DIY Vacuum Purging Chamber

To perform some of the desirable alchemy with cannabis essential oils, requires some sort of vacuum chamber that you can control the heat and vacuum levels in, as well as see what you are doing.

These are readily available as vacuum desiccators and vacuum ovens, but all are pricey, so how about just building your own?

We already have a glass desiccator with a hot plate inside, and picked up a new used vacuum oven, but alas the temperature controls are ineffective in the low ranges that we operate, so we are in the process of refining its controls.

More on that subject on a separate thread, but this thread is to show how we punted when the vacuum oven capacity that we had counted on, eluded us, with meds to process backlogged.

To that end, we used a old 22 quart Mirror pressure cooker that was gifted to us, and after removing the gasket, we tossed the lid.

I then drilled a 1/4″ pilot hole through the side wall wrapper, about 2.5″ below the top flange, followed by a 3/4″ bit, to enlarge the hole to fit a 1/4″ NPT brass bulkhead fitting.

I then inserted the bulkhead fitting through the side wall from the inside out, installing a gasket on the inside flange, and tightening the nut and lock washer on the outside of the pot.

To this I added close nipples, a cross, with two 1/4″ ball valves, and two 1/4″ MPT to 1/4″ flare refrigeration hose fitting.  One for the vacuum pump and the other for the vacuum gauge hose.

As it is temporary, and we needed it immediately, we reused the existing gasket, and made a new lid out of a 1″ X 16″ acrylic plate.  At -29.9″ Hg gauge, there is about 1/16″ lid deflection in the middle, so a thicker plate would be better to reduce high cyclic fatigue.

If it were permanent, we would have a new Viton gasket cut by Paramount, or Gaskets Unlimited and use 1 1/2″ polycarbonate, for the lid.

Hee, hee, hee, after telling me that they didn’t have any, and after having them cut the 1″ acrylic plate, I found a 22″ X 29″ X 1 1/2″ Polycarbonate remnant at Multi Craft Plastics, which I scored for $72.  It has one 6″ hole in one corner, but that is $2/lb for bullet proof polycarbonate panels, like those used at teller windows.  Snicker, snark, snort, more projects to come!

Here are pictures showing how we made and how it turned out.  We are able to easily control the temperature with an outside hotplate and reduce the pressure to -29.9 with one of our 6.2 cfm single stage AC vacuum pumps:

Vacuum chamber from pressure cooker

Vacuum chamber from pressure cooker

Vacuum gauge at -29.9" Hg

Vacuum gauge at -29.9″ Hg

Brass 1/4" NPT bulkhead  fitting

Brass 1/4″ NPT bulkhead fitting


Soooo, how about heat in the 85/115F range, way below what most hot plates and griddles control at?

We’ve tried several different hot plates, with and without trivets and pads to dissipate heat, and ran across a slick set up forum X, posted by Superly and using two layers of reptile mats to generate the heat, controlled by a simple light dimmer switch.

Hee, hee, hee, works pretty slick! After cutting them to size, I put a towel under them and then put two layers of towel over the top surface, but cut out a big hole in the top layer through which the pot sat, resting on the heating mat.

Here was the test run of Cheese, as well as a picture of the heating provisions and an inlet filter on the makeup air to keep out atmospheric dust!

Reptile pad towel insulation

Reptile pad towel insulation

Insulation and inlet filter in place

Insulation and inlet filter in place

Vacuum purged Cheese Absolute

Vacuum purged Cheese Absolute


Wowza, speaking of DIY, look at what Steve whomped up out of acrylic panels!  Looks purdy enough to use for a jewel display case and sturdy enough to last.

Steve's Vacuum chamber

Steve’s Vacuum chamber

Steve's vacuum box and lid

Steve’s vacuum box and lid



The question arose regarding the suitability of a 2″ Polycarbonate plate lid on a 20″ pot, so I thought that I would share the answer and the math with you:

In summary, it looks to me like a 2″ Polycarbonate or a 2″ Acrylic plate would work.  Stress at the extreme fiber at 450 psi, is a small fraction of the 9,500 psi ultimate tensile strength.

Deflection would only be about .004″, so high cyclic fatigue shouldn’t be an issue.

Calculating stress at the extreme fiber and deflection of Polycarbonate vacuum chamber lids lids

The formulas for calculating stress at the extreme fiber and deflection for a simply supported flat circular plate from the Thirteenth addition of the Machinery Handbook are as follows:

1.0       Assume:

S= 0.39W


d= 0.221 W R2



S = Stress at the extreme fiber

            T=       Ultimate Tensile of Polycarbonate =9,500 psi

            p=        Pressure in psi = 14.7 psia atmospheric pressure

            W=      Total load on plate= p X area = 4618 lbs

            t=         Plate thickness= 2″

            d=        Deflection

            R=       Radius of plate= 1/2Diameter = 10″

            E=       Modulus of elasticity = 375,000 psi

            D=       Diameter of pot= 20″

Mechanical properties taken from:

2.0       Therefore:

            d= 0.221 X 4618 lbs X 100 = .034″ deflection on a 2″ plate

                        375,000 psi X 8

            s=  0.39 X 4618 lbs =  450 psi



Here are some more heat mat sources, compliments of Skyhighler, which have greater capabilities that the one above:

144 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Geoff on January 22, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    How long should I let the butane evaporate off before putting the oil in the vacuum chamber? Do I need to worry about butane contaminating my vacuum pump’s oil?


  2. Posted by Michael Lawrence on November 22, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    With the set-up ypur friend steve made out of the leftover acrylic, did he also use the same hardware, like the brass bulkhead fitting, with his set up?
    Also i was wondering where could i get just a negative pressure gauge? All i can find in hardware stores are air control manifold gauges… i saw that break bleeders have a negative pressure but i dont want to spend 30$ on the system when i only need the gauge


  3. […] certain kind of gaskets, etc. that work and don't dry out or leak or anything like that. rnrnDIY Vacuum Purging Chamber | Skunk Pharm Research LLCrn rnrn rnrn rnrn rnrn rn rn rn rn […]


  4. Posted by ERIC on September 28, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    HI I SELL $5,000 dollar VACUUM PUMPS used for $500.00
    Pumps are an ALCATEL 2021I 2 STAGE ROTARY VANE 14CFM They are in good Used Condition and Fully Tested before Sale.
    I do not Ship Them


  5. Posted by Jack Strap on September 27, 2014 at 6:13 AM

    The old rubber gasket from the pressure cooker, from what I read in the article. The vacuum will hold the seal tight.


  6. Posted by Jim on September 5, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    What did you place on the lining of the top to hold suction?


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