Hand operated briquette press – utilizing waste paper and sawdust

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Firewood dependence for cooking in the developing world has resulted in forests being depleted at a rate of 2.5 to 3% per year. It is here in the poorest parts of the world that villagers spend a good portion of their time gathering wood to cook, heat and make charcoal. To counter this dependence on wood, efforts were made in the early 80’s to come up with alternatives. One such alternative being explored was making fuel briquettes from non-woody biomass for cooking. Dr.Bryant and students at the University of Washington in the USA developed a novel low-cost briquette making process using non-woody agricultural residues, ordinary water and a hand-operated wood press.

“Anyone can make briquettes from their own leaves, grass, straw and paper”

The briquette process was simple and could be established in poor rural communities, requiring little technology and very little money. With a small effort villagers could now create their own fuelwood from agricultural residues. To make a briquette, ordinary leaves, grass and straw would be chopped and mashed into a paste. This paste would then be compressed into round cakes and dried. The resulting briquette would be sold as a fuelwood- and charcoal substitute at the local market. In 1994 the Legacy Foundation, USA, picked up on Bryant’s briquette making process and extended the outreach activities. Today, Legacy Foundation’s training and online media services have spread the briquette technology and process into eleven other countries, such as Haiti, Uganda, Mexico, Nepal, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania. The foundation has also released 8 technical/training manuals on all known aspects of briquette making.

Vuthisa acquired the rights to promote and extend this technology into Southern Africa. The Legacy Foundation have now launched their new Ratchet Press to replace the wooden presses and its now manufactured in South Africa.


The Ratchet Press is designed to fold away when being transported and once erected in a few simple steps provides the necessary power to compress sawdust and paper mixed in a wet slurry into medium density fuel briquettes. Using common tools and skills, the Ratchet Press can work for an individual or full time commercial briquette production facility. Though it is compact and portable, it can deliver nearly the same force as their larger Mini Bryant compound level wood press. They have launched 3 Ratchet Press manuals namely; Ratchet Press Construction, -User, and -Marketing manual which explains in detail how to construct (unless an actual press ordered from Vuthisa is preferred) the press, arrange and prepare materials and operate the press successfully.

Watch this demonstration video of our latest Ratchet Press:

Vuthisa have also started manufacturing the Test Briquette Maker (TBM) under license so visit our online shop for prices. Quite a large proportion of people that buy the user manuals never commit themselves to building the actual presses, possibly due to time or money constraints or they lack workshop tools and/or technical know-how. Order this “Press Kit” to get familiarized with the concept behind their hand operated wooden and metal, low-pressure briquetting machines.

“Like” our Facebook Fan Page and receive a FREE PDF download link to the “Test Briquette Maker”:

“The Test Briquette Maker can be built for under $125 (USD) and requires almost no maintenance…”

The Test Briquette Maker can be built for under $125 (USD) and requires almost no maintenance, with only basic drilling and welding (10 cm at most) work required. If you’re looking to attract funding to roll out a program using this technology, this press will be most suitable to that end. As mentioned a FREE download link to the “Test Briquette Maker Construction and User Manual” will be supplied with every manual purchased on this site.

Watch this demonstration video of the Test Briquette Maker:

Also visit our Instagram account for more pictures: https://www.instagram.com/vuthisa/

Order the Ratchet press here (minimum order of 2):

For more information on the briquette process and to access their electronic How-To Manuals kindly visit this page:



Charcoal from invasive alien tree species

By Vuthisa

We recently concluded a feasibility study into the viability of rolling out portable metal kilns to eradicate invasive alien tree species. The cattle farm in question is situated in Franklin, approximately 30 km North of Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. To achieve this task we adapted the Portable Kiln system and made it into sections in order transport it up onto the mountain top where it was assembled, ready for use. This is a self-funded trial to determine if it is feasible to convert jungle Wattle plantations into charcoal in order to alleviate poverty and transfer skills and ultimately establish Community Based Organisations (CBO’s) …AND preserve our rich species biodiversity!PanoramicView

3-drum Biochar Retort

A single Trans-Portable kiln can process 550 kilogram feedstock into approximately 100 kg charcoal (un-sieved) or 50 kg sieved charcoal in a single 24-hour shift. We have since increased our daily yield by increasing the kiln diameter by 40% and adding conical lids and chimneys to increase yields and clean up emissions. The new retort dubbed the 3-drum Biochar Retort can also accept 3 perforated 55 Gal oil drums which is filled with smaller diameter feedstock in order the produce bona fide Biochar, obtained with a substantial reduction in emissions and a 25% yield. We processed a mix of exotic invaders from Australasia Acacia mearnsii (black wattle) and Acacia decurrens (green wattle) on the private farmers’ land and rehabilitated 6 hectares of this jungle back to pristine grassland. We had up to 8 kilns on the mountain. The felled timber was prepared and stacked in piles measuring 1 m (L) x 1 m (W) x 1 m (H) or approximately 280 kg (617 lb) per pile. We had a staff compliment of about twelve people, divided into clearfelling (and stacking) and burning teams. All of the bags (5 kg) produced were sold in Pietermaritzburg, Howick, Margate as well as Durban.

Overall we were quite happy with our feasibility study having been able to test the kilns for durability, conduct valuable market acceptance trials, gather cost breakdown per activity which is invaluable when project is finally scaled up.

Below are some late afternoon vistas of the farm following a thunderstorm, blessing the area with much needed precipitation. This is a very beautiful and picturesque farm and with the invasive wattle eventually removed it will be a polished diamond indeed, as seen through the eyes of the first inhabitants of the area.

For more information contact us.

The Vuthisa Team

(BEE rating: Level 4)

Charcoal camping stove saves electricity

By Vuthisa Our prototype portable camping stove aims to highlight the plight of millions of people cooking on inefficient and unsafe charcoal stoves.  It is not available for purchase yet. The camping stove will weigh less than 4 kg and consists of a easy-to-clean powder coated hex-shaped shell, containing a shock-proof low-density ceramic combustion chamber or insulated fire bricks.  The top of the stove has a detachable potholder made from stainless steel and will come with an optional padded and waterproof carry bag with extra pockets for charcoal and fire lighters/matches.  There will be a multitude of colors to choose from i.e. signal red, deep sky blue to dark gray.  The base of the stove is also removable in order to shake out the ash after use. We propose the stove be used to save on electricity costs which are set to sky rocket.  In South Africa, ESKOM (State owned power company) has applied to NERSA for a 35% increase per year for the next three years – a 200% increase from current rates in three years time. [***Update***24 February 2010 – The national energy regulator decided to fix electricity tariff hikes at roughly 25 percent annually for the next three years rather than 35 percent.] [***Update***23 March 2015 – A further 12.69% tariff increase will be implemented from 1 April, 2015 onwards.] The cost of operating this stove 4 times a week is estimated at R19 ($1.60)!  This is at the current cost of R 48 ($4) per 5 kg bag of charcoal and using 500 grams of charcoal per burn.  Of course it would be much cheaper to make charcoal in your own backyard. Please send through your comments to Vuthisa on our Contact Us page or visit the News link from time to time for product updates or visit our Home page.