Instructables
Picture of Turn newspapers & junk mail back into logs
With todays 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.
 
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Step 1: What you will need:

Huge stack of news papers, and junk mail
Large container for water
Cotton string or twine
Water
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?

Picture of Drip dry?
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.
RitaRibs28 days ago

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!

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pennysnunn1 month ago

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!

zacker1 year ago
I wonder if rolling up a layer of sawdust from my shop, between each layer would help it burn longer?
trailleadr (author)  zacker1 year ago
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 trailleadr3 months ago

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

Striker_AC zacker2 months ago

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.

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.

zacker3 months ago

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)  zacker3 months ago

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.

capnlatenight3 months ago

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.

vardamanj4 years ago
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?

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.

I know it's been awhile, but what happened with your glued roll?
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.
shannonlove3 years ago
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.
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
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)  shannonlove3 years ago
Good point about the ash. I was unaware of any regulation regarding burning of paper. Thanks for the input. :)
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.
zacker1 year ago
when the strings burn through, does the log on ravel in the stove?
JPcreo1 year ago
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
lukeyj154 years ago
What about drying them in a very low oven overnight?
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? 
This is a good idea and could even be aesthetic/decorative in nature!
trailleadr (author)  lukeyj154 years ago
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.
you'd have to be extra careful that they dont burn, maybe set the oven to proofing (100F)
shannonlove3 years ago
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_Suik3 years ago
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
sgsidekick4 years ago
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)  sgsidekick4 years ago
that's a good thought.  Not something I had considered with the hole.  Nice!
Evilrick4 years ago
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. 
TFElite4 years ago
Would it be bad to dry these out with a normal hair dryer?
trailleadr (author)  TFElite4 years ago
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 Black4 years ago
Pretty cool idea.  I like this instructable a great deal.

Suggestion:
 
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 Black4 years ago
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. 
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. ;)
shuston3185 years ago
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)  shuston3185 years ago
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.
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.