Fire Briquette Burn Tests

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About: Jack-of-all trades, master of some. I would probably be much more modest if it wasn't for these delusions of granduer that I suffer from.

Welcome back to those of you who came from part one of this series; Alternative Mixed Media Sun Dried Paper Briquettes . If you have not seen that IBLE already, it details the making of these assorted briquettes.

Pro tip #1 - leaving the briquettes out to dry on a day that it rains = counterproductive

Thanks to a parade of rainy days this batch of briquettes took almost 2 weeks to dry completely.

I decided I wanted to test 2 separate aspects:

1) How well the briquettes will stay lit

2) How long they will burn

Step 1: Ignition Test

In order to compare these briquette I also included a plain paper pulp briquette to use as a benchmark to test against.

Lined up left to right in the first picture of this step, the briquettes were arranged in the following order:

Pine Twigs, Pine Needles, Grass Clipping, Peanut Shells, Cardboard Laminate, Plain Pulp

I set each of the briquettes up with a tea light candle underneath and I applied a flame for approx 3 minutes.

As life likes to keep us on our toes, it was at this time that a mild breeze decided it needed to roam around my backyard seeing how many times it could make me relight candles.

Unfortunately for the grass clipping briquette the breeze really liked that particular candle, so at the end of three minutes while the rest of the briquette were steadily smoldering the grass clipping briquette had a mild case of carbon buildup.

Conclusions:

None of these combinations were able to maintain a flame once the direct flame was removed.

All of the briquettes were able to maintain a good smolder once sufficiently exposed to flame.

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Given how well dried pine needles and twigs burn, I was really hoping they would let the briquettes maintain a flame. Unfortunately while both the needles and the twigs burn hot, they also burn fast so they just don't stick around long enough when they do appear on the surface of the briquette. To maintain a flame, the ratio of pine to pulp would have to be much higher, but they would not last nearly as long.

Step 2: Duration Test

This was a straight forward test to determine if any of the mixtures would burn faster or slower than the plain paper pulp only briquette.

Once exposed to a burning fire, all of the briquettes quickly caught and maintained a steady burn.

At the end of approx 45 minutes most of the briquettes were about half of their initial size and if disturbed would break apart easily.

The only briquette that still had solidity to its center was the cardboard laminate. When I poked apart the briquette the center layer of cardboard was still not burned at the center.

Step 3: Final Thoughts

I don't think I will be using peanut shells as a filler media again for the following reasons:

1) As you can see in the photo, the peanut shells got "fuzzy" while drying out.

2) Shelling peanuts is very time consuming. There are plenty of other types of filler that are much easier to acquire.

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The cardboard laminate briquette held together a little bit better in the duration burn test than the others. It also took several days longer to dry initially than any of the other briquettes.

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I was surprised that there was very little difference in aroma between the plain and the mixed media briquettes.

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Even though they were all made in the same molds, there was a noticeable difference in how thick the final dried product was depending on what it was mixed with.

Thinnest to thickest it was plain pulp, grass clippings, pine needles, cardboard laminate, pine twigs, and then peanut shells.

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    11 Discussions

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    signOnthe

    4 months ago

    Fire need oxygen to keep burning as you know. When making a fire with woods you must leave some gap between woods as you already know. Maybe you need some holes in your bricks? or something like that to keep fire going.

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    BOBofBORG

    5 months ago

    Based on your final thoughts, you really didn't say which one you would prefer more than the rest. Is collecting and adding the extra fillers really all that helpful?

    Also, i've seen some where they used a tuna can or soup can to make a smaller puck style. It would be nice to be able to compare if perhaps smaller puck shape would be better than the brick style?

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    LorddrakeBOBofBORG

    Reply 5 months ago

    Thanks for the comment bob. Overall I did not have a particular favorite (they all performed about the same), but I would say that my least favorite was the peanut shells. It was very labor intensive to shell all those peanuts, and it was the only one that grew mold during the drying process.

    The filler did not make a huge difference in the burn quality, but it did allow me to make more briquettes with the pulped paper that I had on hand.

    I have to finish up the burn test results for my other briquettes that I made with different fillers. The winner by far was the briquette that used shredded wax for a filler.

    I have not seen anyone make these in tuna can size. They should dry much quicker since they are smaller.
    I am not positive since I have not tested them yet, but I will guess that the tuna can pucks will run into the same issue the briquettes have with staying lit.

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    mrpesas

    7 months ago

    I would be interested in a similar test, but using a rocket stove instead of an open flame. Compressed bricks usually do well in rocket stoves since the burn is much hotter.

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    Lorddrakemrpesas

    Reply 7 months ago

    dangit .. now i have to build a rocket stove :)

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    filelady

    7 months ago

    Love this idea! I make fire starters out of cardboard egg crates, dryer lint and candle wax from candles that aren't pretty enough to use as décor, but still very useful when melted. I have found that lint and used dryer sheets burn very well. Maybe try those items in your bricks, or dip your finished bricks in melted wax to help get them burning.

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    Lorddrakefilelady

    Reply 7 months ago

    Thanks for the great ideas, I will making a followup IBLE to this one with some different media mixed in.

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    jedij585

    7 months ago

    I have made these out of newspaper and all I can say is that it was a complete waste of time. These "logs" never actually burn and they just leave a lot of creosote behind if using in a fireplace.

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    Lorddrakejedij585

    Reply 7 months ago

    so far I have not found a mixture that will burn well on its own without some sort of assistance. These work well when added to an existing fire as filler burn material. I don't have an indoor fireplace, just the fire bowl in the back yard, so I have not noticed if these cause any buildup issues. They will burn completely to ash making cleanup easy.

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    alan.swaffer

    7 months ago on Step 3

    It may be worth trying dry sawdust as a filler. I used to burn compressed sawdust pellets of about 2" diameter that I got free by the trailer load from a local joinery shop. They burned slowly and very hot. Unfortunately we moved house and were too far away to get them and there was no one near the new house that had the (very expensive) machine to make them.
    As an amusing aside, on one very wet day I had a flat tyre on the trailer when taking the pellets home. By the time the tyre was fixed and back on the trailer I had about 1 ton of soggy sawdust on a 1/2 ton trailer!

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    Lorddrakealan.swaffer

    Reply 7 months ago

    Sorry to hear your pellets got rained on .. hopefully it didn't break your trailer with all that added water weight.
    I have a project coming up for my son's cubscout troop that is going to result in some sawdust. I will have to save some to make a batch. Thanks for the idea, I will be making some new mixtures and posting a followup IBLE to this one soon.