Hot Rock Experiment

Yesterday I tried to boil some rain water with hot rocks I gathered. I also started the fire in my tipi, an experiment gone wrong in the past. The following explains the results.

I gathered these rocks from a curb side that had rocks as decoration instead of grass. I figured they had sat long enough out of water for me to heat safely in a fire.

Next I put the rocks in the fire pit in my tipi.

Next I built a tipi fire over the rocks. I made it very small since I can’t have larger fires in my tipi.

Next I put some rain water in a clay pot.

Which I then moved into my tipi near the fire.

Using the bow-drill I made a coal and put it in my tinder bundle.

Then I places the tinder bundle into the tipi fire I built on top of the rocks.

Then I blew it into flames.

I let the fire burn for a while. Since I have to keep the fire small, I have to feed it frequently with smaller twigs. I used some doug fir that I chopped down into small pieces.

I let the fire go for maybe 15 minutes, slowly feeding it. I decided to give it a try, without waiting for the rocks to glow red hot. I know 15 minutes seems short, but I wanted to experiment with timing. With the sweat lodges I’ve helped put on we started the fire like 3 hours earlier than when they would take the stones out. Because the size of the stones I used, I figured I wouldn’t have to wait so long. I also didn’t think they would need to glow red hot before putting them in the water. So I made some chopstick style tongs and lifted the rocks out and into the pot.

Hmm. The water sizzled and steamed, but did not boil. I guess I needed to heat the stones longer. Also, I need to find a way to dust the stones off so the water doesn’t get so murky. I don’t want to drink charcoal.

It seems like 5 elements play into the hot rock process: rock mass/volume + heat + time + volume of water you plan on heating, temperature of water you plan on heating. I have too many questions to count. At this point. I’ll try the experiment again tomorrow and cook the rocks longer. Also, I’ll try the log cabin style fire next time, I think it holds more heat.
The good news to come out of this, aside from the lessons of heating rocks, came from the fire not creating too much smoke in my tipi. I think as long as I keep the door open and keep it fueled, I won’t have as much trouble as I thought! Yay!

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3 Comments on “Hot Rock Experiment”

  1. At tracker school they told us that we could dip the rocks quickly in a different pot of water to wash them off and it wouldn’t steal too much of the heat. I’ve done it. It doesn’t take away all of the ash though. The good water was still a little murky. Maybe if you are just boiling the water to drink and not cooking something in it you can filter it in the end through a bandana, or make a little sand apparatus.

  2. Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that, too. How the hell do I keep ash out of my spearmint tea? Dipping in another pot of water makes sense.

    Are we just going to have to learn to live with ash in our teas and stews? It clean hot water just proof of a stupid civilized mentality that any true aboriginal would laugh at? “Ha, those stupid civies. They fear getting a little ash in their tea.”

  3. more rocks, rotating in and out of the fire, in and out of the water…, rinse and repeat….pour boiled water into a vessel using a tshirt to filter out excess charcol….keep in mind that charcoal is good for you…well if it’s “activated charcoal” anyway, but doubtful that a small amount woul dbe any worse for you that your typical piece of toast.