Rocket Mass Forge

I think I came up with a novel idea, the rocket mass forge. It is a combination of a side blast, side draft forge and a rocket mass heater. I can do my smithing and heat the garage at the same time!

I built a side blast forge – one who puts air in from the side instead of from underneath in the hopes that it will direct the smoke towards the hood. This is the older style, it’s simpler, and works better for charcoal.

It’s a side draft forge, meaning that the chimney sits beside the forge fire and not over it. It draws the smoke in sideways.

It’s going to be a rocket mass heater, with the insulated inner burn chamber, the outer barrel chamber, and the horizontal ‘chimney’ that dumps heat into the room.

Rocket Mass Forge Concept Drawing
Rocket Mass Forge Concept Drawing

So far, I have… ~ $20 invested in the forge, discounting gasoline used to pick free stuff up. The block is retaining wall block and the fire brick is recycled red clay brick. Most of the ductwork was free, but I bought a few pieces of it. My dad gave me the blower, it was brand new – about 25 years ago. The barrels will be free. Oh, I did buy the perlite.

2 weekends ago I visited a local blacksmith for a few hours, and that really got a fire under my butt. When I got home, I built the base of the forge. I used probably 2/3rds of roughly 160 retaining wall blocks that will be used for a pond next year.

One of two trailer loads of free retraining wall blocks found on freecycle
One of two trailer loads of free retraining wall blocks found on freecycle

They are stacked in a circle with room for a 6 inch stove pipe to do down the back and out the bottom. It is infilled with a mix of block and brick to support the brick top. The brick top is layered in 2 different patterns and 90 degrees offset so I don’t have any seams that overlap. Less likely for hot coals to fall through down to the floor this way.

Start of base of forge
Start of base of forge
Finished forge bed
Finished forge bed
I will be staring at this for hours, just as well make it look nice, right?
I will be staring at this for hours, just as well make it look nice, right?
Initial brick burn chamber on top of the forge bed
Initial brick burn chamber on top of the forge bed

The brick burn chamber did not work at all. Too ‘open’, the smoke poured right out of it. It felt good to get a fire lit there though. The next thing I did was hook up my old pocket rocket to vent out the new rocket mass heater chimney system. This worked a little better. I was able to get it to burn in the right direction.

So I grabbed an old 5 gallon metal bucket of killz paint that had dried up – or so I thought, under about 2 inches of crust was white goo,  not quite paint – that was in the weeds in the back yard when I bought the house. I cleaned that out, burned out the goo, it burned OK once lit with a torch.

The First Iteration of the Rocket Mass Forge
The First Iteration of the Rocket Mass Forge

 

I made a hat hook on the first fireing of the Rocket Mass Forge
I made a hat hook on the first fireing of the Rocket Mass Forge

The forge didn’t really get hot enough for me, and the rocket mass heater didn’t want to draft for crap.

I need a 55 gallon drum so I have room inside to make a proper insulated heat riser. This should help it draft better. I need a different hose for the forge blower, as what I am using now whistles something obnoxious. I need to make a cold air intake for the forge blower and a mixing box so I can pull some smokey air as well if needed. I need to make a heat exchanger to pull more heat from the system before it leaves the building. I need to make the thermal mass yet too.

Lots of things to do for the next iteration. The important thing is that I got it working, if poorly..

AtlAtl in the back yard

This last summer, I hosted a Primitive Skills Meetup in my backyard where we made AtlAtls, or spear throwers. It was a blast! I just found a video of it today, so that’s why this post is 6 months later.

Untitled from Eric Michalsen on Vimeo.

An AtlAtl is basically a stick that is used to throw a spear or dart. Now, my back yard isn’t really big enough for such activities, and we did bounce a few off my garage siding and through the open door. All in all, it was a blast!

Alan, I STILL have your water bottle – next time I see you, I shall return it to you.

Camping

I went camping this weekend with some college buddies. We had a blast!

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The weather was good. A bit stormy driving up, and it rained pretty good the last night. One of the tents packed up that last night and cut out early. They always leave first thing the last day anyhow I am told, and this way they didn’t have to pack a wet tent.

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Everyone’s favorite camping companion.

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CVS came over to my place on Thursday night, and he made up some of his Famous Doners. We froze them down in my deep-freeze so they wouldn’t spoil in a cooler. My Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the bread hook does wonders with 6lbs of ground Turkey.

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The finished Doners. We baked them off in my camp oven. They sure did turn out delicious! Thanks CVS!

Going camping again for the first time in about 5 years really got my camping juices flowing again. Now I need to start taking Bella.

Paiute Deadfall Trap with a plastic tote and my cat

I’ve been going to Primitive Skills Meetups for about a year now. I have a blast there, as it allows me to get away from the city for a while. I’ve learned how to make my own mead, make spoons with fire, forage for wild foods. All kinds of stuff.

This month, we are going to be doing a session on traps and snares. I am a presenter!

Like I said, I love this group!

I am going to be showing a few styles of traps and snares that I have either fiddled with, thought would be useful, or want to learn. Another presenter is going to do the traditional Figure 4 Deadfall, so I will demonstrate an alternate – an Asian Inverted Figure 4 dead-fall. I think this alternate is much easier to set and also easier to carve. I will also show a squirrel snare set, penny locks for traditional snares, and also a paiute deadfall.

So anyway, I needed to dust off some of my trap setting skills. The last time I had set any traps, it was to my (now) Father-in-Law’s amusement as I was catching my kittens at the time. He hadn’t seen anything like it and was having a blast watching me. It was a while ago. I was using a figure-4 made from some scrap wood from when I made my bedframe and a plastic tote.

I took an evening off from cleaning and packing and moving, and this time, I am trying the paiute dead fall using more of the same scrap wood from my bed frame that I’ve kept for 3 years now and moved from Florida to Illinois. (I am such a pack-rat – hence all the cleaning & packing & moving)

Brother (my cat) is such a good sport. He quickly wised up to the fact that indulging on his beloved kitty treats made a big blue tote try to fall over him. I never did get an unassisted clean capture of my feline friend, but, the above video has a few humorous spots anyhow.

Poor Brother!