The SilverFire Scout Biomass Stove is very Efficient

SilverFire Scout

The stove and the pan in the bag

I recently received a new stove to test, this is the SilverFire Scout.  Now before I say too much about the stove I want to explain a bit about my background.  I have served in the fire service and for the last 17 years of my career, I was with a state arson and bomb unit.  I have a background  in fire science and I understand how a stove of this type works.  In addition, I have tested many of the small stoves that are currently on the market, so I feel qualified to review this stove.

 

I like the whole concept of using biomass to fuel your stove.  Biomass stoves are fueled by twigs, pinecones, smaller sticks etc.  A handful of twigs and leaves and you can cook a meal.   A small stove like the SilverFire Scout works well in a bugout bag, you have an almost endless supply of fuel.

SilverFire Scout

The stove inside the pan with the lid off

SilverFire Scout

The stove inside the pan with the lid on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The SilverFire Scout is sold in three different configurations, one just the stove by itself for $59.99, the second the stove and the MSR Alpine Stowaway 775 ml pan for $79.99 and the third is the stove, MSR pan, silverware and a nice fire starter for $99.99.

The one I am testing is the stove and the MSR pan.  As you can see in the pictures, the stove fits inside the pan and it all fits inside the bag.  The pan and SilverFire Scout stove weighs approximately 20 ounces,  the stove by itself 12 ounces.

SilverFire Scout

The stove set up next to the pan

SilverFire Scout

The stove loaded with wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The biomass fuel that I used was the dry materials that I found while out with my wife in the rain, see this post,  Finding Dry Wood in Wet Weather

For simplicities sake I used a vaseline soaked cotton ball to start the fire.  I followed the directions on the correct way to load the stove, which is to put the biomass in a vertical position and place small tinder on the top.

SilverFire Scout

SilverFire Scout

The pan on the the stove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of the way, this stove draws; this stove will smoke if overfilled.  You have to practice with this stove to learn how much fuel to add.  Twigs placed in the firebox in a vertical position, with good dry tinder placed on the top seems to work well. After playing with the SilverFire Scout, I have to give it a very high rating, it was able to bring a pan of water from 45 degrees F to a full rolling boil in under seven minutes.  The stove is sturdy and is made of stainless steel.

SilverFire Scout

The water at a hard rolling boil

The design of this stove is unique and makes this stove very efficient.  Rather than try to explain why this stove works I am going to say that while I have not tested this stove head to head against others, based on my experience this is the most efficient stove that I have encountered. I will recommend it.

Howard

Dollar Store Preps can be a Bargain

dollar store preps

Three of these products were made in the USA and one in Korea

I don’t like to shop, but my wife dragged me into a dollar store the other day.  So since I was already there I decided to amuse myself by making a list of all the different items that were being sold that could be used for preps. The list of Dollar store preps I found was very surprising.  They had a lot of bargains and a lot of useless junk.  If you shop carefully you can find a large number of items that are worth stocking.

Here is the list of Dollar Store preps

      • Assorted hard candy
      • Scotch tape
      • Glo sticks, they could be used for markers at night
      • Paper plates and bowls
      • Mailing tape
      • Pens and pencils
      • Multi purposes lighters
      • Candles of all types and sizes.
      • Plastic buckets
      • Two stroke 50 to 1 oil for use in two stroke engines
      • Flashlights
      • Brake fluid
      • Screw drivers
      • Duct tape
      • Light blubs
      • Bleach, the bottles I saw were scented, so not to be used for water treatment, but good for disinfectant.
      • Gloves
      • Batteries
      • Laundry soap
      • Vaseline
      • Pocket first aid kits
      • Baby lotions and powder
      • Socks
      • Plastic laundry baskets, great for gathering the produce from your garden
      • Shampoo
      • Hand soap
      • Anti bacterial wipes
      • Cough drops
      • Anti itch cream
      • Hydrocortisone cream a generic brand of the same stuff my wife paid $6.99 for at a different store.
      • Athlete’s foot clotrimazole cream, my wife bought this same product for $10.99 in another store in a much smaller tube.
      • Triple antibiotic ointment similar to Neosporin
      • Oral analgesic gel
      • Razor blades
      • feminine products
      • Cotton balls
      • Q tips
      • Band-Aids
      • Toothbrushes
      • Dental floss
      • Toothpaste
      • Plastic containers of many different sizes
      • A large selection of various canned foods including, vegetables, fish and meats.
      • Various other package and dry foods
      •  Bottled water
      • Cleaning products
      • Can openers
      • Kitchen utensils
      • Sun glasses
      • Reading glasses,  I have used these for years

Now a couple of words of warning when you shop for Dollar Store preps, there can be a few traps.  I noticed that some of their products like duct tape, toilet paper and aluminum foil came in smaller than normal packaging.  These may not be the best buys. There are many good low priced items, but you need to be careful.

Next time you are near one go take a look at the Dollar Store preps, you might save yourself some money.

Howard

Finding Dry Wood in Wet Weather

dry wood

Here you can see how one side of a digger pine has been sheltered from the rain and some of the small branches and bark are still dry.

It has been raining for the last couple of weeks and the ground in very wet; we have had about 5 inches of rainfall.  So I decided this would be a good time to take my wife out and show her how to find dry wood.  We went to an area not to far from our house and were able to find several sources of reasonably dry wood within a few minutes. The first thing we did was look for what some people call squaw wood.  This is the small dead limbs or branches under the live canopy of a tree.  They are easy to find low down where they are protected from the rain.  The ones found on a conifer are normally the driest; the canopy on a conifer offers the best protection against rain. In this case, most of the trees around were oaks that had mostly lost their leaves.  Even so, we were able to find some reasonable dry small branches, particularly on the underside of trees that were leaning.  The few conifers that were in the area were straggly digger pine.  But we were able to find dry bark on a few small branches and a bit of dry resin. After a rain, the small branches on the lower portions of the trees often dry the quickest and can make good kindling.  Small pieces of wood on the ground will often stay wet the longest.

dry wood

Here you can see how one side of a tree is dry and sheltered

Here you can see resin from where a small limb was cut off.  You will often find resin at spots where the tree has been injured.  Resin can burn well.

Here you can see resin from where a small limb was cut off. You will often find resin at spots where the tree has been injured. Resin can burn well.

 

 

 

 

 

dry wood

This downed tree had dry bark underneath it, but we passed it by for easier pickings.

dry wood

The place we found a large amount of dry wood under the logs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then found a group of downed trees and there was dry bark on the underside.  This was a bit hard to access so we skipped it and looked further.  We soon found a partly rotten log.  It was small enough that I was able to roll it over.  There was a large amount of punky dry wood up inside the log.  This was easy to break out with your hands.  Even after two weeks of rains, this was still dry.

dry wood

Here is one of the logs after being turned over, notice all the dry wood

dry wood

Here you can see a piece I broke out with my hand

With the dry wood that we found it would be fairly easy to start a fire.  The punky dry wood from the log would ignite easy and then I would add the squaw wood.  This is something that you need to go out and do.  When you start finding wood you will built up your own skills and confidence. Howard

Appetite Fatigue and Food Storage

Appetite Fatigue

Just plain oatmeal every day would get old very fast.

Appetite fatigue is something that I have always heard about and thought that it would affect other people, but it won’t affect me.  It will just affect the kids and the weak.  Well recently, I have received a surprise, count me with the weak, I am too old to fit with the young.

About six weeks ago, I decided that I had to lose some weight, so I went on the Atkins diet.  Now this diet limits your food choices, you live primarily on greens and protein, and very little carbohydrates.  The good news is that I have lost 15 lbs so far, the bad news is the I have discovered that I can suffer from appetite fatigue.

When I started this diet, one of the things that I thought would be easy was eating eggs and bacon every morning for breakfast.  Well after six weeks, I hardly want to look at another egg.  I am still eating them but it is getting harder.  My wife is a good cook and I normally eat a wide variety of foods, so I guess I have become spoiled.  Now I am not saying that I couldn’t live on a limited diet, but it would take some getting used to.

So when you work on your food storage remember that sometimes it is about more than straight survival, you want to plan on a quality of life.  You need to try to add taste, sight, and nose appeal to your storage.  This is not as hard as it sounds, you need variety, spices and some comfort food.

Just remember that appetite fatigue can actually overpower your feelings of hunger. Your mind and your body may simply refuse to eat if you develop appetite fatigue.  In the very young and the elderly, this can affect their ability to survive.  If food supplies become severely limited, you will need to have a plan to avoid appetite fatigue.  It is something you can deal with.  Get all the variety you can in your food storage   A List of Foods That I Recommend You Have in Your Storage, stock spices,  study the edible plants in your area and learn to be a good cook .  Often a good creative cook can make some surprising things taste good.

Howard

Three types of improvised outdoor wood-fired cook-stoves Part 3 of 3

Introduction 

This is the third of a series of three discussions about three improvised wood-fired “rocket” cook stoves I have made for my own outdoor use. In all three types, the stove top is at a convenient elevation above floor/ground. What I have done for my own use should not be construed to be advice to you or anyone else. Seek the advice of a safety professional regarding proper safety precautions for your situation.

The wood used in these stoves includes 4-ft long pieces of broken branches, stove-wood length split fire wood for use in traditional cast iron wood-fired cook stoves, and short chunks of branch wood where chunk diameter and length are about equal. Wood diameters less than ½ inch tend to burn out too fast and diameters greater than 2½ inches tend to burn too slow.

My rocket stoves are less expensive, but heavier and less portable, than commercially available ones. My stoves utilize locally available home & patio construction materials such as fired clay bricks, concrete patio pavers, concrete building blocks and assorted pieces of scrap metals. In their simplest forms, they require no tools to build. My more “elegant” versions require ordinary hand-held home maintenance tools such as a metal cutting hacksaw, drill, and pop riveter.

Type I discusses the simplest stove – the one where the cooking utensil (kettle, pot, skillet, griddle, or grill) is supported by the stove itself and the entire stove is constructed on a roll around cart so it can be stored in one location and used in another.

Type II concerns four variations of a more complex version of improvised stoves. The common feature of these variations is that the weight the cooking utensil is supported on a separate structure that is cantilevered from a porch railing and over the stove. The stove supports none of the weight of the utensils. This feature was developed to minimize the risk of toppling the stove when heavy utensils are placed onto the stove or removed from it. This cantilever arrangement is not mobile.

In the simplest of these four variations, the sides and handles of the cooking utensils are exposed to the flames of the stove. In the second version the sides and handles of the utensils are shielded from the flames and the cantilever includes a simple temperature control device that is important for safe operation of pressure cookers/canners. The third version shows use of a Dutch oven on the cantilever over the stove. And, the fourth version shows an improvised baking oven on the cantilever.

Type III concerns a semi-permanent installation that is somewhat reminiscent of an old-fashioned wood fired cook stove but, while heavy, can be disassembled, transported from one location to another, and quickly reassembled by one person with a wheelbarrow or pickup truck.

Type III – My front yard rocket stove cooking facility

I use rocket stoves for front yard summertime cooking. They consist of 2 parts: (1) a support structure to raise the stove to a convenient cooking height; and (2) the stove itself.

Rocket Stove Support Structure 

The support structure consists of 2 piles of stacked concrete building blocks. The ground is leveled so the tops of both piles are even and level. Atop these piles are 2 parallel angle iron bars (1 ½” x 1 ½” x ⅛”) by about 34” long. Three concrete patio pavers, 12” x 12” x 2”, are set on the bars as shown in photos 1 and 2. The rocket stove is built atop the support structure.

Multiple versions of rocket stoves can be used on this type support. The first version (photos 3 – 8) is 2 bricks long. It’s meant for supporting a canning kettle. The second version (photos 9 – 12) is 3 bricks long and is for supporting a 2 burner cook stove top salvaged from an old burned-out cast-iron wood-fired cook stove.

stoves

1

stoves

2

 

Canning Kettle Support

stoves

3

stoves

4

In photos 3 – 6 note the brick arrangements in three tiers. It’s the same as for preciously discussed versions of my rocket stoves.

In photo 5 two pieces of salvaged 1½” x 1½” angle iron are place atop the brick structure. Then, in photo 6, a steel plate with round hole is placed atop the angles. This plate shields the sides and handles of the kettle from flame and soot.

Photo 7 shows the kettle atop its flame & soot shield before and after ignition of the heating fire. In photo 8 the kettle contains 4 gallons of water and was brought to a rolling boil with 30 minutes after putting a match to the fire’s kindling.

stoves

5

stoves

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

stoves

7

stoves

8

Support for a Salvaged Cast Iron Cook-Stove Top

Photos 9 & 10 show short pieces of 1” square steel tube are used to support the cook top. The angle iron supports used for the canning kettle could have been used. This cook top has removable lids.

stoves

9

stoves

10

In photos 11 & 12 the fire has been built. The stove top lids can be removed to obtain faster heating of the pots on the stove or replaced for slower heating.

stoves

11

stoves

12

Also notice the flame coming out from the stove side. If you have another piece of square tube it can be placed in this space to protect your belly from the flame if you stand close to the stove side. Just leave the opposite side open for venting stove exhaust.

The entire cast iron stove top can be removed from its support structure and replaced with a griddle or a grill or left open as desired.

Photo 13 below shows as expansion of the single rocket stove described above. The stove at the right is topped with grill consisting of a salvaged cast iron steel gutter drain. It can be removed to allow use of other utensils.

Photo 14 shows the stove with pieces of long firewood in and next to the stove. They were made by taking fallen branches from oak trees and breaking them into about 3 – 4 foot lengths rather than cutting them with a saw.

Photo 15 shows an easy way to break small branches. Simply place the branch in the V between two closely spaced trees. Place the desired break point in the V with the small end of the branch on the far side of the tree. Then grasp the large end and pull it horizontally until it breaks. They generally break right in the V provided that the branch is not green. Recently cut green branches do not break cleanly. Branches that have once been dried thoroughly and then dampened by rain or snow generally break cleanly but may be difficult to ignite.

stoves

13

Capture1

Hangtown Frank

End of Installment 3

 

Three types of improvised outdoor wood-fired cook-stoves Part 2 of 3

Introduction

 This is the second of a series of three discussions about three improvised wood-fired “rocket” cook stoves I have made for my own outdoor use. In all three types, the stove top is at a convenient elevation above floor/ground. What I have done for my own use should not be construed to be advice to you or anyone else. Seek the advice of a safety professional regarding proper safety precautions for your situation.

The wood used in these stoves includes 4-ft long pieces of broken branches, stove-wood length split fire wood for use in traditional cast iron wood-fired cook stoves, and short chunks of branch wood where chunk diameter and length are about equal. Wood diameters less than ½ inch tend to burn out too fast and diameters greater than 2½ inches tend to burn too slow.

My rocket stoves are less expensive, but heavier and less portable, than commercially available ones. My stoves utilize locally available home & patio construction materials such as fired clay bricks, concrete patio pavers, concrete building blocks and assorted pieces of scrap metals. In their simplest forms, they require no tools to build. My more “elegant” versions require ordinary hand-held home maintenance tools such as a metal cutting hacksaw, drill, and pop riveter.

Type I discusses the simplest stove – the one where the cooking utensil (kettle, pot, skillet, griddle, or grill) is supported by the stove itself and the entire stove is constructed on a roll around cart so it can be stored in one location and used in another.

Type II concerns four variations of a more complex version of improvised stoves. The common feature of these variations is that the weight the cooking utensil is supported on a separate structure that is cantilevered from a porch railing and over the stove. The stove supports none of the weight of the utensils. This feature was developed to minimize the risk of toppling the stove when heavy utensils are placed onto the stove or removed from it. This cantilever arrangement is not mobile.

In the simplest of these four variations, the sides and handles of the cooking utensils are exposed to the flames of the stove. In the second version the sides and handles of the utensils are shielded from the flames and the cantilever includes a simple temperature control device that is important for safe operation of pressure cookers/canners. The third version shows use of a Dutch oven on the cantilever over the stove. And, the fourth version shows an improvised baking oven on the cantilever.

Type III concerns a semi-permanent installation that is somewhat reminiscent of an old-fashioned wood fired cook stove but, while heavy, can be disassembled, transported from one location to another, and quickly reassembled by one person with a wheelbarrow or pickup truck.

Type II – A Cantilevered Arm Supports the Cooking Utensil Over the Stove 

Type II of my rocket stove differs from Type I as follows:

a)   The stove is no longer mobile. It is set atop portable and variable elevation sitting bench.

b)   The length of the stove has been increased from 1 brick to 2 bricks. Its width and height remain unchanged. This modification was made to provide for a longer fire box (combustion chamber) and hence – a bigger fire.

c)         The cooking utensil is not supported on the brick structure. Rather, it is supported on a 1” square steel tube pop-riveted structure that is cantilevered from the deck railing. There is a 1” air gap between the cantilever and the top tier of bricks. The cantilever provides a more stable (safer) structure for holding heavy utensils than the Type I stove.

Type II – Variation A

Photos 1 & 2 show the stove and its cantilever support for heavy canning kettles. These kettles can also be used for heating water for other purposes such as doing laundry. Note that the sides and handles on the kettles are not protected from smoke and flame.

stoves

1 Heating water in a canning kettle

stoves

2 Processing bottles of apple juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stoves

3 Bottled apple juice

 

Variation B – Heat shields are added to (a) protect utensil sides & handles from smoke & flame and (b) control heat input to cooking utensils

Variation B of the stove differs from Variation A in 2 ways:

a)         Photo 4 shows a rectangular sheet of steel, with a central octagonal hole, which is placed atop the cantilever structure. The bottom of a pot set on the hole is exposed directly to the flame but its sides and handles are shielded from the fire. Side shielding is especially important when using pots with plastic handles that could be damaged by the fire.

Exposure of the pot bottom directly to the flame increases the rate of heat input to the pot. This is especially important when using a pot or kettle that has ridges on its bottom – ridges that prevent intimate contact of the bottom of a pot set on a solid plate.

The hole could be round. The use of an octagonal hole made for easier hole-cutting operations.

b)         As can just barely seen in the photo 5, there is a small piece of sheet metal projecting out from the right of the support cantilever. This is a “heat controller”. It slides in and out under the steel sheet’s central hole to vary the area of the pot bottom that is exposed to the fire. Photos 6 – 8 show details of the temperature controller.

The heat controller is especially important when using a pressure cooker/canner on this stove. Even with it, use of a pressure cooker/canner on this stove requires constant attention to ensure that the cooker/canner doesn’t over-pressurize and “pop” (activate) its safety valve. If this were this to happen it would create a very nasty mess to clean up and, possibly, a major safety problem.

I have used a pressure cookers and pressure canners on this stove several times. This heat controller requires more development to improve its reliability and ease of use before I’d trust anyone but myself to use a pressure cooker on this stove. Even then, Do Not attempt pressure cooking or pressure canning on a rocket stove before you become thoroughly familiar with the process on a conventional electric or gas cooking range.

stoves

4

stoves

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stoves

6

stoves

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note the guide rails for the temperature controller

stoves

8

 

stoves

9

stoves

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos 9 & 10 show the stove with a pressure cooker and with a pressure canner.

The hole in the temperature controller is for a tool to push the controller in to decrease heating rate or pull it out to increase the heating rate.

The sheet steel heat shield on top of the cantilever (photos 8 – 10) can be removed and replaced by a rectangular griddle or grill. Beware of ugly grease spills off a griddle when using a griddle or grate over on a wood deck or a concrete patio.

In photos 4 & 5, there is a simple flat metal sheet under the paver. It has sharp corners. Later, it was replaced with a shallow metal pan with rounded edges and corners. It was purchased from an auto parts store. It is what’s used for preventing oil and grease drippings from under their automobile onto garage floors. Cooking things like pancakes on the griddle doesn’t require a grease trapping pan.

A heat shield to protect the deck railing might be required. That device remains to be developed. The trash cans in the background of photo 5 are for storage of kindling and stove-wood length fuel. They protect the dry wood from rain and snow.

Variation C – Dutch Oven Baking

Baking corn bread in a Dutch oven on a rocket stove.

Photo 11is the Dutch oven, all fired up and cooking. With “campfire” Dutch oven cooking, most of the heat is transferred into the oven thru the lid which would normally have a thick layer of coals on its lid.

stoves

11

stove

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stoves

13

stoves

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a rocket stove all the heat goes in thru the oven’s bottom and tends to burn the product being baked. To prevent this, place a trivet on the oven’s bottom (photo 12). You may even need to put some aluminum foil between the trivet and the baking pan.

Photo 13 shows the oven with trivet and baking pan. My “baking pan” is an old cast iron skillet with its handle removed. Use a pair of pliers to lift it out of the oven after baking. Photo 14 shows corn bread batter/dough in the pan and ready for baking.

In photo 15, the Dutch oven lid shown in photo 11 has been replaced by a canning kettle lid which is much lighter and easier to handle. It holds heat in the oven nicely. Photo 16 shows the pan of corn bread after baking. Photo 17 shows the baked pan of bread ready for slicing and slathering with butter and honey.

stoves

15

stoves

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

stoves

17

 Variation D – An Improvised Baking Oven 

Dutch ovens are expensive but can be inexpensively improvised for bread, muffin, or other baking.  Photo 18 shows a 17” wide x 21”long x ½” thick aluminum plate setting on the cantilever on a fired up stove. I got the plate at a salvage yard (Blue Collar Supply) in Sacramento.

To begin cooking, the plate is set on the cantilever and centered over the fire. Then a trivet is then placed on the plate, and the cast iron muffin pan is set atop the trivet (photo 19). The plate could have been smaller just so long as the muffin pan cover (an inverted aluminum dish pan) will fit on it. I have used steel plates rather than aluminum. But they are much heavier (more difficult to handle) and aluminum does a better job of transferring heat into the oven than steel.

stoves

18

stoves

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In photo 20, corn bread muffin batter/dough is added to the muffin pan. Photo 21 shows an aluminum dish washing pan inverted and set over the muffin pan. The cardboard helps raise temperature in the pan. A folded towel can also be set on the pan to raise the temperature under the pan. If you use a towel be careful that its edges don’t touch the plate. The can burn or melt of your plate temperature is too high.

stoves

20

stoves

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In photo 21, note the thermometer near the corner of the plate. This gives an indirect measure of the temperature in the baking area. The exact temperature in the baking area isn’t important so long as it is above about 220F. That will be hot enough to evaporate the water but won’t brown the bread. Even without browning the bread will be good. A plate temperature much above 300F may cause burning of the bread’s surface.

stoves

22

Here are the baked muffins (photo 22). They would have raised more if I had used white flour rather than whole wheat flour and had reduced the cornmeal-to-wheat ratio.

Hangtown Frank

End Installment 2

 

Three Types of Improvised Outdoor Wood-Fired Cook-Stoves, Part 1 of 3

The following is part one of a three part series on wood fire cook stoves that you can easily make and use at home.  This article is written by Hangtown Frank.

Howard

Introduction

This is the first of a series of three discussions about three improvised wood-fired “rocket” cook stoves I have made for my own outdoor use. In all three types, the stove top is at a convenient elevation above floor/ground. What I have done for my own use should not be construed to be advice to you or anyone else. Seek the advice of a safety professional regarding proper safety precautions for your situation.

The wood used in these stoves includes 4-ft long pieces of broken branches, stove-wood length split fire wood for use in traditional cast iron wood-fired cook stoves, and short chunks of branch wood where chunk diameter and length are about equal. Wood diameters less than ½ inch tend to burn out too fast and diameters greater than 2½ inches tend to burn too slow.

My rocket stoves are less expensive, but heavier and less portable, than commercially available ones. My stoves utilize locally available home & patio construction materials such as fired clay bricks, concrete patio pavers, concrete building blocks and assorted pieces of scrap metals. In their simplest forms, they require no tools to build. My more “elegant” versions require ordinary hand-held home maintenance tools such as a metal cutting hacksaw, drill, and pop riveter.

Type I discusses the simplest stove – the one where the cooking utensil (kettle, pot, skillet, griddle, or grill) is supported by the stove itself and the entire stove is constructed on a roll around cart so it can be stored in one location and used in another.

Type II concerns four variations of a more complex version of improvised stoves. The common feature of these variations is that the weight the cooking utensil is supported on a separate structure that is cantilevered from a porch railing and over the stove. The stove supports none of the weight of the utensils. This feature was developed to minimize the risk of toppling the stove when heavy utensils are placed onto the stove or removed from it. This cantilever arrangement is not mobile.

In the simplest of these four variations, the sides and handles of the cooking utensils are exposed to the flames of the stove. In the second version the sides and handles of the utensils are shielded from the flames and the cantilever includes a simple temperature control device that is important for safe operation of pressure cookers/canners. The third version shows use of a Dutch oven on the cantilever over the stove. And, the fourth version shows an improvised baking oven on the cantilever.

Type III concerns a semi-permanent installation that is somewhat reminiscent of an old-fashioned wood fired cook stove but, while heavy, can be disassembled, transported from one location to another, and quickly reassembled by one person with a wheelbarrow or pickup truck.

Type I – A Basic Mobile Stove.

The simplest stove was built on the top surface of a roll around cart. The cart allows for out-of-the-way storage of the stove when it is not being used and then, depending on the weather, use of the stove in sunny or shady areas of my back porch. It could have been built on bare ground.

For this stove an 18” square concrete paver was placed on the metal top of the cart. Then 4 bricks were arranged on the paver as shown in photo 1 below. One of the bricks is a “half brick”. If a full length brick had been used it would be arranged so that the gap in bricks would remain as shown in the photo. The extra length would have projected outward from the arrangement and towards the bottom of the photo.

stove

1

stove

2

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 2 shows the stove with the second tier of bricks. Note the use of slightly smaller bricks in the upper tier. I changed brick sizes simply because I had no more of the larger bricks. Note also how the brick at the upper right spans the gap in the lower tier. When the stove is in operation this gap allows for air entry into the combustion chamber as well as for insertion of fire wood into the combustion chamber (i.e., the hollow space within the stove).

Photos 3 & 4 below show the completed stove. It is now 3 bricks high. Note the intentional difference in the arrangement of bricks in the top tier. This helps prevent collapse of the stove. See photos 31 – 33 for better views of the brick stacking arrangements.Photo 2 shows the stove with the second tier of bricks. Note the use of slightly smaller bricks in the upper tier. I changed brick sizes simply because I had no more of the larger bricks. Note also how the brick at the upper right spans the gap in the lower tier. When the stove is in operation this gap allows for air entry into the combustion chamber as well as for insertion of fire wood into the combustion chamber (i.e., the hollow space within the stove).

In photo 4, the gap in the bottom tier bricks is just large enough for insertion of the ash removal shovel.

stove

3

stove

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short pieces of 1” square steel tube are placed atop the stack of bricks for support of the coffee pot. These tubes have 2 functions: first they support whatever is being heated; and, second, they allow escape of smoke from the fire. Short lengths of 1½” angle iron could also be used. In this case, lay them so that the 2 edges of each angle are on the bricks and their corners up upwards (See photo 33). Don’t use round pieces of pipe. They can work like rollers and allow the pot to roll off.

Photos 5 & 6 show the stove in operation.

stove

5

stove

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note the emplacement of 2 pieces of 2” x 2” angle iron on either side of the wood insertion hole. These ensure that burning pieces of wood don’t fall off the sides of the cart. If the cart were placed closer to the deck railing I’d have placed a heat shield on the railing also.

The L-shaped sheet aluminum between the coffee pot and the cart handle ensure that the wood handle isn’t damaged by the hot exhaust from the stove. It may not be needed. 

This stove is held together only by gravity and friction between the bricks. If desired, it could be held together more firmly by mortar or clamping devices. Thus far, in all versions of the stove I have made I’ve found no need for mortar or clamping devices. However, repeated heating cycles do cause gaps to develop between bricks. These can be closed by gentle tapping of the bricks back together. Be aware that simple stacking of the bricks without mortar or clamps does present a safety hazard. The stack could collapse if bumped vigorously. Type II of the stove (installment 2) reduces this hazard.

Long pieces of firewood can be used in this stove – just gently shove them in further as they are consumed in the stove. Pieces up to 4 feet long have been used. Installment 3 photos show how the long pieces are used.

Unless you periodically shove the wood further into the stove the fire will creep out of the stove a few inches. During subsequent use of this stove and its several variations, which are discussed later, the fire has never crept out any further than shown in photo 5.

To easily start a fire in this stove, remove the pot and its support bars from the stove top. Wad up a bit of newspaper and place it inside the stove near its air/wood access hole. Pile on some small twigs or small kindling and set the paper alight using a large wooden kitchen match. After the kindling starts burning, pile small pieces of firewood atop the kindling. After these ignite insert longer pieces of wood thru the stove’s access hole, replace the pot support bars, and then emplace the pot to be heated.

Normally, this stove in not used my wood deck during the warm dry months of the year. And, when using it any time on the deck I hose down the deck first unless it is already wet from rain or snow. I also keep of bucket of water handy.

The 18” square and 1” thick paver used in this stove did fracture into several pieces after several firings. This large paver was replaced with 12” square and 2” thick pavers. They have not cracked or broken after multiple firings in this stove and my type II and type III stoves.

Hangtown Frank

Carrying Good Quality Knives

good quality knives

This is the knife I carry

I am a great believer in carrying good quality knives.  A couple of years ago I purchased a Benchmade 940 Osborne.  Since then I have been using it as my everyday carry and it gets some rough treatment.

Recently I was involved in insulating two buildings with 2-inch rigid foam insulation with a thin aluminum facer.  After experimenting with a few ways of cutting the insulation, I ended up cutting it with my Benchmade.  I used it to cut most of the insulation in both projects.  The knife held up very well.  Here is a link to one of the projects Shipping Containers and How to Insulate Them 

My knives are normally kept very sharp and after all this it still retained a good cutting edge.  A few strokes on Spyderco crock sticks and it was as sharp as ever.  This particular knife is just one of the many good choices that are available on today’s market.

Every good prepper needs to have good quality knives.  Just be sure that you are not violating the law in the area in which you reside.  I know in some of the large metropolitan areas knife laws are now becoming common.  For instance, the City of Los Angeles bans concealed knives with blades over 3 inches.  I attempted to find a website with a good explanation of these laws but was unable to find one that I would trust.  You need to check the laws in your local area.

Good quality knives do not necessarily have to be expensive.  They just need to meet the following criteria.

  • Maintain a good edge
  • Either be a fixed blade or lock in the open position.
  • Serve the intended purpose

That last one, serve the intended purpose is very open to interpretation.  I have a friend who has carried a cheap knife that he purchased for under $4.00 twenty years ago.  He is an avid hunter and every year, he uses this knife to clean and gut large game, including deer, antelope and elk.  The knife has served him well.

Finding good quality knives is a very personal thing.  The one that works for me may not work for you.  Take a good look at what is available and see what fits your needs and always have a spare for backup.

Howard

12 Spices that You Want in Your Storage

spicesMy wife and I were discussing some problems she has had with the storage of some spice mixtures that she purchased from Costco.  She has been using their Lemon & pepper seasoning and the Montreal Steak season when she noticed that they did not seem to store well.  When we read the labels, we found that one of them contained lemon oil and the other sunflower oil.

In checking some additional mixtures from various stores, she found others that contained oils and some that did not.  Because we purchase our spices in larger containers, we will be sure and check the labels in the future.

Spices are a great item to have in your storage.  They will improve the taste of your foods.  As I told someone years ago, even the rats will taste better with al little chili powder.  Anyway, my wife made up a list of 12 spices that she uses regularly that seem to store well.  None of these have any oil or products in them that spoil rapidly.

The following list of 12 spices is one my wife says will serve for most purposes.

      • Salt – stores forever if kept dry
      • Black pepper
      • Garlic powder
      • Red pepper or cayenne
      • Chili powder
      • Oregano
      • Basil
      • Thyme
      • Rosemary
      • Curry powder
      • Bay leaves
      • Paprika

Now most spices will lose some of their flavor over time.  You can delay this with proper storage.  All spices should be kept in a cool, dark, dry place. If you have a vacuum sealer like a FoodSaver  (See my Wife’s FoodSaver Demo)

these can extend the shelf life of most spices.  Salt is an exception it doesn’t need to be vacuumed sealed.  Older spice do not normally go bad, they merely lose flavor so you can still use them just increase the amount you use.

Howard

 

Electric Panels and How to Turn Off the Power.

electric panel

A typical newer electric panel

It seems that whenever I talk to a group of people, I find someone who does not know how to turn of the electric panel to their house.  This is something that everyone should know how to do, even your older children.  In case of earthquake, storm damage, fire or even an accidental electrocution you may have to turn the power off.

Most homes today have circuit breakers which are a simple switch, it is just a matter of knowing where they are and which one to turn off.  Some of your older homes may still have screw type fuses, how ever they are fast disappearing.

The first thing is to learn where the electric panel is located and how to open the door.  Many of the doors are hard to open if you don’t know how.  They often have to be lifted up before they can be opened.  You need to actually go outside and do it a few times so that it becomes automatic.  Me, I am a bit paranoid so I lock my electric panel with a padlock.  If you do this make sure that you always know exactly where a key is located.

electric panel

Know how to unlock the door to your panel

The electric panel consists of a main breaker and various smaller breakers on branch circuits that cover areas of your home.  For example you may have one for the bedrooms and a second for the living room.  Each of these breakers should be marked to show what area it covers.  If you turn of the main breaker to your home, you will shut off all electric power.  Individual breakers will only shut off power to the designated areas.

If you are not confident in your ability to turn off the power, have someone show you.  If you are using a generator and connect it in any manner to the power system in your home, be sure that the main breaker is in the off position, so that power is not feeding back into the main line.  If power feeds back onto the main line it can electrocute someone working on the power lines.

electric panel

Here you can see the main breaker and it is in the on position. The big one at the top

electric panel

here you can see the whole panel. The main breaker is at the top and you can see the other breakers and how they should be marked. Some panels have the main breaker in different locations.

 

electric panel

Here you can see an old fashioned fuse panel. These fuses unscrew. If you have one of these panels have someone show you how to turn it off. Never let anyone talk you into putting a penny under one of these fuses. This can cause fires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So as with anything else you need to do this occasionally so that you remember how in an emergency.

Howard