After trying several prototype institutional-sized stoves using homemade clay bricks and common construction bricks, I decided to build one using stainless steel sheeting as the primary material for the combustion chamber. I was lucky as, at the time, I had the services of a well-qualified and skilled mechanical engineer called Hamish Lee from New Zealand. Also, I had previously brought a spot welder from the States, so we were well tooled-up for the job.
Hamish laid out the sheets to be cut and bent in a very precise manner and this resulted in a finished product that fit together very well. It took us about two days to make the 8" square combustion chamber and chimney section. The combustion chamber was then spot-welded into an old 55-gallon drum and the chimney adapter rivetted on afterwards. With 10ft of chimney, the draft of air through the stove is prodigious! We fired it up just before Hamish left and we were well satisfied with its performance.
Imagine my surprise when I heard that a luminary of the Rocket Mass Heater world was visiting Pyin Oo Lwin and wanted to come over to meet me. I was delighted to welcome Leslie Jackson, who co-authored the seminal book on the subject, "Rocket Mass Heaters", with Ianto Evans, to our humle workshop. I lost no time in roping Leslie in to giving an impromptu indtroduction on Rocket Stoves to our two most recent volunteers from UC Berkeley, Mike and Lisa. Later, we filled the drum with wood ash, (collected from two local monasteries), and this provided good insulation around the combustion chamber. Then it only remainded to install the chimney through the roof of the kitchen in St Mathews Orphanage and the work was complete.
I hope that the stainless steel material will have a useful life of 2 or 3 years. It's not the ideal material, as it quite expensive compared to the financial resouces of the benefitting institutions and it has to be imported from China. However, it is one more step in the experiment that is "Improved Cook Stoves for Burma" and it will give us useful feedback.
In March, I had the great fortune to be invited to give a technical training in Stove Building at the Naung Taung monastery, near Hopong, southern Shan State. This area is very picturesque and the local Pa'O people are a delight to work with. The Sayadaw (abbot), of the monstery is very forward thinking and he is always searching for new ways to benefit his community.
The monastery itself houses about 400 novice monks and another 500 children who have traveled from outlying areas to attend the school there. This is a heavy burden for the cooks who have to prepare the meals for such a throng! Curries are prepared in huge woks, measuring 37" across and rice is steamed in enomous trays. When the young monks are cooking, the large kitchen is completely filled with acrid smoke - a real vision from Dante's inferno! The Sayadaw asked me if I could design a better stove for the kitchen as part of our training, and I got my thinking cap on.
Our group of participants was about twenty strong - a mixture of monks, teachers in monastic schools, (both male and female), and environmental activists. Outstanding among this merry band were Ko So, Myat Toun and the irrepressible monk, U Pin Ya. We started trying to improve the fire belching stoves already in use, then we set about designing large scale Rocket stoves, based on the ubiquitous 55 gallon oil drum, to replace the old ones. Unfortunately, we were restricted to less durabable materials than we would have wished - red building bricks and galvanized sheet metal. However, the two new stoves that we built were very successful as prototypes - very economical and completely smoke free. My next project is to build more large scale stoves, but using durable materials such as stainless steel. I have since heard from Ko So that he built such a stove for his sister and she is delighted.
After 10 days of brain storming and invention, our group split up, each to return to his or her community, fired up,(pun intended), with ethusiasm to build ever cleaner burning and more efficient Rocker stoves.
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