Oil drums are available from http://www.dvfuels.co.uk/product.asp?pid=51. The most difficult bits are flue pipe. It's horrendously expensive.
Where do you get 30 gallon drums? I want some
There are a few people over your general direction I know of who are permaculture minded, so there's support around. When our present system collapses, being able to cook and keep warm will not seem so daft to your family.
Try a local pottery studio for discards, or as Roy said, local gardeners who may be in a clay pocket.
Remember, very little of the thermal mass is actually clay. Most of a proper earthen masonry mass is aggregate - sand, small gravel or rocks; there's usually some plain dirt, chalk, or silt; and straw - the clay is only the 10% or so that holds it together. If you have a local excavator, or well-drilling outfit, they may know where to find clay locally.
If you have a good local source for sharp sand or mixed sand and gravel, you are much further ahead than if you have only clay.
We've got several 'conventional' designs out there to evoke traditional European masonry heaters, to please those conventional relatives you mentioned. But if they like to pick on the 'abnormal' in order to feel normal, they probably won't stop picking just because they get cold or hungry. Human nature. Please yourself. Best defense is to be completely comfortable in your own skin, and getting muddy is a surprisingly good way to do that.
You might take a look toward the bottom of our 'shop' page, or some of the decorator ideas on the thread "Oil Drum in my Living Room."
Carol Morgan wrote:This is my first post on Permies. I live in Wales, Ianto's country, in South Wales. I read about Rocket Mass Heaters and Stoves about three weeks ago and at 10.30 at night. Went to bed a few hours later and couldnt sleep for wanting to make one straight away! I wanted to use reclaimed supplies in order to save items from waste and also to keep the cost down while I experimented but this is proving to be quite difficult as the items are not freely available. Natural clay is going to be a problem, is there a substitute for it? On a different thread someone suggests using cat litter but another post says that cat litter isnt clay The oil drums are probably going to be a little easier, my question with this is, how to light a fire in them to burn the paint off? The first one I tried was a smaller one, approx 25/30 gallon size and because the lid has to stay on, its a big deep bin and I think there was not enough oxygen to keep it alight I imagine the bigger drums would be even harder to keep the fire going? Or do I put it on a fire rather than light a fire in it? I thought that may distort it.
I know our local Lowes store has bags of clay for sale and they aren't that expensive. Do you have a store similar to Lowes or Home Depot where you live? Could be you could obtain what you need there, as well as the sand with which to mix for the cob mud.
I'm going to be building one this summer as well and I too want to reuse old materials as much as possible, so I feel your pain. Upon research, I've found the pipes and fittings will be the biggest expense as I can scrounge free bricks and such here and there. I'm interested in the dimensions of the stove you are experimenting with in your garden?
You could try a small butane or acetylene torch to burn off your paint and other residues. You could even use a drill/sander attachment but it would take longer.
Your fire may be smokey because of the size of opening at the firebox. If there is too much air going in it cools the gases and it makes them move too fast through the riser to burn completely. If you reduce the size of the opening, or stuff it with more sticks which will have the same effect, it might be cleaner.
There are some other things you could look at http://donkey32.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=experiment&action=display&thread=355&page=3 and http://donkey32.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=experiment&thread=485&page=1 These deal with some tweaks to improve combustion. I haven't tried them yet, but I intend to have a go soon.
Wet wood will also sometimes cause the problem you describe. Get the wood under shelter, use older wood (1-2 years under dry shelter), down to 15-20% moisture or less.
It's hard to keep fuel dry in a garden, the ground is moist and there's a tendency to set kindling on all kinds of moist surfaces. Make a dry box for your wood by the heater while you play. Any fire will go out if you put dry tinder to wet wood; the small kindling will burn up and the bigger, damp sticks won't catch. Water robs heat from the fire; steam evaporating from the wood robs even more; and air robs some heat as it flows past. The air adjustment makes me think you are just not getting hot enough in there at first - by 15 minutes you should be getting some serious ignition, and by about 30-45 minutes the bricks should be getting hot enough to bake fresh kindling dry or even ignite matchwood that is put down there regardless of whether there are still flames going from the other wood. The bricks getting hot is part of what helps the fire burn clean.
If possible, stay by the fire and tend it while it is starting. You can't feed in a lot of wet wood all at once without smothering it, so you have to gradually build the fire up at a rate that dries the next-size wood as you go. Stay by it until you have a full wood-box of sticks at least 1" thickness as your main fuel load - then check it again in about 30-45 minutes, as these burn down add 2" sticks, loading fresh wood behind the burning fuel so the fire is not interrupted by cold. When you get a nice set of chunky embers in another hour or so, put on a 4.5" or 5" round log to almost fill your feed. As the fire dies down, put tomorrow's kindling on a warm dry part of the heater. Once dead, close the opening with a couple of bricks so you don't get rain down the feed or dew at night.
Once you get it insulated, you can also just set the kindling inside the bricks of the feed (still warm from last night's fire, but after the embers have gone out), and let it dry out and pre-heat nicely. wood ash (when dry) makes a decent insulation. Sawdust mixed in clay slip does OK too, or straw dipped in clay/dirt slurry; both will burn out but leave a clay 'foam' behind.
I like how you have laid out the round base under the barrel. Maybe it's a woman thing - it drives Ernie nuts when I build my 'brick beehives,' he says nobody can follow it - but I find it much easier than trying to get bricks to stay square and match up course by course, only to bring it back to a round shape when I need to add the barrel. You've done an unusual pattern of pairs, when you do your indoor one you may want to alternate them so there aren't so many running vertical joins, but it's very pretty and symmetrical. Your garden soil looks marvelously dark.
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