Thursday, 14 November 2013

Paper logs & briquettes - Part 2

We finally bit the bullet and ordered one of those cross-handled briquette machines from the internet.  Despite my whinge last year about the upfront cost and relatively poor returns compared to coal (see my previous post) it seemed a much quicker and simpler way of making free paper bricks than the rather tiresome process of using our home-made versions.

Incidentally, this year we paid £6.30 for each 25 kg bag of run-of-the mill house coal, 50p (and 8%) more expensive than last year...

We actually bought a top-of-the-range briquetting press, for £20 delivered, although there were lighter-duty versions available on eBay for around a tenner.  This one seems to be of more robust construction and even has round plastic handles - I wouldn't want to be putting my full body weight on the thin steel sections of the cheaper versions, at least without very thick gloves to protect my hands..

After a full day-long shredding and tearing campaign, we let the mash soak for around three days in a big plastic container.  A whole year's worth of eBay invoices and other old bills, plus a couple of months of free newspapers.  There were even a few thick glossy catalogues in the mix, from Tesco and Argos et al, around half-an-hour each to tear them up by hand into usable paper strips.

the briquette press and the container with the mash....

Our first production run, in mid-October, yielded 20 large bricks.  Our second, in the first few days of November, from all the junk mail accumulated over six months or so at our second house, made a further 18 (and a half).

On reflection, we should have bought this device and started production in the spring or summer, to give the bricks plenty of time to dry out thoroughly before they are used.  As it was, I had to bring batches of them into the house from the greenhouse after an initial drying spell, and finish them off on top of the radiator in the workshop and then within the house - the temperature in the greenhouse in October and November just isn't enough.

primary drying - in the greenhouse

secondary drying - on the workshop radiator

tertiary drying - anywhere in the house !

We've already had the fire lit a few times this autumn, and have burnt a couple of the bricks.  The first was probably still a little damp inside, and didn't burn so well.

So, now we've eventually bought such a machine, let's see if it can pay for itself over the next ten years or so....


  1. Must be the soft Sassenach showing in me, but this is something that strikes me as far too much like low rent and hard work ;) Does not the driving of the water out of the bricks on the radiator consume more energy from that, by the latent heat of vaporisation of the water?

    1. Thanks for the comment - it is very low rent, but I wouldn't have said it was particularly hard work. As I said in the post, it would be better to make them in the summer so they can dry in the greenhouse.

      And I suppose we'll recover any lost latent heat of evaporation when the moisture condenses again on the windows !

    2. Or get that lovely air heater of yours on the job in July - steady slow hot airflow drying your bricks, fantastic. It's hardly like you'll be using it for the house in the summer, so sweat the asset!

    3. Hi.. The air heater's not a bad idea, but generally I use the rough-and-ready solar panel to charge a couple of batteries in the workshop, and regularly switch them in to run the outside LV lights overnight.