A wood fire is a thing of wonder but popping down the local park with an axe for firewood is frowned on by the local council so we generally have to buy logs, which can cost a bit over the course of a cold winter.
However newspapers are made from trees and can, with a little bit of effort be turned back into something resembling a log that will burn very nicely in your woodstove.
Briquette Makers work. I have used one for many years. The process is simply to shred the paper, wet it, drop it into the briquette maker and press to squeeze out the water and create a compressed lump of paper which can then be left to dry in the shed for a month or so before use. I have a rack (old inserts from one of those cheap mini greenhouses that you can get at a garden centre) in the top of my shed that serves the purpose.
My one gripe with all the briquette makers I have ever seen or used is that the ‘handles’ are a bit painful when you are trying to exert a lot of pressure on them. I would like to see some way of keeping the press under tension for a few minutes without having to use my bodyweight over my palms pushing down on some thin metal bars.
I have wrapped a few turns of electrical tape around the handles and this does improve things a bit.
But really, a little bit of an ache in your palmsis a small price to pay for free, environmentally friendly briquettes which would have otherwise ended up as landfill.
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How to use a log maker
To make a paper briquette first scrunch up individual sheets of newspaper. Then wet them in a bucket of water then plate them in the briquette press and once it is full, squeeze down on the handles to squidge the paper together. That is pretty much the whole process and can be trusted to a 10 year old (as long as you have checked the press for sharp edges!)
Once dry a paper briquette will burn beautifully, but you must give them enough time.
If you are an impatient sort then the alternative is a set of metal clips which you use to hold together a tightly rolled dry set of newspaper pages. The disadvantage is that these will eventually come apart and make a mess so we don’t recommend them on open fires. Secondly the metal clips are subjected to high temperatures in a woodstove and start to disintegrate after about ten burnings, so they are not as ecologically friendly as you might suppose.
If you have an old apple press out the back you can use it make nice big rounds of paper logs that are shaped like a large round cake. This will need to be sawn up (don’t worry it saws like a knife through butter) before use in the fire and cleaning the wet paper out of an apple press is not my idea of fun, so only do this if you won’t be using the press for food again.
Make logs each year
Whichever technique you use, the finished product will burn well why properly dry. In a cold wet shed it may take a year to dry out fully, so I usually make logs in one year with a view to burning them 12 months later. After the first year you just need to remember to set aside a day each year to make next years logs.