Chilly? Why not make your own rocket heater?
A rocket stove mass heater or rocket heater, is a space heating system developed from the rocket stove, a type of efficient wood-burning stove, and the masonry heater. If you don't have central heating and you don't feel like shelling out your hard-earned dollars for ineffective store-bought space heaters, the rocket heater is a great DIY alternative. It can also be used to cook!
Materials Needed To Make a Rocket Heater
2 tall cans about, 6 inches across and 10 inches tall. (We used paint cans.)
1 piece of aluminum flashing, about 3 feet long.
Utility knife/box cutter/knife pliers
Create Feed Tube
Measure and then cut a piece of flashing that's 8 inches long. Using the edge of a table or a square edge, bend the flashing into a square or whatever shape you want. This is the feed tube for your heater.
Cut Hole for Feed Tube
With a pen, trace the edge of your feed tube on the side of the can you will be using as the base. Use your knife to cut the hole in the side of the can by pressing the knife firmly down and through the metal. Once your hole is cut, fit your feed tube into the hole about 1 1/2-inches deep and adjust fit as needed.
Create Stand Tube
Stack your two large cans and measure the distance from the base to the top. You need to allow 1 inch for flow, so subtract one from the measurement of the total height. Measure and cut a piece of flashing from that measurement and roll into a tube. This is your stand tube.
Cut Hole for Stand Tube
Place your stand tube on the base of your top can. Then, trace and cut a hole in the base of that can the size of your stand tube.
Cut Stand Tube to Fit Feed Tube
Remove feed tube from first can and trace and cut its opening in the side of your stand tube. Replace the feed tube into the base can and fit the stand tube over it. The fit does not need to be exact but should be close. Some gaps are ok.
Cut Hole in Bottom Can
Trace stand tube onto lid of bottom can. Cut and remove that piece as you did the other hole.
Put the heater together by stacking your two cans, placing the stand tube over the feed tube.
Cut Vent Holes
The top of the top can needs to have vent holes cut in it. Use your knife and cut a series of holes around the top edge.
Your heater is ready to use. Burn stove in a well ventilated area. Do not burn your rocket heater indoors. Children should use only with adult supervision.
Do not use anything galvanized in this process. Galvanized metal creates toxic fumes when heated. Wear gloves when cutting metal. The edges can be very sharp.
Want to see this process in action? Check out the DIY Rocket Heater tutorial online.
We are working on another video that shows you how easy it is to use your new rocket heater / stove and also a printable .pdf
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Wendy Allen says
This is awesome!
David Fisher says
Great idea to use some items that might be laying around, that quite possibly might save your bacon. Well done.
Wouldn’t it be easier to use a charcoal starter chimney? put a small grill grate over the top and you have a cooker.
John S. says
A charcoal starter chimney would work as a cooker, but you’d be using a lot of fuel. A rocket stove is designed to use very little fuel, it is burning both wood and wood gas. The rocket stove I built using 3″ square tubing and a small refrigerant tank was able to get up to 700 degrees at the cooking surface in just a few minutes using less than 12 small sticks
Deanna Lawrence says
Looks very cool. Nice project to teach the kids. What I don’t understand is how to use it. I am assuming you would put sticks through the top part of feed tube. Already lit???
Thanks for the feedback! We are working to get a video showing how one works when lit and will post as soon as we have it. You put your fuel in the feed tube. You can use paper/cardboard, sticks, wood, charcoal or other burnable items for fuel.
Kriskxx Robin says
it’s now 2015, got an update for the paint can rocket stove, we would like to see it work. Thanks
In Girl Scouts we learned how to make a can cooker using only one can. Still very efficient, easy to pack due to small size and easy to put a fry pan or dutch oven on and make your meal.. with fire closer to pan we didn’t need much fuel, to get a quick meal.. your 2 cans seem to take up a lot of space for shtf use..
Thank you so much for sharing this. Many people were without hydro in my area for several days. The poorest people are the ones who suffer the most. They are not all hoboes but would have appreciated an experienced hobo to share their knowledge with them in emergencies. Your emergency info will be someone’s life saver.
Eric Leuthner says
thank you for showing how to make the paracord ,put it on your wrist and you will always have A life line
couldn’t you use coffee cans too ???
I really enjoyed this. I was also confused on where to build the fire in it. Thanks for clarifying.
Do you have a video of it in use? What is the best fuel?
We are working on getting a video. Thanks for asking. You requests really do help is prioritize what we do next. The best fuels are cardboard, small sticks, pretty much anything small and nontoxic you can fit in the feed tube.
So where is the rocket mass heater? what he built was a rocket stove. There’s a big difference.
Sorry to pop your bubble, but that aluminum flashing will not withstand the heat. You could use it to create the outer container that doesn’t get so hot, but not the inner wall. I just disintegrates in high heat. Steel is required for the inner chamber and feed tube.
You could use quart size paint cans for the inner wall, and normally rocket stoves have insulation between the two layers, like sand, perlite, or just attic fiberglass insulation.
Doug Linn says
If you want to make it neat and snug, use a power drill with a large diameter hole saw to make the hole for the center tube. use a large drill bit for the air holes at the top and where needed. Then take a rat-tail file and file down the edges so they aren’t sharp or at least lessen the likelihood of being cut by jagged metal that’s been filed. I would use fireplace sealant around the inserted tubes thought its not really needed but would help secure the parts together, and i have it on hand as i have a wood burning stove in the house and have to replace the seal around the door now and then.
Thanks for the tips!
making the vent holes lower would make this nifty rocket heater a lot more efficient because the lower temp air can than only escape and not the hottest air. These vent hole should (I think) be lower than the top of the inner “chimny”.
A “the lux” version would allow you to open vent holes on different heights……. 😉
Mary Elaine Bradfird says
Dear team, I was searching alcohol fuel stoves from aluminum drink cans, and saw your ad for the rocket stove. I watched it, and now I am ready to make a bunch of them for my church so that we can be prepared for alternative fuels should the electric grid go down. It can get really cold up here in Colorado even in the summer. Thanks.
douglas smith says
To correctly call it a rocket stove, the tube should be insulated. Otherwise, it’s just a regular wood stove with a tall chimney! Put perlite or pot ash in the empty space between the burn tube and the paint can. This will increase the burn temperature, making a more complete burn, and reduce the amount of smoke produced. This will also decrease the amount of wood required to cook.
Renee Romeo says
Wow that is a great tip. Thanks and we’ll update our post!
Jeffrey Harrington says
Was there a video showing the usage of the stove?