Good job on the weldless valve installation. I like the pick up tube! I need to do that, too.
I remember looking at step drill bits at the local hardware store and seeing the price around $40-50! No way, man!
I found it online for around $12. Cuts like (cold) butter through metal.
I did my first 12 gallon batch with it after a few test runs with water. Flow was great and really fast. Transferring hot water to the tun was awesomely easy.
However, doing a whirlpool with whole-hops didn't works so well. I figured the hops would set up a filter of sorts around the inlet of the pick-up tube. WRONG. Damn thing clogged immediately. Tried slowing it down etc, but no satisfaction. It was extremely frustrating but the session ended with the wort in the fermenters without major mishap.
Keeping the setup as it is will require the use of hop-bags. I'm tentatively leaning towards this but just don't like using them. Or, I could adapt some SS hose-braid much like my tun. So this setup has it's severe limitations but I learned a good deal about using the pump.
Any bright ideas guys? Anyone?