Full Chisel Blog

September 23, 2011

Making your own hooch is illegal.

However making your own shellac or spirit varnish thinner is also probably illegal.  You can however make and use an essence concentration device that is perfectly legal.  A traditional Alembic is a method of taking a substance and concentrating its essentials into a more usable form.  If this sounds like a lot of legal words, it is as according to Federal law you can not have, own or use a ‘still’.

This is an illustration from Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes and was the design for the following Alembic made by Mecham Pottery.

Below are pictures of the pottery alembic.  Unglazed on the outside and glazed on the inside.  The unglazed lid is cooled with cold water to enhance the condensation of the ethereal vapors.






A common material called ‘mash’ was made of corn meal, sugar, water and yeast.  In a few days at room temperature, it turns.  This is placed in the alembic, heated to 172 degrees F at sea level and out comes a clear inflammable liquid.  The essences boil off before the water, how wonderful.




  1. Stephen,

    Not bad. I wonder how Useful it would to Distil Spirits lol.

    I’ve heard copper was good for that.

    Hmm, might have to try and build one out of Clay lol


    Comment by Handi — September 23, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

  2. Pottery at it’s finest.

    Comment by tracy mutter — September 24, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

  3. Actually, it’s perfectly legal to onpwn a still; they are sold on eBay everyday. There are a number of manufacturers of home distillation units on the web; check out http://www.milehighdistilling.com . While it is illegal to use one to make spirits, that’s an unefforceable law. Just don’t try to sell it. Rick

    Comment by Rick — September 25, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  4. the copper adsorbs sulphur to prevent blindness, I was told at a distillery (should you drink it) and there are two distillations don’t forget methanol comes off first and is very poisonous

    Comment by peter — January 25, 2012 @ 4:40 am

  5. I forgot methanol is only produced where the original source has pips (e.g. wine cider) since it is derived from pectin therefore grain products don’t produce methanol

    Comment by peter — January 25, 2012 @ 4:41 am

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