020 Designing and Building Rocket Stoves with Tom Mills



Rocket stoves have held a fascination for me for awhile– it’s amazing how intentionally controlling the way in which a fire burns can dramatically impact its performance. I’ve wanted to build one for awhile and figured now was a good time to chat with someone who has made a few and get their opinion on what works well.

Why build a rocket stove?

Pure awesomeness mainly.

Tangential benefits include the fact that it is a highly efficient cook stove that burns on small, easily gathered branches, and produces greater heat that is more conveniently concentrated than a normal campfire. Plus you can build one at home with just a base understanding of what needs to happen and a few hand tools and basic materials!

I have a feeling self sufficiency is going to become a little more present on folks’ minds over the next little while what with Covid and all, and thought we’d touch base with an episode about building a backyard cooking implement. Maybe we’ll do an episode about cob ovens in the upcoming future too, that’d be a fun project as well! Now I just need a backyard…. 🙂

At any rate, I’m glad I managed to chat with Tom, he has a little bit of a different focus than we do with this podcast, but I definitely connected with him and his love of tinkering, innovation, and building. He does some great projects on his YouTube channel! More of a modern DIY angle on things, but with a focus on sustainability and being “green”, go take a look!

Key Principles in Rocket Stove Design

Here are a few thoughts I pulled from the conversation with Tom:

  • Elevate the fuel– keep your fire off the ground so the air can get under it.
  • Airflow is key– maintain a continuous interior diameter all the way through and remove anything that would obstruct airflow
  • Make the riser “tall enough”– you need a tall chamber in order to ensure more efficient combustion

Resources Mentioned

GreenShortz DIY Youtube channel — If you want to take a look at a few specific videos that show rocket stove examples check out these three: one made out of firebricks, one of concrete, and this cob stove.

GreenShortz Youtube Channel — Actually under Tom Mills as the channel name, I really like the goals he has with the channel, check it out.

GreenShortz + GreenHouse Youtube Channel

Little Aussie Rockets Youtube Channel

Great American CleanupSomething we talked about in passing, but I thought I would highlight here. Take some time to see if you can get involved!

The Rocket King StoveLooks like it would be an excellent addition to an emergency/72 hour kit….

The Rocket King Micro

019 Willow Chair Making with Justin Roberts


Rustic looking bent willow chairs.

I think of them as being a product of the Great Depression, others think of them as being emblematic of gypsies. . . Regardless, they look like they would be fun to make!

Knowing how to make these willow chairs is one of those almost forgotten folk crafts of our past…. And today we’re talking about how to make one with Justin Roberts of Walk the Willow!

I’ve been curious about these chairs for years, but have never known anyone who could show me how to make one. Recently I was reminded of the craft when I passed a clump of larger willows (somewhat rare in my area), fortunately Justin was willing to come on the podcast and chat about the craft!

Resources Mentioned

Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship GrantLooks like a phenomenal opportunity if you live in Kentucky!

The Bernheim

Walk The Willow with Justin Roberts (Facebook Page)

New South Arts Initiative (Facebook)

Creative Communities with Justin Roberts (Facebook Page)

@walkthewillow (Justin’s Instagram)

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire documentary

Making Gypsy Willow Furniture by Bim Willow

Felco Pruning Shears

16d Twisted Decking Nail (this is an example, please source them at your local hardware store if you can. At 16d it is the size Justin said he used for the frame but he also used various smaller sizes as well)

Panel Nails (As mentioned above, please try to source from your local hardware store. I put this here so you could see an example of what you were looking for.)

Example Pictures

Pictures were provided courtesy of Justin Roberts from Walk the Willow

Frame with the arm benders being put into place
Finished frame with arm and head benders
Completed chair! Looks comfortable eh?

018 Yurt Building, Coppicing, and Green Woodworking with Alex Cole


We talk about a variety of fun topics in this episode including yurt building (and touch on some other traditional/natural building techniques), managing a coppiced hardwood forest, English green woodworking, and traditional lime wash and lime production in the UK.

Alex and his wife Selene run Little Foot Yurts, which produces handmade, coppice wood yurts up in Nova Scotia, Canada and he was gracious enough to come on and chat for awhile about how they build their yurts, additional natural building techniques/methods, and various other traditional skills he has experience with.

Great chat, enjoy!

Resources Mentioned

Little Foot Yurts — Alex and Selene’s website

The Green Gathering Festival — Held in Wales at the end of July

The Roundhouse Project

Museum of Welsh Life (St Fagans National Museum)

The Deanery ProjectA lot of focus on natural building, Kim Thompson is the executive director. We talked about Kim in relation to various straw bale building stuff so I thought I would put a link to her work, but didn’t see a website for her specifically so I included this one.

simondale.net/hobbit The “hobbit house” Alex mentioned. This is also the same as beingsomewhere.net (the second link goes to the homepage).


…. And I’m still trying to figure out how to embed the Little Foot Yurts video I mentioned in the intro, I’ll put it here when I get the tech figured out!

017 Locating Wild Clay: Finding, Processing and Testing Clay for Pottery with Andy Ward


I love to learn about a craft from start to finish, and that means sourcing the materials to begin with. I think any of use interested in self-sufficiency also recognize the limitations involved in purchasing materials for a craft you’re learning and how that inherently prevents you from coming to a complete understanding of the craft (or at least that’s how it seems to me).

Hence, learning about locating the wild clay near you.

If you want to learn to make handmade pottery, you might as well learn to find and use the clay local to your area as well!

Since Andy lives in Arizona and focuses his work around making pots replicating the style and technique of the prehistorical cultures in his area, we also spend some time chatting about distinctly Southwestern pottery– which I found quite fascinating! Enjoy the episode!

Resources Mentioned:

Ancientpottery.how — Andy’s website: great resource and also where you can find more information about his workshops and online classes.

Andy’s Youtube Channel — A great place to learn more about making natural handmade pottery.

Andy’s Instagram

Southwest Kiln Conference

Messages From the High Desert by Clint Swink

Useful Tools for Processing Clay:

Power Driven Paint Mixer — for stirring up wet clay

Paint Strainers — for straining wet process clay

Mexican Corn Grinder — for grinding up dry clay

016 Rug Braiding with Dianne Tobias

Rug Braiding, a unique American craft developed as a way of turning scrap cloth into something useful. . . and gorgeous too! Learn about the craft of making traditional braided rugs as well as the art form it has evolved into. In this episode we discuss the origins of braided rugs, how they’re made, how the craft has evolved, and getting started on making one of your own.

. . . I think I need a new rug in the house! This conversation definitely inspired me to want to do a little braiding!

Resources Mentioned

Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding: Basics, Borders, and Beyond by Kris McDermet, Christine Manges, and Dianne Tobias

The Braided Rug Book by Norma M. Sturges

Marjorie K’s Youtube Channel — Rug braiding tutorials

Rug braiding tools/supplies (braidkin, cotton splicing thread, needle nose pliers etc.) — I was going to look for braidkins to link up so folks could find them, this page at Dorr Mill has all of the above in one place, super convenient!

Valley Forge Rug Braiding Guild — Pennsylvania (also, their Calendar page is a good place to see some upcoming events and see if anything is happening in your area)

Rocky Mountain Rug Braiders Guild — Colorado

The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers

This post also lists contact information for a few other guilds which don’t appear to have their own websites.

This blog post we reference a few times during the conversation– check it out to see some great examples of rug braiding!

Rug Braiding Facebook group — A very helpful group! I’ve just lurked in the background, but I’ve enjoyed seeing the pictures people post and it’s awesome how helpful folks are if you ask a question.

Rug Braiding Buy/Sell Facebook group

thevelvethook.com — Dianne’s hand dyed velvet business

The Velvet Hook on Instagram

The Velvet Hook on Facebook