Rocket Stove & Rocket Mass Heater 101 (Along With 3 Designs)

Rocket Stove & Rocket Mass Heater

I think we can both agree that camping or prepping without knowing how to make a proper fire does not fit well. It is straightforward to create an open fire, but there are better ways.

I’m listening…

There are ways of making a fire that uses less fuel, creates less smoke and does not give away your position at night.

One such method is by using a rocket stove.

If you are planning to live off the grid, then you need one of these. A rocket stove is easy to make and not that expensive to buy.

They are portable, small and easy to carry. In this article, I am going to show you how it operates, its benefits and also multiple ways in which you can use them.

I am also going to compare a rocket stove with that of a rocket mass heater, and I am going to reveal some of its histories.

Finally, I am going to show you three different rocket stove designs that you can build from home.

Are you ready to take fire making to the next level?

Let’s go.

What Is A Rocket Stove?

A Rocket stove is a type of stove that has a cylinder shape and uses a vertical combustion chamber to preserve heat. In this section, I am going to show you exactly how these stoves work and why you should consider getting your own.

How It Operates

rocket stove illustration

These stoves mainly consist out of two parts which include the horizontal feeding tube and the vertical insulated chimneyThe fuel used for rocket stoves comprises of small diameter wood such as dried branches and sticks which can also be called kindling

​First, you need to get a fire going inside the stove before you can fuel it with kindling. Once it starts to burn, the heat and smoke will be enclosed inside the combustion chamber. While the smoke and heat, is enclosed in the chamber it will produce even more heat, which will burn the excess smoke particles.

The biggest problem with an open fire is that it loses too much heat and it releases too much smoke. Once the fire is started the rocket oven will suck in more oxygen from the feeder. The fresh oxygen will allow the wood to burn more aggressively and the heat will increase. It is also said that smoke is the result of incomplete combustion.

With a rocket stove, there will be less smoke because the particles will need to spend more time in the combustion chamber which will allow the complete burning away of the wood with smoke and all. The name Rocket stove comes from the noise it makes when air is sucked into the feeder. It gives this roaring noise which sounds like a rocket lift off.

The 6 Benefits Of A Rocket Stove

6 rocket stove benefits

I have already discussed how it operates, now let’s look more into some of its benefits. They are very efficient at burning wood and produces less smoke and ash. The stoves are also not affected by wind and will not display an open and visible fire. They are cheap to build and are satisfied with thinner pieces of wood.

They are efficient at burning wood

There are two factors that will contribute to its efficiency. It will include the constant oxygen supply and the insulation it provides. Fresh oxygen is always needed to feed a fire and the more oxygen it gets the better it will burn. It will also not lose any of the previous heat, which means you will save on wood in the long run. It is oftentimes said that a rocket stove uses more than 50% less wood to maintain the same level of heat.

It produces less smoke and ash

Because the combustion chamber is isolated, the smoke particles will spend more time inside the chamber. The smoke particles will be given more time to burn out and will also be exposed to more heat. As a result, less smoke will be present.

Not affected by wind

The rocket oven will be enclosed and will not be affected by the wind regardless of the direction it is blowing. The discomfort of smoke blowing into your face will also not be present. It might be affected by wind in the beginning while starting the fire, but will be resolved once it is going strong.

No visible fire

Sometimes you will be in a situation where you want to make a fire outside, but you do not want others to spot your location. This effect is more apparent at night where a fire can be seen from miles away. When using a rocket stove, the fire will not be visible to others as it will be enclosed by the combustion chamber.

They are inexpensive to build

Most people can build a rocket stove with common materials that are lying around in their yards. You can also build one with coffee cans if you want to. It is easy to build one and the materials are very inexpensive. It will also help you save on fuel in the long run, which is more economic.

It can use thinner pieces of wood

This type of stove can work with thinner pieces of wood that would have already burned out in an open fire. Sometimes you will not have access to an ax to chop down logs into smaller chunks of wood. You can simply use branches and sticks to fuel the fire.

Its Multiple Uses

rocket stove benefits

These stoves will produce enough heat to power many different devices. With the rocket oven, you can explore different options with your creativity and the sky is the limit.

Rocket oven heaters

These heaters use the same principle as that of a regular rocket stove. They can generate enough heat to warm up an entire home. The only problem of these heaters is that you need to revamp your entire house. These stoves will need to be connected to benches that are made from clay and bricks in order to function.

Can be used to cook or grill food

If you can fit a pan, pot or grill on top of the rocket stove, then you can use that cooking apparatus to cook some food. It can also effectively provide enough heat for pressure cookers because the heat will last longer than conventional open fires.

Can heat up water

I have actually seen people that have connected a rocket stove to a geyser. The geyser stood above the ground with the help of a platform. The stove was built below the geyser where the chimney/combustion chamber were attached to the belly of the water tank. It produced enough heat to boil the water in a matter of hours.

Used as a baking oven

There is also the possibility to use it as a baking oven. You can either use a large drum or build your own metal plated box with a grid inside. Use the same principle as that of the geyser and place the drum or box on a stand. Connect the rocket oven from below and you now have an oven. You can place a grid and a thermometer inside complete your creation. 

Rocket Mass Heaters vs Rocket Stoves

If you live somewhere where the weather is cold and you want to bring a warm atmosphere to your home, then why not get yourself a rocket mass heater? They are very similar in function than that of the rocket stove. The only difference is that you need to install one in your home and they are not mobile.

How Does It Work?

Rocket Stove Mass Heater

This type of heater uses a combustion chamber to produce heat which will create a convective current. This hot current will then flow through a pipe which will be built under the floor or a bench. This process will allow the bench to warm up which will also increase the room temperature.

Most people build these stoves with bricks, cement, rocks or even clay. First, a fire needs to get started inside the combustion chamber as illustrated in the image above. Once the fire is ready, you can then fill it by adding sticks to the fire pit or combustion chamber. The ends of the sticks will start to burn while the air will start to go through the vent to give some extra oxygen to the fire.

This increase in oxygen will allow the fire to burn more aggressively. The heat will increase inside the combustion chamber which will also burn out the excess smoke particles. The hot air will collide with the corner and thus form a convection current. The current of heat will spiral upwards until it comes into contact with the heat riser inside of the drum. The role of the drum is for it to heat up and warm the room.

Once the drum is hot enough, the heat will then fall down the sides of the riser into the horizontal chimney which will then provide heat to the bench. The reason why this heater works so effectively is because of the air that passes through. While the fire burns, it will create a natural drift inside of the heater, which will suck more air into the chamber.

Have you ever opened the windows in the opposite sides of a room?

You will notice a draft of air that will flow through the room. This is the same effect we want inside of the heater. This natural draft will be so powerful that the flame will burn in the direction of the draft. Once you notice this phenomena, then you know that the heater is doing its job. It is also because of this effect that the smoke does not enter the house.

The heat riser within the drum creates a convection current which will pull the hot air upwards, which will also fall once it is cooled a bit. It is also extremely warm inside of the riser and it is in this location where the smoke will start to burn out. If the smoke particles have nowhere else to go, then complete incineration is its only destiny.

Some Examples Of Rocket Stoves

Below, I will show you some exactly how these rocket stoves look like from the outside. They will make a great addition to your home make it as cozy as possible. Some people also like to make their bed on top the bench by placing a mattress on top.

What better way to survive a freezing winter night?

Rocket Stove History

Dr. Larry Winiarski is the official developer of the rocket stove during the year 1980. The principles of the stove came from the Argand lamp which was developed and patented in the year 1780. This lamp makes use of a sleeve-shaped wick and a glass cylindrical chimney which allows for air to flow from the bottom in an upwards direction. The air would flow through the wick and also on the outside of the wick against the glass chimney.

The design of the rocket stove has the same function as that of the Argand lamp. The stove itself does not have such as a rich history because it was only recently discovered. The idea behind the functioning of the stove is old when you can refer it to the Argand lamp. You can also read the article about the Larry Winiarski’s principles for building the rocket stove if you want to learn more

Building Your Own Rocket Stove

Some people like to go to the shop to buy their own rocket stove which is by far the easiest way. Then you will find another group of people that are innovative enough to build their own. If you already have a design, then good for you, but if you cannot come up with one, then this section is for you.

In this section, I am going to give you 3 designs that you can use to build your very own rocket stove. These designs will include the Steel Can Rocket stove, the Brick Rocket Stove and also the Gravity Feed Rocket Stove.

Steel Can Rocket Stove

This Steel Can Rocket is easy to build and you only need 3 cans, which are easy to get. This stove is also great for camping and is very small and mobile. It might take some work to cut the cans, but gets easier afterwards.

Materials needed

In order to build this version, you need at least 3 cans, which must vary in size. The first can must be large and you can use a coffee can or simply a No. 10 or 110 oz. can. Next, you will need 2 regular sized cans, which are 10.75 oz. in size. It is also optional to swap one of them with a larger 24 oz. as well.

Step 1. Marking the cans

First, you want to take a black marker and mark one of the smaller cans onto the large one. You want to place the opening of one of the smaller can against the side of the larger one. You do not want to make the hole larger than it must be otherwise the can won’t fit. Make sure the hole is close to the bottom of the larger can.

Step 2. Cutting the opening

After you have marked the side of the larger can, you can then drill holes with a 1/8″ drill to make it easier to cut. You can use a pair of cutting pliers to cut through the metal between the drilled holes. You can also use a grinder with a small disc to cut between the holes. After the cuts are complete, you will notice that the edges of the hole is not smooth. You can use a pair of tin snips to create a smooth out the edges.

Step 3. Preparing the smaller cans

Once the hole of the larger can is cut, you now must prepare the 2 smaller ones. Take both cans and cut the bottom parts off with a grinder. Take one of the cans and cut a “U” shape out so that the other smaller can, can fit into this one properly.

Step 4. Assemble the cans

Now that all of the holes are cut, you can now start to assemble all of the cans. First, take one of the smaller cans (without the “U” shaped cut) and wiggle it through the hole of the larger can. Once it is in place, you can take the other small with the “U” shaped cut and place it inside of the larger one so that it goes over the other smaller one.

Step 5. Cut the larger can down to size

When the smaller can is standing inside of the larger one, you want to make sure they are the same height. The reason for this is because you want a platform that is even for when you want to fit a pot or pan on top. If it is not even, the handle of the pan will be in the way and will be limited by the outer rim of the larger can. Gauge with your eyes how for down you need to cut and then cut some areas out with a pair of tin snips.

Step 6. Fill it with sand or gravel

Once the oven is set, you can now fill the outsides with some sand and gravel which will act as an insulator. It will also hold the smaller cans together. After this is done, you now have successfully built a rocket oven out of cans.

Go and grill yourself a cheese sandwich 🙂

Brick Rocket Stove

Today, you will learn how to build a Brick Rocket Stove with only 21 bricks. This stove is the easiest to build and is best when you want to make a rocket stove at home. You have the option to “bind” the bricks together with cement or place them on each other loosely without using a binder.

Materials needed

In order to build the stove you will need 21 bricks that have the same size and also a steel mesh sheet. You will also need a pair of cutting pliers to cut the mesh into the right size. No extra tools will be needed. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to build this oven in layers instead of steps. You also want to build this oven on a concrete floor.

Layer 1

The first layer will consist of 3 bricks along with 1/2 of a brick. Pack the bricks in such a way so that it has an opening in the middle, which will function as the chimney. Once the first layer is done, you can place the sheet of steel mesh on top and take your measurements. Once the sheet is cut into the right dimensions, place in on top.

Layer 2

The second layer will also consist of 3 bricks and one that is broken in half. Make sure to overlap the joints so that the oven is more stable. This layer will be placed on top of the steel mesh so that the mesh is between the first and second layer.

Bricks rocket stove layout

The area below the sieve will be the vent where the air will pass through. The area above the sieve will be the base for the oven where the wood will be placed to burn. The air will travel from below the sieve through the burning wood to provide more oxygen to the fire.

Layer 3 – 5

The first 2 layers will be the most important. The next 3 layers will make out the chimney. Each layer will consist of 4 bricks that are placed in a ring formation to make a hole in the center for the air to pass through. Make sure to overlap each joint for each layer.

You will be left with 2 more bricks that you can use to cover the opening below and above the sieve if you want to shut down the draft which will also kill the fire.

Gravity Feed Rocket Stove

This stove is probably the hardest one to build and will require the most skill. You will need to know how to measure, grind and weld square tubes together. I will provide a video below which will show you all of the details.

This oven will consist out of 3 tubes. The first tube will be the chimney, the second one will be the feeder at a 45° angle, and the third tube will be the air vent which will also be the base at a 90° angle to the chimney. Let the video talk for itself 🙂

Have You Ever Built One?

If you have ever built a rocket stove before, then I would like for you to tell us what you did by leaving a comment below.

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