this should all work I’ve put a couple of pics below of the stand ‘fully-loaded’ both in use and in storage. On the whole I couldn’t exactly recommend this project to anyone unless they enjoyed self-harm and poverty. Having said that, if you’ve decided like I did that you want to do this I’m unlikely to put you off, and if that’s the case I’d recommend this type of construction if, like me, you decide that welding seems just a little too hazardous. You’ll almost certainly still be able to put together a functional brewing stand and with a bit of luck live to tell the tales of your manly awesomeness / new depths of weird and obsessive behaviour.