Knowing how to build a rocket stove is a must in an emergency.
Rocket stoves are usually made from reusable materials you can find around your yard or very cheaply at a hardware store, and the building process is very simple.
In an emergency boiling water is often a life-saving necessity. However, if you’ve ever waited for water to boil over a campfire you know it can take a very long time and use a lot of wood.
This is where a rocket stove can be a game-changer. Rocket stoves use very little wood (mere sticks!) to quickly and efficiently heat a small area. (The image above comes from the video below.)
Below I’ve compiled ten rocket stove designs that can be made by anyone. Read on to learn the mechanics of a rocket stove so that, no matter where you are, you have the knowledge to quickly put together a life-saving way to heat food and boil water.
What is a Rocket Stove?
Simply put, a rocket stove is a super hot and efficient way to burn a small amount of wood. Rocket stoves come in many shapes and designs, but all rocket stoves have a chamber to burn wood in (a combustion chamber) and a vertical chimney made of insulating material, which allows heat to travel to the cooking surface.
Rocket stoves use small pieces of wood over large logs, and the fuel is entirely burned up inside the combustion chamber and long chimney (thus depositing the smoke material inside the stove, rather than outside).
Benefits of Using a Rocket Stove
Great in Emergencies
Rocket stoves are great for use in emergencies because they are small, the materials are cheap, and they don’t rely on electricity or gas to function. Rocket stoves burn wood for fuel, but they are very efficient, so you need less wood than with less efficient stove models.
Low in Smoke
Rocket stoves use an efficient design that minimizes smoke output. The combustion chamber inside the rocket stove burns up all the wood inside the chamber, meaning the only thing that comes out of the top is heat. This is great for those who are sensitive to smoke and can help solve health issues faced by those who use wood stoves as a primary source of heat.
Fast Heat Up
Due to their small size, rocket stoves heat up and cool back down quickly. No more long wait times watching the water boil!
Due to their small size, rocket stoves can easily be moved. They make great camping stoves or can be lent to a neighbor in need.
Have you ever noticed all the partially used fuel canisters in a campground trash can? I have. Those little canisters are hard to recycle, you definitely cannot fly with them so many travelers buy them at their destination, use them twice, then throw them away.
Rocket stoves are much better for the environment because you don’t have to buy a single-use gas canister.
Cheap to Make
Rocket stoves are often very cheap to make. There are dozens of rocket stove designs out there, and I bet you can make at least two of them for free using just materials you already have lying around the house.
Rocket stoves are just as safe, if not safer, than commercially made pocket stoves that depend on gas. Because the DIY rocket stove doesn’t depend on pressurized gas, there is less of a likelihood there will be some kind of fireball at dinner time.
That said, these are still very hot cooking apparatuses, so of course, you should always take normal precautions.
10 Designs for Building Your Own Rocket Stoves
Tin Can Rocket Stove
This tin can rockets stove is a classic. You can use tin cans from leftover food, or this model, which uses a paint can (clean and empty) as the main body of the stove.
One of the things I like about this design is that you can use recycled materials, and this design is very portable.
You will need a drill and metal snips to make the circular hole in the side for a 15 oz tin can, as well as a sand/gravel mixture that serves as the insulation around the chimney. The chimney in this design is made of another 15 oz can that sits inside the paint can.
You can set a round stove burner on the top of this to protect your pot.
Camping Rocket Stove
This rocket stove design is made from a square post that is cut in several places to make what I call an angled “E” shape. This one does require some welding, so if that isn’t a skill you have or can pay someone else to do, no worries! There are lots of other designs here that do not require welding.
This design is nice because the design prevents the fuel from getting clogged in one spot.
Brick Rocket Stove
This model of the brick rocket stove can be built on the ground or a paving stone. In addition to bricks, you need either a wire mesh or a metal plate with holes poked in it. One of the bricks will need to be cut in half.
You will lay the first two layers of bricks down in a “C” shape, with the wire mesh between them, covering the hole created by the C. For the remaining layers of brick, you will add them in a square shape on top of your two C’s. This will make the chimney.
This model has 6 layers of brick, and each layer uses 4 bricks. You can use more bricks than this, but fewer bricks may mean you don’t get enough height to create a proper chimney.
You will place the fuel directly into the top of the chimney (on top of the wire mesh)
5-Gallon Bucket Rocket Stove
For this design you will need a 5-gallon bucket, a 3’’ galvanized flue pipe, a 3’’ galvanized elbow, a metal stovetop grate, and sand.
Cut a hole in the side of the bucket. You may need an electric saw for this portion. Sometimes flue pipe is sold with the long seam open, so you will need to snap that closed and trim the end of the flue pipe with tin snips or a right angle grinder.
The elbow will sit in the center of the bucket at the bottom. You will cut and attach the flue pipe to exit the bucket through the hole you cut. Then you will cut the rest of the flue pipe to fit from the top of the elbow to the top of the bucket.
Fill the bucket with sand (or peat gravel), which acts as insulation.
Another nice thing about this design is the wide top of the bucket filled with sand makes for a nice wide platform to set the stove grate onto.
Trash Can Rocket Stove
Ok so a trash can is a little big for a traditional rocket stove, but hey, lots of people have old metal trash cans somewhere on their property, so why not turn it into a survival tool?
To make a trash can rocket stove you’ll need to cut a door out of the side of the trash can with a right angle grinder. Attach a hinge into the side of the door before you cut it out.
After that, this design is very similar to the 5-gallon bucket design, except that rather than using metal piping insulated by sand, you’ll lay in cement around an 8’’ PVC casing that you’ll then remove, leaving just cement as the chimney insulation.
Cinder Block Rocket Stove
This is also known as the 4-Block rocket stove because it only uses 4 cinder blocks.
To make this cinder block rocket stove, which the maker describes as an “improved” design, you cut open one of the ends of the top cinder block with a masonry blade on a skill saw.
Except for cutting open the one cinder block, this is an incredibly easy design to make and doesn’t require any masonry, metal cutting, or welding.
Two or three bricks on top of the burn chamber works the best for this design. You will need a small metal pipe to put into the burn chamber, which will allow cool air to get into the burn chamber. Your fuel will be placed on top of this little metal pipe.
Wooden Rocket Stove
A wooden rocket stove is a neat option that uses a small stump that you carve an L shape into. You do need some type of auger to carve out the chimney and combustion chamber.
To make a wooden rocket stove choose a dry stump that is about a foot tall. Place the auger bit in the center top of the stump and start turning! Since you have to carve out the wood by hand, choosing a softwood species will make your life easier.
For this style of rocket stove, you won’t end up with a wide chimney. It will only be as wide as your auger. A 1.5’’ or 2’’ auger should still work just fine. Additionally, if you use your knife to bevel the top of the stump around the chimney, this will increase the heat and airflow you’re getting to your cook surface.
Once you’ve drilled the vertical chamber measure how long your auger is on the side of the stump, then drill into the side of the stump horizontally, aiming for the center.
J-Tube Cobb Rocket Stove
Cobb is a mixture of sand, clay, and straw that makes a homemade brick. You can use whatever types of clay, sand, and straw are local to your area.
For this rocket stove, the maker is insulating the ground from the stove with chunks of concrete from an old rocket stove that no longer worked. You can choose paving stones, bricks, or whatever you have on hand.
To make the combustion chamber you will pour the cob around a 4×4 wooden pole wrapped and taped with cardboard. This will allow you to pull the 4×4 out once the cob has dried around it. You’ll make the chimney the same way. In fact, you can just turn the same 4×4 vertically.
Brick and Mortar Rocket Stove
If you want to harness the efficiency of a rocket stove but you want a more permanent fixture in your yard (say, for BBQ), you can build a brick and mortar rocket stove.
This design uses a rectangular brick pattern for the combustion chamber and the chimney is situated over the top of it.
There will be an air vent at the base of the combustion chamber in the form of brick you can take in and out to control airflow.
This video is a great example of how to make a brick and mortar rocket stove, but as you’ll notice, the maker has some comments on how to make his design even better.
Plastic Basket Rocket Stove
The plastic basket rocket stove uses a plastic shopping basket (or one similarly sized) as the frame for a cement rocket stove. The chimney and combustion chamber of the stove are marked out with a plastic bucket and styrofoam.
To keep the cement from oozing out the sides of the plastic basket this maker simply taped the sides using clear packing tape.
You will remove the plastic bucket (holding the space for the chimney) after the cement has hardened for about two hours. The cement will be solid enough to hold the shape of the chimney, but still soft enough to take the bucket out and use a trowel to make a bevel around the lip of the chimney.
Now, since this stove is made of cement, it will be less portable than some other models, but one nice thing about it is that it looks quite nice when done.