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Build A Rocket Mass Heater

September 27, 2013 @ 4:00 pm - September 29, 2013 @ 4:00 pm


wood-burning-stoves-8In partnership with Transition Guelph, Minga Skill Building Hub and local Rocket Mass Heater (RMH) builder, Andrew Brunning, we are co-creating a Rocket Mass Heater Workshop. Teaching the workshop will be Ernie and Erica Wisner, two world class natural builders who specialize in Rocket Mass Heater building.  They promise to deliver the most in-depth and up-to-date Rocket Mass Heater wisdom; its Permaculture Pandemonium!.  Erica and Ernie are known all over the world for installing hundreds of RMH systems, teaching workshops and are the moderators of the RMH forum on

This workshop will enable even the most novice non-builder to gain the skills to effectively build a rocket mass heaters themselves, using simple materials.

What is a Rocket Mass Heater?

“Essentially its a super-efficient wood heater, using earthen masonry. Rocket stoves are a type of fuel-efficient device, named in the 70’s, but dating back millenia in concept.  A super-hot chimney above the fire draws the flames sideways and up, blending hot fuel and air into a quick, hot, clean-burning fire that takes little wood, leaves little residue, and has lots of uses.

The Rocket Mass Heater takes this useful, clean-burning heat, adds a self-feeding wood box, and channels the exhaust through a masonry block to store touchable warmth for hours or days.” –


Why Would I Want To Learn About Them or Install One In My House?

Rocket Mass Heaters create an exceptional warm living environment, providing heat to the air, your body as you sit or lie on the heated bench or bed, and the top of the Bell (barrel) offers an efficient cooking surface

  • heat a living space with a fraction of the firewood (1 Cord of wood per heating season)
  • wood burns so efficiently that there is virtually no smoke, simply steam and CO2 (smoke is simply unburned fuel)
  • The stoves thermal mass stores and radiates heat for days after a single firing
  • the RMH can be built in a few days on the cheap ($100 – $500)
  • You can lie down on the heated bench or bed of the RMH without being burned – try that on a wood stove or furnace!
  • The RMH heating appliance becomes an artistic value added feature to a home and quickly becomes the most sought after space to be vrs. the feeling of snuggling up next to your gas furnace in the basement not to mention the gas bills! (no thanks!)
  • A full-size RMH system can have thermal mass (cob and stone) weighing in at 3 to 5 tonnes, this mass also serves the function of capturing and storing solar radiation for winter heating and serves to keep your space cool in the summer.
  • Feel great about knowing you built your own heating system rather than relying on Coal, Gas, Nuclear and imported technologies.          

Rocket stove resources to get you all caught up:

Over the the course of the weekend we will all have an opportunity to learn and work in these areas:

•    identify ideal place for your Rocket Mass Heater
•    create a base for the RMH
     •    identify suitable soil for making cob
•    lay firebricks for combustion chamber
•    building the heat riser
     •    mix thermal cob & insulative cob and earthen mortar
•    laying out stove pipe exhaust and chimney
•    setting the Bell (barrel) into place
•    how to light the fire and stoke to prevent blow back
•    fire sciences

What hands-on skills will I learn?

Natural building is all about adapting to the actual resources available locally and on-site.  Wood, earth, and stone don’t come in ‘modular’; even reclaimed building brick comes in a wide variety of types and sizes.

While you may understand a project intellectually after researching online or reading books (and we encourage you to do so), there is no substitute for hands-on practice to build your skills, ability, judgement, and confidence.

A hands-on, start-to-finish project brings up all kinds of questions that would never occur in another setting.

You’ll see the process of adapting the project to its surroundings, the choices between available local resources (with discussion of viable alternatives for other situations), and you’ll encounter and learn from problem-solving opportunities that simply don’t occur in the academic setting.  We’ll also provide opportunities for every participant to build mock-up heaters in small groups, and to mix and batch-test earthen materials.

Because of the value of hands-on, practical experience, we will limit academic questions to certain periods of the day (when the whole class is gathered).  You’ll learn from each other’s mistakes, questions, and great ideas, as well as learning at least one proven, practical way to build an earthen mass heater.

We include printed take-home references for fire science, earthen building, heater design, and natural finishing and remodeling projects, so you’ll be a step further ahead for that academic research too.

You will learn how to mix and apply COB and Earthen Mortars from sand, clay and water (With your hands and feet!)mixing cob
Laying and cutting bricks for the combustion chamber and manifold – using trowels and masonry tools
Making an earthen insulative mix of slip clay and perlite to insulate around the combustion chamber and heatriser.
Heat riser build (with brick or steel column) and Bell (Barrel) installation.
You will learn how to safely cut, crimp and securely connect stove pipe for the RMH exhaust/chimney
Installing and attaching stove pipe fittings( T’s & Elbows) for system ash clean outs

A List of Hand Tools we will be learning to use: Level, Cold Chisels, Hammer, Mallet, Hack Saw, Tin Snips, Metal Cutters, Crimpers, Screw Drivers, Drills, Shovels, Wheel Barrels, Tarps , Masonry trowels

This course is for you if:

  • The thought of building with natural materials excites and/ or scares you – but you really want to dig in!
  • You want to heat your yourself, your home, greenhouse or workshop without supporting the destruction of the boreal forest (using scrap wood, recycled pallets, fallen branches and twigs)
  • You are looking for guidance and instruction from experienced RMH builders
  • The idea that you can build with material found under foot and from local dumps and scrap yards is invigorating

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Register for our weekend workshop beginning Friday Sept 27th at 4:00pm and ending Sunday Sept 29th at 4:00pm.

Friday – Arrive on site at 4:00pm – we will meet and greet, have dinner and begin our Fire Sciences demo (6:30 to 8:30)

Saturday – Come for breakfast at 8:00am – the day includes lunch and dinner and rocket mass heater learning and building
Saturday evening permaculture pandemonium atmosphere and live entertainment!

Sunday – Come for breakfast at 8:00am – the day includes lunch and dinner and rocket mass heater workshop – finish at 4:00pm

A tasty organic lunch, tea, coffee and cold beverages will be provided sourced from Guelphs own local farms and markets.

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Erica and Ernie Wisner are hands-on teachers of creative, ecological and practical skills. Ernie’s practical knowledge and EricaanderineErica’s teaching skills combining to form an excellent and dynamic team. Together this dynamic couple have led workshops across the US and Canada, and consulted on projects in Argentina, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Ireland, NZ, Mongolia, Kenya, and South Africa.

Erica is a science and art educator with a degree in Physics and Art. She also has architectural, drafting and engineering knowledge, and loves wild- crafting and outdoor recreation. For 5 years she taught chemistry for all ages in the world’s first public wet science lab (at OMSI in Oregon).

In 2005-6 Erica worked for the City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon USA. City Repair promotes ecological and natural building methods in several ways, including a yearly Village Building Convergence which attracts people from around the world. It’s here that Erica and Ernie met.

Ernie is hands on, versatile and self sufficient. He’s a trained fire fighter, mariner, botanist, an excellent cook, and a handy man. He can fix practically anything. His motivation in learning many of these skills was to stay alive. Growing up on commercial fishing boats, a kid learns to watch everything, and maintain all the equipment, in order to get home again.

On a boat voyage in 1996 that reached the North Pole, Ernie realised that fossil-fueled lifestyles won’t last forever. After casting around for more sustainable options, in 2004 he joined the Cob Cottage team, working with Ianto Evans and builders from around the world. One of their projects was researching and testing approx 700 stove designs for the 2006 book, “Rocket Mass Heaters”.

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* Please note that we’ll be sending out information about the specifics of the workshop a few days before the workshop including a reminder of what to bring. You do not need to register through Eventbrite to be a participant of this workshop. If you do not wish to register this way, please contact  We can accept cash and cheque.

** We are committed to getting skills out into our community.  If this workshop is financially inaccessible for you, we’d love to talk. Please email for more information.


September 27, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
September 29, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
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