Babington Burner Trial One

Today we started to put together our Babington burner. This burner is important because it is a versatile source of heat for: space heating, metal melting, glassworks, pottery, steam engines for remote power, heat engines for mobile power in cars and tractors, and many others. We can use it with any waste oil – crankcase, vegetable, etc. – plus pyrolysis oil from biomass once we develop it. It is not a far stretch to produce pyrolysis oil- see this simple experimental proposition. Do you think this would yield useful amounts of liquid fuel?

For the Babington burner, we drilled a 0.0135 inch hole in the face of a hollow, brass doorknob – and brazed on a fitting that supplied compressed air at a constant pressure between 20-35 psi. We were able to atomize water but when we tried motor oil we had problems. We were able to produce a bit of a flame but never sustained burning. Two possibilities: 1) the hole became clogged from debris inside the burner ball, 2) the oil was not heated sufficiently. Has anyone had success in sustaining a flame over a long period? What is a good method for automatic ignition? Best way to regulate the flow over the ball? Any feedback is welcome from experienced Babsmen.

Babs Day One


  1. Andy Mahoney

    You may want to take a look at my website I actually sell babington burners from there and they work really well.

    Good to see others having a go with the technology!

    Andy Mahoney

  2. Sasha

    Third possibility : you have water in your oil? Did you try it working with some pure oil? Anyway I asked for help on wastewatts yahoo group.

  3. Richard

    isnt the oil supposed to be pumped through the ball, not poured over the surface of it? thats what all the designs i have seen do…

  4. Tom Leue

    I expect the problem is the fluid flow is not even and consistent over the ball. It tends to form rivulets that may or may not cross the babington holes. The 0.0135 hole is a litle large, too. About 150% of the optimum. You can get a better babington ball at my website. It has 3 babington holes, each a little less than 0.010. It is setup for operating on a pressure line. See

  5. Marcin

    Richard, no, the point is that the oil flows over the ball – which is critical when you are dealing with waste oils. Waste oils have impurities. The point of the Babington is that the fuel flows over the ball – such that the impurities cannot clog the tiny hole. The air going through the ball creates a miniature ‘whale blowhole’ effect – it can never clog up unless there is debris within the ball itself. We think we had some flakes come off the inside when we heated the ball for brazing. We shook the debris out – but there may be some more. We have dipped the ball in light acid over night – to scrape off any surface debris inside the ball.

  6. richard

    haha…. ahhh…. now it makes a lot more sense. i found a design where preheating is implicit.

    by running the oil in pipes around the burner before sending them over the surface, it ensures that the oil is heated to proper viscosity. im sure you guys will figure it out, you are quite crafty


    You may wish to try pre-heating the oil to around 140 F. You may also play the flame from your propane torch onto the ball above the orifice to pre-heat the oil as it flows over the orifice. I use this method to start my Babington burner when it is very cold.

    Further, I did not like your method of drilling the hole. It is my considered opinion that the hole is way too big now. Send the thing out to a machine shop and have it done right. Do not waste time and money doing it yourself. The hole is the heart of the whole burner. Do it right or do not do it at all.

    The flame also needs to be somewhat surrounded by a pipe, like a 6-inch steel pipe. This reflects the flame’s heat back onto itself to help it become self-sustaining. You won’t have much success if the flame is out in the open like you show in the water trials.

    Stick to the fundamentals and it will work.

    Archibald…who brought the Babington Burner to the Web.

  8. Marcin

    Archibald, please comment on the quality of the flame in our first successful flame at:

    You are saying that a drill press does – used for its up and down motion – is not sufficient in accuracy for the purpose?

    Also, please comment on sources and technique for installing water heat exchange coils in the burner tube – as discussed in the link as well.

  9. Richard

    i think that if you coil the water around the steel pipe that will surround the flame, then send the heated water or general liquid (ive heard antifreeze suggested for radiant hydronic) into an underground, insulated tank (as recommended to me by the solar decathalon folks), then run it through the system. You could have three coils, one to preheat the liquid, one for hot water, the other for antifreeze for hydronic. Two submerged ferrocement tanks would probably work, and if they are properly insulated they should remain at temperature throughout the day. Possibly you will be able to cast manifolds using the babington furnace for your hydronic set up? Me and danny were discussing how you could possibly lay hydronic tubes in the cordwood and just pour a layer of dyed cement over it, then use that stone sealer that bob was talking about, then you could submerge the tank outside where it stores water pumped from the nearby babington…?

  10. Russell

    The Babbington ball must be just that, a spherical ball. Our original was a 3 inch brass ball with a ten thou jet inside a 4 inch by 18 inch pipe. The flame extended a further 18 inches beyond the pipe. The fuel was a conglomeration of waste oils. The ignition was by a cap full of metho.
    The Primary air was 45 psi, there was no need of assisted secondary air.

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