My wife, son, and I like to spend a dinner or two month during the spring time before it reaches nuclear heat levels of 90-110 deg F eating dinner outside by our fire pit area we lovingly call the "fire bowl" (Click to see a video of what the fire bowl looks like).  The rabbits, pheasants, bull snakes, stars and the occasional great horned owl are our eating companions. And hotdogs and marshmallows are often on our dinner menu.  My son is 4 years old, and I am his big kid equal.

During the last weenie/mallow roast excursion to the fire bowl, I had a small epiphany.  Our roasting sticks drove me nuts, and having access to my prototyping lab for my business (Past Primitive™) I run with my wife, and being a product designer and all, I thought... why not do something about it? Surely there was a better roaster to be made for my family.  It's not that I don't appreciate the simplicity of the traditional roasting sticks, simple, pokey, allows me to hold food over flame without burning my hand... But with all this technology that I love always and forever almost as much as I love my wife always and forever, I thought there were improvements that could be made.

And what  I really wanted/needed was a roaster to end all roasters, and thus... Excali-weenie slayer of burnt hot dogs, bane of all over-roasted marshmallows was born. Who knows out of what ethereal mist this design came to me from, perhaps from the Lady of the Lake, perhaps not, all I know is I really like it. Let us begin our journey of inception, fabrication, and assembly! And don't forget your coconut shells ( let's see who gets that reference).

Also I realize this may not be a new idea, but it's new to me.  One of my rules when I design a product is that it has to be something I am excited to use myself.  I find it keeps me happy through the entire process.  Also, I would cite the numerous other products that have found outrageous success many years after their first incarnation; however, whether this process leads us to a successful product deployment or not, it's hard to say... But I had a lot of fun creating it!

Here's a demo of what it can do.  I know it's not over a fire, but I promise it works there too, in fact even better.

Step 1: The Problem

So I am going to make this real simple.  I had four major issues with the traditional roasters I have used which I will discuss in length. 
  1. Too Short
  2. Too Flimsy
  3. Difficult to Turn
  4. Not Awesome Enough
Too Short... I realize a short roasting stick provides lightness, maneuverability (important for not smacking your mallow or dog into the ashes) and would be just fine if you had a small fire... That being said, I usually roast on family camping trips, in the back yard, essentially I am always with people.  Most of the time it's done in the evening, and it's cool.  Cool temperatures often means cold people.  Cold people means the fire is kept blazing hot and large.  Short roasting stick + large hot fire + hunger = burnt arm hair and or possibly singed eyebrows (although I haven't done that yet).  Also burnt arms is definitely not a proposition my four year old is willing to bare. So while a short roaster is fine for small fires, a small fire seems to remain a quaint idea that always loses the "it's cold, put more wood on the fire!" battle.

Too Flimsy... I'm not to sure why most commercial roasters seems to be constructed in such a way that you would think rubber would have more rigidity than the steel wire setup they often utilize, but I am assuming it's much like the potato peeler example.

Oxo the brand of kitchen wares many years ago released a redesign of the simple traditional potato peeler, which traditional peeler now is not very common anymore. Perhaps you remember the traditional one.  I know my hands do.  It was constructed from a steel band for the handle, and was really obnoxious to grip.  If you have watched the documentary Objectified (a link to the trailer) it talks about the designers inspiration behind the redesign. His wife had arthritis and complained about the difficulty of gripping the potato peeler.  And so he had the thought to enlarge the handle and rubberize it. It was a raging success of a product.

My point being that some poor designs keep getting used not because someone thinks that it's a good idea, but because no one has taken the time to think of something better. Much like the potato peeler, the roaster remains likely unchanged because it serves it's purpose, and most people get along fine with it.  

Difficult to turn... Burned campfire hot dogs and marshmallows are a staple of our family campouts.  Mostly because of impatience to roast the food.  You stick it close to the coals because you're hungry, and then a few seconds later when you check on it, you have a lovely charred black skin on your food. Mmmmmm, delicious.  Of course you could solve this by slowly rotating your roaster which would allow it to remain close to the coals, not burn, and be cooked through quickly.  However, most roasters I use have rectangularly shaped handles.  I've even use some rounded handles.  And while it's possible to rotate both in your hand, it's difficult to remain concentric in your rotation, while making it difficult to avoid ash, or flames, and making the prospect of roasting food that much more obnoxious.  

Not awesome enough... Roasting sticks are boring, I think a pointy wooden tree branch is more interesting than most roasting sticks I have seen. If I am going to put down some money for a dedicated roasting utensil, I want it to have some awesome-looking features.  It makes me feel good about the money I spend when the product is not just functional but aesthetically pleasing. And a roasting stick for me represents frivolity and fun.  Of course I can microwave my marshmallows for smores (kind of gross though), and I could roast my hot dogs in the oven.  But that isn't nearly as fun as having a camp fire, and spending some time outside with my beautiful wife, and ridiculously silly kid in the great outdoors of our backyard. Therefore there must be more awesomeness and attractiveness added to the traditional weenie roaster setup.

The theoretical solution (at least for me)... The perfect roaster would be stiff, collapsible, easily rotated, and long enough to have a warm fire, but not so long that you have to let go of the handle to reach the tip.
I didn't mean to put 2 comments lol<br/>
First thing to come to mind at coconut shells: <br>&quot;Do coconuts migrate?&quot;
Funny and inventive! <br>Love the various references.... <br>Monty Python &lt;3! <br>
Good job with the reference! I wondered if anyone would figure that out. It's almost like I need to give you a prize... Wait. I've got a good idea. I have some extra pro memberships from contests I've won, and featured instructables. Would you like one? If so, let me know and I'll get it to you.
Well, I have actually been looking into pro membership, but I would like to try some of the features (esp. badges), before committing... So sure if you don't mind, I would love it! I am actually surprised no one got the coconut reference, it's (to me at least) one of the more &quot;catchy&quot; jokes in Monty Python... of course with &quot;I'm not dead yet...&quot; , &quot;Bring out ye dead&quot; and so many others I suppose it's one that might get overlooked from time to time.... <br>There was a showing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Philadelphia over this weekend, but I wasn't able to go.... It's a bit depressing cause here in Dover (Delaware) there is only one movie theater- in the mall... at it's a small theater.... Anyways enough lamenting for the &quot;dead&quot;!<br>I would appreciate a pro membership, and after trying it out I might be convinced to buy in.... <br>(I've been on here since Summer of 2007, before they had membership, so I actually have some membership benefits, like viewing all steps on one page and downloading PDFs. Though I lack being able to download the e-books and creating badges)<br>I also looking forward to no advertisements.<br><br>Thank you,<br>~ (DJ) Electfire (amongst many other names)
This is truly a device of extreme awesomeness. You have a fortunate son! <br> <br>5 stars and following!
Thanks, much appreciated.
I love it! A couple sugestions: <br>It looks like you used chip board for the handle. I like to use scraps of composite decking. it's a more homogenous material and finishes up nicely. <br>for a great transmission, tear apart a lawn sprinkler of the kind that sweeps back and forth. they have a multi stacked planetary gear system that gives a lot of reduction in a very compact space. <br>I also liked the other suggestions of a thermocouple to power it and an ejector.
The composite decking is a great idea, if only i kept it on hand... I tend to have copious amounts of particleboard stocked for prototyping parts, because it cuts so easily and quickly, But I think I will need to get some composite decking to add to my stock pile. I think they use a mixture of HDPE, wood, and some binder resin. Or maybe the HDPE is the binder, and they just heat it up. Either way it's a great idea.
Nice work. Perhaps a solar panel or thermocouple could work to power the turning motor. Plenty of infra red there, but I'm not sure which wavelength most solar panels are designed for.
That's a really good suggestion. The thermocouple especially intrigues me.
That's very nice. <br>Have you considered a sausage ejector for the next model? I'm thinking of a lever at the handle that pulls the fork tines out of the sausage when it's cooked.
I like how you're thinking there.
Very well done.
I started reading and though this needs a motor! Kept reading and was stoked that you included one!
Yeah without the motor it loses a lot of the over-the-top quality that makes it what it is.
I think this wins my &quot;Over Engineering Of a Normal Object For The Win&quot; award.
Genius and super fun. I'm going to need to make some of these. :D

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Bio: I'm a product designer, who believes in working backwards. Instead of taking technology and seeing what problems I can solve with it, I take ... More »
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