Help me build a Vertical Electrical Steamer

Hello Vancouver Hackers,

It’s nice to meet you all here, how’s everyone?

So- here we go. I’m thinking of building a vertical electrical steamer such as this one in the image included.

This will be used to dye fabrics. The steam helps the dye set in fabrics that are composed of silk or other protein fibers.

I’ve never built anything like this before and quite frankly, am a bit scared. Would like to know if anyone is interested in helping me with it. OR better, yet, maybe someone here HAS created one already or something similar to it and would like to share their knowledge?

What I need to do right now is research all components of the machine and then would love to connect with anyone who’s interested in helping me with this. Who’s in?!

Cheers to all,


Hi Mary,

Not what you’re looking for but someone at VHS once built a wood steamer out of an out fabric steamer. Perhaps you can hack something like that into a vertical steamer? I’ve never seen a stove-pipe style fabric steamer like the one you’d like to build but VHS does have tools to work with sheet metal. We have a sheet metal brake for bending metal as well as lots of tin snips and other tools.

If you haven’t done so already I would start by googling around and seeing what other people have built. I googled “silk steamer” and found a few links.

It definitely looks do-able although from a quick read it looks like keeping the temperature steady may be an issue in home-built steamers. Perhaps someone out there has overcome that issue?

I don’t do a lot of work with sheet metal or fabric so can’t offer any other advice. Hopefully other members will! Hope this helps!


Mike built a wood steamer as part of his yak-shaving saga, here:

Should help get some of the creative juices flowing


Also, you are more than welcome to convert anything back into a fabric steamer; I don’t think the wood steamer I built has been used by anyone else since the ukulele and class I taught, and as long as the steam generator is in-tact, we can always hack something better (a metal box isn’t a good idea since you really want something that has more insulation, we ended up having to put coats/jackets on it to make it work)


Hey all, thanks for your replies! I’m taking notes :slight_smile:

I went to RONA and Home Depot, however the tubes they have there are galvanized, and the steam would eventually erode that and the material would start rusting. Another issue was the size of the tubes. I’m looking for tubes that are around 11.4-12" in diameter.

I will look at other stores and check if I can find the right materials.

That’s a good point Janet. I didn’t think of that part- that temperature may vary, and thus how would I keep it steady. Good point.

North Star recycling is a fantastic metal scrap yard in east van where you can rummage around and buy stuff for scrap prices. @JohnC and I are both regulars. I often see sheets of thin stainless sheet there which could be rolled and then welded or bolted or riveted. If you go, just check in at the main office window and let them know roughly what you’re looking for and they’ll guide you to where you should look. Everyone there is pretty friendly.

Alternatively you might find a tank of some sort and then modify from there. Beer kegs are ubiquitous and come in diameters of 9" (20L kegs) 11" (30L kegs) or 16" (50L kegs). Could maybe find a few of those, cut them up a bit, and weld them together to make a super-tall one.

Stainless might be overkill but it sure would be skookum. If heat-retention is an issue you could wrap them in a layer of insulation.

I am currently modifying 50L kegs to be chemical reservoirs for a machine that washes other beer kegs. I sell these machines to local craft breweries. The modified kegs have various hose connections, a heating element, and a temperature sensor probe. Some aspects might be useful on your project. Currently my work-in-progress is at VHS on the rolling cart near the electronics benches if you want to take a look.


Thanks! I went to check it out :slight_smile:

Also, we get the film worker discount at Metal Supermarket if you want to go that route. Usually knocks about 25% off the listed price. They do carry thin stainless sheet.

If your cylinder height is less than 48", and can tolerate being a faceted surface rather than a totally smooth cylinder, you can use the large box and pan brake in the welding shop to form sheet into cylinders.

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I was looking at the plans for making one on the Dharma Trading website and they recommend 8" diameter galvanized stove pipe. Having said that, you may want to check at a few of the local wood stove vendors to see what they have in the way of stainless steel stove pipes. Vaglio Fireplace Centre in Burnaby might be able to offer some suggestions. That is where virtually everyone in our off-grid cottage community gets their wood stoves and accessories.

I also found this site with instructions on how to build one using 10" galvanized stove pipe and a rice cooker.


Yea, I used the stovepipe method when I was building my canoe. We just stuck it over an electric kettle, and jammed a plastic bag in the other end. It took about 20 minutes to steam a 1/4" x 1 1/2" strip of yellow cedar to the point where you could tie it in knots. Probably not an ideal long term solution though.

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