Introduction: Paper Bricks - Free Fuel From Recycled Paper

Picture of Paper Bricks - Free Fuel From Recycled Paper

Even those who try to go paper-free still have lots of paper around the house.  This is especially true if you are a student.  Recycling is a great way to dispose of it, but why not turn it into something that you can use and enjoy.  This makes a great project for a rainy day.  While the components are simple, this project will go much faster if you have multiple people helping.  There are different jobs that can be done at the same time.  Do not attempt this if you only have a little bit of paper.  We used several big boxes full of paper.

Don't forget to vote for your favorite instructables for the Maker - Bot contest!

Update: Due to the numerous suggestions, I am currently working on an improved version.  Stay tuned!

Step 1: What You Will Need

I organized the things that you will need into categories. 

Other Supplies
     Paper Shredder (crosscut preferred)
     Plastic Project buckets (at least 2)
     plastic tub
     water scoop
     pan (whatever shape you want your bricks to be)
     piece of plywood to dry bricks

Step 2: Prepare the Paper

Picture of Prepare the Paper

This is one step of the whole production process, but it can be done almost the whole time.  First you need to shred your paper.  Newspaper is ok, but make sure that there is no plastic at all in the paper.  A crosscut shredder works the best, because the smaller pieces are easier to deal with when it is time to blend it up.  When you fill your shredder with paper, empty them into a plastic project bucket.  Stomp the shreds down in the bucket to fit as many as you can.  When the buckets are full, add enough water to cover the top of the shreds.  If you let the shreds soak for a few hours, it will be easier to blend them.  However, this is not necessary. 

Step 3: Blend the Paper

Picture of Blend the Paper

I used a partially broken magic bullet to blend my paper into pulp.  You can use whatever blender you have.  I wanted to use one that I don't use for food.  It is ok to use a blender for paper and food.   Add some paper pulp and water to the blender, and turn it on.  You will need to experiment with the ratio of water to paper to find what blends the easiest.

Step 4: Strain the Paper

Picture of Strain the Paper

Use a colander to strain off the excess water.  This will save drying time, plus you can reuse the water!

Step 5: Form the Bricks

Picture of Form the Bricks

Put paper pulp into a baking pan that you aren't too fond of.  Squeeze out the excess water to save drying time.  Slap the pan down to remove the brick.  Put the bricks on a piece of plywood, and put all of the bricks somewhere warm.  A closed off garage works well in the summer, as it acts as an oven.  The drying time of the bricks depends on the size of the bricks, but mine took about 2-3 weeks. 

Step 6: Use the Bricks

Picture of Use the Bricks

Wait until the bricks are completely dry.  They will be surprisingly light.  These can be burned in any normal fire.  They don't last quite as long as a real log, and they do make some ash.  But hey, they are free and fun to make.  We like to take these camping and toss them in every once in a while.  Enjoy!

Note:  You can really improve efficiency if you have different people at each station (shredding, blending, straining, forming), but that is not required.


TracyM15 (author)2015-08-20

Can anyone tell me if this were taken on as a fairly large scale operation is there any environmental concern caused by disposing of the water on occassion...are there any issues caused by the breakdown of glue, resins, or ink waste? If anyone has done this as a business model I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you

htapaha (author)TracyM152017-01-15

I suppose that, it would be similar to a paper mill?

MatthewW11 (author)2015-04-01

Business Opportunity: Industrial paper dust is a problem for lots of factories. They have to use a dust collector to keep it out of the air and then typically bail it, but it's too fine for recyclers to be interested in. The bales usually end up in a landfill. If anyone's interested in making lots of these, the dust should be a steady, free source that would cut out the shredding/blending work. If you're in the Birmingham area, and would like some to try, just reply to my post.

kapplegate (author)MatthewW112015-10-27

I am nearby in Newnan, GA. What kind of quantities are you talking about and do you have ideas about how this could be used as a business opp.

ChadJ3 (author)MatthewW112015-07-27

Matthew, I'm out of Texas, but for proper quantities, would be will to send a trailer out there. Curious, do you know what your paper content is (primarily your pulp to clay ratio)? The primary problem with using paper waste for fuel is the high clay content in cheaper paper products, and want to avoid that in the system I'm looking at setting up.

davidt27 (author)MatthewW112015-05-30


hi there, do you have loads of this dust, and are you looking to get it collected from you for free on a regular basis.

my names paul edmunds

Yes, I do, but we're in Birmingham, Alabama (USA).

frogmama (author)2012-08-23

This sounds like a fun project. I didn't read all the comments so I don't know if it was suggested, but I wonder how a paint mixer bit would work for blending the pulp. We have one we used to use for making liquid laundry detergent (we make dry now :) ) They are made to mix paint in 5 gal pails and could probably do a nice job, especially if you soak for a few days. (I'd prefer that to shredding, personally.) Our newspaper printer place always has lots of extra newsprint.

For those who are interested in alternative wood sources for burning -imagine having to twist and twist "logs" of hay for heat. the Ingalls family had to do that in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "The Long Winter". It was that or freeze to death. It is a true story. 30+ logs a day. Good book!

ChadJ3 (author)frogmama2015-07-27

I used a large metal paint mixer and ran into the problem of burning out drills. It does work, but I would recommend using a strong cabled drill that you're not too attached to (financially).

whartonindian (author)frogmama2015-02-23

I purchased a 2" "mud Mixer" for a 3/8" drill, and it pulps paper wonderfully.

judybrodie (author)2015-03-21

will this create a build up of soot ? is it entirely safe for indoor use when the fireplace is pretty much the main source of heat ?

ChadJ3 (author)judybrodie2015-07-27

Largely dependent on what type of paper you are using, and what type of burner.

wilwrk4tls made it! (author)2015-07-04

I was a bit concerned about the first bricks I made, so I made a press and came up with a much better compression. When they are dried out I'll see how they work in a fire with a blower

wilwrk4tls made it! (author)2015-07-02

I was able to press these but I'm thinking I need to find a better way-these are still fairly wet compared to what I would have thought. Once they dry out I'll try them out for melting aluminum :)

asaville (author)2015-04-01

I have a lot of waste in the form of wood chips & fine wood dust, as well as regular sheddings from a paper bark, and I am regularly breaking down small - medium branches. I use similar methods but I mix in all the wood products. The paper part of it is more used as a bonding agent.

whartonindian (author)2015-03-07

I have made bricks with shredded newspaper, cardboard, and junk mail. I also added sawdust that I got for free from a local woodworking outfit. You can burn them by themselves, and they do put off heat, although you will get no flames, they smolder.

rjamieson (author)2015-01-13

That's an awful lot of work when all you have to do is take your papers and roll them into logs by hand. Use cheap masking tape to hold the roll in place and just stack them in boxes for use in your wood stove, fireplace or campfire. Use with or without the interspersing wood. They are great in the wood stove and make an excellent adjunct to wood logs! I actually collect unsold newspapers from local convenience stores (these are free) and I roll logs while watching TV. I use them to heat my home along with wood logs. they burn hot and stretch my wood pile so it lasts longer. so simple without all the excess work! :-)

irisorganics (author)rjamieson2015-01-26

Do they put off a lot of smoke? And can you use them instead of wood in a fireplace or are they mainly for outdoor use? I'm thinking of buying a press that makes newspaper logs from Lehmann's, it's inexpensive and it looks easy to use.

Xthinker (author)2011-06-04

Is there any way to speed up the drying process, like a food dehydrator or oven on low heat?

bemmy (author)Xthinker2015-01-08

one way is to make a plaster of paris box. make a box any size you want with 2 inch sides. Mix up some plaster of paris, it is cheap and pour it in the box and let dry. It dries fast. Then put the bricks on this. It sucks up the water and speed the drying process. Flip the bricks if you want

frogmama (author)Xthinker2012-08-23

Rather than "baking" methods, I'd try to get as much water out as possible. (think like high-efficiency washing machines) I'd use a form with holes in it , a piece of plywood cut to fit inside the mold and a heavy brick to let sit on it for several minutes while making other bricks.

Of course, anything to help the drying process would be good - somethig that allows airflow under and around the bricks, warm... like putting them on a lattice board, corrugated metal sheet, etc, on saw horses in the back yard(or deck, or even roof), in a breeezy, sunny spot.

DIY-Guy (author)Xthinker2011-10-24

Hmm, if one uses a food dehydrator and adds electricity based heat to the process, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of recycling the paper?

Here's a couple ideas to capture waste heat you may already have in your home.
A. Sunny window, place "bricks" on a bent foil reflector and put it right up against a bright window.
B. Behind or underneath the refrigerator where the warmth of the coils can add some heat for drying.
C. On top of the stove (beware of drips at the beginning of the process) where any extra heat from baking will rise up under the burners.
D. In line with the exhaust from a clothes dryer.
E. On top of the water heater if it is not well insulated.
F. Are you already using a fan-heater or other source of heat inside? Maybe over the vents of a central heat system, in front of a small heater-fan, or in a metal colander sitting atop a radiator style heater.
G. Sounds a little crazy, but how about sitting atop the engine of your car while you drive to an from work? Some people used to bake potatoes in foil on the manifold.
H. Depending on the fumes, one may want to place a few "bricks" on a cookie sheet in the oven at the lowest shelf, but only while cooking some sort of meal in the oven. The added moisture would need to be taken into account if bread is being baked.
I. And let us not forget the humble cardboard box and foil solar oven for those of us who live in sunny climates.

siafulinux (author)Xthinker2011-06-15

I would think a dehydrator would work. An oven could do the same on low heat, but I'd keep my eye on that. There are also "sun dehydrators" (I believe there are instructables for them too).

Llama Nerds (author)siafulinux2011-06-15

"Theoretically", an oven on anything lower than 451 F (flash point of "paper") should be fine. However, given how most standard ovens vary temperature and various types of paper probably have varying flash points, you would probably want to go rather lower than that. I'd feel fine setting it around 200-225 F; that would dry the water considerably faster, but shouldn't get the paper close to its flash point.

mgalyean (author)Llama Nerds2011-08-31

As long as it is not a natural gas or propane oven which produces water vapor in its exhaust as it burns. Electric is better for drying, or a gas flame/exhaust isolated from the oven chamber. Something to consider is that if the goal is environmental conservation by recycling or saving money by making it oneself, the more complicated and costly (dollars and impact) the process (i.e. electricity for drying) then the less likely it is really saving any money or helping conserve resources at all.

mcpguru (author)Xthinker2011-06-16

what about some small holes in the pan, then some sort of heavy compression in the pan to squeeze more water out? It strikes me that investment of time/pressure might be worth it.

SoDDiggerCpl (author)mcpguru2011-06-19

if you have access to a mop strainer (industrial / commercial) it makes it easier. Just line the strainer with a window screen, insert goop, press, and unwrap the brick from the screen

wendy.ridley.13 (author)2014-08-28

At one point I was producing 50 Paper Bricks per week...

Definitely need to shred the Paper ~ and I agree that the Cross-Cut would be the better... Managed to burnout 3 Shredders over the time I was making them...

The secret to successful Paper Bricks ~ is to pour HOT Water into the Tubs with the Shredded Paper...

I was leaving them to soak for a week ~ only because the Weekends were the times I made them... But with using Hot Water a day or 2 would probably be enough...

I then had Mesh Shelving to let them dry on...

frugalfinder (author)2014-07-08

Can I just toss newspapers into the washer and let the washer beat them to a pulp?

AlphaRomeo (author)2011-05-07

You don't really have shred paper and make bricks. Though it's a fun part for sure

I simply make fairly tight roles of paper and then put these roles in the water for a day or two. Paper breaks and fine fibers stick together.

I then the roles into - these look like sticks. I do this after my purging of unwanted paper. Now these sticks are ready for our new year barbecue party.

As suggested by kirkb150 one can add but we add some tree gum or rosin that gives nice fragrance too.

Also try adding some dry spices, if you are using these sticks for barbecue, it gives some different flavor to the food.

gijoebob (author)AlphaRomeo2011-05-12

I would advise against grilling with this. I don't think you want to consume the byproducts from burning the various inks, dyes and binders that can be found in commercial paper.

capnlatenight (author)gijoebob2014-06-15

Oh yeah this isn't for grilling, it's not even for fireplaces. It's more for an outdoor wood stove or fire pit.

frogmama (author)gijoebob2012-08-23

Not sure about reccommending cooking with these, but Organic Gardening (a popular magazine in the US that encourages chemical-free gardening) has addressed the issue of using newspapers in gardens for weed control and fertilizer and claims the soy-based inks pose no threat to those concerned about chemicals. But of course, that is not burning the paper and directly cooking food with the heat. Its a personal opinion, I'm sure. Just thought I'd share

AlphaRomeo (author)gijoebob2011-05-12

May be you are right - however as you said it would depend on the paper. I suppose food wrapped in paper (in particular newspaper) would get traces of lead from it.
Also when the paper is wet for long enough some binders might get washed way.

But the point is well taken : For my next of the paper logs I will cut the paper - dip in the water - change the water two or three times - and then make the logs.

glorybe (author)AlphaRomeo2011-05-15

Ink for printing does not contain lead. That is from another era. Basically modern news papers and black and white pages contain little to concern you. Color in glossy magazines can contain many rare earths but I wouldn't be overly concerned about that.
People who build with paper crete have interesting ways of shredding large quantities. The hard part can be getting wet paper to dry. It can hold a lot of water for a long time even inside, in air conditioning. Using very little water is the first way of controlling drying time. I suspect that a hot environment would dry paper the fastest. Interestingly with a bit of cement and sand added it will not burn at all.

AlphaRomeo (author)glorybe2011-05-15

How very interesting - glorybe-
At times one should need to specify where one comes from - I leave close to equator - 18.5 latitude - in Pune, India. I get lot of free paper in the form of newspapers form small printing press from small towns. And I told to be careful with print type.

For us it does not take too much of a time for drying paper pulp - but it is entirely different story in Monsoon - that is soon to arrive.

Does anyone has any idea if the dried paper pulp absorbs moisture - would it act like a sponge - well I will check this out.

The cement and sand bit is very interesting. Paper is light weight - will not burn if a bit of a cement is added - can it then be used as construction material - my be one could paint it with water resistant paint?

Does anyone has any answer for this - if not it would be great thing to try out.

juanangel (author)AlphaRomeo2011-09-21

i did something similar. I use molds for the brick and placed two pegs in it so as to leave holes to place a thin bamboo to hold the bricks during construction. They also helped speed the drying time. I never finish the project but still standing even without any adhesive between bricks.

bwindy123 (author)AlphaRomeo2011-08-21

In California there is a company that uses paper pulp,cement and water to make a fake or simulated wood shingle that can be painted, sawed, nailed or bonded with adhesive. It is formed in a mold and a press is used to press most of the water out then placed in stacks with spacer sticks and allowed to air dry or placed in big drying ovens and force dried. This process can be adapted to other products.

Ardnoc (author)AlphaRomeo2011-06-19

gives a lot of information on papercreate

AlphaRomeo (author)Ardnoc2011-06-19

Thanks Ardnoc -
very useful information - I will read it later, again, carefully -


im3733 (author)AlphaRomeo2011-09-20

Now you're cooking with paper...

Huntman00 (author)AlphaRomeo2011-05-07

or maby if you are not cooking with it you can add a substance that makes it flame a different color

copper shavings (fine) for green ... but thats all i know of colored flames but i do know there is an ible' about it

cabincreekrose (author)2014-06-14

I have made the paper logs for years, going to try the bricks. Interesting thing I found out was in a car accident and had partial paralysis in my right arm, with help in the beginning used the rolling up of newspapers for therapy and regained almost full use of my arm, amazed the docs. I do home health and have use this in several patients after sstokes etc to regain use of the arms and fingers, great arm exercise!

milkdud55 (author)2014-04-27

S not d i also spelled it wrong

milkdud55 (author)2014-04-27

Their called briqquetted

calvinator321 (author)2014-04-07

Great idea! Im going to mold mine into plant pots.

dmeidan (author)2013-02-18

How about getting 2 for price of one – shred and make the paper bricks from your junk mail by using the papermasher bags: a revolutionary new concept in document shredding and identity protection. It eliminates the actual shredding and gives consumers a time-saving to traditional document destruction. Simply fill your Papermasher bag with your confidential documents and load the bag into your home washing machine. As the washer cycles, your information is mashed into an unreadable paper pulp.

waif69 (author)dmeidan2013-10-21

As of 21 Oct 13 the Paper-masher bags are not available. Looks like a neat idea, but would like to see consumer reviews first.

Paulus44 (author)2013-08-06

What if you make 2 holes in the bricks. Then the drying area is bigger.
Many people, here in the Philippines, using firewood stick for cooking their food. I teached some people here to make sticks, from the paperpulp and to use those papersticks instead of woodsticks. It works very good.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am off to college in the fall to study Math. I love Spanish, old cars and 80's music.
More by adsandy:Paper Bricks - free fuel from recycled paperHealthy Beef and Vegetable StewHeart-Shaped Crackers
Add instructable to: