Quest For Rocket Stoves

With the skies above our camping place threatening rain and thunder and with two days left before we were to leave Edinburgh, the heart of the bike tour was missing.

The heart of the bike tour is an ugly-mangled thing. We crouch beside it at night, offering up endless twigs and sticks, blowing on it our hopes for hot food. The heart of the bike tour is a rocket stove. It is made from a large oil drum, piping and insulation.

We had two vegetable oil drums, found at the back of a restraunt. We still needed to find some piping and insulation. So three of us set off with a sketch of a rocket stove on a scrap of paper and our oil drums on a trailer.

We headed to an industrial area and checked some bins. No luck, no insulation or piping. We cycled on, into Edinburgh, the rain still up in the clouds.

Down Tinker’s Lane, a sign for a Scrapyard, Salvage and Antique yard looked like a good bet. Two dogs barked at us. Antiques were laid out on the floor and in a lorry trailer. An old man with slicked back hair came out, shouted at the dogs and asked what we were looking for. I shouted from across the car park, ‘Flu piping for a stove we’re building’. He pointed with his stick at the lorry trailer and told us to look in there. Then he told me to follow him. He slipped between a gap in a sliding gate and I followed. He waved his stick at his scrapyard and said to look around. It was full of junk, burnt out cars, clambering vegetation. I searched in containers, in long grass, among a broken up caravan. Absolutely nothing except for a small strip of useful tarp. We left, thanking the man, cutting off the conversation as he started praising trump and the joys of climate change.

We headed for The Forge, a DIY space for building things, hoping it would have the parts we needed. The Forge has been going for a couple of years, it’s on some undeveloped Council land in the city centre. It consists of two containers which have woodwork and metalwork facilities. People pay a small monthly fee to membership fee to use the space. 

In their junk pile we found some bendy piping and around a corner some insulation. The insulation wasn’t the right kind, it was builder’s foam, we needed rock wool or perlite. With three hours left, before the space closed it would have to do.

The clouds cleared, we sat on the concrete floor cutting holes in the oil drums and bending the piping into the most 90 degree shape possible. People moved around us working on other projects. A father and daughter were building a skateboard, someone was doing some engraving into a piece of wood, and a guy worked on smoking as many roll-ups as he could. With much effort we managed to get the piping through the holes we cut.

The birth of the rocket stoves

A person working on a van conversion had some spare rock wool. In the end we had everything. We finished the afternoon smiling under our dust masks whilst we poked rock wool into our two twin rocket stoves. We left with our rocket stoves on the trailer, wrapped under a scrap of tarp.

Later that evening, after much bread,  experimental music at the Forest Cafe and talks at the Feminist Book Fair, we were back at our camping place. A damp haze hung over the meadow. We were hungry and keen to test our rocket stoves. So on our knees we worked, blowing heat out of the damp wood. I stood back watching the metal ring glow a hot orange and hungrily I remembered how long it took for water to boil.



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