When your refrigerator is full but the electricity is out, you’re going to have to find an alternative way to cook your food. In this kind of situation, one of the best alternatives will be to build and use a DIY rocket stove.
A rocket stove is a very effective cooking stove that burns wood in a combustion chamber, sending the heat and flames through a chimney to ensure complete combustion before the flames reach the cooking surface atop the chimney.
Why a Rocket Stove?
The rocket stove is not only a very energy effective method to cook food, heat water, or warm up an area, it’s also dirt cheap and can be assembled in a very short period of time. You can use your other kitchen equipment with it as well if you want. Building a rocket stove could be the first part of building an entire outdoor kitchen, complete with a system for washing dishes, a sink, and storage space.
The beauty of the rocket stove that is often overlooked is how it doesn’t have to be used in a survival or grid down situation. It can just as easily serve as a camping wood stove in place of an open fire, or as a backup option if your current kitchen stove has broken down.
Building a Rocket Stove With Bricks
To produce the brick version of a rocket stove, you will need at least two dozen non-cement bricks, with two of these bricks being flatter and larger than the other ones, and another two being only half the size of the others. You can either find two naturally smaller bricks or you can make them on your own by use of a chisel and hammer. You should end up with two small bricks, two large bricks, and around twenty regularly sized bricks.
You will also need two wire sheets, some tinder and kindling, some rocks, and your desired cooking utensils and equipment.
Step #1: Select some flat ground and be careful when you choose your location. It needs to be somewhere that you are comfortable cooking and eating at.
Step #2: Once you have chosen your ground, assemble all of your pieces and then take your two large bricks and place them side by side over the flat ground.
Step #3: Take three regular sized bricks and a smaller one. Arrange these over the two large bricks so that one side has an opening. This should create a U-shape with the two larger ones serving as the foundation.
Step #4: Take your wire screen and place it over the U-shape. It is over this screen that your fire will rest. The ashes will fall underneath the wire screen. If you have to cut the wire screen so that it fits over the U-shape, do so.
Step #5: Once you have set the wire screen above the U-shape, create another U-shape above the first and directly atop the wire screen. Again, use three regular bricks and one small brick.
Step #6: Look over what you have so far to make sure it is correct. The two largest, flat bricks should be at the bottom, and then two U-shapes directly sitting atop one another with a wire screen in between the layers. There should be an opening on the open side of the U-shape with the wire screen cutting through the middle of it.
Step #7: Gather the rest of your regularly sized bricks and stack them over the existing structure. The ‘U’ can be closed off by these bricks, with the exception of the opening near the bottom with the wire screen. This has to be left uncovered or else it takes away the entire point of the rocket stove. Continue stacking bricks to your desired length. Twenty regularly sized bricks is a good rule of thumb, since you don’t want your rocket stove heater to be too short it doesn’t work like it should or so tall that it runs the risk of toppling over.
Step #8: Look over what you have so far. If your structure is resembling an outdoor chimney with the wire screen cutting through the bottom (visible through the bottom opening created by the U) and an opening in the middle that leads all the way down to that wire screen, then you are definitely on the right track.
Step #9: Now it’s time to add the roof. Take another piece of wire screen and set it over the top of the chimney. Secure this wire screen either with flat rocks or more bricks.
Step #10: Look over your entire structure once again. Is it secure? Does it look like it’s going to topple over? If it’s slanting or if some bricks are too long and jutting out of the structure, you’ll need to fix it so that both of these issues are remedied.
Step #11: Once you have determined to the best of your ability that your rocket stove is secure and ready for use, take some tinder and kindling and set it on top of the wire screen at the opening of the U in the base. Remember to have plenty of more fuel on standby, so you can keep your fire going once it starts.
Step #12: Now light that kindling with a fire starting device. The smoke should travel up the chimney and exit through the wire screen you have placed at the top. Meanwhile, the ashes will collect beneath the wire screen at the very bottom.
Congratulations! Your rocket stove is now complete! Now it’s time to test out your rocket stove to make sure it works. You can place skillets, pans, or pots over the top of your stove. You can do everything from just boiling water to fully cooking food or even providing yourself with warmth, all while keeping your fire perfectly contained and avoiding the hazards that an open fire poses.
Check out either of these links for a visual demonstration on how to make your own DIY rocket stove:
Building a Rocket Stove With Cans
To assemble a rocket stove with cans, you will need a standard tin can, four soup cans (Can #1, Can #2, Can #3, Can #4), hammer and nails, insulation materials such as sand or foam, gloves, file, tinder and kindling, and a pair of pliers. All labels should be removed from the cans.
Step #1: Take one of the soup cans (Can #1) and trace its shape onto the tin can.
Step #2: Cut the same hole at the same height in Can #1 so that Can #2 can fit through the Tin Can and directly into Can #1. This will form the ‘elbow’ of this rocket stove. The soup cans should fit through snugly yet cleanly. No huge gaps should be present.
Step #3: Remove the bottom from Can #2, either with tin snips or with a can opener. The bottom part of cans will not open as easily as the top so proceed slowly and with caution. Soup Can #2 will serve as the horizontal burn chamber for this rocket stove.
Step #4: Fit Can #1 and Can #2 together so that you are sure they will fit when you assemble them together inside the Tin Can. You can assemble them together inside the Tin Can once they fit well.
Step #5: Can #1 should have a hole cut inside of it. Place it inside the center of the Tin Can with the hole in Can #1 lining nicely up with the hole that you cut in the Tin Can. The end of Can #1 that is open should face up so that Can #3 can be placed inside of it to serve as the chimney.
Step #6: Now Can #2 can be placed through the hole in the Tin Can and then into the hole of Can #1 to form the elbow.
Step #7: Take Can #3 and remove the bottom and top ends of it. Slit this can vertically from bottom to top. This can is to serve as the stack of the chimney, by having it inserted into Can #1, which currently is resting inside the Tin Can. If you need to cut down any excess on Can #3 to make it fit nicely you can. The can should fit cleanly and snugly, and again no major gaps can be present.
Step #8: This next step is often avoided by people who construct rocket stoves from cans, but it is highly recommended that you don’t. Cut a small arch into Can #3 where it and Can #2 intersect coming from the side. If you don’t, the chimney could be too tall when the entire project is completed. The chimney could be stuck at too high of a position for you to place anything on top of it. The chimney needs to be about a quarter of an inch under the top part of the rim that is located on the tin can for it to be used properly. If you do cut the arch, it should fit perfectly and work fine.
Step #9: Take Can #3, which is the chimney, and then trace the shape of it onto the tin can’s lid. The chimney can should poke through the top part of your stove. It also needs to fit properly before you can move on.
Step #10: At this point, all of your stove’s components have been fitted and cut properly. It’s time to assemble the burn chamber Can #1) to the elbow (Can #2) and the chimney (Can #3) all inside the tin can.
Step #11: Once you have assembled this, you will need to fill in the empty space between the outside of Can #1 and the inside of the tin can with insulator material. It is most often recommended that you use sand or dirt, but perlite, ash, clay, foam, vermiculite, or similar materials will work well too.
Step #12: All you need to do next is to cut a fuel shelf and you will be ready to test it out. The fuel shelf will be constructed out of Can #4, and it has to fit inside the mouth of the stove. The wood will rest on this shelf while simultaneously permitting the air to travel inside your stove from the very bottom.
Step #13: Cut a T-shape that is measured at the same width as can #1, only a little wider at the top so that it won’t slide inside the stove. The can will need to be slipped inside the stove’s mouth, with a gap in the bottom and the top. If this gap does not exist, the rocket stove is not going to work.
Congratulations! Your rocket stove has now been assembled and is ready to be tested out. Use whatever tinder or kindling you have to place into the chimney and start the fire; keep more fuel on standby to keep it going.
The advantage to a rocket stove made out of tin cans is that it is essentially a portable stove. You can take it wherever you go, but just remember that even the outside part of it will become hot and you should avoid touching it with your bare skin. For transporting, either wait for it to cool off or transfer it with a pair of gloves or pliers.
Nick Oetken is a prepper, outdoor enthusiast but, most of all, he is our in-house firearms expert. Look out for his articles on guns to find out which ones you need for your survival.