The Rocket Stove is quite simply pure genius. It is a remarkably efficient method of taking a small amount of fuel (wood) and maximising it’s potential. Good for you, good for recycling and ultimately: good for the planet. Having recently proof read my first book, a weighty tome of over 300 pages of tree dwelling escapades, I noted I had mentioned in the intro that I was no eco-warrior, hmmmm…I feel the whole experience of low impact, self-sufficient living has actually changed me more than I thought. On a recent stopover at a friends flat in London, I noticed he was using bottles of Caledonian “spring water” instead of using tap water: fair enough London water isn’t the most tasty and rumoured to have high levels of oestrogen, perhaps the thought of a pair of moobs had brought about the dependence on bottled water? I did question why he bothered with bottled water, but to be honest carbon footprints probably mean little to an investment banker, after all…what’s Evian spelt backwards?
So whilst trying my best not to get evangelical about ecological issues to those close to me, I will move onto the topic at hand. Rocket stoves are all the rage stateside, as for the UK: virtually nothing. For a small island with limited resources, we aren’t doing too well. This ingenious, yet simple concept was first put on paper in the 1980’s by a chap called Dr. Larry Winiarski. but what is it and why is it so cunning?
I could try to write concise direction on how to make a mini rocket stove from my own experience, but to be honest, I have since found some fantasmogorical directions online (them Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Americans once again- they love it!). Just to let you know, my efforts consisted of the following: 2 large baked bean cans (obtained from a local school), one standard baked bean can, some “Gun gum” (exhaust pipe sealant), a few bolts, some builder’s band and some sand. All you will need for construction are some tin snips, a knife you don’t mind buggering up, a drill, hammer and a pair of pliers. With a bit of fiddling about (wear gloves when working with metal- saves on plasters), and adhering to the basic principles, you will be able to knock up something that works a dream.
Alternatives to using sand as insulation are Vermiculite and ash from an old fire, both would probably be better than sand, which makes the stove a tad heavy and cumbersome…work with what you have to hand. Here are a few videos and links that will help you along the way:
A small, portable version.
A bigun', for use in the home.
When it came to testing my design, I took a handful of kindling, a scrunched up bundle of birch bark (firelighters are a useful alternative) and set about boiling enough water for two cups of tea in a billycan- standard test. Once the entrance was stuffed with kindling- something that in the rocket stove’s case is perfectly acceptable due to the air gap left on the bottom of the stove entrance, the flames were shooting out of the top in a fierce manner (hence the rocket- clearly). It took exactly 8 minutes to boil the water, perhaps not as quick as an electric kettle, but a damn slight cheaper than firing up one of the most expensive household appliances.
A stove like this could have made October in the treehouse a touch more pleasant, perhaps next time. With so much recycled wood available for recycling, this stove is the ideal thing to feed it to, I have a feeling this will not be the last we shall see of this ingenious contraption. When I build my house, I’m definitely installing one! The Rocket stove is a far cry from the coffee can stoves my Brother used to make when we were kids. All he did was puncture a few holes in the top and bottom to act as air drafts but, for a simple design it worked well, so well that for some bizarre reason he heated up a load of wax from old candles in a bowl and it found its way onto the top of my bare foot, still got the scars to prove it…cheers Bro!