Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Jumbo Reflux Apparatus, homebuilt.

Democritus of Abdera - 14-8-2004 at 06:37

I promised unionised I would describe the reflux apparatus that is commonly used in the far north of Ontario, Canada for extracting the oil and resins of "miscellaneous" herbs. I am not certain it can be of use to a chemist, but who am I to judge?

***Legal Disclaimer***I don't do this anymore, as I am now a paraplegic, and too old for that sort of shennanigans anyway.

The apparatus described was made to solve a local problem; in Thunder Bay Ontario and parts north, locals grow alot of a certain plant, in fact they grow very large fields of it, partly because it's a basically uninhabited wilderness, partly just for kicks.

However, the seed stock that is used to grow this particular herb is crappy (genetically speaking) so they grow large feilds of it, making up for quality with quantity. It would probably be wiser to just invest in some good seeds from amsterdam or something, but you really have to understand the mentality of the locals to understand.

Having vast quantities of a pretty crappy product on hand, and having a history of moonshining they turned their hands to reducing this bulk into a more usable and compact product. This is a description of the resulting apparatus.

It consisted of two steel drums, one sitting vertically on top of the other, the top drum was the condenser, it was sealed except for and inlet and outlet spigot. It also had bars of steel 1/2 inch thick ( normally used for re-inforcing concrete) running vertically through small holes in the top and bottom ends of the drum, these holes were welded shut around the bars after placement so they would be water tight. the bars would be cut almost flush with the top exept for two nubs left long and joined by a welded horizontal bar to function as a handle for lifting (with the rebar in it, it was damn heavy!)

the bottom ends of the rebar were left about five inches long and the center one had a small steel hook welded to it to hold the "basket bucket".

That was the top metal drum condenser.

The bottom drum had the top metal almost completely cut out, leaving only about a two inch strip of sheet metal around the circumference for strength.

three small guides were welded vertically to the top of the bottom drum so that when the top (condenser) drum was place on top of the bottom drum, they stayed mated together nicely. they were usually cut out of common 1/8 inch x 2 inch steel strap or angle iron or whatever was handy.

The bottom drum then had a round pan cut from the base of a metal five gallon pail placed into the bottom of it, the round bottom pan had sides about a foot high and a wire handle for lifting it out. It received the "oils and essences"

The top edge of the bottom barrel had the rubber from an old inner tube placed on it for a gasket, the weight of the top barrel filled with water was sufficient to keep the seal good enough.

A small hole is placed in the bottom barrel and fitted with a nipple that accepts a thin peice of copper tubing (for pressure relief).

a clean five gallon metal pail had holes punched in the center 2/3 of the bottom for drainage and wire (screen door) mesh placed in the bottom of it.

THERE!.... it might seem tedious but can be welded up in an easy afternoon once you've done it a couple times.

So, the bottom drum goes on top of a fire grate, with your firewood stacked and packed under it (unlit!!!). the receiver pan is placed in the bottom of the bottom barrel and mostly filled with solvent of choice (don't worry if a little slops out into the bottom just make certain it's not overfilled) , the five gallon "Basket bucket" is filled with dry powdered "miscellaneous" herbal product, that was soaked with solvent, and the wire handle is placed onto the hook of the condenser barrel.

The condensor (upper) barrel is placed on the top of the bottom barrel with the gasket in place.

The upper barrel is filled with icy-cold water.

The fire is lit.

the solvent boils up, the fumes hit the rebar nubs, the rebar nubs condense the fumes and the solvent drips onto the top of the solvent soaker herb and a little solvent drips out the bottom.

It drips into the receiver pan, that will still have boiling solvent in it.

The boiling solvent boils out more solvent fumes but leaves the oils behind.

the fumes rise, condense, percolate through, drip into the bottom, drops off its little load of the oil,

solvent boils off......fumes rise....condense....percolate....

drip..... ...drip..... ..drip....

A virtual herb washing machine.

After a half-day or so, the now completely empty herb bucket is removed and replaced with another, and another, until the receiver pan needs to be emptied of oil.

Then, the "basket bucket" is replaced with and empty pail without holes. The solvent boils out of the oil on GENTLE heating and condenses and collects into the top pail for re-use.

the oil is scraped out of the reciever pan while still warm.

The solvent soaked "empty" herbal product can be put into the bottom barrel to be extracted of the solvent......but it is more commonly thrown onto a fire where it burns hot and fast and down to a fine white ash.

Well, I'm beginning to wish I knew how to use a program that allowed me to just draw a fricking picture, maybe if one of my cousins feels like dragging my crippled ass out into the bush this summer, I'll be able to take some digital pictures, but I'm not certain about that.
Harvest season is pretty hectic around here, all the local cops call in their buddies and chase the locals around in the bush. It's like a goodnatured adult version of hide and seek.

But it's damn hard to run through the bush in a wheelchair.

And it would probably be hard to come up with an even slightly plausible explanation for me, sitting in a field of dope, in a wheelchair, nine klicks from the nearest logging road.

and I can't afford the fine I'd get for possesion of that kind of quantity.

(unlike the states, possesion of pot here generally results in a fine, even repeat offences, while having a handgun will get you a solid five years in prison, the very first time.)


Democritus of Abdera - 14-8-2004 at 06:56

I don't know how long these apparatus have been used, but in my little corner of Canada, I know they've been in use in one form or another since the early 70's at least.


MadHatter - 14-8-2004 at 16:43

I didn't realize hash oil was that popular in Canada. If you get some
pictures of the "apparatus", I'd like to see them.

It isn't.

Democritus of Abdera - 14-8-2004 at 19:47

Not alot of hash oil is produced in Canada, however just plain oil is produced in vast quantities in Northern Ontario, (known throughout much of Canada)

Also, the majority (estimated 60%) of Cannabis products sold in the U.S. in general are produced in Canada, for instance, in Polverone's province (B.C.) the Federal Gov't estimates over 9 Billion dollars in exported cannabis products were made in 2000. Much of it to the states, but also a growing :P amount of exports to the pacific rim countries (notably Japan and Taiwan)

To put that in perspective, B.C.'s second largest cash crop, lumber, brought in about 5 billion dollars.

It's not really advertised, to avoid antagonising the U.S. gov't (they know, but the "Moral Majority" is blissfully unaware)

It's a numbers game, for instance, the State of California, has about 15 million people more than our entire country, and Canada is geographically larger than the states, even with Alaska.

That makes us pretty sparsely populated, and illicit crops are easily grown. The Canadian Gov't couldn't stop anyone growing it even if they really tried as hard as they do down south.

The other side of the coin is purely political,

1. Canada would have a Trade Deficit if it wasn't for the U.S.'s huge appetite for pot.

2. The U.S. DEA is very practical when it comes to drugs, damage control is vastly more practical than futile attempts to stamp drug use out completely.

So, it's either coming from South America, or Canada.

South American (not to be racist, just honest) imports bring ....other imports (cocaine)...... south americans have a different language, culture.... violence.....poverty......visible illegal immigration......and they stay in the states and use the money they make to bring more of their families into the U.S. (wouldn't you?)


Canadians are WHITE, they speak english, and the U.S. generally scares the crap out of us (gun violence and overcrowded cities and psycho-police, scary prisons, pay-based health care....etc....etc)

So Canadians are unobtrusive, and leave the U.S. pretty much immediately after selling their "wares", if they decide to cross the border at all.

AND we spend most of the money we make on the consumables produced in the U.S. or at U.S. owned mega-chain stores and corporations.

So the money goes right back home, instead of floating around latin america funding revolutions.

That's why there's a fence across the mexican border, and a funnel at the Canadian border(or was until before 911).

So, madhatter, if you smoked any dope as a teenager......and it wasn't mexican brick.....guess where it probably came from!

If you smoked any "hash" oil that someone swore up and down and sideways that it came right off of the boat from nepal......guess's estimated the entire yearly production of nepal wouldn't feed the appetite of the U.S. for more than a few hours, and the vast majority most of the lebanese and other northern african countries production never makes it out of Europe.
I don't mean to sound all "know-it-all-y" but I used to be a bit of a "green" activist back when I actually cared about politics.

After Marc Emery lost his constitutional challenge I sorta lost interest.

I thought again about pictures of Harvest Season up here, and I have to be realistic about that.

I drive down to Duluth, Minnesota to go shopping all the time, so does everyone in town.

Everybody goes to the boxing day sales, or even just cross border grocery shopping when the Canadian dollar is up....locals schoolkids go down to play hockey all the time....and they just wave everyone through at the border....they are really cool and mellow.

No dogs or crazy stuff like don't even need a passport.....they just started asking for picture ID since 9/11.

If I posted pictures of a little dope growin' on this board, and it made some U.S. paper on a slow newsday, or some state politician decided to get a bee in his could make life difficult for everyone.....I'd feel like a real asshole.

I'd be a real asshole.

Maybe you should just make buddies with people in Canada and come on up and see for yourself how relaxed it is, and how friendly the people are.:)

chloric1 - 14-8-2004 at 21:09

Don't know Canada well but make for a hard sell. I have only crossed over at Niagra Falls. Would be nice to live their but I get scared when it hits minus 5 fahrenheit! Thirty below would put me over the edge, but I guess I would own different cloths, eat more protein etc. etc. Other than the cold obstacle Toronto looks cool as hell! I could have fun in Alberta too! Seen some really cool pictures of the Canadian Rockies.


MadHatter - 15-8-2004 at 07:21

I grew up in Maine and occasionally my friends and I would sneak over
the border on a back road not watched by U.S. customs for the purpose
of buying fireworks that were illegal in the U.S.. I smoked A LOT of weed
when I lived in Maine. No one gave 2 shits about where it came from as
long as the dope was good ! I've met people from Canada in person
and they've seemed very nice as far as I'm concerned. As for the cold
temps that Chloric1 mentioned, I happen to like it cold ! The heat and
humidity where I live is unbearable ! I look forward to winter's return.
I'm happier at 10 F than at 90 F so it's likely I never lost that feel for the
cold air where I grew up. It's funny that the day after my family left
Maine to return to Maryland, where I was born, the state of Maine
decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That
was July 1, 1976. As for crime rates, Maine is probably more like
Canada then the rest of the U.S.. We averaged maybe 1 murder a
year, unlike Baltimore where it is on average 1+ murders a day ! If
I live long enough to retire, I'll probably move back to Maine - I sure as
hell won't go south ! Some time ago, 1 of the talking-heads programs
did a piece on the weed production in Canada and how the Bush
administration was upset with that considering how easy it is to cross
the border but I doubt that the DEA will do much about it because
heroin and cocaine are still the drugs that have the violence
associated with them.

JohnWW - 15-8-2004 at 13:18

The stuff is good for you! Growing pot is the most lucrative industry in remote rural areas of New Zealand.

John W.


MadHatter - 15-8-2004 at 14:18

Long live cannabis sativa and fuck the narcs with their phony war
on drugs !

fvcked - 15-8-2004 at 14:24

Cannabis indica is pretty good too. Its got a nice pleasant effect and is completely harmless so long as you ingest it right.



Democritus of Abdera - 15-8-2004 at 18:56

I didn't think about it,

but my own tendancy to lose focus like a chipmunk with ADD on crack might have gotten this thread a little off track.:(

What I was thinking......was that there might be a citizen scientist use for the apparatus.

Perhaps if the "reflux still", (or whatever you wanna call it), was plated internally with......Ni....or Au... It could be used to drive a pilot plant for some useful process......?

Any thoughts?

blazter - 15-8-2004 at 19:37

A large reflux extractor device like that would have many uses. It is very useful for the above purpose you mentioned, extracting minor quantities of a desired chemical from large quantities of natural feedstock. This feedstock could be one of many "interesting" ones, everything from sasafras root bark, Mimosa Hostilis root bark, Illinois bundleflower root material, san pedro cactus, or even legit herbal essences. Many "legit" herb oils sell for decent profits. I know cedar oil which comes from the common white cedar from around where you live sells for 100-200$ a gallon.
As commerical sources of natural extracts begin to dry up, such devices suddenly become practical for more "common" things that are available in the wild from an environment near you.

[Edited on 16-8-2004 by blazter]

Tacho - 25-8-2004 at 16:20

This is my version of a large soxlet (sp?) apparatus.

Three aluminum pans with lids (the lids of the lower pans are glued to the botton of the upper pans with epoxi).

The lower one holds the solvent and goes on the hotplate.

The intermediate holds the vegetable material and the upper one is filled with crushed ice.

The solvent boils and most of it condenses on the plant material itself, but some go up and condense in the... condenser!

My uses for it were more conservative than some may think.

[Edited on 26-8-2004 by Tacho]

[Edited on 26-8-2004 by Tacho]

[Edited on 26-8-2004 by Tacho]

[Edited on 26-8-2004 by Tacho]

JohnWW - 25-8-2004 at 17:03

I think the spelling of the solvent extractor's inventor's name is Soxhlet. It is basically the same as a coffee percolator. I used one in an Applied Chemistry class to extract biochemicals from plant material back in the late 1960s.

John W.

Magpie - 25-8-2004 at 18:29

I will amplify the comparison a bit between the Soxlet extractor and a coffee percolator:

IIRC, the Soxhlet extractor evaporates the solvent from a pot to a reflux condenser. The condensate accumulates in a small chamber. When the liquid level in this chamber is sufficient all the condensate siphons over and drops through the solid held in a filter thimble, falling back to the pot. This cycle repeats over and over every few minutes for hours or days , as required. This is very useful for difficultly extractable solutes.

A coffee pot is a once thru extractor. Here the water is boiled which results in a pumping of a steam/water mixture up to a spout where the hot water then drops down through the solid held in a filter, falling into an accumulation vessel. This works for easily extractable solutes.

Similar but different. Both are examples of solid-liquid extraction though.

It seems the jumbo apparatus of the far North is more like a Soxhlet extractor, but without the holding/siphoning feature. I think this feature is valuable in that it insures flooding all of the solid during the solvent flowdown.

Democritus of Abdera - 25-8-2004 at 18:41
Patent of new extractor

[Edited on 27-8-2004 by Democritus of Abdera]

Tacho - 28-8-2004 at 15:29

Just to set the record straight: I understand now that the "soxhlet" device has to have a syphon. So the device I described above would be a "continuous extraction" one, but not a "soxhlet".

Nevertheless it works.