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Old 06-28-2011, 03:40 PM   #1
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Default Another fermentation chamber build

Well, here's another fermentation chamber build thread - I'll try to keep it updated, but my progress might not be what one would consider _fast_ over the next week or so...

Anyway, I've had good luck thus far fermenting in my basement underneath my workbench (I'll try to get a picture up of the current setup), but I'm hitting the time of year that, for whatever reason, even my basement climbs up well into the 70's, sometimes 80's. I've got two brews going at the moment who wrapped up the really active part of their fermentation last week - right up around 68F. Definitely time to do something about temp control before I get another brew going!

A couple months ago, my mother-in-law hooked me up with a little Magic Chef dorm-sized fridge her office was getting rid of:


This has sat in the basement since, and basically been used as a stand to place things on next to my utility sink. Time to put that thing to a better use, I say!

I've been playing with ideas for the chamber for a while now, and finally decided on a plan... The chamber will be 5' long, counting the fridge. This should provide plenty of space for a pair of carboys and even a corny or two for bulk aging. I basically decided I didn't want to build something, simply to outgrow it in a year or less and have to re-do it all. I think this should fit the bill nicely.

Last night I cut all the frame members for my chamber, drilled out the holes (I'm putting it together with pocket screws because... well... I've got a Kregg pocket hole jig and wanted to play with it!).

The base:


The base with the fridge in place and the first four vertical members - note, the top isn't actually attached yet - still have a little work to do to get things to fit before I make anything any more permanent:


So, again something I don't have a picture of, but I ran into my first minor hurdle when I test-fit this together: There's a small relay on the back of the fridge, right near the compressor, that has a wire protruding just a bit from the back of the fridge - right into one of the 2x4 vertical members. So, I need to either take a chisel and hollow out the corner of that 2x4, replace that one with a 2x3 (not sure if that'll even give me enough room), or relocate that relay.

I may or may not get to work on this thing any further tonight - definitely will get back to it a little Thursday and Friday though.

My overall plan calls for this frame to be sheathed with some utility-grade plywood (looking for function, not necessarily form!), then rigid foam insulation in the spaces within the frame, more rigid insulation just inside of that, and quite possibly plastic sheeting to make it all pretty and condensation-friendly... (Thanks goes out to another active build thread of that particular idea!)

I do have a set of casters to keep this thing movable, and I'll probably be putting together an ebay temp controller once the chamber itself is complete.

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Old 06-28-2011, 05:17 PM   #2
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Good luck with the build. Can't wait to see progress and it finished.

One thing I did was get to small of casters. Makes it a pain the as and I will most likely upgrade mine.

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Old 06-28-2011, 05:30 PM   #3
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Is this a proven design, or an experiment? I have a fridge that would be perfect for this, and I would love to try this out.

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Old 06-28-2011, 07:00 PM   #4
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Bucks - thanks for the advice... I'll double-check the pictures in your thread, but yours seemed close in size to what I've got. Maybe I'll have to go a little bigger?

And Brandonovich - I've seen a ton of variations on this basic design. Seems to be pretty well proven out from what I can tell.

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Old 06-28-2011, 09:00 PM   #5
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Tagging this. I want to see it. Thinking about doing the same thing.

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Old 06-29-2011, 01:37 PM   #6
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I made about another 30 minutes' progress on this (busy damn near every night this week)... Does that mean I don't have too much stuff to share?

Hell no, I say!

I took a couple measurements and decided that replacing that one vertical 2x4 with a 2x3 would easily give me the clearance I needed, so that was a nice easy swap (BTW, assembling this thing with pocket screws makes this kind of swap out SUPER easy - so much so that I'm half considering taking apart most of those joints and reinforcing them with some wood glue). This picture shows the new 2x3 in place and the clearance for the protruding relay:



The only other real progress I've made was to remove the door from the fridge and remove the flap over the freezer compartment, then test-fit the fridge to be sure all's still moving according to plan:



Next steps will include applying a bunch of weather stripping, strategically placed around the fridge, to hopefully insulate the fridge end of the box and help hold the fridge in a relatively steady position, then complete construction of the frame. Tonight and, probably tomorrow night too, I'll be busy with other things, so there won't be a whole lot of progress to share on here until the weekend.

One thing I will NOT be doing is bending down the freezer coils. This picture should illustrate exactly why I think such an effort would be a fool's errand with this particular fridge:



Most of the fridges I've seen on the boards here have the supply line running to the bottom of the coil, so they're relatively easy to bend down. This one is halfway up the side... I suppose I could try bending the entire coil down to the side of the fridge, but I really don't see that that's going to get me anything that I wouldn't get from a well-positioned fan or two, so I'll leave the coil alone and plan to go the fan route.

So, at this point, some of you might be asking "what the hell is a pocket hole jig or a pocket screw?". Basically, it's a cool way to join wood that basically results in very well controlled, countersunk, toe-nailed screw joints. I've used my pocket hole jig mostly when assembling face-frames for cabinets (I built half a dozen cabinets for my workshop a couple years back - neat project that). But they also work quite well for 2x4 framing!

Here's the scoop:


Basically, you have this cool clamp-on jig that helps you line up the pocket holes, and a pair of drill bits - one for drilling the holes, the other for driving the screws.



You adjust the jig for the size of the material you're using (you want to drill a pocket hole into a 3/4" piece of wood to a very different depth than you want to drill one on a 2x4, for instance), then clamp the jig onto the piece of wood, then drill out the holes. There's three holes on the jig for various hole placements - it's typically enough to put two screws into each workpiece. Though if you want to overengineer, the sky's the limit!



Lastly, you use one of a couple different clamps to hold the pieces together in the right position (effectively giving you another hand) and start driving screws.

All in all, it works pretty darned well. Sure, it's not quite as quick as say, busting out a framing nailer - but I just got to play with a framing nailer on another household project a couple weeks ago, and the cats are far less upset by the sound of a couple cordless drills in the basement than they are by the sound of an air compressor in the basement, and less upset cats = happier SWMBO, so I did the math and chose to use the pocket holes this go around.

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Old 06-30-2011, 08:21 PM   #7
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I replaced a wall with a doorway in my house, and when i was framing it up I totally could have used a jig like that, or a framing nailer. It definitely wasn't pretty but the finished wall looks good.

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Old 07-01-2011, 01:03 PM   #8
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Well, I made a bit of progress last night, only really two pictures to share.

I cleaned out the inside of the fridge, applied a bunch of weather stripping, then slapped it into place and completed the framing. I'm left with this - which is definitely bigger than what I had pictured in my mind's eye:



The fridge is definitely wedged in there snugly, and the plywood should only serve to make it slightly more snug, which is good.

So, either tonight or tomorrow I should be able to get the plywood cut down and actually enclose most of the box - I plan to leave it at least partially open to allow easier access while insulating it.

I realized when moving this thing last night that I may have made one minor mistake. These are the casters I have on-hand - they were originally purchased for a completely different purpose, but I never wound up using them. I figured I had them on hand, they'd work for this project. Check them out:



For the life of me, I don't remember what kind of load they're rated for. And this thing's already getting pretty heavy. Once all the plywood is in place it's going to be a lot more so, and with a fermenting carboy or two and an aging corny or two in there, I'm doubtful these casters will be up to the task. So, I probably need to make another trip to home depot after all...

HHP, you know, the jig comes with all sorts of documentation saying that it's great for framing in addition to about 90 bajillion other things. But honestly, I think it's slightly too involved for the purpose. Framing doesn't have to look super pretty (unless you're posting pictures of it on the interwebz), and a hammer and nails are definitely cheaper and will get the job done - likely more quickly (no drilling or jig setup!). But yes, the framing naile, if you have one or (like me) has a friend willing to lend you one, beats the other two hands down!

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Old 07-01-2011, 01:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stratslinger View Post
All in all, it works pretty darned well. Sure, it's not quite as quick as say, busting out a framing nailer - but I just got to play with a framing nailer on another household project a couple weeks ago, and the cats are far less upset by the sound of a couple cordless drills in the basement than they are by the sound of an air compressor in the basement, and less upset cats = happier SWMBO, so I did the math and chose to use the pocket holes this go around.
I lol'd at this pretty hard!

che-CHUNK from a framing gun + cats =

Also, HD/Lowes usually have two types of casters with different wheel materials. The hard plastic ones tend to be a few bucks cheaper, but they can leave streaks/marks on floors when they're loaded up. They also sell rubber wheeled ones that tend to not leave marks. When the rubber ones get loaded up, they flex and increase the contact patch with the ground which results in less pressure. You should probably be ok with the ones you have on hand though.

A caster in hand is worth 4 in the bush...err hardware isle
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:12 PM   #10
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Actually, it's the compressor cycling that scares the cats most, I know they haven't noticed my finish nailer much, but I suppose the framing nailer could be a little more noticeable...

Thanks for the advice on the casters... Figure I'll try what I've got and upgrade if necessary. Fortunately, this will be in my completely unfinished basement, so no big deal if it marks up the slab floor.

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