Rocket Stove Adventures

Part II: Level, you elusive devil.

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In The Book, there is a mere few sentences about starting on a level surface. Of course, it is common sense. The stack and burn tunnel need to be straight and smooth, so, level.

However simple the idea, the task was in no way easy.  Our floor started out level, tamped drain rock. Then we made cob and built walls in there. Over time, globs of cob fell and built up. We walked over them and stomped out cob on top of them, forming little hills and valleys that had to be scraped level without disturbing the drain rock below. Not easy.

So, I am dedicating this entire post to the topic The Importance of Being Level.

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Marble base (it's a all about that...)

We dumpster dive for chunks of granite and marble. Laid out with mortar, this one-inch marble will collect heat under the stove and lend it to the floor.

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Marble

Kind of a shame this beautiful stuff will be below floor level. (The floor will be a cob floor with a beeswax finish.)

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Earthen mortar

We mixed small batches of mortar in one of Nathan’s water drum troughs, usually used for soaking clay. Mortar is made of strained construction sand and clay. The sand needs to be sharp and fine, aka masonry sand.

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Pea gravel

Nathan used an old kitchen strainer he scored at a thrift store.

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We used the course sand to set the marble slabs.

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And spent hours trying to get them level.

At Last! The Rocket Stove Construction Begins

Part One: The Mock Up

First of all, this whole idea we got from Ianto Evans, stove-master and co-founder of The Cob Cottage Company in Coquille, Oregon.

Here is where we begin. This is our mock-up furnace. It’s for an 8″ stove pipe system. After we mortar it together, we will up-end a 55-gallon steel drum over the stack.

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It took a couple tries to get it just right.

We build a fire in the feed, or fire box and got air is drawn through the J-shaped chamber and up the flue.

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The test fire

It will meet the barrel and be forced downward through the stove pipe, which will be embedded in “thermal batteries” where the heat will be held and slowly released.

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Rockin heat

Thermal batteries will be formed into benches and a bed. I’m excited to say goodbye to cold sheets. But I get ahead of myself.

The Projects

This year we are focusing on three main projects: continuing the cob house walls, building an outdoor kitchen/Firepit, and redoing the bathtub area by re-leveling it, rebuilding the firebox and topping it off with an atrium so our baths will be inside a mini greenhouse when we’re done. We have been rotating our work between courses of cob to give them time to set up.

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Cob House Walls
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Cob grill and fire pit in process
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Bathtub area make over

The Tub

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The outdoor tub promises an awesome sunset soak all year. In the summer, the first one out can roast dinner on a stick just as the first stars peek out and the bats flap and swoop above the creek.

In winter, there’s nothing like a hot soak before warming up by the fire. Add a nice glass of something tasty and a story or a game and you’ve got heaven.

It takes about 3 hours to heat up a tub half-full of water to Way Too Hot. The we pour a couple-few 5-gallon buckets of cold water to a comfortable temperature.

Becky Bee, my queen of cob, wrote the book on it. Everyone should have a wood-fire tub!

We got the tub at Salem’s Bargain Barn, one of our favorite haunts.

Wood Stove Cooking

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I can’t tell you how great it is to have an oven. I’m getting used to controlling temperatures by the size and consistency of flame.

On the menu tonight, glazed carrots with blood orange juice, garlic and preserved lemons and jalepeno corn bread.

I also started a sour dough starter with potato water. I’m trying to collect wild yeast. We’ll see.