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..

My first try at blacksmithing

Today I started my hand at blacksmithing. A friend came over and we pretended we knew what we where doing. It was an absolute blast!

We used up two 10 lbs bags of charcoal, and made a railroad spike knife, a bit of a trivet, and some coat hooks. I only got burned maybe 3-4 times and only have one bad blister raised on the back of my hand at the moment.

The forge is made out of an old burnt out gas grill that I lined with some bricks. I used a leaf blower as the forge blower. The anvil is some random scrap of busted up metal casting that we made a post for. The anvil could be a good bit better, but it worked well enough for our first attempt.

We even cooked our steak lunch on the forge fire – I figured it was already lit and hot, so why not!.

Blacksmith forge from gas grill and recycled bricks

I made a natural lump charcoal forge tonight out of an old gas grill. I lined it with recycled bricks. The blower is a leaf blower.

Bricks lining a burnt out gas grill to make a blacksmith forge. The holey bricks on the bottom allow air to come up.
Bricks lining a burnt out gas grill to make a blacksmith forge. The holey bricks on the bottom allow air to come up.
I put in just a little bit of natural lump charcoal to test it tonight.
I put in just a little bit of natural lump charcoal to test it tonight.
Testing the forge with a small piece of metal
Testing the forge with a small piece of metal
Turning the flash off on the camera, and you can see the warm glow of the forge fire
Turning the flash off on the camera, and you can see the warm glow of the forge fire
The forge works, it heats metal up until it glows!
The forge works, it heats metal up until it glows!
Using a leaf blower underneith pushing air up through the bricks to provide extra oxygen to the fire really heats things up!
Using a leaf blower underneith pushing air up through the bricks to provide extra oxygen to the fire really heats things up!
See, with the blower, the fire gets hotter. Look at that metal glow!
See, with the blower, the fire gets hotter. Look at that metal glow!
I am not sure how long the bricks will last - they are glowing brightly as well.
I am not sure how long the bricks will last - they are glowing brightly as well.
I only tried banging on the metal with a hammer for 3 heatings.
I only tried banging on the metal with a hammer for 3 heatings.

Thus begins my journey into the world of blacksmithing. Yet another hobby for me!

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Rain Garden, Hugelkulture & Terra Petra garden mashup

Unrelated photo. I just love I have Violets growing in my backyard
Unrelated photo. I just love I have Violets growing in my backyard

Today I dug up a bit of my front yard to build a rain garden of sorts. There looks to be a drainage gully leading from the front of the house to the street. I dug a dike 1 lawn mower width from the corner of my driveway and sidewalk. Gotta make the chores as easy as I can.

The city had dug up the water shut-off valve last summer here.
The city had dug up the water shut-off valve last summer here.

What I did is dug a deep trench and dropped a bunch of short logs into it. What will happen is these logs will start to rot in a few years and turn into giant water sponges. By placing these in the path of the drainage gully I am hoping that they will soak up and hold the rain water. I planted a bunch of irises and purple cone flower seeds.

Trenches dug and some logs dropped in
Trenches dug and some logs dropped in
All the logs dropped into this hugelkulture bed
All the logs dropped into this hugelkulture bed
Logs buried at grade depth
Logs buried at grade depth
Watering the bed in. See how it forms a dike making a rain garden?
Watering the bed in. See how it forms a dike making a rain garden?

I also planted my grapevine. This I dug a deep hole that I dropped a bunch of half burned fire wood down. I also mashed up some of the charcoal I made my dousing my campfires. The charcoal will hopefully form Terra Petra of sorts.

Deep hole and charred wood for Terra Petra
Deep hole and charred wood for Terra Petra
Charred wood for the Terra Petra
Charred wood for the Terra Petra
Down the hole with the wood and charcoal
Down the hole with the wood and charcoal
Charcoal made from dousing my campfire mixed into the dirt.
Charcoal made from dousing my campfire mixed into the dirt.

[Edited] Post was posted with the photos in a jumbled up order and no captions..