Leaf logs redux

I previously tried an early experiment to understand whether leaves could be compacted into a form and burned–unlike loose leaves that just smolder. Today I tried a different experiment–trying to form shredded OJ cartons and manilla folders into a log.

Unlike the leaves, which were finely shredded and thin, the cartons and folders were shredded into roughly 3/16″ x 1 1/4″ inch pieces. I mixed 6 quarts of folders and 2 quarts of the carton pieces in a 5-gallon spackle bucket (a remnant of the many remodeling projects I’ve undertaken on the house), then added approximately 1 tsp of Xantham gum and mixed again. Finally, I added roughly 1 cup of water and mixed it all together.

Once mixed, I shoved the contents into a 4″ metal tube that I had screwed onto a wooden base, then smashed the contents down using a wooden railing upright (2″ x 2″). Once smashed down, I extracted the “log” from the tube by first removing the tube from the base and then pushing a piece of 3″ PVC pipe through.

I had to use a fair amount of force to get the log out, but, upon inspection, I noticed the following:

1) The bottom of the log (farthest away from where I was squashing it down) was not compressed very well. As anyone who has ever made sauerkraut knows, you have to add a thin layer of cabbage, then smash it down, then repeat. I didn’t do this, and the result was what you would expect. But the lesson is that any machine that forms the log would need to do so incrementally.

2) The force required is greater than I could apply by hand. Unlike the leaves, the shredded carton and folder were quite stiff, and therefore had a tendency to return to their original shape. As the log is drying, pieces are flaking off at a much greater rate than occurred with the leaves. Either greater force, smaller pieces, of a combination of the two would be required.

The logs (it started out as one, but fell into two pieces as I was handling it) are now drying. I’ll post an update when I conduct a burn test. I also need to figure out how to cheaply test using a higher compression force.

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About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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