Introduction: Turn Newspapers & Junk Mail Back Into Logs

Picture of Turn Newspapers & Junk Mail Back Into Logs

Disclaimer: According to the Seattle Times, in the state of Washington burning rolled paper logs is illegal. There may be other locations that also have laws regarding or prohibiting burning of news paper logs. While the Seattle times states that paper logs are bad for the environment, and makes reference to their own legislature, and a vague mention of the EPA, they do not cite any sources as reference. I am not here to argue their opinion, but having said this, it is upon you, that if you should decide to participate in the process of rolling your own logs to burn for whatever your reason, you should ensure that you will not run afoul with the local laws regarding what you can and cannot burn in your fire appliance. Whether it be an indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, you should always fully educate yourself in any endeavor you take up to keep yourself and those around you safe.

This is the article for your perusal:

The purpose of this instructable is to educate you on the process of creating a paper log.

On to the project if you dare!

With today's focus on saving money, more people are turning to wood, pellet and corn stoves to heat their houses. What if instead of harassing the receiving dept's of companies with their own junk mail, or recycling your newspapers, you use them for inexpensive heating in your wood stove. Mind you I have no problem with recycling, but given the option of recycling, or keeping my family warm, I choose the later, hopefully you understand.
It's mid-spring right now, and it's the perfect time to start this project as it does take some time before the logs can be used in a wood stove for the winter. We use this method for camping every year, and it saves us the trouble of finding fire wood, or money by not having to buy precut pre-dried fire wood. The benefit is that it's virtually free, provided you value your time at zero.

Step 1: What You Will Need:

Huge stack of news papers, and junk mail
Large container for water
Cotton string or twine
And some spare time

Step 2: Find the Perfect Spot to Setup Shop

Now that you have a container full of water, pick a location where you would like to do this project. You'll want to choose a spot that can get wet, is flat, and clean. Your kitchen counter is probably the best choice.

Step 3: Wet Your News Print/junk Mail

Picture of Wet Your News Print/junk Mail

Regrettably, I didn't actually take pictures the last time I did this, so I kind of cheated by doing this at my kitchen sink, just so I could shoot some pics. In my case, I simply laid several sheets of newsprint in the sink, and soaked it with the sprayer. Here is my small stack of local news print, that I'll be using.

Step 4: Drip Dry?

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Once you have fully soaked your intended victim..err paper. Hold it up by it's corner over your container of water. A few seconds is all it should really take. The idea here is to let the paper hang long enough to let the excess water drain out of it. When it stops dripping you're ready to roll it.

Step 5: Roll It

Move your now wet paper to a flat clean surface. Start rolling the end of your choice. (top, bottom, side...doesn't matter) Try to roll it as tight as you can. If it's not tight, it won't really make a difference. A loosely rolled log will burn faster than a tighter one. Since we're looking to get efficiency out of it tighter would be better.

Step 6: Build It Bigger!

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Wet another paper, and repeat the process, but this time add the new piece to the existing roll. One of the best ways I found to do this is to leave an inch or two hanging off the end of the first roll. Lay the next piece on top of the exposed end of the first roll. This way when you start to roll again the new piece is tucked securely into the existing roll.

Step 7: Rinse...Repeat...forever

Ok, so not really forever. Keep building on your current log until it suits your desired size. Don't make it too big, or it will either be too big for your burning appliance, or too heavy to lift. However I can't imagine how big it would have to be to be too heavy to lift. When you're satisfied with the size of the log use your string/twine, tie your log up so that it retains it's shape with no loose flaps, then set it aside to dry.

Step 8: Drying Time

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Drying times will vary based on thickness of log, denseness of paper, and how wet the paper was at the time of rolling.
I recommend standing the log on it's end to dry out, rather than laying it on its side.
Wet logs will not burn well, and tend to be smoky, so it's best to be sure to get them nice and dry before you use them. Setting them in a dry location that gets plenty of sun will help dry them faster.

Step 9: Final Thoughts

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A final note, I advise you be somewhat selective about the kind of paper you use. Some paper like those found in magazines are coated. If this paper is burned it tends to put out a thick black smoke. I don't know what it is that the paper is coated in, but I suspect it's something to do with plastic. This would be bad for the environment, so please recycle this kind of paper.

The best kind of paper to use would be newspapers, and credit card bills(after you've paid them of course)

Here is a shot of the log dried out. An unfortunate side effect is sometimes the paper log will grow a little mold on it while it's drying. This can be seen on the side of the roll. If this kind of thing bothers you, then you should probably stand the roll on a suspended wire mesh, or chicken wire so that it can dry without sitting in a puddle.


C-Chip (author)2016-12-28

People should be aware that paper logs are so harmful to health and the environment, that they are illegal in some places. This column from a Seattle paper describes why: "The reason burning compressed paper as fuel is illegal is because it contributes significantly to dangerous air pollution in your neighborhood.

Of eight fuel types rated by the Environmental Protection Agency, newspaper logs ranked third worst for particulates (tiny particles that float around in the air and cause big problems for asthmatics and others with respiratory conditions), and worst of all for carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas that causes problems for everyone). And although black ink burns fairly completely, toxic metals such as lead, chromium and cadmium commonly found in colored ink supplements can go up your chimney to redeposit in the neighborhood."

Agonnazar (author)C-Chip2017-08-20

Must disagree. From the EPA itself, near the bottom of the page. The EPA recommends using newspaper logs.

No mention of it in the EPA's best burn practices

RitaRibs (author)2014-08-19

I have one of those log rolling devices around here, somewhere, but can't find it, OF COURSE! However, I do have a bucket of string and a ton of Elmers glue from a massive markdown one year of school supplies and a stack of newspapers ready for the recycling bins. I also have a very hot shed! I am going to make a set of paper logs with a bit of plastic covered twine, so I can hang it in the shed to dry and when its dried out, I will remove the plastic twine and move onto the next batch. My time, while not free, is mostly spent finding ways to make the best of what I've got for less or nothing. So far, I have a lifestyle of one making 100K for less than 10k per year. This ought to add a little fun in the chiminea project, and these can be mingled in with the free wood from neighbors felled trees, kindling and pine cones from the church across the street, as well as my own back yard. Neighborhood looks neater and no trees were harmed (well maybe the ones for the newspaper) but in my neighborhood, we rarely cut a good tree down. Its still making the best of what I have on hand!

C-Chip (author)RitaRibs2016-12-28

Elmer's glue is a form of polyvinyl acetate (PVA), which should never be burned. It is basically like burning plastic and will emit toxic fumes.

cbaker6 (author)2015-06-27

if you have thge ability, leaving a hole in the center through the length so you can run a string, you could hang them on something like a clothesline or similar for it to get maximum air exposure.

pennysnunn (author)2014-07-30

Roll pine cones up in the center of the paper roll* The oils in the pine cones make a HOT fire and give a little 'crackle' too!

zacker (author)2013-01-03

I wonder if rolling up a layer of sawdust from my shop, between each layer would help it burn longer?

trailleadr (author)zacker2013-01-05

I can't say if adding sawdust would make much of a difference or not. I imagine it would since it's just more substance for the fire to burn through before it depletes it's fuel.

The sting is just for holding the shape while it dries. They log in every case I've seen holds it's shape long after the string burns through.

zacker (author)trailleadr2014-06-17

cool... opps, I see I asked the same question about the string... lol

Striker_AC (author)zacker2014-07-15

My Grandfather used bailing wire instead of string. Easy to manipulate and holds no matter what happens to the log. His paper logs were typically minimum 6" rolls.

capnlatenight (author)zacker2014-06-15

I'd imagine the sawdust would create bumps which would make unsmooth layers, therefore trapping more water in and making it take longer to dry. You would have to put the sawdust in real smooth, thin layers. But don't take my word for it, I never tried it. Experiment, take risks, find out what's best.

zacker (author)2014-06-17

Also, maybe standing it on one end for awhile and then flipping it and setting it on a dry area and let the opposite end dry a bit? how many newspapers would it take to make a whole cord of these? lol I think I may have that much saved at work(I collect all the newspapers people bring in to read!) lol does the roll unravel after the string burns away?

trailleadr (author)zacker2014-06-18

Every time I've done this the roll keeps its shape even after the string burns away or breaks. It will expand a little as it burns. If rolled tightly and completely dried it should hold it's shape quite well. Especially if you're using some form of glue.

capnlatenight (author)2014-06-15

You could probably dry out the logs in a dehydrator or an oven set to the lowest temperature. Maybe perhaps you can scent the logs by putting syrup, extract, or incense oils in the water.

vardamanj (author)2010-02-02

Just a thought to add, I took "wood" glue and dissolved it in a jar, then added it to my 7 gal bucket half full of water. soak paper and roll as stated before. I just thought adding a little glue will help hold everthing together. I have a roll drying now and I will post results later. Anyone else tried anything simular?

capnlatenight (author)vardamanj2014-06-15

I tried it, kind of. I had a spare bottle of Elmer's glue laying on my garage floor. I poured it in the bucket with water and paper just for shits and giggles. It made it smell good, and it held together a lot better than just water. I'd think it'd be too expensive to use glue and to just use water.

Zex_Suik (author)vardamanj2012-07-26

I know it's been awhile, but what happened with your glued roll?

vardamanj (author)Zex_Suik2012-09-01

The roll worked fine. I use them in my fireplace inside the house and also in a fire pit just off the back patio. I din't notice any problems. I live outside of town, in a subdivision and people often cook-out back or have fire pits in the neighberhood often. I dilute the glue in a lot of water, and I have also just soaked, with glue mix, the last part of the papers used to finish up the roll. Either way works well. I usually mix the paper logs with real logs in the pit or fireplace.

shannonlove (author)2011-04-04

This is good instructable but users need to be aware that many jurisdictions outlaw the burning of paper in fireplaces.

Burning paper, especially newsprint, produces a flaky ash that is easily lofted by the fire up and out of the chimney. Supposedly, the ash poises a fire hazard but I think the real objection is aesthetic . The flake ash falls like snow and since it's nothing but fine carbon it creates a black smear on everything it comes in contact with. If enough people in a neighborhood burn paper, it can create quite a mess for people fussy enough about such things.

Ramming (author)shannonlove2013-07-26

Here in Denmark this is called "Chinese Birch Firewood" (because it's cheap), here it's normally newspapers or paper pulp crammed into a milk carton (and left to dry if needed). This kind of firewood/logs will produce tar, soot and sticky chimney grime , unless you have one of those fireplaces that make a secondary combustion of gasses produced. So even if you only use 30% paper logs, you need visit from the chimney sweeper more often. The real fire hazard comes from thick layers of sticky grime and tar, since these oily looking residue can potentially catch fire and burn quite intense. I once took a course in advanced fire fighting (a Danish civil course, not like real fire fighters) where we saw a chimney fire with these compounds af combustibles. These things burns so hot that concrete will crack and crumble, and a bad red brick can potetially explode. In Denmark the insurance company won't cover if your chimney suffers from this kind of fire, since it's your responsibility to keep the chimney clean

antioch (author)shannonlove2013-01-11

no, not just aesthetic: paper logs have a high risk of causing chimney fires.nasty things.

in a fireplace always use these along with real wood logs, preferrably more wood than paper logs.

trailleadr (author)shannonlove2011-05-10

Good point about the ash. I was unaware of any regulation regarding burning of paper. Thanks for the input. :)

Zex_Suik (author)trailleadr2012-07-26

These could be used in a rocket stove with a thermal mass heater to maximize the use of the released heat AND minimize soot as the thermal mass heater + rocket stove together provide for a more complete burn.

zacker (author)2013-01-03

when the strings burn through, does the log on ravel in the stove?

JPcreo (author)2012-11-20

I have made soaked them in a mixture of loose water and flour. It's more compact thus I believe it burns longer. Regarding the drying of the logs, I agree with the instructables. The point here is to save money, if you start to use energy to dry them... I honestly do not see the point any longer. As an example, I would think that it could take hours to dry them with an (1500 W) hair drier. Just have fun making them and leave
them to dry. Great instructables. Thanks

lukeyj15 (author)2009-12-12

What about drying them in a very low oven overnight?

BonifaceJ (author)lukeyj152010-04-23

If you had a hole in the middle and were tying them with twine, then why not run a string through and hang them outside to dry on the porch or in the garage overnight to save on the energy bills? 

Zex_Suik (author)BonifaceJ2012-07-26

This is a good idea and could even be aesthetic/decorative in nature!

trailleadr (author)lukeyj152010-01-06

If you were looking for a fast way to dry them this would probably do the trick.

I probably wouldn't do it simply because I'm looking to save money where I can, and using an oven would undoubtedly add to my overall bills.  Since it would use either electricity or some form of fuel.  This is why I do it throughout the year.  there's usually a lot of drying time between making them and using them.

junits15 (author)lukeyj152009-12-17

you'd have to be extra careful that they dont burn, maybe set the oven to proofing (100F)

shannonlove (author)2011-04-04

If you need to speed drying, I would suggest putting them in front of your dryer exhaust. Warm moving air, even moist air from drying clothes, will speed the drying process. If you were in a hurry, you could build a little cardboard box and then just run the dryer with no load so you would get dry warm air.

Of course, you would need to pay attention to the process to guard against fire danger.

Zex_Suik (author)2010-12-22

This is great, thanks for the idea. I was looking for some way of making logs from paper and such. The only similar solution I found was to make biofuel pellets

sgsidekick (author)2010-01-31

I actually rolled newspaper on a broomstick I had wrapped with saran wrap.  I went to the home repair store (aka Lowe's) and picked up a cheap screen for an RV that slides into itself (i.e. collapses)  I extended the slide and placed it on the edges of 2 kitchen chairs placed next to a floor heater vent, then placed my logs on the screen.  I had no mold!  I also think the center hole helped the faux logs burn better.

trailleadr (author)sgsidekick2010-02-04

that's a good thought.  Not something I had considered with the hole.  Nice!

Evilrick (author)2010-01-15

A friend of mine had a roller just for rolling newspaper logs, don't know where he got it or if something like it can still be found, but this idea has been around for awhile and is still a good use for old paper. 

TFElite (author)2009-12-14

Would it be bad to dry these out with a normal hair dryer?

trailleadr (author)TFElite2010-01-06

I don't think it would be bad, but I think it would take an excessively long time to dry them with a hair dryer.  But then it really would depend on how thick they are.  Using a hair dryer with a high temp safe enclosure would speed up the process.  

Seth Black (author)2009-10-24

Pretty cool idea.  I like this instructable a great deal.

Instead of plain water, try using a diluted wheat paste solution.  This will act as a bonding agent, and allow for a stronger and more compact paper log.

Essentially, they would be paper mache, would require no string to bind them, would become more dense, and would be much less likely to fall apart during the burning process, which would mean longer burn time.

A tad more mess, but definitely worth the extra effort in the long term benefits. 

trailleadr (author)Seth Black2009-11-27

Nice idea.  I was looking at it in a fast food kind of way(Quick and done).  But I agree the extra step would be well worth the time.
I'll have to give that a shot this next spring.  In the mean time it's time to collect papers. 

Seth Black (author)trailleadr2009-11-27

I'm glad that you like the paper mache concept. 

Please do post an update with results, should you give it a try.  I'm sure many would find it an interesting experiment to follow.

I'd give it a whirl myself, but my current living arrangements really don't allow the space I'd need or an area to burn the logs. ;)

shuston318 (author)2009-07-14

How long would you say an average sized (like the one you show) paper log would burn? Is it comparable to a wood log as far as burning time due to the density of the roll? Pretty cool though either way, since we are all trying to reuse instead of throw out.

trailleadr (author)shuston3182009-07-24

My apologies for not getting back sooner. That particular one burned for about 10 minutes. Some additional info on that one, it's diameter was roughly 2-1/2 inches. It was by no means a full sized one. They usually are about 4inches in dia, and will burn about 20-40 min depending how tight it was rolled. The real thing (wood log) is far more efficient as it is certainly a lot more dense than a paper log. I estimate time from the time they start to burn to the time that it falls apart into little ember chunks.

shuston318 (author)trailleadr2009-07-27

Not a problem. Thank you for all of the info. If rolled tight / large enough it still makes sense to at least use one or two with wood logs, keeps the papers out of the landfill. Great instructable. Thank you again.

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