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Labour intensive but surprisingly therapeutic
Eko-mania Heavy Duty Paper Log Maker
Member Name: moo2moo
Eko-mania Heavy Duty Paper Log Maker
Advantages: Free heat
Disadvantages: They take an eternity to dry out enough to use
We only use the solid fuel stoves in the winter so this had been tucked at the back of a cupboard until it was needed again. After last weeks £180 log delivery and the revelation that coal has gone up again to £17 a bag, of which we use between four and six a month dependant upon the temperature, it was time for some drastic action.
The log maker is remarkably simple in a did I really just fork out twenty quid for this kind of way. Its an outer shell of solid metal with a removable base and an equally solid lid which fits neatly inside the dark green body. Both the lid and base are perforated to allow the water to escape.
The instructions with the log maker are very straight forward. Tear up some newspaper, add some water to it, wait for it to go soggy, insert in log maker, place the lid on, cross over the handles and squeeze. Simples. Only its not.
Firstly you need an awful lot of paper. It takes a complete newspaper to make a single brick. Having wedged it into the log maker you then discover you need arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger to be able to squeeze a reasonable amount of water out of the brick . Beware of wet feet as a surprising amount of water is squeezed out. It also helps to wear a thick pair of rubber gloves as sticking your hands in a bucket of cold water very quickly sends them numb. It also stops your hands turning black from the newsprint.
Next comes the hard part. You have to extract the brick from the log maker. Clearly theres a knack to it, if you've squeezed enough water out and compressed the paper enough you can bash it around a fair bit in order to separate it from the lid and base, if not you end up with large lumps of soggy paper as it disintegrates before your eyes. After a bit of trial and error we found it easier to line the log maker with a solid sheet of dry A4 paper and place a partial sheet on top after that it's a doddle to get the bricks out. As they dry this paper falls off so it can be reused again and again.
The smaller the bits of paper the more compact the bricks. We found shredded paper worked extremely well and made very dense slow burning bricks but shredding newspaper in a paper shredder is a little impractical and requires electricity bumping up the cost to make them. The alternative is standard A4 paper of which most workplaces have tons. This takes longer to soak than newspaper although you can speed up the process by adding bleach or urine but then again who wants to plonk their hands into a bucket of pee covered paper.
Next up you need an awful lot of water as the paper absorbs it very quickly. A bucket full of soggy newspaper is extremely heavy so it'll be staying wherever you fill it. Make sure this is somewhere convenient. Having filled ours from the outdoor tap we then discovered we couldn't get the car up the drive.
What goes in must come out. The end result is a wet brick measuring 9" x 3" and between 2" and 5" thick depending how much paper you used in the first place. The challenging bit is drying it. In a greenhouse over winter they dry eventually but can take several months and have a tendency to go mouldy. Indoors because of the amount of moisture involved wherever you put them tends to get rather humid. An airing cupboard would be a sensible place but we don't have one so into the oven it is. This isn't as daft as it sounds. The heat from the oven as it cools after baking is sufficient to dry half a dozen bricks. Any more and the temperature drops too fast as a result of the steam generated.
Finally when your bricks are dry you can use them in your fire to generate heat. Beware though. The bricks dry from the inside out, if they're not completely dry they give off lots of steam when burning lowering the overall temperature of the fire and reducing the amount of heat given out. The bricks last a surprisingly long time, perhaps not the hour that the sellers of the log maker claim but certainly a good half hour.
The end result is free heat and lots and lots and lots of very fine ash which crumbles when cold and seems to get everywhere so you'll be doing far more dusting than normal.
Its labour intensive but surprisingly therapeutic. If you have somewhere warm and dry to store the logs it would be worth making them in the summer as they dry a lot faster.
Summary: A suplementary fuel source thats fun to make
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