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Advice on a RMH build in Hikkaido Japan

 
Posts: 5
Location: Toyoura Hokkaido
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Hey guys,

Looking to get ideas and advice on a RMH build and a room fit out.

My wife and I have recently moved to the mountains of Hokkaido Japan. We have a piece of farm land at the base of some foothills about 10 minutes from the ocean near the southern coast. We have been here since late June and have been working on the old 2 story Japanese farm house that's on the property. We are living in it now and plan to spend the winter here. This will be our first winter in the area. Although it is Hokkaido we have been told, because we are near the ocean, the winter is rather mild compared to other parts of the island. Average winter temperates of around -4C to -8C with moderate snow fall.

We are the first people to live in the house in about 5 years. The house is a Japanese pier and beam foundation with mortise and tenon construction. The foundation is questionable in places and I plan to jack it up where needed in the Spring. The house has been fit with aluminum siding and roofing. (no leakage from the roof that I can see) Fiberglass wall insulation is old and sagging for sure, so will need attention at some point. Thinking of retrofitting with neutral material in the future.

My focus for the next few months, will be getting the house ready for the winter season. At present there is no heat source in the house besides a small portable kerosene heater. I am thinking of installing a Rocket Mass Heater in the center room to serve as our main heat source for the winter. I have no prior experience building them, but have researched and watched most of the content on Youtube and feel I understand the process of the build fairly well. Have read Rocket Mass Heaters by Ianto Evans Leslie Jackson and plan to buy The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide, to use as a reference if I go ahead with the build.

As mentioned above, the house is set on a pier and beam foundation so the floor in the room is above a low crawl space. My idea is to remove the tatami mats and the floor joists in this one room and build directly on the ground. Thus making the room a step down "sunken" room. This will alleviate the issue of weight from the RMH and allow for a stable foundation to build on. The room is located in the center of the house with only a small portion of its Northern wall being a directly exposed outside wall. I plan to level the present clay heavy soil under this room and then lay the fallowing: (in order from bottom to top)

1. Tamped and leveled road base gravel 6cm-8cm
2. Tamped and leveled pumice stone 4cm-6cm (for insulation)
3. Old carpet (protect the moisture barrier)
4. Tamped and leveled builders sand 2cm
5. Waterproof pond liner as moisture barrier (still debating if this is necessary)
6. Another old carpet (protect the moisture barrier)
7. Tamped and leveled builders sand 2cm
(The above numbers are rough estimated calculations based on information I have gathered from other builds with similar requirements.)

On top of this I plan to build a L shaped RMH that follows the edge of two of the walls. (See attracted drawings and photos for clarification)
The rest of the room will be finished with a Japanese Tataki style earthen floor (rather small area). The space that is left on the other two sides of the room, where the floor has been dropped out, will be filled with salvaged cinderblocks and cob to seal off the gap in the crawl space and create the step down for the sunken room.

I plan to build the finished floor once the RMH has been installed and create a seamless connection between the two. I will using the heat from the RMH to help with the drying process.

Few more points
- I have access to the materials and tools I believe that I need for the build start to finish.
- I will be doing this mostly on my own, with help from wife when needed.
- The space is relatively small (270cm x 360cm) Hight from ground level to original floor about 60cm
- I can devote all of my time to this project and I feel confident that I can complete the bulk of the work before it gets winter cold. Snow flies end of December
- I have tested the soil and made test cob bricks coated with hand-made lime plaster from burnt scollop shells. No visible cracking or damage after 10 days drying.
- I have consulted with a local Japanese Architect, who feels my idea will work, seeing that I am not planning to alter the structural integrity of the building.
- I plan to follow the standard 6" feed tube build layout

Questions and points that I would like guidance on:
- Does this solution seem reasonable or will it create potential issues in the future?
- Provided I have all of the needed materials can this be accomplished in a month and a half by one person?
- Should I be looking to do the RMH in the traditional cob bench and ducting style or should I use a bell style bench for the build? (Looking to use this as the main heat source for winter for myself, wife and two dogs. Might sleep on it if needed.)
- As the RMH will be built in a relatively confined area, what are the potential fire hazards and what kind of distancing do I need to take into consideration to insure a safe environment inside the timber framed walls?
- How should I plan to incorporate an air intake, to feed the RMH, so that it does not suck all of the cold air in through ever crack in the old house?

These are my initial concerns at present.
I am open to any ideas, and hope to get a clearer picture of how to approach the project from those with more experience.

I have added a few photos of the room I am planning to build in, along with initial rough sketches to help clarify.

Thanks in advance, Peter
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Hello Peter,  Welcome to the  WWRS  (Wild World of Rocket Stoves)!  
I would say by your description and comments that your good to go for launch Houston! Building a RMH is certainly a labour of love (with perhaps a little crying too) but if mistakes are seen as learning lessons then you won't be disappointed and just carry on.

Some quick points I can offer:
I'm sure you designed it with some kind of idea in mind but to me all I can see is how the bench breaks up the room in half with no walkway to get from one side to the other.

-The barrel seems quite close to the wall which would have to be protected somehow. The RMH Builders Guide covers safe distances to combustables for your barrel with of course many options to decrease the distance if some kind of heat shielding is used.

-Ducting vs Bells.... If you hav'nt already done some research, I would suggest these two: Bell Theory       Flues vs Bells
Once you've decided, come on back and we'll discuss your findings.

-Air intake is an interesting topic. See here for a good discussion on the subject: (Video at the end)    
RMH, fresh air intake, why suck out warm air from inside?

- Your going to need to have some form of insulation under the stove and mass. Not sure about your decision on the pond liner in the floor....

Hand made lime plaster is something I've always wanted to make. Good on you! Perhaps when my time comes, I'll be posting back to you!
 
Peter Sedgwick
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Location: Toyoura Hokkaido
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Hey Gerry,

Thanks for the response.

The idea here is to make the room recessed, therefore there is no walkway. You will have to step down to get into the room, much like a sunken livingroom. Similar in design to the attached photo (minus the man napping on the sofa) Also see new attached drawing for further clarification.

The placement of the barrel in my perviously attached drawings is just to show general layout of location of the RMH in the room. Barrel in the far right corner, with the "L" shaped bench/day bed fallowing the far back edge of the room and turning 90° to fallow the left hand edge of the room. I will read up on clearances to combustibles before deciding on exact location of each part of the RMH unit. Drawings are again just to give a general layout of placement.

I will have a look through the links you have included. The flue vs bell design will also play a large part in calculating a workable configuration for the exhausting options for the chimney. I feel venting though an outside wall would be most ideal if possible. The snow can sit heavy on the roof in this area of Hokkaido and has a tendency to take out stove pipes when it slides. Snow tore the masonry chimney right off the neighbor's house here last season. Still laying in the front yard. This is an area I would love your advice on a bit later on in the process if possible.

The idea of the pond liner comes from an article I read by Tony Sirna at Dancing Rabbit article link as well as a few other builders who worked in similar clay heavy soil situations. No vapor barrier is necessary even if I am putting an earthen floor directly on the ground?

I was thinking that the pumice stone would create insolation across the whole floor base. I am more than open to other ideas and any suggestions regarding the materials I use and the order and thickness in which they are laid.

Made the lime from burnt scallop shells i got for free locally. More than happy to share my experience and any insight that may help you. Lots of fun.

Thanks again for your help, Peter



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Peter Sedgwick wrote:Japanese pier and beam foundation with mortise and tenon construction



TRADITIONAL MASS-STOVES IN JAPAN

Your great timber framed house is perfect for a traditional Japanese mass stove floor plan. Surely you can design your rocket stove to fit the architecture, considering how these timber-house types were usually heated originally. I've written small introductions to links below.

* Examples of both the L-shaped and tatami-room heated floors are included in chapter-1 of the series "History of Radiant Heating and Cooling"

http://www.healthyheating.com/History_of_Radiant_Heating_and_Cooling/History_of_Radiant_Heating_and_Cooling_Part_1.pdf

* In a Japanese farm house, the burn chamber would typically be in one room, and the heated mass in the next room. The lower pounded-earth floored room would have the burn chamber and a high ceiling. This would usually be the farm-room kitchen and barn entrance room.  The stove's heated earthen mass would be under the floor of the raised room that had low ceilings for keeping heat in. The wall between the burn chamber and the mass would be made from a plastered wall or movable screens which could be adjusted for the season and privacy. This way occasional smoke would not enter the main sitting room so much.


https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Kamado-M1685.jpg

https://proxy.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fs-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com%2F736x%2F2d%2F7a%2Fa4%2F2d7aa4e66277c4369bde5af306116f0e--small-japanese-kitchen-japan-architecture.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

* Even the stand-alone kamado in the middle of a kitchen usually had some invisible chimney buried in the earth.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ac/Kamado4816.jpg

http://www.filtsai.com/japan/2002/18-JulyB/29-indigo-23.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/03/df/29/03df2929190b8dcc3b037a6418db9de3--japanese-interior-japanese-homes.jpg

https://proxy.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fi.pinimg.com%2F736x%2Fd7%2F5c%2Fbd%2Fd75cbd7c719f85ecd5453c88257f5176.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

https://proxy.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fi.pinimg.com%2F736x%2F79%2F02%2Fbb%2F7902bb2dcb9a8d7e229c483a310205c9--japanese-kitchen-japanese-house.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

* The raised-room floor might also have a sand-filled depression in the middle for keeping a pot warm with small charcoal. Architecture drawings often show this sand pit in line with the kamado in the next room. So likely that may have been directly over the buried kamado chimney.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irori#/media/File:Kabuto_Kazari_-01.jpg

https://proxy.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fi.pinimg.com%2F236x%2F8a%2Ff5%2F20%2F8af520cfe8b6eb03a3d4dd6302633465--household-items-diorama.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-on1PreCEUr8/U2VkEU-j2zI/AAAAAAAAO08/t4qpJjWonfg/s1600/P1020533.JPG

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-W9tG1NRwTVo/U2VkiNlit2I/AAAAAAAAO2E/_Oaf51r2kRc/s1600/P1020608.jpg

https://tokyobling.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/irori-the-japanese-hearth/

* The heated table "kotatsu" evolved from those irori sand-filled floor pits.

https://nekohakase.tumblr.com/post/68208953171/kotatsu

Keep us posted Peter.

key terms: "traditional Japanese stove", irori, kamado, ondol
 
Gerry Parent
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Peter Sedgwick wrote: I feel venting though an outside wall would be most ideal if possible. The snow can sit heavy on the roof in this area of Hokkaido and has a tendency to take out stove pipes when it slides. Snow tore the masonry chimney right off the neighbor's house here last season. Still laying in the front yard. This is an area I would love your advice on a bit later on in the process if possible.


It is generally recommended to: 1) vent your chimney as close to the peak as you can for the very reason you mentinoed 2) To keep the outside chimney as short as possible (to reduce the more expensive insulative piping) while benefiting from a little extra heat radiating into the building 3) To be above the peak level so that the wind eddies don't cause problems with proper drafting. Lots of info and suggestions in the builders guide also.

The idea of the pond liner comes from an article I read by Tony Sirna at Dancing Rabbit article link as well as a few other builders who worked in similar clay heavy soil situations. No vapor barrier is necessary even if I am putting an earthen floor directly on the ground?

It really all depends on your soil drainage and how susceptible this area will be to water infiltration. A drainage layer is pretty much standard for an on-grade earthen floor to provide a capillary break for any moisture in the ground migrating upwards and could also include drainage pipe in wetter areas. Vapor barrier is particularly helpful if your going to be putting rugs or other objects directly on the floor as these items can block the flow of moisture coming from the ground and possibly cause mold. Pond liner seems a bit overkill to me...

I was thinking that the pumice stone would create insolation across the whole floor base. I am more than open to other ideas and any suggestions regarding the materials I use and the order and thickness in which they are laid.


Check out the forum if you havn't already :  Earthen floor
Also, I would highly recommend the book Earthen Floors: A modern approach to an ancient practice




 
Peter Sedgwick
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Thanks Gordon for all the links and info. This will keep me busy.

Gerry thanks for your insight as well.

Just ordered the builders guide from Amazon US today. Should be here by Friday.

Down on the main island for a few days and won't be back on site till later in the week.

I'll read up on the stuff that you guys have sent me in the meantime.

After watching videos and researching I feel like the bell bench would be the best option. Not a whole lot of info out there that I can find. Really going on Matt's explanation and the Sundog rebuild video for the construction tips. I've got access to tons of reclaimed cinder blocks. Thinking of using those, filled with cob, for the walls of the chamber then cobbing over and plastering with the same material I use on the floor. Maybe use paving stones for the top of the bench depending on how cheap I can get them. Other option would be to hammer out pieces of drum can like he did in the Sundog video. If anyone has other ideas I'm more than interested.



I'm looking into fire bricks now. Might have to buy new, but will save me time and energy. I want low density is that correct?
Assuming this info is in the book, but I'd like to get a head start as it's always a time consuming process to track-down technical materials in a foreign country.



A large part of this whole project is going to be dictated by what is actually under the tatami mats and floor joists in the room I plan to build in.
Until I tear it open and asses the situation I'm just theorizing based on the construction of the other room I removed the floor from. Who knows, maybe buried gold under the house.

Really appreciate all of your support and input. Will keep you posted... Peter


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Antigone Gordon
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Peter Sedgwick wrote:Thanks Gordon for all the links and info. This will keep me busy.



Yeah, sorry for such a large data dump, but I did select those links primarily for good pictures, and secondarily for prose content.  Perusing the picks should not be as daunting as that long list of links makes it look.
 
Peter Sedgwick
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Hey guys,

So we are back at the house and I have finished my homework.

Got the Rocket Mass Heater Builders Guide in the mail and started reading. Really easy to understand.
Had a think and did another preliminary sketch this morning to work out what could be possible in the space. (Drawing included in pictures below)
All of the info that you guys sent me in your last reply was really helpful. Thanks again.

Seams like a bell type stratification chamber system makes sense and will reduce lost hot air (that mixes in the ducting). Inlet of hot air from manifold high, outlet for cooler air to the chimney low. Makes sense and seems to distribute the heat more evenly over the whole surface of the bench top.

Was thinking of using Matt Walkers half barrel layout to create the benches.
The half barrels are cool, but they have to be cut in half and possible reshaped a bit. Also the barrels, unless completely flatted, create high and low points under the cob top. The middle of the barrel will sit closer to the flat cob top and the cob will get thicker as the barrel curves down and out. Hot in the middle cooler as you go out to the edge. "So why not make the top metal surface flat?"

This afternoon my wife and I took a ride over to the local scrap metal yard to see what we could find. Old barrels etc.
I thought. "Whats strong enough to support human weight and wide enough to span the dimensions of the daybed/bench.
Thats when I saw something that gave me a new idea. The scrapyard had a pile of metal scaffolding platforms with hooks on the end. Each platform is 42cm wide with a 2 cm gap in the middle. (See attached photo for reference)

My idea is to take two 42cm wide platforms, flip them over, and bolt them together on the side, thus creating a single 84cm wide piece. Make 2 identical. Then to make the "L" shape for the top to wrap around the room I will cut off a set of hooks from one end and bolt that end to the side of the other. That will create a strong connection and solves any structural issues. Then I will weld all of the seams with subsequent strips of metal to cover the gaps and seams. As a precaution I will then tape all of the welded seams with the silver chimney tape. Each platform is 17cm long + hooks

That whole piece will serve as the flat "under" top for our bench. I will cover that with the required thickness of cob to finish.

My questions are:

1. In this scenario would it work if I use earth bags for my supporting walls for the above described metal top?
(I was thinking to use cinder blocks but they seem too unstable.)
I would stack the earth bags with barbed wire and then cob the inside of the cavity before placing the metal top on, and then cob again over the whole thing. Are earth bags a problem that close to the flu gas chamber if the are covered in cob?

2. How should I approach clean outs for something like this?

3. Would earth bags be an issue against the edge of the raised wooden foundation? I will lay drainage gravel first.

4. Having a hard time finding insolation options here other than foam insulation board. Pumice is proving difficult even though we are on a giant volcano. Any other options?

5. At what layer in the "sandwich" do I add the insolation?

6. Will I still need some drainage gravel on grade if I'm using earth bags?

7. Am I totally nuts?

I was also thinking to use the earth bags around the "Non RMH" portion of the rooms perimeter.
Then I thought, why not just infill the whole room with earth bags and bring the earthen floor closer to the hight of the original room?

So the RMH "L Shape" day bed/ lounge will sit flush with the bottom sill of the sliding doors that run around the perimeter of the room and the non heated portion of the floor will be filled with earth bags to compensate for the difference in hight between the grade below and the hight of the door sill. Then finished with tamped road base and earthen/tataki flooring. Theoretically, the RMH will be "embedded in a new solid mass earth bag floor.

Here is a few photos of the room with sticks laid out to represent the placement of the metal platforms measured to exact size.
Black hose on the floor represents the placement of the barrel, with allowances for clearance from flammables (18"). i.e. wood posts and wall panels etc.
Builders Guide represents the feed tube:)

Other Points:
I will follow the books standard construction for a 6" J-tube configuration using firebricks for the feed tube, burn tunnal, and heat riser. Regular bricks and cob for manifold.
Chimney will go more or less straight out the roof near the peek.

Think that is a good place to stop.

Let me know if any part of this is unclear. Happy to elaborate or draw more images and references if needed.

Thanks again in advance.

Cheers, Peter





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Gerry Parent
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Peter Sedgwick wrote:
1. In this scenario would it work if I use earth bags for my supporting walls for the above described metal top?
(I was thinking to use cinder blocks but they seem too unstable.)
I would stack the earth bags with barbed wire and then cob the inside of the cavity before placing the metal top on, and then cob again over the whole thing. Are earth bags a problem that close to the flu gas chamber if the are covered in cob?

2. How should I approach clean outs for something like this?

3. Would earth bags be an issue against the edge of the raised wooden foundation? I will lay drainage gravel first.

4. Having a hard time finding insolation options here other than foam insulation board. Pumice is proving difficult even though we are on a giant volcano. Any other options?

5. At what layer in the "sandwich" do I add the insolation?

6. Will I still need some drainage gravel on grade if I'm using earth bags?

7. Am I totally nuts?


1. From my understanding, cob heats up approximately 1" per hour. If you use earth bags which are like 18" (or so) wide (minus the rendering), that would take 18 hours of burning before you felt any heat on the other side of the bag. Yikes!  There have been many people who have had much success with building their bench supporting walls with standard size brick (3.5-4.5" wide) with no strength issues. So that equates to around 3-4 hours of burning before the heat transfers. A lot more realistic (to me). Also, the sides of a bell doesn't transfer nearly as quick as the top will.

2. Cleanouts: Just make sure you can get to all areas of the bell comfortably without too much trouble with a shop vac, your arm, a scooper or broom etc.

3. Depends on how you answer question #1

4. Insulation: Perlite is another possible option. A quote taken from Earthen Floors by Sukita Reay Crimmel and James Thompson page 118-119:  "To install perlite, keep it in the plastic bags it comes in and place these tightly together on top of the vapor barrier. Compact the bags with a hand tamper or plate compactor. Important note:Regardless of the type of insulation, the finished layer of an earthen floor should never sit directly on insulation. There needs to be a dense structural layer of concrete, poured earthen basecoat or compacted gravel between the two, to create a firm, stable base for the finish layer."

5. The order is: Grade, Drainage rock, vapour barrier, insulation, compacted road base or concrete

6. same as #3.

7. Absolutely!  But that's a good thing because you probably wouldn't be even starting this project if you were'nt a little....er..... 'different'.  :)

Other Points:
I will follow the books standard construction for a 6" J-tube configuration using firebricks for the feed tube, burn tunnal, and heat riser. Regular bricks and cob for manifold.
Chimney will go more or less straight out the roof near the peek.


One thing to look into is a 5 minute riser: 5 minute riser
 
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Peter Sedgwick wrote:
After watching videos and researching I feel like the bell bench would be the best option. Not a whole lot of info out there that I can find. Really going on Matt's explanation and the Sundog rebuild video for the construction tips. I've got access to tons of reclaimed cinder blocks. Thinking of using those, filled with cob, for the walls of the chamber then cobbing over and plastering with the same material I use on the floor. Maybe use paving stones for the top of the bench depending on how cheap I can get them. Other option would be to hammer out pieces of drum can like he did in the Sundog video. If anyone has other ideas I'm more than interested.



Hi Peter,

You can find my videos from a recent bell build on my youtube channel.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXqH6W1oen_2hWeTuhqKpcw/videos

Thanks
Dan
 
Peter Sedgwick
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Thanks Gerry!

That was really good info.

I found an explination for the "5 minute riser" in another permies thread. (screen shot attached below)
So basically, all I need to do is find this Morgan Superwool Plus material in 1" thickness and fit it into a chimney pipe with and 8" ID so that the final ID is 6" is that correct?
Not sure I understand what the stainless wire they mentioned is for.
Also I think I will use full and half fire bricks for the feed tube and burn tunnel while fallowing the layout instructions in the Builders Guide.
Not sure exactly how to connect the "square" exit on the exit of the burn tunnel to the "round" 5 minute riser. Can you explain this connection a bit? Maybe I missed something.

I had a think about the points you made and have revised the stratification chamber design using half thickness cinder blocks on the chamber wall that is closest to the middle of the room. AKA where we want more heat to resinate. The blocks are 10cm (4in) thick and should fit the bill. Laid a few out on the floor this afternoon and determined that I would only need about 5-10 of them depending on the final hight of the bench/bed and how much vertical space the base layers of gravel and insulation eat up. I don't want the bed/bench any higher that the bottom sill of the door. Otherwise, as you mentioned before, it will become a design problem and a trip hazard.

Here is a new drawing of my plan for layout in cross section. I will use salvaged metal sided refrigeration panel insolation in two staggered layers. The top layer will cover the seams of the bottom layer. Because I will use this material I thought I might not need a vapor barrier. Any thoughts on this?

Everyone seems to differ in opinion on this subject. It is heavy clay soil and the house is not set up with the best drainage, however it is a small space in the middle of the overall foundation footprint with only a very small portion exposed to an outside wall. (Maybe about 2.6` wide space exposed to outside wall) All other walls adjacent to the build room are internal. (See reference drawing)

Cheers, Peter



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NEW LAYOUT IN CROSS SECTION
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MATEL CLAD INSULATION
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5 MINUTE RISER
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HOW TO CONNECT?
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SMALL EXTERIOR EXPOSED WALL AREA
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MIMI LEARNING TO WELD:)
 
pollinator
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With your round peg, square hole question, the square is 6” the pipe is 8” so it sits directly on top.
In my case, I used 50mm of ceramic fibre wool (not come across Morgan’s super wool) inside a 10” pipe and it simply self supports it self over the 6” hole.
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Gerry Parent
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building woodworking rocket stoves
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Peter, I think we should keep you changing your plans all the time because your pictures are totally awesome!!!  ...and please have Mimi wear gloves next time while she's welding....Ouch!  
 
Politics is a circus designed to distract you from what is really going on. So is this tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater is the most sustainable way to heat a conventional home
http://woodheat.net
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