How to Build a Rocket Stove 15


 

By Colleen Codekas, contributing writer

The cookstove is almost as old as the campfire, and not much newer than the invention of fire itself. Needless to say, it’s been around for a long time, with very little change. Even in today’s world, many people on this earth still cook food over an open fire, just as our ancestors once did. Recent innovations have harnessed gas and electricity to cook our food, but what about the original fuel source: wood? The wood cookstove has largely gone out of fashion in most developed nations in favor of gas or electric ranges, but is there a more renewable resource than wood? Some would argue not. So why not try to imagine a truly efficient cookstove that utilizes a renewable fuel source like wood? Enter the rocket stove design.

A rocket stove burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke. And they're easy to make! Click through to find out how.

What is a Rocket Stove?

It was originally developed in the 1980’s by Ianto Evans and Larry Winiarski of Aprovecho Research Center, an organization that works on designs for cookstoves that are to be used in developing countries. The rocket stove uses small diameter wood which is burned in a simple combustion chamber leading to an insulated vertical chimney, atop which the food is heated and cooked. This design burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke.

Why Build a Rocket Stove?

The home built rocket stove effectively satisfies all of the practical criteria required, and at the same time saves money and fuel. Because they are so fuel efficient, very little wood is used. This means that the fuel can be sticks and twigs from prunings or dead fall, rather than large, older growth trees. This versatility and ability to burn almost any size wood greatly increases the sustainability of fuel use and availability, while also minimizing the environmental impact.

To put it simply, it’s an easy to build, easy to use, clean burning cooking device that uses minimal fuel. Sound too good to be true? Well, you do have to learn to light a fire and keep it tended, so there is some additional work involved as opposed to just turning a knob. That said, once you get it going, it’s pretty easy to keep the fire lit.

A rocket stove burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke. And they're easy to make! Click through to find out how.

How to Build a Rocket Stove

The design is simple, but the real breakthrough idea is that these stoves can be made from almost anything. Imagine on one hand a very small stove made from a few tin cans fitted together, simple and portable. Then, on the other hand, think of a large, permanent cob stove capable of boiling water in enormous stock pots and heating your house at the same time (via a rocket mass heater). Rocket stove design lets you, the builder, construct a stove that fits your needs, space, and budget.

Here I will show you how to build a simple rocket stove using cinder blocks and other easily and cheaply bought or found materials. This is what you will need:

  • 3 cinder blocks
  • 1 H shaped block, OR two 8″ x 16″ pavers and one brick
  • 8″ X 16″ pavers, optional as needed (for a base)
  • A grill or old burner of some sort

A rocket stove burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke. And they're easy to make! Click through to find out how.

Step 1: If you do not have a flat cement surface to build the stove on, you may need a couple of pavers to serve as a base, which is what is shown here.

Step 2: Place one cinder block horizontally and another one vertically in front of it. I’ve seen other guides that put the horizontal block rotated the other direction, with the holes going from side to side, but you get a deeper fire box by doing it this way. Try both ways to see what works best for you.

Step 3: If you have an H block, place it on top of the horizontal cinder block. We had trouble finding an H block, but 2 pavers and a brick worked just fine.

Step 4: Place the last cinder block on top of the H block (or pavers and brick). Once you have the stove lit you will put the grill, grate or old burner on top of the stove as needed for a cooking surface.

How to Light a Rocket Stove

It’s important to get the fire chamber lit and going well before adding more fuel. Fill the first hole in the top with newspaper, cardboard, very small (dry) kindling, and any fire starting material you may have. Light it, and keep adding small kindling until the fire is going really well.

A rocket stove burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke. And they're easy to make! Click through to find out how.

Then feed small split logs into the hole on the front of the stove. These can be about the size that is usually regarded as kindling for a regular fire. Add two or so at a time, and every so often push them in a bit so that they continue to burn.

A rocket stove burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke. And they're easy to make! Click through to find out how.

A rocket stove burns so efficiently that it ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface, so there is virtually no smoke. And they're easy to make! Click through to find out how as part of your emergency preparedness plan in case of a power outage. It really is as simple as that! What I love so much about this method of building a rocket stove is that it’s extremely simple to build with materials that are readily available. It can also be broken down and moved on a moments notice if need be. Rocket stove technology also allows you to have some independence from the electrical grid in the event of a power outage. Need to boil some water or heat up a can of soup? No problem! A rocket stove is definitely something we should all consider building on our path to self sufficiency and emergency preparedness.

About Colleen Codekas

Colleen (and her hubby behind the scenes, Joel) run the blog Grow Forage Cook Ferment, a website that teaches about all types of homesteading endeavors, particularly related to food, herbalism, permaculture, health and self sufficiency. She loves growing and foraging for herbs and other plants, making herbal salves, cooking food from scratch, and making mead (honey wine).


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15 thoughts on “How to Build a Rocket Stove

  • Dean Cattell

    Do you need to put a grate between the H Block and the top cinder block to stop the fuel from dropping into the bottom cinder block?
    Thanks

    • Colleen Codekas

      Hi Dean. No, the grate is just used as a cooking surface. It’s ok for the fuel to go into the bottom cinder block. If you want you can turn the bottom cinder block on it’s side so that the fuel doesn’t go into it, but it’s usually not a problem. Either way, you definitely don’t want anything between the H block and the top block, as that is the space where you start and fuel the fire. Hope that makes sense!

  • Shaz

    Hi there, thanks for this easy tutorial. I must say, with some of the pictures it’s not clear if it’s a top view or a side view?

  • James Davis

    I use to cook manytimes in the woods as a kid out camping. I was raised on a farm! What you show is very interesting to me!

  • Gary

    Doesn’t the heat of the fire destroy the cinder blocks?

  • Stacie

    We made a rocket stove out of a couple steel rims. We use it during camping and there truly is very little smoke. It burns hot and puts out a ton of heat even 4′ away.

  • Colleen

    Now THAT is entirely helpful. I’m going off grid soon, and I had heard of any number of ways to build this – including some very expensive options (which kind of minimalizes the idea of going off grid, doesn’t it?). This is simple enough for a clod like me to follow, and waaaay better than any hazardous material that was suggested. Thanks!

  • Maggie

    There must be something I’m missing. Is there a reason not to do the following? Leave off the bottom block that is horizontal and put the “H” block or equivalent right on the ground/paver and then feed the fuel through the bottom hole of the vertical cinder block. Is there a need for the space below the fuel feed area?

  • Doug Hargett

    What is the purpose of the 2nd chamber (furthest from the fuel feed area) of the horizontal block? Wouldn’t the H block keep anything from entering the 2nd half of the horizontal block? Also, what keeps the pavers from falling over, or the brick?

  • StaxSunChess

    The 8″ x 16″ concrete pieces shown in this article are not pavers. They are actually called “caps” and are typically used as a finish layer at the top of a cinder block wall.

    The necessity for the correct terminology would come into play during the ordering process.

  • Ben

    So if you use pavers and a brick for that 2nd layer, how do you keep them from falling off? And how do you go about cleaning out the stove, just take it back apart and brush it away?

  • Bob Bigelow

    If you can’t find the “H” block, and don’t trust the caps and brick arrangement, try chipping out one end of a regular block. It’s a tricky process…to chip out the end without breaking off the side, but can be done. Wear eye protection!! And keep your mouth shut..concrete tastes terrible. Patience is the key.

  • Norm Hotchkiss

    I like that you can build several of these side by side. It’s a little awkward with keeping the fires going, but you could cook for many people this way.

  • Kitty

    I can’t seem to wrap my mind around this and I think it’s because you only show your photos straight on rather than from the side angle as well. I can’t figure out what your using or how to place the cinder blocks or whatever they are . please consider adding a photo of all of the elements laid out and one of the whole set up from the side in order to give a better perspective. the “building blocks photo might have each type numbered and the side version might include numbers on each block referencing the first. I can’t imagine how you’re placing these to make a stove. or where you’re putting in the fuel. maybe it’s just me but I need more help. LOL