By Travis Birch
It is amazing what you can come up with to care for your family when you are pushed up against the wall. We were out of power, and fuel. It was a late evening in February. We were at our home in town. The boys were preparing a fire in the hearth, so we would have means of keeping warm. At our cabin in the woods, we have a wood and coal burning stove. It warms the entire cabin up in no time. If there is snow and ice on the ground, our cabin easily stays in the upper eighties to the lower nineties. But we weren’t at the cabin.
The boys started the kindling and added a newspaper brick to start up and prepare the fire for a large log. My wife started to rub her hands together to create some personal warmth, when she asked, “Is this all we can do?” The question brought to mind a time when I was reading a magazine article to make a quick and effective stove to create an effective heat source.
This seemed like an opportune time to experiment with a new way of heating us. I gathered from the garage and the porch the items needed. Two clay flower pot, the ones I grabbed were 10”. My wife picked up the tin foil and a 9” X 13” pan. From our camping supplies, I grabbed some matches and a Sterno fuel source. The boys were still bringing in the wood.
There is proper ventilation in our kitchen for the Sterno, and I set it in the bread pan and set that on the stove. Then I took the first terra cotta clay pot and placed upside down over the Sterno. I took the tin foil, and folded up a sheet two times, and placed this over the drain hole. Then we placed the second flower pot on top of the first pot. They were now snug up to each other.
At this point check and make sure that again, the ventilation is adequate, the structure you just built is stable, and free from easily falling apart. Make sure the drain hole is covered between the two pots with the foil, and finally have a couple of oven mitts available in case you have to move the heated pots. Now light the Sterno fuel source, and place it under the pots.
You can easily use some tea candles or another fuel source that you deem safe and appropriate for the situation. We also have homemade Sterno’s that we can use here. In about 15 minutes you will notice a rise in the temperature. By now the boys had the first log put on the fire, and a room filled with the glow of orange and red from the fire. I checked my contraption and we had temperatures at 180°. Shortly after it rose to about 240°. It maintained this temperature for the duration of the life of the heat source. Check the pots before and after each use to ensure there is no cracking.
You may try different sources of heat. If you go with tea candles, you may want to use 4-6 at one time to hit the level of comfort you are looking for. This didn’t heat up the house like it needed to be on a regular basis, but it definitely made a difference in the room where it was positioned. This is a simple way to improve your situation. It may be a good way to warm yourself outside if you don’t want to start or maintain a log fire over a long period of time. My wife asked about boiling water on top of the pots, and I don’t suggest trying. The pressure or weight may break the clay pot or cause the entire structure to tumble, and then you have a potential for a worse situation to occur. In the end, this project will keep you warm, as long as you keep it safe.