Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Rocket stove

Rocket stove kits

No, I have not entered the world of rocket engineering.
A rocket stove is a small but powerful cooker which runs on small sticks. Astonishingly it can reach white hot temperatures, despite its simplicity. And because it burns so hot it is incredibly efficient, burning everything in the wood which is combustible and leaving very little waste indeed.

The rocket stove was invented back in the 1980s and looks deceptively simple. It's basically an elbow shaped tube, which can be fairly simply knocked up out of tin cans, which sits in a bigger can full of insulation. The ratios though are important. Without boring you with the measurements and engineering theory, the airflow and height of the flue need to be just right to ensure that just enough oxygen is supplied to the fire, not too much and not too little.

The rocket stove has big implications for developing countries. Wood is a precious and declining resource across much of the world, so the more efficiently it can be used the better. Every move towards making wood sustainable is a move in the right direction. Cut the amount of wood needed for fuel, cut the time and energy used in collecting it. The fact that only small sticks are required is a bonus too.
The rocket stove is now used extensively in disaster zones. It is cheap, easy to produce, portable and green. A triumph of alternative technology. The central flue, the most important part, can be cheaply manufactured from ceramic, which is the best material.

So when the chance came up to make our own rocket stove at the Green Backyard in Peterborough, for free, well we jumped at it. I am not pretending that we will replace our gas cooker, electric oven, microwave and kettle all with a rocket stove, but I find the Green Backyard an inspiring place to go and if I could come back with my own rocket stove, all the better!

We arrived to find out that we didn't need to improvise the whole thing out of baked bean tins, which need regularly replacing as they disintegrate under the phenomenal heat produced within. For we were getting specially made stainless steel elbows. Posh ones! - which should hopefully last several years.
Our tutor for the day, Bob, clearly knew more than we needed to know, but he kept himself to giving us a very interesting history of the rocket stove and just enough technical information to be of interest.
I'd never used metal nibblers before, but I want some now. They made short work of cutting holes in the outer can to fit the flue. A few adjustments and we were ready to fill the void with vermiculite. The three bolts coming out of the top are for the pot, kettle or griddle to sit on. They are adjustable but basically need to sit about an inch above the top of the flue.

Anyway, enough of the technicalities.

Renee from the Green Back Yard
chats to 2 of the course participants
as they head home, rocket stoves in hand.
Enough to say that we had a lovely day and came away with not one but two rocket stoves. I feel some outdoor cooking coming along.

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