Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 29 - Rocket Mass Heater Intro Day (annual event, Okanogan Highlands)

Our sixth annual Rocket Mass Heater Intro Day is coming up fast.

When: Saturday April 29th, 10:00 am- 3:00pm

Where: Okanogan Highlands, 35 minutes from Tonasket WA.
(Please register for driving directions.)

What:  Play with fire, mud, and bricks. 

Registration Contact:
Erica Wisner, 509-556-2054,


-$25 per adult, $12.50 for youth*,
FREE to emergency responders**
(*Youth: age 15 and under; those under 12 please bring a participating adult)
(**Any emergency responders (fire fighters, EMS, etc) whether volunteer or professional may register and attend at no charge.)

The Details:

What is a Rocket Mass Heater?
Rocket mass heaters are a clean-burning, super-efficient, affordable way to heat with wood.  They are also a fascinating real-life example of some very weird fire science.

Make flames burn upside-down and sideways.  Learn clean burn methods, so you can safely use ladder fuels as free firewood.  Peek inside the smoke-eating dragon that lets us heat on 1 to 2 cords of wood per winter at 3200 feet.
Non-Suicidal Wood Heat:
At least one fire marshall has called rocket mass heaters "the first non-suicidal wood stove I've seen."  Burning all the smoke not only gives much higher efficiency, it helps prevent chimney fires.  Storing heat in a masonry bench creates overnight comfort without the risks and hassles of overnight fire.  While they are not yet legal everywhere, they're increasingly popular as a common-sense alternative, and many jurisdictions will permit them under masonry heater codes or local rules.

Fire Science, Survival Skills, and "Magic" Tricks:
Even if you don't care about safety or efficiency... there's something awfully fun about upside-down fire siphons, flame vortexes, and the ability to throw together a sneaky stove that is virtually undetectable.

What Would We Actually DO on Saturday?
This is our local 'taster' to share our work with friends and neighbors.  You will not see everything we offer in a full 3-day weekend builders' workshop (nor pay the $350-500 sticker price).  Instead,
- inspect and run an already-working rocket mass heater
- choose from a selection of live, hands-on practice projects.

The specific hands-on activities are chosen by the group on that specific day.  We have materials, tools, and fire-safe space on site for a wide range of practice activities and small projects.
Past groups have built modified full-scale rocket fireboxes, split up into teams for survival fire-making or primitive stove cooking contests, learned Erica's favorite green-fire magic trick, and built practice projects with non-toxic fire clay mortars and fire brick.  This year, we could do any of the above, or something else.

You will always get a chance to see fire burn upside-down and sideways, and you will have the option to make it do tricks yourself.

What to Bring/Prepare:
All necessary tools and materials will be provided. 
- Personal Gear: Wear your grubbies.  You may wish to bring rain gear, work gloves, and/or boots for muddy and sooty conditions.
- Food and Drink:  Bring pot-luck lunch/snacks. We'll provide at least one main dish, and coffee/hot water will be on from 9:30 am before class starts.
- Road Conditions: Consider 4WD, AWD, and printing the directions.  When you register with a valid email address, we'll send you driving directions following the local school bus route.  These are gravel roads, generally well graded (by Highlands standards, anyway). Your GPS may mislead you onto ill-maintained back roads at your peril.  Cell phones have poor reception up here.  Please let us know if you'd prefer to carpool or have someone shuttle you up from Tonasket or Ellisford. 
- Emergency Responders: to attend free, please wear your colors (hat, shirt, etc) or bring a badge to show at check-in.
- Pocket Money: We will have books and videos available for sale, if you're looking for training or self-study resources.

About the Hosts:

This private event is hosted by Ernie and Erica Wisner of Wisner Resources, and not sponsored by any agency or fire district.  Fire demonstrations will be small scale, suitable for family and public participation as entertainment/cooking/campfire activities.

 For questions, larger groups, or for wait list registration after the event is sold out, please email us at, or call 509-556-2054. 


To look for a full-length workshop this year, please visit

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April DIY - 2012 experimental Rocket Cooker / Canner / Forge

So as I'm moving our digital store from Scubbly (now sadly closed) to the digital marketplace, I'm coming across all kinds of memories and fun projects.

this is one from 2012, where we accepted Paul's dare to out-fry a propane-powered turkey fryer:

 It turns out a propane turkey fryer is a little more than an ordinary propane camp stove.  It sounds kind of like a jet engine.  Our ears were ringing when we turned it off.  So it took us a couple of tries, and we did end up insulating the pot lid as well as the stove and pot-skirt.

well, if the propane stove makers had bothered to "cheat" by improving their efficiency even 25%, they could easily have made it a lot harder to beat.  We turned their fryer on full-bore, and made ourselves beat it at its highest setting.
So whether or not it's 'cheating' to use old familiar tricks like insulation and heat conservation, I still do it, and they don't. (I sometimes leave a spare pot-holder over the lid on pots at home, now, too.)
So if anybody is upset that we 'cheated,' they are welcome to cheat too.

Afterwards, the cook found she had to put a grill, and some bricks, on top of the stove to vent off some excess heat in order to use it for ordinary cooking.  ("ordinary" in this context being 4-gallon pots of soup or chili for 20 people.)

We wondered if you could call it a rocket forge.
So we tried blacksmithing with it:

Answer: yes.
Ernie made me a few pot hooks, and though we didn't have any real flux, we got indicators that we might be at forge-welding temperatures.

This design could be a fun one to modify with a pass-through for working on leaf springs and stuff like that.

Our favorite wood mix was a blend of dense, dry wood (we got some black locust scraps, but oak or madrone should work about the same), along with ordinary softwood like pine.  Using cut wood or large kindling, 1" to 2" pieces, seemed to provide the best high-intensity heat from this small firebox.

We're putting our notes and some diagrams up on as a plan for sale, and will be releasing them to our 2016 Kickstarter supporters with this spring's DIY updates.

Here are the threads:

Plans for sale:

Discussion from the 2012 workshop and video fans: