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Homemade Hot Tub Surprises Party Guests
When Brian Bahlmann promised his friends a soak in a hot tub at his New Year's Eve party last year, most of them figured he was just talking. After all, they knew Bahlmann didn't own a hot tub.
  So most of the guests arrived sans swimming suit. "We used every old swim suit in the house that night," Bahlmann recalls.
  Although Bahlmann didn't have a factory-made hot tub, he had in his shop all the right parts to make one that many of his friend thought was just as good.
  He started with a 10-ft. dia. black plastic livestock watering tank. "The kids use it for a swimming pool in the summer," he says.
  He then used a 55-gal. steel drum to make a simple wood-fired heater for the hot tub. To one end of the drum he welded a couple of 4 1/2-ft. lengths of 2 1/2-in. sq. steel tubing. This made legs for the drum to sit on in the bottom of the tank. He cut a door about 18 in. wide in the top third (from the ring to the top) of the drum. He added hinges and a latch to the door to make it easy to put wood in the heater. He cut a couple of lengths of round steel pipe that were almost as long as the barrel and inserted those in holes in the upper end of the barrel. These bring fresh air from above the barrel down to the fire, which he builds in the bottom of the barrel.
  Finally, he made a chimney. "I had an old adapter that allowed you to put an auger through a grain bin door. It's a steel plate with a piece of steel pipe in the middle of it. You put that over the inspection hole in a bin door and fit the auger through the pipe. I cut a hole in the top of the barrel and bolted that over the hole. Then I attached 4 ft. of 6 in. stovepipe to it," he says.
  Every respectable hot tub had bubbles, and Bahlmann's is no different. To force air through the hot water, he made an X out of 1/2-in. dia. PVC pipe cut a few inches shorter than the 10 ft. diameter of the tank. He put Ts with shorter lengths of pipe on the outside ends of three legs of the X to direct airflow. On the fourth leg, he added a garden hose fitting. That let him run a garden hose from the hot tub to the air compressor in his shop.
  The day before the party, Bahlmann set the stove into the stock tank and weighted it down by putting tractor weights on the legs where they extended beyond the stove. He dropped the PVC pipe air line into the bottom of the tank and weighted each leg down a concrete block wrapped in old bath towels. Then he filled the tank up to the ring on the stove barrel just below the door (about 2 1/2 ft. deep) filled the stove with wood and lit the fire. He set a sump pump in the tank to keep the water circulating around the stove. The tank holds about 900 gal. of water.
  He used duct tape to fasten Owens-Corning Attic Blanket insulation (not the itchy pink fiberglass kind) around the outside of the tank to help hold in the heat.
  "It took just over 24 hours to heat the water to a little over 100-degrees," he says. He only had to add wood to the stove a couple of times.
  Just before party time, he removed the sump pump that had been circulating the water, set his air compressor outlet at about 40 psi and turned on the compressor.
  Bahlmann says his hot tub will accommodate six adults easily. The concrete blocks wrapped in towels make good seats for four people. Others just climbed in and sat on the bottom. "We had as many as nine people in it at once," he says.
  Bahlmann has put the hot tub together for a couple of other occasions, but doesn't leave it going all the time. "Even after it's been going for three or four days, there's hardly any ash to dump out of the stove when I take it apart," he says.
  He says it doesn't take more than an hour to set it up and start filling it. Filling and heating take the most time, so it's not something that you can do on the spur of the moment, though. He figures he spent less than $50 for new parts and supplies and everything else he used was scraps or junk.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Brian Bahlmann, 1165 Casper Ave., Plainfield, Iowa 50666 (ph 319 276-3537; E-mail: bahl

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2003 - Volume #27, Issue #1