Introduction: How to Make Newspaper Logs for Your Fire

Picture of How to Make Newspaper Logs for Your Fire
You can make fuel for your fire by using newspapers. This instructable shows you how to make a newspaper log in less than two minutes. The video shows you the whole process.

It's kind of like hardcore paper mache. To get a solid log, you must change the structure of the newspaper. That is from sheets to pulp. Usually there's no shortcuts in paper mache, but you'll learn how to make these logs very quickly using a rubber mallet.

The paper logs burn best when combined with wood. They will create more ash than wood. The hole through the middle will help it to burn and make the drying out process quicker.


Step 1: Prepare the Newspapers

Picture of Prepare the Newspapers

You will need newspapers, a strong bucket, a rubber mallet and a dowel about an inch thick. You will also need a concreted/cemented area to work on. Fold the newspapers and put 3 or 4 into the bucket and cover with water. The newspapers will probably float to the top so put a piece of wood on the papers.

If you have a leaky gutter with a bucket under the drip or collect rainwater in a tank it would be a great idea to use rain water for the logs.

The newspapers in this instructable were soaked for two days. One day is enough. If you want to speed up the softening process put a squirt of cheap detergent in the water.

wingbatwu suggested adding flour to the water which sounds like a really good way of helping everything bind together.

Step 2: It's Hittin' Time

Picture of It's Hittin' Time

If you ever feel the need to hit something instead of somebody, now is the time. Get a wet newspaper out of the bucket, letting some water drain off it first. Lay it out on a hard surface like cement.

Starting at the top of the newspaper, hit it with the mallet and work your way down until you've done it all. Not too hard or the newspaper will fall apart. Now carefully lift the mashed newspaper from one side and flip it over. Now hit the other side with the rubber mallet.

If you hit the first side too hard you will find it hard to flip the newspaper over. Just turn what you can and piece it back together.

Step 3: Rolling and Squeezing

Picture of Rolling and Squeezing

Your dowel should be longer than the width of the newpaper. Place it at the end of the newspaper nearest to you. Curl the paper around it and start to roll it on. As you roll you need to squeeze at the same time. This compresses everything into a log.

When you finish, you'll need to make sure that you press the end of the newspaper into the log so that it doesn't unravel.

Step 4: Tidy Up the Ends

Picture of Tidy Up the Ends

When the log is complete, spend a few seconds squeezing and shaping it with your hands to get it as solid as possible. When you have finished rolling and squeezing the log turn it up on its end. Slide the log down to the end of the dowel so that it is resting on the ground. Use your thumbs to press in on the ends of the log to make it neat. Repeat at other end.

Remove the dowel

Step 5: Finished/dirty Hands

Picture of Finished/dirty Hands

There's your finished newspaper log. Now look at your hands. The photo shows what my hand looked like after making three logs. If you make about eight in one session your hands will be really black.

Put the logs in the sun to dry. It depends on the weather how long they'll take to dry. The logs I made for this instructable dried in one day. But it was a hot day (30c/86f). If you're making them in cool weather it could take two weeks if there's no sun.

Update, 10th November 2008: I have mentioned in the comments section that once the fire season starts you can get your logs dry within a few days by stacking them on top of the wood heater or in front of an open fire. There is a photo in the comments.

If the weather is lousy, but you haven't yet had any fires you can make use of a well aired spot. If you keep your firewood under cover, it would also be a good place to dry your paper logs. In cool cloudy weather I make a space for the logs to sit for as long as it takes. I put an old screen door on some boxes and use that as a drying rack. Air can get to the logs from underneath. Any area that gets the wind but is protected from the rain will do fine if you can afford to wait a couple of weeks for them to dry.

It's surprising how hard they are when they're dry. If you tap yourself on the head with one, you'll see what I mean.

You really need to make a whole lot of them before winter. Otherwise it will be too cloudy and cold. At the beginning you will probably love making them, so take advantage of this and make as many as you can. After a while your enthusiasm will wear off and it will turn into a chore especially if you're out in the cold and your hands are freezing while you play around with cold wet newspaper.

But anyway... good luck if you decide to make them. Your firewood will last a lot longer.

Step 6: Paper Log Tweaks

handyman05 suggested:
» adding coffee grounds to the logs. This could make them give off more heat. The grounds could be sprinkled on top of the paper after it's been mashed on both sides. Then roll the logs up with the coffee grounds inside.

joeny1980 suggested:
» adding pine needles to the logs to add some crackling. The pine needles could make them burn hotter too.
» improving the appearance of the logs by wrapping in soaked brown paper like from a paper bag.
» adding coffe grounds or related coffee/tea product to the soaking water to give a brown tinge to the logs to make them look nicer.


joe.morabito.18 (author)2014-09-10

about 30 yrs ago I was the produce mgr in shop rite supermarkets in NY. we started selling this red machine with a handle on it that turned a bar. it had a trough that you filled with water and dish detergent . you fed the newspaper onto the rod and turned the handle adding enough newspaper until you had a log 4inches in diameter. It wasnt made well as it broke easily during the process but im amazed that the idea is still around.

Whee234 (author)2014-09-10

Do you think phone book pages would work for this?

capnlatenight (author)2014-06-15

You could probably scent the logs by adding maple/corn syrup, sugar, or incense oils to the water.

gnatfamily (author)2009-12-11

No offense, but doesn't burning paper release more toxins into the air than just burning wood?

HandyMummy (author)gnatfamily2009-12-12

Most newspapers are printed on eco-friendly paper and with eco-friendly colors. You can ask the publisher if they don't tell it anywhere.
This kind doesn't harm the environment and are non-toxic - also when burned. 
You should avoid all other sorts of paper like magazines, and more or less glossy paper and printed cardboard etc. unless the publisher ensures you that the printed materials really are non-toxic.

But again: To burn normal newspapers (printed with non-toxic ink) does absolutely no harm to either humans, animals or environment.

- so go ahead and save some trees ...

sublime_40 (author)HandyMummy2013-11-03

True I worked in the newspaper industry and the ink is water soluble soy based.

blobby123 (author)2011-03-27

I'd like to be using the paper that gets recycled from my office, but what do I do with the water which has been used to soak the paper? I dont think it would be very eco to tip it down the drain, and I dont want to dig a hole in the garden and tip it in there either.

Settling tank? Sand filter?

Mugsy Knuckles (author)blobby1232013-09-26

Why would the water be any different than other dirty water? pare is wood pulp, wood ends up in the water all the time.

bauble (author)blobby1232011-03-30


I have to say I never thought about the implications of the water being 'ungreen'.

Making the logs uses up a lot of water. The paper absorbs it after being soaked.
Then when you mash the paper into a pulp the water runs out onto the concrete. Off to the nearest patch of grass I suppose.

Then when it comes time to put paper for more logs in the soaking bucket, the water needs to be topped up.

If you could mash the paper in a large tray, then you would be able to pour the excess water back into the soaking bucket. That would save water and eliminate the disposal problem. Until your last log making session of course.

I've never made the logs out of anything but newspaper but I can't see why office paper wouldn't work. Might need more mashing though.

gloop (author)2013-03-25

my briquette machine project:

jbenfield1 (author)2011-08-04

The nice thing about using old paper for fire is that you aren't restricted to log shapes. By using some clamps, two boards and some wax paper (to line the boards) you can make paper boards, strips, etc. My boyscout group did this but we soaked them in gasoline rather than water and let them dry in a dry, well ventilated, room that kept a temp of about 90 degrees in our scout house (it was an old kitchen that had four vent hoods we turned on).

Cosantoir (author)jbenfield12012-03-27

I'm sorry, but that is criminally INSANE and STUPID.

You shouldn't be allowed within 100 yards of Boy Scouts if you think that soaking paper in gasoline and then drying the gasoline soaked paper, INSIDE A BUILDING, with MULTIPLE ELECTRIC FANS RUNNING, is a good idea.

Here's a hint: call the local fire station, describe your process, and see what they have to say.

Xin666 (author)Cosantoir2012-05-22

You know, he didn't say that he was leading a boyscout group.

That is a very bad idea, but you can make very useful fire kindling sticks, from rolled pieces of folded newspaper, dipped in candle wax from old candles. Heat the wax in an old pot, near a campfire, and dip the papers in the wax with old salad tongs. When they cool, they will stay dry and sealed, and light easily with matches. Tuck a few under your fire wood and kindling, and they will help start your campfire or bbq.

cool2000 (author)2012-04-01

86 f is hot?!

bauble (author)cool20002012-04-01

...haha...relatively compared to an average summer day here of about 25°c/77°f. Although when the really hot weather hits it can be 44°c/110°f.

pickford78 (author)2009-12-12

This seems wasteful and bad for the environment.

Phoghat (author)pickford782009-12-13


pickford78 (author)Phoghat2009-12-13

Well the news paper could be recycled instead and when you burn it the chemicals from the news paper are released into the air.

biffula (author)pickford782009-12-23

Do some research and check figures.  No chemical fumes given off from newspaper.  They use soy ink now.  Also, there are times that stuff  you send to recycling ends up in the landfill anyway.  It all depends on the market.  If there is a glut of plastic or paper at any given time and prices are too low,  the recycling center cant afford to store it until the price comes back up, so they just truck it off to the landfill anyway. 

And as for hauling you recyclables to town if you live in the country? Puh-lease.  That is not practical or environmentally friendly if you factor in the travel costs. 

And as far as not burning them?  Your also missing the point.  This is instead of using wood.  Not doing without a fire.  Oh, and also, for some of you dolts out there, most firewood is cut from fallen trees anyway.  There is plenty of it around and most is not cut from healthy, still live trees.

pickford78 (author)biffula2009-12-25

I'm not speaking of the ink.  The bleaching processes and such that the paper goes through in the pulp mills.  And by not recycling the paper then you need to use more pulp in mills and if you have ever lived near one/ read any ground/ water samples near the area you would know that by needing more new paper your supporting all of that.

pickford78 (author)pickford782009-12-25

as for the driving them to town...  grocery runs?  also you may want to talk about starting a local recycle program.  I am for burning wood as it can actually be cleaner than the average diesel furnace.  I cut fallen wood as well and burn it with proper conditions.

Alpha2904 (author)pickford782010-01-01

 What most people DON'T know is that recycling paper can actually hurt the environment more. The chemicals that are used in bleaching and re preparing the pulp in to making recycled paper is highly toxic and extremely deficient.

What do they do with all of the toxic waste? They put it in steel barrels to sit and rust on some toxic waste dump; Thus hurting the enviroment. 

Unfortunately creating new paper is not nearly as bad, but the rate of deforestation it create is.

The solution: Go paperless to all means possible. Computers = Awesomeness!!! :P

And burning wood is yes cleaner than paper. But why not learn how to distill ethanol. It would be fun in the learning process. Ethanol burning carbon foot print is nearly non exsistant.

Cosantoir (author)Alpha29042012-03-27

Newsprint is made from farmed wood. It has no more to do with "deforestation" than growing corn or soybeans, which would be likely replacements if the demand for low-grade pulp wood from farmed trees wasn't there.

And the "carbon footprint" for producing ethanol is appalling. You think the corn just grows itself, or the alcohol is distilled from the "beer" by pixies and unicorn farts?

Alpha2904 (author)Cosantoir2012-03-29

oh I wasnt talking just about corn ethanol. I should have used the term bio-fuels. Like fermenting lawn trimmings into an alcohol and refining it. I had no Idea that newsprint was no longer from trees. I learn something new every day. :) (even two years later)

biffula (author)pickford782010-01-13

Fact is, burning wood is not good for the environment, nor is there enough wood for everyone to use it as an alternative. 

biffula (author)pickford782010-01-13

Well your talking pulp mills now.  I thought we were talking about noxioiusness of the actual burning of newspaper, of which is no worse than burning wood, regardless of whether bleach was used in the pulp process or not.

underwhelmed (author)pickford782009-12-13

And if you live somewhere without recycling, you will be burning gas to recycle the newspaper.

I live out in the country, and the local paper throws out a "free" version of their paper no one reads once a week, and a "local shopper" rag does the same. They will not stop, no matter the number of calls they receive, which is littering as far as I am concerned.

What chemicals are you referring to, newspapers use soy based inks now, and have in the US for about 10 years or so. The only other chemicals I can think of would be the bleach used to make the paper white.

Seems like a good use of resources for me, you might have an issue with it, but I don't really care.

pickford78 (author)underwhelmed2009-12-13

Well if you need to go to town you could take your recyclables with you.  if your that far out where you can get everything in town, then i guess your right but for most towns I would recommend just recycling it.

Yerboogieman (author)pickford782009-12-13

What will you use to light your fires if you don't want to use harmful chemicals?

pickford78 (author)Yerboogieman2009-12-13

wood shavings.

underwhelmed (author)pickford782009-12-14

You still didn't tell us what these "harmful chemicals" are in newspaper.

I don't think you can name any.

pickford78 (author)underwhelmed2009-12-25

underwhelmed (author)pickford782009-12-29

Yes, that is what chimneys are for. You shouldn't be sitting in smoke, get it outside of your home.

lol I like your user name.

you just made me start burning plaistics

Not in newspaper, gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.

yusufamir (author)Yerboogieman2009-12-15

finally ingediants for my curry, i thank u alot :)

Yerboogieman (author)yusufamir2009-12-26

I like chicken curry. Poisonous curry doesn't agree with my system very well.

Fieldownage (author)underwhelmed2009-12-14


Well by burning either logs or newspapers you're still releasing CO2 into air so it topic end at there and newspapers are fairly clean from chemicals if you can recycle them with regular paper.

yusufamir (author)Fieldownage2009-12-15

u look extremely tasty, just my my mothers curry :P

theone13 (author)pickford782009-12-14

Oh, ok pickford... I'll go cut down a perfectly good tree in order to get wood shavings rather than use wood from trees that are long dead....  Your logic is confusing me....

Yerboogieman (author)theone132009-12-14

I like your logistics.

Yerboogieman (author)pickford782009-12-14

Really? No. Paper logs.

jimsmithkka (author)2012-03-24

Dont know if its been said yet, but you should probably never use these for an indoor fireplace, paper is really bad for those, but a great idea for outdoor fire pit/camping/newpaper recycling alternative

circuitfish (author)2011-10-31

I've found you can also make some really nice fire-starter/filler material by grinding up the newspaper instead of pounding it out and baking it in the oven to get a sort of "chip".

rwoodward1 (author)2011-08-23

Newspaper is not bleached. If using white paper bothers you, use newsapaper. No harmful fumes given off (even from white paper).

scabeleira (author)2011-06-26

Hey i made one log but i also made a small one to test it out but i have a problem keeping the flame alive is it meant to just smoke up ..... Or is just because it is small? Help!

bauble (author)scabeleira2011-06-26

Hi there

Thanks for having a go. I'm assuming your paper log has completely dried out. The smallness of your paper log shouldn't be a problem, but you need to have the fire already going well with wood, then add the paper log to it. If the fire is not very strong or has died down, the paper log will only smoulder.

Paper logs can help your wood supply last longer but cannot replace the wood. Unfortunately.

JohnMichael (author)2009-04-28

What purpose does hitting it with a mallet serve?

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