The Rocket Mass Heater Builder’s Guide

This kickstarter was originally planned for last year … its finally arrived. Until now there has really only been one book on Rocket Mass Heaters by Ianto Evans, but having read it and built rocket stoves guided by it, I feel it is out of date (though I haven’t seen the latest edition). There has been much evolution since this book was written and I am confident this new book by Erica (and Ernie) Wisner is a much needed replacement for it.

If you are new to rocket mass heaters and you get to the kickstarter in time (there are a limited number of places available) I recommend the $75 bundle which includes the Village Video DVD – which is the best I’ve seen so far and I have a feeling will compliment the book very well (since it also follows a build by Erica and Ernie). That bundle should give you a very good start towards building your own rocket mass heater.

We have not started building yet

Once in a while I get a question about the house that was to be built at Bhudeva … and also about what happened to updates on the blog … I thought to answer in a short post.

Construction of a new house hasn’t started at Bhudeva.

Me & We

One reason is that the “we” that we were is not the “we” that we are. There have been major life changes and transformations in and around Bhudeva. I don’t want to get into that yet because it touches intimately not just on my life but also on the lives of others. Personally it has been a surprising, sometimes pleasant, sometimes demanding journey … and it is ongoing. To meet that journey in a good way I have made it a priority to care for myself and my well-being (physicall, emotionally, energetically and spiritually).

I have turned most of my attention inward, where I have been able to find and sustain (sometimes with a lot of effort) a sense of center and stability. This affected many things, including my writing. I have written very little both on my personal site and here at Bhudeva. I am now starting to feel a desire to write again … but that has not translated yet into actual writing (this post being an exception). I am treating this desire with delicate care, allowing it to become and mature … not pushing it, not making any demands of myself, not setting any expectations.


Another reason is money … this is another expansive subject of reflection for me … but for now I can say that when it comes to money I would like two conditions to exist for a house build to begin:

  1. The first is an initial sum of money that can be comfortably dedicated to construction.
  2. The second is a steady flow of money which can be directed towards the building project.

However, I believe that even if the money was available right now, construction still wouldn’t start because in my mind and heart creating a house is intimately related to me and “we” … and it will take more time for there to be “clarity” about who “we” are and what that says about a house and living at Bhudeva.


Technically speaking I feel that I have found most of the information needed to build a suitable and efficient house for the climate conditions here at Bhudeva. However, until recently I have not found a good way to design a house – to give it good shape. This is something that has been on my mind for 4 or 5 years now … and I felt that any choices I made when thinking about the shape of a house were arbitrary … intellectual exercises. Some configurations felt like reasonable solutions to getting all the desired functions of a house in place. But how can I tell that a design is Good … that it will create a pleasant house to live in?

I have been living with this particular question for 2 or 3 years now. I have been looking for some knowledge that could guide me. During the summer of 2015 I discovered a fascinating work titled “The Nature of Order” by an architect named Christopher Alexander. It is a 4 volume work spanning ~2000 pages. It is touching me deeply, nourishing me spiritually and answering a lot of questions I had about designing a house. Reading it has been a regular part of my mornings for the past half year. I am in the 3rd book and I have been publishing some quotes that have inspired me as I am going through the book. I have been tempted to start thinking about the new house numerous times during my reading, but I have decided to wait until I finish all 4 books.

3rd House

Another piece of wisdom I’ve encountered for self-builders is that you will get things right on the 3rd house. It takes at least two construction projects to make some necessary learning mistakes, so that when you get to the 3rd house you can do it right. This has been my experience with rocket stoves and I have been trying to apply this wisdom to construction:

  • Two years ago I built a wood-shed.
  • Last year I built a sheltered terrace (wooden deck, an overhead roof, an outdoor kitchen ..) attached to the house (maybe I will publish post with a bit of information about this build).
  • This year there are plans to build a cellar with some of the building technologies that will be used in the future house.
  • There are also plans to renovate and transform the old summer kitchen into a living space .. this will be an opportunity to play with and apply some of the ideas I’ve learned from “The Nature or Order”.

How To Build

I have a lot to say about how to approach construction projects (maybe any project) based on my experiences in recent years at Bhudeva and amplified by what I have been reading in the “The Nature of Order”. I don’t know when and how I will be able to express what is moving inside me. For now I will say this. If you want to create a house that is vibrating with life then the process of creating that house needs to also vibrate with life. What kind of house will be created by a construction process that is painful, stressful, insecure, difficult …? My personal efforts are therefore directed at how to create conditions for a construction process that will be spacious, pleasant, inspiring, loving … I believe these conditions needs to be established before a single earthbag is filled with earth.

For me this is not about building walls … it is about creating a home.



Growing Furniture

Stealing the Last Forest

Solid evidence on illegal logging in Romania:

Making Together

I’ve gotten used to doing things on my own here at Bhudeva … it’s the way things have been for quite some time. I have learned to adjust my aims according to what I alone am able to execute. I plan construction projects in such a way that I can create and bring all the elements into place on my own.

However there has been, even if a slight, opportunity for this to change … there are two pairs of helping hands which are occassionaly here and passionate about helping. I also share with Andreea things I am planning to do and sometimes she has inputs which I want to incorporate. But I am not adapted to being helped. I am not practiced at communicating what I am thinking or what I am doing.

This has resulted in a recurring scenario where one of the few people who are involved send me an idea … but late in the process … when other things have already been set in motion or put in place which would need to be changed to make room for the new idea. Though the ideas are given with good intentions and I want to include them in my work … the fact that they arrive late usually leads to frustration or confusion … “why didn’t you say so earlier?” kind of situations. There are numerous reasons for this … but one of them is my lack of communication.

With that in mind I’ve decided to try something new. I’d like to practice being more open in communicating my plans and activities. I’d like to invite feedback earlier in the process. I’d also like for the feedback to be collaborative … so that everyone who may be involved can know what is going on and give input in time.

I’ve created the Make space for that purpose. In it, I (and others in this small group) can publish thoughts, ideas, plans, etc … and comment on what others publish. Whenever something is published everyone else in the group gets an email notification so they can, if they wish, keep track of what is happening. I’ve prescribed this kind of solution for other groups I’ve been involved with … and now that an opportunity has presented itself I’ve decided to give it a try here at home.


Dual Sun

A french company is bringing to market a solar panel that combines photovoltaic cells with solar hot water. The combination is not only interesting in a utilitarian way but promises improved performance of the PV cells by reducing the panel temperature (PV efficient drops as temperature rises).


I wonder what this combination implies in terms of longevity and warranty. PV panels are typically rated to last more than 25 years. Would that still be true when they cease to be a simple static element and include flowing water? Is the panel leak proof (especially with the hard water flowing flowing through my pipes) for 25 years?

Collony Collapse Disorder

Collony Collapse Disorder is the official name given to the worldwide epidemic of entire bee hives dying or simply disappearing by the thousands. I have a feeling that this issue goes deeper then our current science can explain, that it is a reflection of a dominant relationship of extraction/ control / manipulation between humans and nature. However this video does a good job of explaining the part of the story that can be put in our current box of logic and rationality:

My Power Woodworking Tools

I was recently asked about my set of power woodworking tools and thought it best to deliver the answer in a post.


My intention, when I set out on this journey, was to be free to create the things I needed / wanted … from small wooden accessories to furniture and even structures. Though I haven’t blog much about it (I hope to catch up with that story in the future) I have done what I set out to do. However I have experienced certain limitations that I think are as valuable to acknowledge as the tools I have chosen to work with.

The greatest challenge, and most of my time in the workshop, is spent on converting raw construction grade pine wood into workable pieces. This is an unpleasant task with power tools because it is noisy and very dusty. I believe that with hand-tools this experience can be very different … maybe even more pleasant, but maybe also more time-consuming. However I don’t have any experience with alternative hand-tools … except to say that good hand tools are as expensive as good power tools. This work also depends greatly on the quality and state of the wood I am working with. I have some air-dried (over a few years) wood left over in my attic which behaves very differently then the current green wood I am using to build a new outside roof and deck.

I consider the results I am able to achieve to be mediocre. The tools that I have do not enable me to achieve for reliable, consistent sizes. This effects my entire process of design and construction. I have learned to work within these limitations. I both enjoy the limitations and simplicity that this requires of me AND look forward to having better tools that will enable me to produce better quality materials and projects.

As you will see I chose to go with Bosch professional tools. When I did my initial survey my impression was that they had better build quality than Makita tools and similar quality to Dewalt (which are harder to find here). I consider this a long term investment and so opted to go with Bosch professional tools (blue products) and not the home tools (green products). Ideally I would have liked to go with Festool – I believe they are superior in quality but this also reflects in their prices.

A mitre saw (GCM 12 SD) is a very versatile tool but is often first in line for cutting long board to length. I chose this model for its large cutting capacity (effected by the blade size and sliding rails). A sale in the UK and a friend that helped in getting it shipped to Romania in an affordable way made it possible for me to enjoy this saw … otherwise I would have probably opted or a smaller size:


Next in line is a circular saw (GKS 55 CE) which I use for both cross-cuts (simple cuts on long boards that are difficult to get on the mitre saw) and length-cuts. The main choice to make here are the size of the blade and the strength of the motor. Sometimes I wish I had a larger blade, but I chose to go with this size thinking that on a construction site it is lighter to carry / lift / hold in less then ideal positions.


The next tool is the planer (GHO 26-82). The numbers reflect two dimensions – the maximum depth of cut (2.6mm) and the cut width (82mm). I rarely use a depth of cut deeper then 1.5. The larger the cutting width the stronger an engine is needed. I use it to convert the raw surface into something more pleasant, workable that can accept finishing more effectively. I use this tool a lot and I was wrongly expecting it to provide better results. I have not been able to use this tool to brings board to a predetermined size … I try to use it efficiently and make use of the resulting sizes as effectively as possible. This is not a substitute for a jointer and a fixed planer (where the tool is stationary and the wood is moved) or a combination planer-thicknesser (which is high on my wishlist).


The results of the planer depend on the qualities of the wood and my proficiency in using it. Regardless, after planing there will be sanding to do … and plenty of it. The orbital sander (GEX 150 AC). I decided to go with only one sander (because of costs) hence the orbital sander which can be used for both rough and fine sanding. Because of the limitations of the planer I spend a lot of time sanding. I think the sanderis the machine with the most working hours in the workshop.


The combined work of the planer and sander takes, by my estimate, 10 times (or more) time then it would to run the same piece of wood into a planer-thicknesser and the results (no matter how much care and efforts I put into the work) are lesser. I don’t enjoy this preparation phase and it is a demotivating part of the work that sometimes keeps (or delays) me from starting a project. This effect is magnified by the poor-to-mediocre quality of wood I have access to.

For smaller, more subtle, shaped cuts I use a jigsaw (GST 150 BCE):


… and a router (GOF 900 CE) is a very diverse tool, but is more complicated, takes more learning and experimentation to get to know and harness:


Though I rarely use it for wood-working an angle grinder (GWS 8-125) has been a priceless addition to this set. I didn’t initially get one and didn’t intend to. However I soon needed it and have since used it many times. It’s engine doesn’t run much, but it too is a diverse tool and when it does run it does precious work.

Despite their limitations I have been able to create almost everything I have wanted to create with these tools. The results are not particularly refined however I value more a freedom to design and shape things to be exactly the way I want them, to fit into the exact spaces I have available and to cater to the functions I intend them to do.

There are many more tools that serve me in the workshop … but these are the major wood-working related power tools.


Tesla Energy presents Powerwall

no more batteries and battery rooms
no more charge controllers
no more grid tie
no more cable messes


Tesla just announced the Powerwall one integrated unit to hang on a wall… a battery with a purpose … connect it to a photovoltaic array and (if you want as backup) the grid and you are good to go … at a fraction of the price of existing, more complicated solutions:

Desert Water

These collection of clips are from the desert in the south of Israel. These are usually sudden events (though fairly predictable after rainfall events) in otherwise open and dry river-beds. Vast amounts of water that could have been held, directed and put to some kind of ecological use … but most of it just flows through (I don’t know where to).