I stumbled across the idea of fuel briquetting while on an appropriate technology web site and have found the idea is very popular in the developing world, particularly in areas where wood for fuel is scarce.
Most of us are familiar with the formed charcoal briquettes used in barbecues, and you can use charcoal in this type of press, but practically anything burnable can be used to create briquettes: straw, grass clippings, rice hulls, paper, sawdust, leaves, animal dung… use your imagination! The end result will look different depending on your source material, but all will get the job done (see sample briquettes from around the world, here). The briquettes are closer to the formed Pres-to-Logs you can find in grocery stores in the U.S., which are made of sawdust, though most handmade briquettes are smaller than the commercial logs.
For those who live in the grasslands, a high desert area or a lightly-wooded place, the means to make fuel can be invaluable. Knowing how to make briquettes can also be a valuable trade skill (using your equipment to produce briquettes from the agri-waste of others) or the means to create a valuable trade good (finished briquettes for sale). It would be a great business to pair with a sawmill.
YouTube is a fantastic resource for homemade briquette press ideas. There seem to be a lot of folks who have put a lot of thought into different designs. Some use bottle jacks for the needed pressure, but there are many human powered designs.
Here is a very small sampling of ideas in use:
- The Peterson Press
- A video showing a small press made made from a caulking gun.
- Another from the same person that makes 25 briquettes at a time, but requires quite a bit of welding to construct.
- Another using a similar concept, but made from a used shipping pallet, so no welding required.
- A video showing a different design.
- And finally, one made from a used ammo box.
Although my retreat location is wooded, it would not produce enough fuel for an extended period. Having a means to create fuel from what the trees drop naturally could be a helpful thing.
Blessings, – Jason R.