Pellet Stove 3.0 (now in color)

After almost 2 years since the last iteration and my considerations on heating the cabin, I’ve finally gone ahead and made some much needed improvements; particularly related to safety. This version does away with using old gas cylinders (propane etc…) as the burn chamber and sticks to plain, steel, square tubing and flat stock with maybe an angle or two thrown in for reinforcement. This was following some much needed advice I got from a welder who emailed me after reading my previous post (thanks, Mike!)

For comparison, this is the original “automatic stove” idea.

This is a quick sketch of all my ideas for an "automatic" pellet stove

This is a quick sketch of all my ideas for an “automatic” pellet stove

And the 2.0 design.

Stove 2.0 with improvements

Stove 2.0 with improvements

And the new and improved 3.0. Note, the flue/cleanout setup is the same as in version 2.0.

Stove 3.0 with new safety measures and simpler materials.

Stove 3.0 with new safety measures and simpler materials.

For this design, I’ve made using flux core welding wire to put it together a bit easier. Flux core tends to be more beginner-accessible (no gas needed) a tad safer and requires less skill, which is a big deal since this design is meant to be DIY. I’ve also increased the diagram size and font sizes by request. Apparently, a lot of folks couldn’t read my rubbish text without squinting at the screen. Apologies for that. I really didn’t expect any more than the 4-5 regulars who read my blog to be interested in the design, let alone the 300(!) who emailed me.

I’ve separated the interior components to two easily distinguishable sections : The stainless steel pellet hopper made of thinner flat sheets clad in cement board and the burn chamber with its all square tubing and flat stock construction.

Flat stock is almost always easier to weld than curved surfaces; as is cutting it. If your material has the same thickness, it makes switching temperatures, changing welding wire, voltage etc… completely unnecessary within each section. We can stick to one temp, one voltage, one thickness and, best of all, we’re not relying on old gas cylinders which may or may not withstand the high temperatures they were never designed to endure.

The only time any temp changes would be necessary is for the stainless steel hopper. I elected to use stainless here since often, the pellets you get from the store may contain moisture. The pellets in the burn chamber will, of course, quickly dry out making moisture less of a problem. The thinner stainless steel hopper is also separated from the hot burn chamber by the slight gap created by the space needed for the pellet stop. This tiny gap, along with the cement board wrapped around it, greatly reduces the amount of heat transferred to the rest of the hopper and our (highly flammable) fuel.

The grate is now designed to be replaced relatively easily if necessary since it’s in one piece and welded only at one spot that’s accessible by the air inlet pipe. There are two grates to ensure burnt ashes fall away without being sucked back into the burn chamber and without clogging the air inlet. In addition, this allows hot ashes to cool down in the lower chamber which isn’t as exposed to the full heat of the burn grate.

Also, being mildly OCD, I wanted to ensure there’s ample room to put a wide tray underneath the stove to collect all the burnt ashes without making a mess of my floor. The bent steel rods used as feet reduce the heat transfer to the floor, which may be bamboo or hardwood.

I also tried reducing the overall size of the stove. This one is about the same height and is roughly 2 – 3 times the width as a full ATX tower computer case, like the one housing the computer I’m typing this post in. I want it to be safe and stable, produce enough heat while still be “out of my way” as much as possible. The interior of the entire stove case is clad in cement board (such as Durock®) and the case itself is cut 4 – 5 inches short of the front hot exhaust tube with only cement board used to close opening. This reduces the heat transmission from the exhaust to the rest of the case while at the same time allowing me to reduce the interior volume needed for insulation.

If anyone does build this design or find it useful in any way, please drop me a line and let me know. Any improvements or suggestions are most welcome.


The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys): Why I Stopped Being a Voluntourist


I appreciate the honesty in this piece. And I still hope there are more people like this coming to Sri Lanka.

Originally posted on Pippa Biddle:

White people aren’t told that the color of their skin is a problem very often. We sail through police check points, don’t garner sideways glances in affluent neighborhoods, and are generally understood to be predispositioned for success based on a physical characteristic (the color of our skin) we have little control over beyond sunscreen and tanning oil.

After six years of working in and traveling through a number of different countries where white people are in the numerical minority, I’ve come to realize that there is one place being white is not only a hindrance, but negative –  most of the developing world.

Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania.

Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania.

In high school, I travelled to Tanzania as part of a school trip. There were 14 white girls, 1 black girl who, to her frustration, was called white by almost everyone we met in Tanzania, and a few teachers/chaperones…

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Nerds and Buddhism

Originally posted on Essays in Idleness:

The Buddha's First Sermon

(Sometimes it’s just better to be quiet and listen…)

Recently I had a small epiphany about Buddhist “culture” in the West, especially convert (non-Asian) Buddhists.

Buddhist communities online and some communities I’ve seen in person remind me a lot of Star Trek conventions or UNIX system-administrator meeting: You meet a lot of white, nerdy, type-A, obsessive people who argue and debate petty intellectual stuff, and some of them have big egos. I work in a large, global IT company so I work with nerdy, type-A, obsessive people daily. When they argue about network security, or other computer discussions, it reminds me of the same discussions I see online discussing Zen Buddhism or just arguing on Wikipedia. It’s the same people.

Being a fellow white nerd, who spends his days blogging about Japanese waka poetry, this was all perfectly normal until I changed departments and started working with lots of…

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Oh, hi blog! I kinda sorta forgot you existed.

Between another trip to Sri Lanka, a few months of work and some other uninteresting malarkey, I haven’t had a chance to breath or hold my head up for longer than a few consecutive hours. Not having this updated was nagging me for a bit so I did finally decide to come back.

This is just an “I’m not dead yet” update, but I hope to come back to more updates (including some progress made on the cabin front) very soon.

Before that, I’ll be dealing with this first…

Great, Jumping, Jehosaphat!

Great, Jumping, Jehosaphat!

How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Originally posted on Alexandre Afonso:

In 2000, economist Steven Levitt and sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics about the internal wage structure of a Chicago drug gang. This piece would later serve as a basis for a chapter in Levitt’s (and Dubner’s) best seller Freakonomics. [1] The title of the chapter, “Why drug dealers still live with their moms”, was based on the finding that the income distribution within gangs was extremely skewed in favor  of those at the top, while the rank-and-file street sellers earned even less than employees in legitimate low-skilled activities, let’s say at McDonald’s. They calculated 3.30 dollars as the hourly rate, that is, well below a living wage (that’s why they still live with their moms). [2]

If you take into account the risk of being shot by rival gangs, ending up in jail or being beaten up by your own hierarchy, you…

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