Using a paper log/briquette maker to recycle old paper as fuel for fires and stoves. A personal account with tips for use.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a constant, free source of fuel for your fire or wood burning stove? I thought so. And the paper briquette maker promised me just that; here’s my experience, and some tips on getting the best from it.
What is the paper briquette maker?
It’s a metal box with two long, interlocking handles. They are readily available online and in hardware stores, advertised as briquette makers or paper log makers. The blurb says that you simply soak paper overnight, stuff into the contraption the next day, squeeze down a bit, and hey presto! You have a solid fuel log that you can burn on your fire.
What are the good points?
Well, in theory it sounds great. It will dispose of newspapers, envelopes and letters (handy for eliminating paperwork with your personal details on), even telephone directories. It’s quite small, and cheap to buy, and has no running costs.
What’s the reality?
I soaked a heap of paper in a bucket overnight. The next day, I rolled the paper into balls and packed them into the briquette maker. I crossed the handles over and pushed down. When the water had been squeezed out, I lifted out… a soggy mass of paper which fell apart. I went online and did some research, and found folks advising me to tear the paper into strips first. I did just that. I tore up an entire telephone directory into two-inch strips (I have way too much free time!) and left it to soak for three days. And when I came to make the briquette, pretty much the same thing happened. A loose brick. When it’s dry it will simply be crumpled paper. I could have crumpled the paper up without all the associated tearing and soaking hassle.
So is it useless?
No, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. Shredded paper is all right. But you need a lot of the stuff, and the bricks can take weeks to dry. They burn relatively quickly. You will expend a lot of effort for a small gain. I use mine, and will continue to use it to make small bricks from shredded personal documents, but I don’t imagine I’ll while away the evenings tearing up newspapers. If you see a cheap one, I’d say buy it, but don’t expect it to magically provide free fuel.
Wear rubber gloves when you are packing the briquette maker with the soaked strips – ink will stain your hands for days. Balancing a plank across the handles can help you exert a more even downward pressure – don’t try and stand on the handles without a plank. And try sourcing off-cuts of wood form local saw mills, joiners, carpenters and woodworkers – a much more reliable way of getting free, or cheap, fuel!
Published in: Rural Living