DIY Rocket Stove. For Your Outdoor Cooking Needs.

Get ready for takeoff. You’re going to build a tiny rocket stove in under 10 minutes.

Karen Bertelsen wearing jeans and a maple leaf sweater starts assembling a rocket stove out of bricks in a backyard.

Every once in a while I think, That’s it. I’ve done it all. That there’s isn’t anything new or fun or exciting for me to learn. And then a chicken of mine will get maggots in its bum or I’ll suddenly need to learn how to pour self levelling cement and the world is shiny and new again.

Last week I was in the whole … that’s it – I’ve done it all phase (which is ridiculous because I’ve never even castrated a bull or panhandled or a bunch of other fun stuff).  But alas, that’s what I was thinking.

As always, I was proven wrong.  As I was getting everything ready to collect my first buckets of sap from my tapped maple trees I got to thinking that I’d love a different option for boiling the sap down. 

If you’ve always wanted to turn sap into syrup (which I fully support) you’re going to want to read my post about how to make maple syrup right in your own backyard. It has everything you need to know about doing it.

The first year I boiled it in the house which resulted in every surface in the house being so sticky I could just lie on the floor and wiggle around if I needed to lint roll my sweater.

The following years I’ve used a heavy duty outdoor burner that runs off of propane. Propane that’s around $25 a tank.  And I’d go through 2-3 tanks each season boiling my sap down.  That makes for some expensive maple syrup.

Looking around the backyard at all my fireplace and pizza oven wood (I really do seem to have a thing for fire) I realized there had to be some sort of little fire pit I could make. I didn’t want something that was HUGE, it needed to be a temporary, fast, easy and strong.

Enter the 10 minute portable rocket stove. An incredibly powerful wood burning oven you can make with 20 bricks and a piece of wire mesh.

10 Minute DIY Rocket Stove

A lit DIY rocket stove sits on a backyard paver waiting to heat maple sap.

Materials

24 clay bricks
1 piece of metal screen

Steps

  1. Lay 4 bricks in the pattern you see below.  Just make a square with a hole in the centre.  I’ve used a half brick where it’s needed, but you can just use a full brick.  It’ll just stick out the side or front a bit. Not a big deal.Hardware cloth being placed down as the grate of a brick rocket stove.
  2. Lay fine wire mesh on top of the first layer of bricks. If you don’t have fine mesh, do what I did, which was to lay 2 layers of hardware cloth down. The reason I did this was so I could lay it in a way that the holes would be smaller.  You need the mesh to be fine enough that small twigs and charcoal can’t fall through.  You can see on the left edge the size my hardware cloth actually is, and in the centre you can see how much finer it is by staggering 2 layers, one on top of the other.

Setting antique bricks on top of hardware cloth for the base of a rocket stove.

3. Add another layer of bricks on top in a “brick” pattern. That means you want your bricks staggered from the previous later covering any edges.

A rocket stove at the beginning of assembly with 3 layers of bricks.

4. Lay your 3rd layer the way seen in the picture above.  Now you’re only working with whole bricks and are basically building a chimney.  The full brick in the foreground is just barely resting on the brick underneath, to the right.

Assembling a rocket stove in 10 minutes with the 3rd layer of bricks.

5. Now just continue laying in a brick pattern until you have a total of 6 layers.

6 layers of stacked bricks forming a rocket stove.

6. You’re done. That’s it.  Your rocket oven is built.  Seriously. It’s done.

Adding a vegetable oil soaked paper towel to start a rocket stove is the BEST trick.

 

I built my stove on paver set on a stand but you don’t need to do that. I did it so the stove would be a bit easier to feed and it was better for taking pictures.

If you have dirt, you can build the rocket stove on dirt, but if you have an area you don’t want wrecked or burned up set it on a paver like I have.

 

A vegetable oil soaked paper towel held up in front of a brick rocket stove outside.

The fastest way to start the oven (or anything you want to light on fire really) is with a paper towel that’s been soaked with some vegetable oil. It’ll catch easily and burn longer than a plain paper towel or piece of paper would.

Burning twigs in a rockest stove made from 6 layers of bricks.

Add a few very dry, very small twigs to the combustion chamber and once it’s going (if the fire is crackling, then it’s going … no crackling generally means it’s only pretending to go) add bigger pieces.

 

A look down the chimney in a burning brick rocket stove.

You will soon have fire roaring up the chimney.

Sap in an evaporation pan boiling over a small DIY rocket stove.

There are other FAR more efficient rocket stoves but if you’re just looking for something that works and is temporary this is great.  Mine would be even more efficient if I had bricks that weren’t hand formed and were all the same size. That way I wouldn’t have any cracks and gaps in the chimney.

Another rocket design has you build an additional base at the front of the rocket stove where you have the fire. The fire then creates a draft, and burns sideways, up the chimney.  It’s also stronger and more efficient, but … honestly.  This little setup is fine. It works.  In fact it’s hilarious how well it works.

Reconfiguring and using cinder blocks is next on my list because I think it will be more efficient and burn hotter but for now this brick rocket stove is perfect.  .

 

Karen Bertelsen sits outside bundled in blankets beside a brick rocket stove boiling maple syrup sap.

Yup.  Just when I thought this old dog wasn’t going to learn any new tricks, I’m given a stick to play with.  The one thing that you have to keep in mind is because the area you’re feeding is so small you have to use fairly small pieces of wood which means they burn quickly which also means you are constantly feeding the fire.  You can’t leave it alone for 10 minutes or it’ll go out.

So just keep that in mind.

Other than that, there really isn’t anything bad I can say about this cute little Rocket Stove.  It’s fast, easy, cheap, portable and there is zero chance it’s ever going to get maggots.
 

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DIY Rocket Stove. For Your Outdoor Cooking Needs.

50 Comments

  1. billy sharpstick says:

    ” Mine would be even more efficient if I had bricks that weren’t hand formed and were all the same size. That way I wouldn’t have any cracks and gaps in the chimney.”
    When you lay each layer of brick down, “mortar” them in by sprinkling sand on top of each layer. This will make them effectively sealed.

  2. christine s says:

    I have used a single hotplate, plugged in outside, to boil down my sap from one tree. I had to wrap it in Aluminum foil to keep all the heat near the pot. It took forever but it worked. When I tried boiling down on a wood-grill, too much smoke and ash ended up in the pot. Did you have trouble with contamination using the rocket stove? Also, did the brick construction feel secure or were you nervous it could collapse with Hot stuff going everywhere? Thanks.
    ps. I love your posts!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Christine! I was moderately worried at first about the whole thing falling over, but it didn’t, lol. It was very stable. And I didn’t notice any ash or in the sap. ~ karen!

  3. elizabeth says:

    Thank you ! Ive been fascinated by Rocket Stoves for years, now I can build one!

  4. Chris White says:

    This looks so much better than our last attempt at making maple syrup. We boiled it down in the kitchen (hubby assured me all would be well) but the steam was incredible – it actually peeled the wallpaper off of the adjacent dining room walls. If you are looking to also remove wallpaper, the “inside-on-the-stove” method is fine. Otherwise, I think Karen’s wonder chimney is the answer!

  5. Beth says:

    I’m having a hard time with the maggoty chicken bum image. But the stove looks amazing!

  6. Michelle says:

    Tapped my 2(!) trees over the weekend. Been looking for a new way to boil down my maple sap — this looks perfect! Last year, my canning kettle teetered on some bricks in the patio fire bowl and I feared the whole thing would tumble over. I also scored of those big, deep restaurant steam table pans at a thrift store for more evaporation surface area … can’t wait to try it! BTW, the zinc will burn off the wire quickly … within 30 minutes … should be fine outdoors as long as you’re not sticking your face in the smoke when you first light it up!

    • Karen says:

      I can’t even keep up with the sap Michelle so you tapped at a good time. :) Yesterday I moved the whole production inside and did it on the stove because I couldn’t feed the fire all day and keep up with my actual job, lol. My newish stove exhaust did a surprisingly great job of wicking away the steam. ~ karen!

  7. Christine says:

    I have always wanted to panhandle in Toronto for a day.I even have my persona determined.I am going as a full on demented old lady with a doll I think is a real baby.I’ll let you know how much I make.

  8. LYNN A JOHANSON says:

    Possible problem with clay bricks! The issue can be the temperature the red clay bricks were originally fired at when they were made. They can be fired so low that they will literally melt in a hot fire. That was an “oops” moment in an experimental project here in Seattle. I’m a ceramic artist and should have known to check out my bricks before I built my project. We don’t get the freeze thaw cycles you do so your bricks may be fired higher. I would be nervous about running a fire for a long period in a brick rocket stove. Please include pictures of the interior of your chimney when you take it apart. I’m very curious to see if they slag after so many hours under hot temps.

  9. Chrissy says:

    Can I use firebrick or will it get too hot?

    • Karen says:

      It depends on what type of firebrick. The kind you use for the floor of a pizza oven is *meant* to absorb heat and hold it. You do not want to use that. The whole point is to not have the brick absorb any of the heat. You want all the heat you can get. :) Other brick is fine though. The kind you would use inside a fireplace for instance which isn’t made to retain heat. ~ karen!

  10. Hi Karen,
    Great article.
    Can you tell us how to cut a brick in half? I have a few extras.
    I’m guessing a chisel and a hammer and a lot of tapping around the circumference, followed with one big hit?
    Thought I would ask before I tried.
    No hurry for a reply. I won’t be attempting this until Spring.
    Love the boots! Name of them, please.

  11. Agnes says:

    Oh and if you love ways to make useful tiny fires – have you seen the Lee Valley Kelly Kettle?

  12. Betty Pratt says:

    You can go on YouTube and find other methods in making a rocket stove. I made one out of a log. Cooked on it while it kept us warm when the cooking was over. Great for camping.

    • Karyn says:

      That’s called a Swedish torch I believe. They are very cool looking and functional. I even seen a circle of mini torches that went around the camp site. It gave off alot of light and heat. Bush crafters are amazing. Check em out on you-tube.

  13. Agnes says:

    I don’t know how you do it in Hamilton! You are clearly born to live in a log house on 50 acres in the middle of nowhere. Just think what you could do with space for keeping a few (castrated) bulls and your own sugar-bush!

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