I decided to make my own rocket stove as outlined in the video shown at the bottom of this post. It turned out to be an fairly easy build. I felt it was important to have an understanding of the process should I ever need to duplicate it in the future. I should also point out that if you choose to attempt this build on your own that you will be cutting metal, which can and will cut your VERY easily and leave nasty cuts. Be sure to proceed with caution and wear protective gloves and clothing as necessary.
Here are the steps and my comments (steps relate to the images above from left to right and top to bottom):
- Gather one #1o can and four identical smaller cans – remove lids and labels (try to get any glue off if possible), wash out, save the #10 can lid. Just save cans you were going to recycle or toss.
- Trace and cut out holes in one small can and the #10 can – the exact locations aren’t critical. I should point out that the lines I originally traced had to be enlarged a bit, especially on the smaller can so I found myself cutting wider and wider until I removed enough material; the point is to try to trace your lines right the first time! Anyway, you want these holes to be just large enough for another one of the smaller cans to press fit inside.
- Take two unused cans and remove the bottom from one and cut the other at about two-thirds in height then split down the sides - the can with only the bottom removed will fit into the side of the #10 can while the shortened can will be compressed and slid into the top of the small can with the hole cut in it.
- Take the last can and fashion a divider – you’ll need to cut off the bottom of the can, cut it down the side just as you did in step 3, flatten it out because it will still be round, and fashion something similar to what’s pictured so that it just barely slides into the middle of a smaller can. The purpose of this is to provide a way to continue to supply the stove with wood fuel but also allow air to get in.
- This is what you’re trying to accomplish in step 4. Realize that what you fashion in step 4 will be fairly flimsy but works for it’s purpose.
- Here are all of the parts after being cut or fashioned – to summarize, you should have one #10 can with a hole cut in the side, one small can with a hole cut in the side, one can with only the bottom cut off, one can that is about two-thirds it’s original height and split down the sides, and one can completely flattened and fashioned as shown in step 4.
- Fill the bottom of the #10 can with your filler material then begin assembly. In the video, LDS Prepper used sand. I used damp dirt (potting soil, actually). I know, I know, dirt is a horrible insulator and it certainly shouldn’t be wet! Anyway, I didn’t have any sand around and I wanted to use only what I had around… and that was wet dirt. That said, pack the bottom of the #10 can with your filler material, place the smaller can with a hole in the side atop the dirt (as shown) and insert the other small can that has the bottom cut off through the #10 can and into the smaller can (see the picture). Be sure to place the cut side of the cans away from where you may touch them.
- Finish the build. Press fit the two-thirds cut can into the top of the inner smaller can and continue filling with your filler material. Note that I used a piece of saran wrap to cover the opening of the inner can so that I didn’t get dirt inside them; it’s not a big deal as I could always dump it later. Oh, and cut out the center of the #10 can lid to fit over the smaller can as shown. Now, press down to ensure it is well packed and is about one-half inch from the top. Your build should look like what’s pictured.
- Cut three or four equidistant tabs that can be folded down to hold the lid in place. Doing so also provides for a nice built-in pot rest.
My Experience Using The Rocket Stove
To be completely forthright, I had a hard time getting a fire going and sustaining it. It’s probably more of a problem with how I start fires (never have been any good at it and am probably too impatient) so I eventually resorted to using a broken off piece of a fire starter log to help me get it going. Once I got it going it worked out fairly well and produced quite a bit of directional heat, more than enough to cook or boil with.
As with any small stove, the major problem I see is with keeping it going. Because you do not have a large fuel source–such as from a large piece of wood or propane tank–you’ve got to keep feeding it small twigs, which is time consuming. The other significant problem is a general inability to easily adjust flame output… again, constant fiddling with the fuel source. I would imagine, however, that after some experience with it I would get better at fueling my stove and not have to fiddle with it so much. All in all, I would say it worked out well for being completely free. I think I’ll keep it around for future use. The important part, though, is the experience of building it!
Rocket stove video I followed: