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The letterbox rattles and you run to the door eager to see what the postman has brought you. How disappointed are you when you see its just junk mail (my postie fiancé would shudder at me calling it that, its door to doors in his postie world....) What do you do with it?? sit and read? throw straight in the bin? recycle??
For a while now we've chosen to recycle, and thanks to our local council for giving us a HUGE paper wheelie recycling bin its easy stuff, stick in bin and once a month its collected. in theory anyway....for some reason we always seem to "miss" our collection day and so the wheelie bin is full to the top and too heavy to pull from its place down the side of the shed.... So now what to do???
A PAPER COMPRESSER IS THE ANSWER.
we have a multi fuel fire in our lounge, for those who don't know that means we can burn coal, logs and anything else. We usually stock up on coal during the summer while its cheaper and never say no if anyone asks if we want any free wood. I had the bright idea of paper bricks. I cant remember where I read about them but I was on a mission...searching how to make them etc etc.... and when I saw one in the sale at argos I quickly reserved and managed to get my fiancé to think it was his idea so he'd pay for it.... clever!!!
We bought ours in argos for £7.99 which is a bargain. it should RRP at £12.49 in argos, and they're usually around the £15 mark on ebay/amazon.
I was like a child at Christmas opening the box.... but to be honest its a little disappointing to look at. A black metal box with no bottom and two handles, a silver metal insert with holes in, and a silver metal box for the top.
The idea is to put the first metal insert into the black box, fill with soggy paper, put the top metal box on top then the handles are pushed outwards and down, which squeezes all the water out and leaves you with a lovely paper brick, which will burn as long as a log (so I've been told)
Anyway back to me.... after opening It I got excited and wanted to get started straight away, my fiancé said 8pm was no time to be outside messing with paper and water and to wait until the next day. But me and my son decided we'd get a head start and start ripping the paper up.
ARRRRGH I could have screamed. Our shredder died a few months ago and as we recycled, and burnt any bank statements/personal stuff on the fire we decided not to replace it. I wish we had. We had a pile of old letters, junk mail (sorry sweetie....d-2-d's), a cardboard box with pirate hats cut out, as well as about 10 newspapers....and after ripping those my fingers were killing, my head was throbbing and my nose was itchy, who knew ripping paper would give off so much dust!! my son of course gave up after one paper so the majority was left for me.
Though I went to bed happy that the hard part was over....wasn't it???
fast forwards to Sunday morning....we've had breakfast, I'm sat making a pirate hat for my sons pirate day at school when my fiancé decided it was time to do the bricks.... he gets a bucket of water, bags of coal dust, because its his opinion that it will help the bricks burn better as well as using up rather than wasting a bucket full of coal dust, and his next words were "there you go...." and left us to it. By this point my son had run out to play with his friends, my fiancé decided he'd clean the car and I was left with the job of making bricks with the 18 month old child!!!
so....first thing we did was put the paper in the water....easy enough. Then my 18 month old daughter started playing in the coal dust, so at her daddy's suggestion we put some in the water with the paper, mixed up and left to soak and the paper break up....then off for a bath for my little coal urchin!!
The instructions say to soak the paper thoroughly....not very clear!!! I researched and found people saying 2 hours was enough. we left it 3-4 hours before going back to it. the newspaper was sludgy and broken down quite well, the white paper, envelopes and all other papers hadn't broken down as well so I'd suggest leaving these papers at least overnight, if not a few days to fully break down.
We had a lot more newspaper than other papers so I went ahead after the 3-4 hours to make our bricks. Thanks to my darling fiancés idea I now had a bucket of black coal dusty sludgy paper....and the instructions say to roll the paper into a loose ball and pack as much into the paper compressor body as possible, then put the top metal box on top of the wet paper, bring the handles over to rest on the metal box/bars and press firmly to remove all the moisture. EASY.....don't make me laugh. I followed these instructions and rolled the sludgy paper into balls and packed in, then pushed the handles to remove the moisture. Firstly quite messy, but how often do we get to play with messy things anymore? I quite enjoyed squeezing the paper in my hands....I'm a big kid really. Secondly my hands kept slipping off the handles as they are just metal, thin and flat and no ergonomic shape to help you use them. I decided some padding was needed so I used a folded tea towel on each handle to make them a bit easier to use. I got quite a lot of water out of it and when I could get no more out I removed it from the mould....and it fell apart!!!!! the balls I'd rolled up had not merged together so once removed from the mould I ended up with loads of little balls of paper..... total fail!!!
second attempt I just stuck the wet paper in the mould without rolling up, I pushed into the corners and squeezed the water out....RESULT!!! it worked. I had a perfectly formed paper brick.
All in all, we got 8 bricks out of the paper we used. And we've not even started on the recycling bin outside!!!
So my thoughts....I think its a simple contraption which you cant really get wrong.... other than rolling the paper up. If you just put handfuls of wet paper into the mould instead of rolling it is fine. It looks and feels quite sturdy, but it could do with some sort of handle on the handles.... a bit of rubber would be fantastic!!!
I would recommend this to anyone who is wanting to recycle their waste paper and save money on fuel over the winter. At £7.99 it is quite cheap, and surely compared to a bag of coal which is £11 its not a bad investment. It doesn't like likely to break anytime soon so I should get years worth of free paper fuel.
We haven't burnt the bricks yet, I will update as soon as we do, but as a piece of equipment it does everything it promises. it squeezes out the moisture and makes bricks. The only downside is the handles which I will remove a star for.
I don't like to write negative reviews but I have used one of these and yes it is messy and takes quite a bit of time. I happened across something called a 'Logsaver'. Same effect and savings but dry and instant. Much less faffing about, much less effort. Have already saved a lot in logs this winter.....
As everyone knows, fuel is super expensive these days. When we moved in to a house with an wood burner I naively thought my fuel bills may be reduced, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I started looking into what I could do to reduce my costs for the fire and was really excited when I read about paper bricks that you can make at home for very little. I eagerly ordered my brick maker online which cost me £21 and I couldn't wait for it to arrive.
While the cost is noticeably reduced, the hassle increases and it is a little messy and a bit of a faff to prepare your paper bricks ready for the fire. To prepare, you need to soak ripped up pieces of newspaper overnight. This doesn't take too long actually as they don't need to be tiny pieces and can be quite big pieces ripped up. Once we get used to the machine we started getting fairly confident with it and now use about 90% of our paper and card waste, avoiding glossy ones.
The machine itself is pretty basic and easy to use. A metal box with a handle on either side, you simply fill a tray full of the pre soaked paper allowing it to compress together and bond to form the briquette. The forcing down of the handles is probably the trickiest manoeuvre of the process but still relatively easy once you get to grips with the machine. You do have to press down with the whole of your weight to get the handles forced down but I'm a bit of a weedy girl (my husbands words) but he doesn't find this an issue at all!
We find that one newspaper will give you around one briquette so we have regular 'pleas' to family members and friends to get their old newspapers. Each brick does actually (size wise) look like a proper brick so energy wise is pretty decent.
The process doesn't stop with the 'pressing' of the newspaper though and you do need to remove the excess water from the soaked paper. This is fairly easy if not time consuming. The majority will drain during the pressing but the remainder does need to be dried out so you need to ensure that you have the room to be able to do this. We find that the best method of drying is actually by starting the process in the summer months and leaving them somewhere warm and dry. This can literally be anywhere and at one point I was even drying mine on the window sills during the hot days! We then store them ready for the winter months when the fire will be in use most nights.
The process is messy so do make sure you are dressed correctly! Don't go wearing your best shoes or top and expect them to be unaffected because its going to happen! Also wear gloves, an essential. We actually get a little bit of a conveyor belt going and often found an afternoon on a Sunday in the summer was spent making bricks! Quite fun once you get started!
So, the most important bit, do they burn?! Yes! We have a wood burner rather than an open fire and they seem to work better contained in the burner. I gave some to my mum who has an open fire and they burnt but not nearly as effectively as mine did.
All in all a good method, if a little faffy, of reducing the costs of running a wood burner.
Over the last year we are all trying to save money in some way or other. And after the winter we have had most of us have spent more than normal trying to keep our homes warm.
So along comes the paper briquette maker. You can pick one up for around £17-£20 pounds from various online shops. With this device you can get all your old newspapers and make paper bricks that burn for up to 2 hours. The briquettes are about the same size as a house brick.
Inside the box there is the briquette maker and some very brief instructions.
You start off by tearing old newspapers up or if you want to you can put them through a shredder. I tore mine up into strips no more than an inch wide. Once you have done a few papers then place them into a large bucket or any container that you have and pore water over the paper. If you can get your hands on some sawdust you can also put that in to the paper and water and that will bulk them out a little and help them burn. It's recommended that you don't use magazines of gloss paper as they don't break down fast enough.
Don't make the same mistake as I did the first time and put to much water in as when it come to making the briquettes you will have a very difficult job indeed. So just put enough water over the paper to soak it well and then you can put some bleach into the bucket to help the paper break down but I have not done this as I find it breaks down well.
After a few hours, check on the paper and put more water in if needed as it will soak up quite a lot of water. Then just leave it in a convenient place and once or twice a day just move the paper around with your hands or a stick to help break it up.
I leave mine for about 3 to 4 days or until the paper has started to break down.
You put the paper into the briquette press and fill it to the top. You then put the top on and press the handles down. You have to be careful here as it's very easy to push down on one side harder than the other. Once you have pushed the top down and most of the water has come out you can lift the top off and remove the briquette. Sometimes you have to push it from the bottom as they are a tight fit.
Now comes the waiting game. You have to leave them for a long time to dry out so really this is going to be a summer job stocking up for the winter. If you have a greenhouse or conservatory then that is the ideal place to dry them.
Once they are dry you will need to store them in a very dry place as you don't want them to become damp. One option is once they are dry place then into a bin bag and seal the top.
Now when you have a fire just throw a couple a briquettes on and they should burn for between 1 and 2 hours.
Like I have said this is really a summer job so start keeping you old newspapers over the winter and ask friends and family for theirs too.
Overall this is a good money saving device. I have heard they are great if you have got a wood burner as well as an open fire. So go on start your own briquette production line.
Lets face facts, there can't be many people left who are not looking for a way to save money on fuel bills, so a paper brick maker is possibly a good place to start if you have facilities for burning solid fuel.
With postage costs you will be looking to pay around £19-£20 for a solid metal version and they can be bought in several places on-line including many Eco shops.
Firstly, as I'm sure you've guessed, they come in handy for getting rid of all, or at least most, of your unwanted paper. I use newspaper, cardboard (but certain types won't soak) old envelopes and whatever junk mail is suitable.
Experience has proven that this is best soaked overnight at least, cardboard for even longer depending on how many thicknesses it is, although as the paper soaks it is easier to tear into smaller pieces.
You are also advised to add a tablespoon of bleach to the water which speeds up the action, however I feel that this can slow the burning process somewhat.
Added sawdust also helps a lot, in both holding the bricks together and prolonging the burning process.
When I first got mine I didn't find it particularly difficult to fathom out; you simply lift the inner compartment out, load the casing and place the inner back bringing the handles over to press it all down - what I did find was a problem was just how much paper to load the machine with. Too much and the handles wouldn't come over far enough, too little and it didn't squidge any water out.
I was also concerned that it wasn't getting rid of enough of the water (if I stood on the 'finished' bricks I could get rid of a lot more) but some retaining water is necessary if you don't want your bricks to fall apart!
There can also be a slight problem in getting the inner out after you have finished 'squidging,' but this gets better as time goes on. Practice does indeed make perfect, just make sure you have even leverage to pull on the inner, the heavy duty machine is strong enough to take it.
Drying the bricks can also be an issue too - be aware, you can wait a long time. One manufacturer's guidelines say 'A week in a greenhouse.' Well, a week in a summertime greenhouse can be an awful long time if you transpose it with, 'Winter in the shed!'
In fairness though most manufacturers do say these are best made in the summer and stockpiled for winter use, but being the impatient little madam I am, I simply can't wait for summer and also don't want to stockpile paper until the weather is better, so I make them now and turn them every few days to try and speed up the drying process.
The brick maker will save you money, but like most things involving 'make do and mend,' it will cost you your time, so you need to be aware of this, but overall, if you are prepared to put the time and effort in, your brick maker will save you cash and filling your recycling bin!
In summation - the main problem area is not with the machine but how long the bricks take to dry. You can't hurry this job along!
I first stumbled on these briquette makers when a friend told me he'd been offered the chance to invest in briquettes for the fire and asked me what I thought. I had not heard of paper bricks for the fire so after our conversation I searched online and my search for paper bricks brought up paper brick makers. Excited by the fact I could make my own bricks I checked the price of these machines and found they ranged from £18 to £50. I purchased one immediately from ebay for £18 delivered and then did more research on what I would need to make a brick.
What you need to make a brick is paper soaked overnight in water. I decided to rip up one newspaper and soak it in a bucket before the machine arrived. I ripped it into shreds from the fold, not tiny bits as this isn't necessary.
I discussed this with my partner and he agreed if we could cut down on the amount of logs we buy it would be helpful and also we have a back boiler so we can use the real fire to heat water to either use or direct through our central heating system to use less oil too.
A couple of days later my machine arrived and I was ready to go! The machine itself is a metal box wth mesh type holes in the bottom, a handle either side, a tray to fill with paper then remove once it's compressed and a box with mesh holes and two bars running across the top. In the picture the silver box is the box you put on top of the paper to press it down. They weigh a few pounds and are adequately sturdy.
My paper briquette maker is green and black and about 30cm long, 10 high and about 10 wide. It was instantly confusing to me, I don't do technical really, as one handle has to be brought from underneath to get them both on top where they should be, this is just how they are packed so they fit nicely into a box.
Once I'd established how to get both handles out to the sides I decided to try to make a briquette. It was snowing at the time so I was outside in my Wellies and a pair of Marigolds moving wet paper into the machine and doing running commentary to my boys (cats) who were outside with me wondering what I was doing!
The Marigolds are essential, the wet paper is very dirty and cold and wet so make sure you have a pair handy. I started by using half my paper to see if this was enough, pressed it into the tray in the base of the machine, put the metal box on top then positioned the handles across the machine and pressed down. The metal box has two rods that go across widthways and the handles press onto these to force the box and the paper underneath down.
Half a newspaper created a slim briquette that wasn't very well compressed so I added the rest of the paper and tried again. It requires alot of weight to press the paper down, I use most of my body weight and still find it a bit of a struggle but I'm not very heavy. The handles are a bit uncomfortable so I'd advise placing your hands on the corner of the handles to stop the metal pressing into your palms.
A whole newspaper made a brick about the size of a house brick. The water squeezes out of the bottom and the top through the mesh and I press then tip the water from the top several times until there's no more coming out. That done you need to remove your briquette to dry it.
Getting the brick out proved a bit of a struggle for me, after using all my weight to press it into the machine it wasn't coming out without a fight! After removing the top metal box you are supposed to get hold of the edges of the bottom tray and lift it up but the only way I could do this was to put my feet one on each handle to hold the machine down while I pulled the brick out. This worked fine but it was still a bit of a struggle.
Then you take the paper briquette off the tray and place it somewhere to dry. The idea with these is that you make the bricks through the summer and dry them while the weather's nice ready for the winter but as I only bought mine in the winter I had to find somewhere they could dry. Ironically I put them on top of the boiler! The bricks were only supposed to top up our oil central heating and not replace it so this wasn't a problem.
I started the whole process again afterwards and ripped up 3 newspapers and soaked them ready for the next day. One newspaper makes a briquette but you can add any cardboard that isn't glossy or waxed, leaves, kitchen roll, junk mail the middle of loo rolls and anything that will soften when soaked and burn when dry really!
The first briquette took 3 days to dry, in the summer this would be alot less and I've seen information that says one day in a greenhouse during the warmer months.
Do they burn? I wondered about this because a few people said they wouldn't. We tried some the other night on our coal fire and they smoulder rather than burn, they do add bulk and heat to your fire but if you use them on an open fire you need to mix them in with your normal wood. That was fine with me, they still contribute and cost nothing! They smouldered for a good hour and a half too, don't smell as much as coal and do produce heat.
I gave one to a friend with a proper multi-fuel burner and he said they burn better on that, proper flames and just like logs for a couple of hours so they seem better suited to burners rather than open fires.
So I've got a bit of a production line going! Any paper we have goes in the bucket and my partner brings the newspapers home from his reception area too so I can make a couple for each day to reduce the amount of logs we need to buy. We can add the heat produced by these on the fire to our central heating and reduce the amount of oil we use too.
They cost nothing if you just use the paper you have lying around or junk mail you didn't want anyway and rather than recycling all your paper in your wheelie bin only for it to possibly end up on a landfill somewhere instead of being recycled this actually makes use of waste in a way that benefits you!
I'm really pleased with ours and recommend the paper briquette maker to anyone who has a way of burning the bricks to heat their homes.
As you know by now we have installed a log burner in our cottage. We both love real fires and hope that we will also be able to reduce our fuel bills.
To go with the burner we have also purchased two extra pieces of kit. The first is the Green Log Maker which I have already reviewed and the second is the Newspaper Briquette Maker.
With the log maker I can make logs using a variety of combustibles such as paper, wood chips, old candles, tea bags etc., but with the briquette maker the brick is best made with paper alone.
What are we trying to achieve?
The briquette maker will make a solid brick of paper about nine inches long, three inches wide by two to three inches deep depending on how much paper you put in the briquette maker.
Believe it or not this paper brick, when dried thoroughly, will burn for about two hours!
What is a briquette maker then?
I will attempt to describe it to you but it would be advisable to read my description whilst taking the occasional look at the picture at the top of the review so you can understand what I am trying to describe! LOL!
The briquette maker is made entirely from strong metal and consists of a box with two handles one on either side. The box has no base or top. Into this box fits a tray with holes in the bottom. This is made up of a base and two short sides with lips on the top. The final piece is a base with two long sides, all with holes in, and two metal bars across the top which extend beyond the sides.
I feel as though I am on one of those quiz programmes where someone sits looking at an object and has to describe it to someone else who can't see it for them to draw it!!!
Hopefully it will make more sense when I explain how it works.
So how does it work then?
First you need to get lots of newspapers as this uses quite a bit of paper - about four newspapers to one brick.
You then need to tear the newspapers into pieces - we found tearing them into strips was the most efficient - and soak the pieces in a bucket of water preferably for a few hours. We usually tear the papers up in the evening whilst watching TV, soak them over night and then make the bricks the following day.
So now you have a bucket of soggy newspaper - what next?
I would advise you to put on your rubber gloves for the next bit as I did it with bare hands the first time I tried and not only was my skin covered with newsprint, my finger nails were black and it took ages to get them clean!
You now take the metal box with the handles and put the metal tray with the two short sides inside it. You then take handfuls of the soggy paper, squeeze them roughly into balls and pack them as tightly as possible into the tray of the briquette maker.
Once this is full you then place the final metal piece on the top with the bars uppermost.
You then take the two handles (on the either side of the metal box) and cross them over the top of the briquette maker. They will rest on the metal bars - now you see why they are there! I told you it would begin to make more sense - at least I hope it does!
Now for the real effort - you need to press down on the handles as hard as you can. This squeezes out as much of the water as possible. Now you know why there are holes in various bits of the equipment too!
You now need to get the brick out of the briquette maker and this can be a bit tricky. The idea is that you lift the metal piece off the top and then lift out the metal tray using the aforementioned lips on either side. We find that it is sometimes easier to give the thing a bit of a push from the base as well to help it along!
So now I have a wet paper brick - now what?
It must be left to dry completely. It will then burn in your log burner for up to two hours. It is completely non toxic and will leave behind it a minimum of ash!
Is there anything else I should know?
As I said before newspapers are ideal for making these bricks but you can also use cardboard (providing it is well soaked), junk mail (providing it isn't glossy) and we have also torn up the old Yellow Pages for ours! The instructions say you can use wood chippings too but I don't really see how this would work myself. A layer or two of sawdust would be OK though.
The bricks will burn in log burners or on open fires. We usually get the fire going first and build up a nice bed of hot kindling and then put the brick on top of that.
By using the briquette maker you'll be reducing the amount of waste heading for the landfill whilst reducing your heating costs as, once you have bought the piece of kit to make the bricks, they are then free!
How much does it cost and where can I get one?
We purchased ours from Amazon (I think) where they currently cost between £11 and £18.95 depending on which one you choose. They are available on quite a few of the 'green' websites and also on EBay.
Are there any problems with it?
I have already mentioned the fact that the brick can sometimes be a bit tricky to get out of the briquette maker.
The other design fault from my point of view is the two cross over handles. When they have crossed over you are bearing down on the edges of the handles which can be quite uncomfortable. It would be better if they were designed so that you were forcing your weight down onto a flat surface as this would be easier to do and more effective at removing moisture from your brick.
We have found it to be an effective way of making some more free fuel and although it takes a bit of time and effort it is well worth it for the money it will save.
This will also be posted on Ciao at some point.