I needed a way to hold my various brewing vessels over the burners and have it be somewhat portable so I could tuck it away in the corner of the garage or wheel it out back onto the deck when I decide to brew out there. My requirements also included a mount for at least one March pump. I needed the materials to be inexpensive, because I'm cheap and would rather spend the money on ingredients. This was a great project for me because it taught me how to weld (badly).
I started by collecting as many old trashed bed frames as I could find. Some came from the side of the road and others came from the metal bin at the local town recycling center. This isn't the highest quality angle iron available, but it's plenty strong for what we have in mind. After getting a few frames accumulated, I had started jotting down some measurements and began designing in the free Google Sketchup. The pic on the left is what I came up with. Notice that I don't need a ladder to dough in or stir my mash.
Digression: If you have very little experience with 3-vessel brewing, it's important to note that moving liquid between any of these vessels is going to require a pump. If you're not OK with that, you'd probably want to build in some height for gravity transfers.
Once I was happy with the overall dimensions, I cut all the pieces needed on a compound miter saw with a thin abrasive disk installed. I'm pretty sure I killed the saw by doing this because although it still runs, it groans awfully. The next step was a crash course in stick welding over at my parent's house. I got the 15 minute lecture from my dad and just started fusing metal willy nilly. It was plenty ugly but nothing a few days of grinding couldn't fix. The pic on the right shows the completed frame with 4" castors, scrap metal bottom shelf, and fully painted frame. The paint, FYI, was purchased at an auto parts store and is supposedly sound up to 500 degrees F (engine enamel). We'll see about that.
I'm running natural gas burners that can be found at various online kitchen supply shops. These particular 23-tip multi-jets are made for wok ranges so that's probably a good searcwhh criteria for you. I found these at a local Asian supermarket. Running the gas pipe for the stand using stock fittings and nipples was no easy task, especially if you want them to all line up perfectly. Yes, I'm actually using gate valves instead of typical ball valves. These are full flow and don't use any rubber gaskets. I just liked the more incremental adjustment in flame that these can provide.
After a big final push prior to my second homebrewtalk.com all grain seminar, I got the stand ready for a maiden voyage. The finished product is actually the large picture at the top of this section, but here are some shots I took after getting the final coats of engine paint on it and during the initial burner test.
I received quite a few questions asking why I chose this particular system over other varieties and where I got some of the hardware on the kegs. I guess it's best to add all that info here and point to it in the future.
Why single tier instead of 2 or 3? The simple answer is that I didn't want to use a step ladder at all and I feel like any hot liquids held up high are inherently in more danger of scalding someone. Keeping a lower center of gravity meant the stand's base could be smaller in footprint. In retrospect, the HLT could have been functional on a higher tier because you typically do not need to see inside, stir, or clean it. It would also allow for fly sparging with one pump. I may augment the stand in the future to raise the center platform about 14" for the HLT.
Where I got the Thermometers and quick disconnects? The thermometers were scored on Ebay for about $22 each. If you pay more than that, you might as well start looking at digital remote probes. The quick disconnects are from McMaster Carr. Search for items 6739K59 and 6739K68.