One day we were kicking around the ideas others had with developing countries, like the 5 gallon bucket clothes washer. Some students from the Art Center College of Art and Design had built one model. After looking around at other similar projects the firebrick press showed up. The firebrick has many uses both here and abroad, so we decided to build one.
First it had to be easy to build from readily available materials. The bottle jack was out, even though they are cheap here, they may not be available everywhere. Various other specialty parts were out of the question as availability wouldn’t be an option. After mulling the fire log press over a few minutes, wood was decided upon. Wood is available everywhere, and the basic design is easy to understand. The wooden model would be easy to look at and substitute a pipe here or a log there, etc.
Fasteners was another problem that we ran into. Huge lag bolts and specialty fasteners would be another such issue so we avoided them. We went with the good old fashion wood deck screw. While screws aren’t available everywhere they are probably more available than a 8 inch long 1/2 inch shank bolt with a washer and nut, but that would work too. The wood screws can be ran through the layers successively, building layer after layer, or if one long enough was had, all the way through at once. Even tying with rope or cable and stop notches would work. All that mattered is that it held together.
There is basically a square box that holds the watery paper slurry. There’s a pipe in the middle to allow the air to flow through the dried brick making it burn better. There’s a piston that sits inside the block and around the pipe that squished the wet mushy paper into a block. The water escapes the paper through holes in the pipe, and is poured out the middle when the blocks are removed. The water can be reused again if it is captured during the process.
The slurry is added into the chamber until its full. There are blocks that are put in between layers to make smaller multiple blocks if you wish, or make one larger block. The top block goes onto the top after the chamber is full. The arm swings in and you push the arm down, effectively squishing the water from the paper and forming a nice tight block of lignin full paper. The fibers of the paper are pressed together into a brick. The brick is removed and allowed to dry. Once dry it is compact and hard. The hole allows the paper to burn better, easing airflow.
There are amendments that can be made to the paper slurry. Pine straw, leaves, grass, etc can be added to the slurry before pressing. In some areas manure can be added. While many believe that burning manure would stink, it is supposedly odorless, as far as manure goes, as it burns and even when it is dry. With some ingenuity there likely could be other materials laying around that could be burned aside from junk mail, sawdust, manure, and leaves.