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..

Pocket Rocket Heater

This weekend I fiddled with my Rocket Heater some more. I put an outer chimney around the existing chimney so I can pull the exhaust down, then out the side, and currently am running it right back up. The elbow I am using I can adjust so I can run the exhaust any direction.

Rocket Heater
Rocket Heater

It surprised me how well this worked, pulling the exhaust down. The amount of heat coming off the top of the outer stack was amazing!

I will be playing with this some more in the near future. .

Gutter repair

One of the goals for my new house is a large garden. But I don’t want to pay to water the garden (never mind what the chlorine in city water does to the soil and plants) so I want to water out of rain barrels. But, first the gutters need to be in working order before I can set up the rain barrels.

One of the things I had noticed when I inspected the place before I bought it was that the gutters where sagging in the middle, and no water was flowing out the down-spouts. This caused ice damming, piles of ice on the deck in front of the door, and other problems.

All the bad rain we’ve recently had, I thought I had better address my bad gutters on Saturday. The previous owners spent lots of money on the house, but failed to do some of the inexpensive stuff. Take for example, the $8k they dropped into cutting the basement floor all the way around, adding drain tile and a sump pump as well as a battery backup for the pump.

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They didn’t bother to add a little bit of dirt to divert the water away from the house foundation.
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The water just pools next to the basement concrete. You can see on the concrete how high up it will sit right after it rains.

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This white downspout was in the garage. I put it on the house to move the water away from the basement so it pools in the yard, and not next to the basement. Such a simple fix to a $8k problem!

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So, anyway, back to the gutters themselves. You can see the 2×4 I used to prop up the sag in the gutter over the door. It sagged so low water would pour out here instead of the downspout. They had attached the gutters with 1.5 inch long galvanized nails. All the CRUD they allowed to settle into the gutters simply pulled them right off the side of the house.
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On the very right side, you can see the nail sticking out loose after I propped the gutter back up. About 4-5 of the brackets where missing the nails outright.

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I spent an hour with a garden hose trying to clean the gutter out before I remembered I had borrowed dad’s pressure washer. This thing did the 2/3rds of what was left in 20 minutes! I need to get myself one of these. I also washed the house on the deck side as it was filthy! (I borrowed the pressure washer to take care of all the moss on the north side of the house as you can see in the first photo)
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I got half of the gutter re-hung using some screws I found in the basement. I also put up the leaf-guard thingys I found in the garage. It’s crazy that they had all the stuff needed to prevent this problem if they had simply done the work!

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I found a bad spot in the roof. I think the ice-damming has  ruined the underlayment. The shingles look pretty good, there is a layer of shingles underneath that look pretty bad so I am not sure how to fix this spot. I am afraid it’s going to be a lot of work to fix this. Dad’s going to have to take a look and tell me what he thinks.

I only got bit by one little wasp during this ordeal. I have to finish hanging the other half. Not sure how to do half of what’s left as my little telescoping ladder isn’t tall enough and there is a power line right there too.

Once the back of the house is done, I have to do the front of the house. Again, I need a taller ladder to do any work. It has the same problem, the gutter has pulled away so far that the water pours out the middle of the gutter.

All of this fuss with the gutters will hopefully pay off when I do my rain-barrels. I do want to do some ‘fancy’ rain barrels though.

The initial rain barrels will likely be heavy trash cans. They are easier to find, are cheaper then ‘rain barrels’, and I know they haven’t had nasty stuff inside if I buy them new. They also come in much friendlier colors then bright blue. Each down spout will initially get one of it’s own, and I will start adding more as money allows. They will eventually all get linked together with short sections of garden hose. The lids will get bolted on so kids can’t find their way into the barrels. There will be air vents that are screened off so mosquitoes can’t find their way inside.

I will build roof-washers, aka first flush diverters, that will capture the first 1/4 inch of rain or so and route this ‘dirty’ water somewhere other then my rain barrels. The idea is that all the dust, bird poo, automobile exhaust particulates, will get washed off the roof and put somewhere other then my rain barrels.

Eventually, I will want to get 3 IBC water storage containers and put them between the basement windows under the deck. These will be my ‘cisterns’ that together should hold about 750 gallons of water when full. The idea with these is that they are removable when I sell the place, so if they next people don’t want to have lots of water to water their garden, I can take them with me. The reason I want so much is that I plan on doing some aquaponics gardening, which will require a good amount of water every spring. I also want to do much of my ‘traditional’ (dirt) gardening using Sub-Irrigated Containers (SIPs) which will use the rain barrel water. With this much water capture and storage, A good spring storm will set me up for several months of outdoor water usage.

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To make the rain barrel water ‘clean’ for my aquaponics, I am going to build a ‘slow sand filter’ between my trash can rain barrels and IBC storage units. The water will initially be captured by the garbage can rain barrels, and then a 12v bilge pump on a solar panel will pump the water into the slow sand filter, which will filter about 10 gallons of water an hour to the IBCs. This will allow me to fill one of my IBCs in about 24 hours, assuming I have enough rain water collected.

All of this any any given stage will be set up to over-flow water away from the house. Ideally, into a small pond or large rain-garden in the back yard.

What do you think of my 1000 gallon rain barrel system?.