Deconstructing the rocket stove

by ziggy on March 26, 2010 -- 7 comments -- Follow


A few weeks ago, I started dismantling the rocket stove, officially calling it done. I began with chipping the cob around the base of the barrel and then lifting the barrel off of the system, revealing a very blackened, sooty interior. I was surprised by the level of soot – I thought that perhaps the system was definitely choking up seeing how much material had collected in and around the heat riser.

The most tedious part of the process was removing the combination of perlite and wood ash from inside of the heat riser. Removing it required using a scoop and spooning the stuff out bit by bit into a five gallon bucket, dismantling the fire brick heat riser as I went along. Perlite is insanely dusty and is impossible to contain without creating clouds of dust as you scoop it up and move it around. (Dust masks are your friend.)


Anyway, most of the fire bricks are out now, as is the insulative layer of perlite that was under the burn tunnel. I have been waiting to go much further with taking the stove apart because the bed is going to be removed as well, which is going to be an even bigger mess! That’s 20 batches of cob (a couple of tons of material, at least) in the bed that needs to be pickaxed and sledgehammered out of the house. Yikes… I’m going to wait until it gets warmer to do that, since we probably won’t be sleeping in the house during the time that the bed is being torn apart…

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  • Ziggy,

    I can’t remember – did you try installing a forced air blower at the other end at any point to try to draw the heat through while the thermal mass was getting warmed up? Did you consider a taller smokestack (similar effect). I realize its said and done now, but just curious about what may have been tried.



  • Joshua

    Well, at least we can still keep things in perspective. The damage financially is very small, and now you can speak from the unusually complete experience of having to demolish a portion of your house that you yourself had built. You have now seen the entire life cycle of cob, played out in your own home. Imagine if your average homeowner were asked to demolish and rework a proportional part of their much-larger house, or needed to replace their whole central heating system. But I have a question; could all of that cob you’re pulling out be re-watered, added to a fresh batch, and then reworked, maybe into the kitchen you’re building? Cause that would be the icing on the cake for sustainability of materials.

  • due zingare

    are u familiar with permaculture? it’s an agricultural theory that encompasses living quarters as, we’ve been studying the system, and as it concernes itself with avoiding energy waste and finding alternatives, in this situation, we would ask if it’s NECESSARY to remove the bed..are there any disadvantages in leaving the piping under?

  • Dominic: I didn’t try a forced air blower. (No electricity at my house.) I also did not extend the stack anymore than I had before. There did not seem to be any positive effect of extending the stack.

    Joshua: Oh yea, the cob can definitely be reused. I plan to store it in barrels and then reuse it to make the mini mud room extension on the house.

    Due: I am indeed familiar with permaculture. Since I can reuse the cob, I see no harm in getting rid of it all from the house. It would actually be much more beneficial to completely remove the pipe to use it elsewhere, too…

  • Wes

    So do you literally have to soak the cob, turning it into slip, then allowing it to dry a bit before reusing? Or is it more of a short soak and beat it into crumbles?

  • Vince

    a) have been hoping to build a rocket stove attachment to my new green house for a few years now, and have been saving parts all along the way–your blog posts have inspired me
    b) I bet you would have had a winner with it if you had less turns in the pipe–I hope you elect to redo the rocket stove it with less pipe, changes, etc. I would love to see that rocket stove working, it would be a great example for those who read your blog.
    c) keep it up! great stuff…


  • great post as usual!

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