Introduction: Free Heat! Its Everywhere!

Picture of Free Heat! Its Everywhere!

An invader from the steppes of Mother Russia. The Russian Thistle(sasoli kali) is a common garden pest. The weed is easy to pull, but a problem remains, what do you do with the massive amount of fibre material?
Simple, turn it into something you can heat your house with, firelogs.

Materials and Tools
1. Russian Thistle, about 1/2 cubic yard of freshly pulled will be enough for one log when its dried

2. Shredded paper from your shredder, any other type of cardboard or cardstock. The residual ligin in the paper helps bind the log together.

3.A 5 gallon plastic bucket and water

4. A plastic flower window box as a mold

5. An electric drill(1/2") with a stucco mixing paddle.

6. A piece of plywood that fits over the top of the window box

7. Cinder block

(Optional)A garden chipper and wheat paste .

Step 1: Do the Crunch

Picture of Do the Crunch

Take your thistle and let it dry until its crunchy. Then smash it up with whatever you have. Feet work ok, wear boots! If your have a chipper, grind up the big roots and stems.

Step 2: Some of the Stuff You'll Need.

Picture of Some of the Stuff You'll Need.

Get it all together in one spot and the work goes quickly

Step 3: Mix the Shredded Paper and Water First

Picture of Mix the Shredded Paper and Water First

Fill the bucket with paper, then wet it all down and stir.

Step 4: Add the Dried Thistle

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A little at a time if neccessary, add more water.

Step 5: Finished Mixture

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It should be just easy enough to pour

Step 6: Pour and Fill the Mold

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The mold should have a drain to let excess water out. Save the drained water in a separate bucket, because the oxygenating chemicals in the thistle are water soluble. After the solution evaporates, the solid residue can be rehydrated and added to the log to increase its energy content and make it cleaner burning.

Step 7: Apply Pressure

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A piece of plywood fitting over the top of the mold compacts the mixture.

Step 8: Release the Block

Picture of Release the Block

You can do this when its still wet, let it dry in the sun until its dry enough to burn.


Lovetra (author)2017-11-09

All of the sawdust and sanding dust I create in may garage and goes into my dust collector I put into any small box from the kitchen I empty and gets burned in my wood burning stove. So far none of the neighbors have complained and when asked, they say they don't have a problem. I have mixed no binders just used small boxes as a holder for the burnable stuff. If I lived where this thistle grows I would give it a try! Looks interesting

FlyPot (author)2016-10-09

Any plant material that has a woody stock will dry and burn well, but as others have pointed out - you need to be careful with allergies and sensitivities to certain plants. It's one thing to touch something that gives you a reaction - it's something far more nasty to inhale the smoke, air born oils or ash from plants that you or your neighbours are susceptible to.

ksexton1 (author)2016-02-16

I won't be trying this, as I have an allergy to russian thistle. Nothing severe, but inflammation if I'm scratched by it(even small green seedlings), and sinus issues, eyes water, etc from smoke from burning it.

DavidL237 (author)2016-01-22

Has anyone tried any other materials? I live in farm country and thought possibly using the Soybean chaff or corn stalks after harvest. I've also seen, for the outdoor pellet burners, use Cherry Pits. Possibility of putting some of them in this mixture as well?

DavidL237 (author)DavidL2372016-01-25

I am making something along the lines listed above... Instead of Thistle -- using the saw dust of the logs I cut this Summer and Fall. Looks like it should work - ;)

DavidL237 (author)2016-01-19

Will this work on any Thistle? I live in Indiana, and don't think we have Russian around here.

dave367 (author)DavidL2372016-01-21

You may be surprised. Russian Thistle has another, better-known name--tumbleweed. ;-)

3967 (author)2016-01-19

is this for burning in a kamin?

alchicken (author)2010-01-27

 I am going to try this with star thistle.

nanaverm (author)alchicken2016-01-19

Other than the wonderful honey bees make from star thistle, this may be the best use of it.

Shadowmang (author)2008-08-29

I live in NV too, and we get a lot of this around our house. Great useful Instructable.

Mud Stuffin (author)Shadowmang2008-09-01

If this takes hold, Nevada could become the next Saudi Arabia of renewable energy!

Shadowmang (author)Mud Stuffin2008-09-04

lol I guess but I think burning stuff like paper and wood like fibers is dirtier than burning coal. I think we will become a huge part in renewable energy because of nuclear energy and geothermal.

jonahjuice (author)Shadowmang2009-01-27

That is not true at all. Burning wood is nothing like burning coal.

DeusXMachina (author)jonahjuice2009-01-27

It's a different kind of dirty. Very pure coal burns leaving only CO2 and CO (unless you're not supplying enough oxygen then you'll get soot), not so clean coal release SO2, which is part of your acid rain problem. Burning wood release more fly ash, soot, and VOC's, which can make creosote buildup.

chrwei (author)DeusXMachina2011-08-11

very pure coal is getting harder and harder to find and mine safely. And as far as human lives go, far more people have have died in coal mining and processing than nuclear, even if you only count from when the first reactor was brought online

gasifiers can help with wood burning byproducts, but I'm sure how well it scales.

seems the only thing we all do agree on here is that there is no perfect solution. It's good to see people experimenting though.

jonahjuice (author)DeusXMachina2009-01-27

Im not sure that was the point though. Yes wood makes dirt, my whole industry is built around keeping creosote levels down. I'm a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild. But when it comes to taking care of the earth burning wood is not "dirty". And it is a renewable source when the forest is cared for.

chrwei (author)Shadowmang2009-02-26

seems you've never seen how they mine the "fuels" for nuclear power, and how much diesel it takes to get the fuel, which mostly comes from Australia, to the plants. Not to mention we still haven't figured out what to do with the waste, so we use even more diesel to truck it to a storage facility waiting for someone to figure it out.

adamvan2000 (author)chrwei2009-04-05

the amount of material needed for fission/fusion is much, much less than the same amount of material needed to produce the same amount of energy from coal. Less energy to mine less materials producing more energy vs more energy to mine far more materials to produce less energy. ~adamvan2000

maven (author)adamvan20002010-01-08

And you are taking into account the energy required to refine fissionable material, maintain containment, and house the waste for thousands of years without allowing the containment facility to degrade?

winterwindarts (author)maven2011-08-11

There is a specific type of reactor that DOESN'T produce waste-the "waste" is reused as the fuel for the next cycle.

As an additional note, there has never been a serious problem with any nuclear power plant where basic common sense and safety protocols were followed.

Chernobyl...don't get me started on the idiocy that caused that disaster, there are just way too many levels of wrong that went into causing that.

Japan...who in their right mind would put a reactor on a fault line, in (or out of) a highly seismically active area? You're just asking for a containment breach at the bare minimum.

Three Mile Island...not a disaster-you could have camped right outside of the plant for the entire leak and not have had any problems. Yes, a large number of "radiation sickness" cases were reported...but NO deaths. Initial signs of radiation sickness are indistinguishable from the common flu...but you DON'T (or very, very rarely) get better. If you were to do a statistical analysis you'd find that the number of "radiation sickness" cases were no higher than the number of people in the same given population that would have had the flu. This was a classic case of jumping to conclusions without having any (much less all) of the facts.

Sabotage/terrorism *IS* a valid concern currently as a successful strike could create a second Chernobyl and that alone in my mind would be enough of a risk to limit nuclear power use as local populations densities would probably be much higher than those in Prypiat. The fallout both literally and globally would be nasty.

chrwei (author)winterwindarts2011-08-11

Three Mile Island was primarily the result of a design error. A status light was tied to a control switch, instead of being tied mechanically to the item controlled. The light came on because the switch was on, the valve controlled didn't move. Now they put another switch on the valve and the light doesn't come on unless the valve does its thing.

regardless of safety and spent fuel re-processing in modern reactors (which are few so far), it still takes a hell of a lot of fossil fuel to run a reactor. it's not truely "clean" yet. Problem not solved. yet.

mrxavia (author)maven2011-03-02

The problem is that we call it waste, where I preffer to call it radioactive by products....
Radioactive means its emiting radiation, that makes it not waste in my mind, but useful, some (plutonium) can be reprocessed into new fuels, and I do not get why for the rest, if it is radioactive why they cannot harness that power rather than bury it?

Stop calling it waste an use it.. what the US does with its nuclear by products? encase them in glass and bury them, not even reprocessing the plutonium!!! how dumb is that? (very since its done in the rest of the world, I think japan even ships it to the UK to be reprocessed, well last time I looked).

The fact is nuclear power is here to stay, and if done right, waste is negligable.

Sorry but I do think many people are mislead when it comes to nuclear power, they do not understand it so they fear it because of the waste....

maven (author)mrxavia2011-03-02

And the French are (allegedly) dumping barrels of it off the coast of Africa.
In theory it is a viable system, it breaks down when profit gets involved...

mrxavia (author)maven2011-03-02

Not heard that story before, i hope its untrue, but then again I wouldn't be that surprised at them.

But even 'green' renewable energy is managed by big corporations, if they see profit, they dont care if their renewable energy causes misery and harm to wildlife and locals, as long as they make a profit.

Its a failure of both industry and more importantly governments why nuclear is in the mess it is, and green energy is still not viable.

We should no longer by driving petrol cars, we have plenty of viable alternatives.

maven (author)mrxavia2011-03-02

mrxavia (author)maven2011-03-02

No references, no firms mentioned, I would be highly sceptical at that, you say french, they said EU and Asian companies, nothing about french asside from a french man was head of the EU when it was written.

Highly skeptical.

chrwei (author)mrxavia2011-03-02

Little searching and I found this article that explains the issue well, and talks about the solutions you hint at i some detail.
it was originally published in 2005 and I don't know if the 2009 repost has any content updates.

According to that article, we're still 10 years from having fast-neutron plants online that run on fully recycled "waste", and because business and politics will be involved I don't see the current "slow" plants shutting down in the next few decades. so ore will still be mined, and transported using fossil fuels, and less than a hundredth of the ore’s total energy will be used in these "old" reactors.

I'm not saying no one is working on it, they are and it will get there eventually. I'm only saying that *right now* nuclear isn't as clean as proponents want everyone to believe.

mrxavia (author)chrwei2011-03-02

Good article, i;ve not looked into the issue for ages.

But that goes to show its all politics and big business.
Corruption is everywhere.
Nuclear should be clean, but its not clean enough yet, but mostly the problems are caused by government or buisness not lack of technology.

static (author)Shadowmang2009-07-17

Dirtier than coal, why do you think that? Not that I'm saying burning plant fibers is clean, I'm not sure how doing so is dirtier than burning coal. Clean or dirty; coal is a limited resource, plant fibers a renewable resource.

PKM (author)static2009-08-18

"Dirty" does not equal "more positive carbon emissions" or "non-renewable". Diesel cars tend to be more efficient so emit less CO2 per mile driven, but emit far more particles of soot etc. so are sometimes banned in California under clean air laws.

Coal is carbon-positive as it's a fossil fuel, whereas these plants took their carbon out of the air so are more or less carbon-neutral, but burning sun-dried plant matter can release more smoke, particles and other airborne nasties than coal. Think of the difference in the smoke between a bonfire burning garden waste, and a charcoal barbecue with no food on it yet.

Which is "better" is entirely subjective, and based on your priorities. This fuel is more renewable than coal (it seems to renew itself without being asked!) but is worse for local clean air.

I've always wondered if a field full of a crop like this (fast-growing burnable biomass) could power a CHP stirling engine, letting you go off-grid using only your weeds for fuel. Of course, you'd need a field of biefuel crops to fuel the tractor to harvest the field of thistles, and then....

maven (author)PKM2010-01-08

Charcoal is not fossil coal.  It is carbonized wood.  It burns cleaner than a yard bonfire because it is already partially burned.  You do NOT want to cook food over a fossil coal fire.

PKM (author)maven2010-01-11

Very true! My examples there are a bit mixed up and not very clear- all I meant was there is more than one type of "dirt" we want to avoid in the air. Fossil fuels emit more net CO2, but as far as I know home-dried plant fuel will release more smoke, soot particles etc.

There may be super high tech artificially aspirated furnaces that burn extremely hot and reduce the soot-type pollution from burning plant matter, though, which would be even better.

maven (author)PKM2011-03-02

Quadrafire is one brand. If you damper it right you get a colorless smoke because of the 4 stage burn. Very efficient. We burned 12 cords of wood last winter with an Ashley wood stove (circa 1979) this year with our new stove we're averaging half our previous wood consumption.

kkarn (author)Shadowmang2009-10-08

The amount of smoke given off depends on the type of fireplace. There are some fireplaces called Kachelofen that burn the gasses as well. Not only can they be used for heat, you can use them to cook. They will radiate the heat from the fire back for a long time. Maybe 12 to 20 hours. When I retire it's what I want for my cabin in the woods.
Oh and Peguiono don't forget solar energy.

roulopa (author)Shadowmang2009-08-17

nuclear energy associated with renewable energy does not quite match, does it?

bigwhitebob (author)Shadowmang2009-05-02

The benefit of burning things like this is the carbon exchange. With Coal your re releasing carbon that has been out of circulation for eons (that's bad), with your thistle or wood burning your just changing the state of carbon that's already part of the cycle (that's better, not great but better). BTW Great instructable I used to live in the high desert of California and this stuff was everywhere. Now I'm in Georgia and we have wood here. :) Thanks

colterczyruk (author)Shadowmang2009-04-24

nuclear= not renewable and all the toxic waste an evirement can handle and then some.. i do agree that its cleaner then coal but i dont think its really a proper solution to our problem. my advice is too just put up some solar and wind generaters and get off the grid alltogether. cheaper then geothermal and plus you get too advertise ur love for the enviroment with all the panels around your house lol

Pal (author)2009-05-20

Rather than let the water evaporate, use a bucket with a lid. You keep the water with the chemicals to use with the next batch, rather than needing fresh water each time. Also if you elevate teh formusing for example a wire stand, you can have container under it to gather the draining water, and reuse any you get that way. Also make sure whatever paper you use doesn't give off toxic smoke when the inks are burned.

ManifoldSky (author)Pal2011-06-12

No inks used in commercial printing in the U.S. are toxic. They are all soy-based.

1nstru (author)2009-06-08

depending on how wet your mixture is - you don't need to make it so wet that you can pour it - and how hot the climate in your region, you could just put the concotion into drainLESS mold. thus the removal of water will be entirely evaoration-based and you don't have to mess around with catching draining water and re-adding it to the log later. and with the buckit+lid idea: if you place the bucket under the mold to catch draining water, a lid would prove kinda anti-climatic. so the lid has to be omited at that stage. and the character of the process (taking lotsa time to dry) prevents ppl from checking every so often wether the lid can now be placed or there's still water draining out.

willrandship (author)1nstru2011-01-27

But that would give a less dense, weaker log. not necessarily a disadvantage.

paronomasiac (author)2010-04-28

Many people have commented that they would like to try this with other weeds. Of course, they do know to check the toxicity of that plant.  No one would want a log that would poison them immediately or one that is carcinogenic and will kill them slowly.  Check the plant first.

jack8559 (author)paronomasiac2010-11-11

Exactly where would you go to check on the toxicity and/or carcinogenity of the plant(s) in question? What levels are acceptable in regards to these for a wood stove or conversely, an open fireplace?

paronomasiac (author)jack85592010-11-11

I would suggest your local county extension, or whatever is equivalent in your area.

anoniemouse (author)2010-09-08

Have any of you tried to make charcoal? It is fairly simple to make. Could you use the woody stalks and stems to create a form of charcoal ant then use this as a fuel -- for heating and cooking. How about an ible in stead of a debate?

zwild1 (author)2008-08-31

I guess I'll have to buy more carbon credits?

oldirty (author)zwild12009-05-13

a few. i just got one of those really hip furnaces that al gore and leo use, it sure was expensive but i am saving a fortune on carbon credits.

zwild1 (author)oldirty2009-05-13

Woohoo! Too bad his house still uses 20x the energy of the average american household...

static (author)zwild12010-02-06

SIGH... Respectfully, why use date information to make a point, because it becomes a non-point? The original attack contained incomplete information.  Gore has walked the talk by, doing what he has suggested that the rest of us do. The attach compared the Gore home the President GWB Crawford ranch home, they may have had less energy usage, but the attacked never mentioned how much energy the GWB home used. Now that the Gore home has earned  a gold LEED certification, and President GWB move into a home twice the size of their Crawford home, will we see the creators of the attack do another comparison?  Apologies to this instructable's author, for what some may consider a political post.

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