Fire and Rockets at the Sam Smith Farmers’ Market

Well, despite the rain and autumnal-bluster of last Saturday we had a great time at the Sam Smith Farmers’ Market.

New Toronto Makeshore booth at Sam Smith Farmers' Market
New Toronto Makeshore at Sam Smith Farmers’ Market

The late addition of the wood gas can/hobo stove was a happy surprise in the cool, rainy morning weather. It is truly amazing how many people are attracted by the smell of wood smoke. And, tending the wee fire-in-a-can was a happy chore for many of the kids who were at the market for the morning. Nothing quite as freeing as open flame and sharp tools to get kids engaged. Thanks to everyone for taking care no one got cut; the booth was warm and inviting all through the misty, moisty morning.

The stomp rocket kits also turned out to be a too-engaging-to-leave-alone toy. The kids played with it until the 2L pop bottle finally bust its under-carriage out; next time we’ll have a few more bottles on-hand.

Making the stomp rocket kit is actually really easy, and the parts can all be acquired for a minimal amount of money. This model uses a 1/2″ diameter hose secured to a hose end-fitting, which was bought at a garden supply store. The hose then fits into a conduit elbow and then into a housing for electrical connectors. Finally, a 1/2″ diameter pipe serves as the launch base; the file folder rockets just slide over the end and are shot off in whichever direction the pipe is pointed.

If you want an easy way how-to-build-a-file-folder-rocket, just grab an old file folder and make a tube that is only slightly larger than the 1/2″ pipe diameter. Tape along the seam to secure the body of the rocket. Add some tape criss-cross fashion over one end to create a top. This is important because this part is what gives the rocket lift-off; if the top is not secure the rocket won’t rise.

This is a super-fun activity for kids because the launch base is cheap and easy to assemble–duct tape over the launcher’s joint fittings will dramatically improve velocity–and the rockets are super-easy to make in less than five minutes. We used some old file folders (what better way to jettison the carapace of tax files than with the stomp of a youngster?!?) and duct tape to make a sturdy and mostly-rain-proof rocket. A firm stomp from a 6 year old child on a 2L bottle sent the rockets 20-30′ in the air. Many shrieks of excitement were heard; much running-about and shenanigans were witnessed.

The can stove was the real surprise hit. This particular get-up has been used for about five years and although it looks like a real tetanus magnet, when handled carefully it is a sturdy and dependable source of cheery heat.

wood gas stove, rusted
Several years old this little stove still pumps out an impressive volume of heat.

 

This model has been locally dubbed the 3-minute stove because it needs some fuel every three minutes or so. However with a steady diet of twigs or small pieces of wood (e.g., a split-up 2×4 piece no longer than 2-3″ [ ~10 cm]) the stove can pump out a ferocious little fire for hours. Once we got it going the stove lasted the entire market long and it gave some of the market kids a chance to practice their camp-craft skills by keeping it going through the rain and the wind. Saws, axes, and fire–what more could kids in the rain want?

Drills.

We also made a cell phone microscope kit, which was right easy when you know what part of the laser pointer to MacGyver. [N.B. Neither duct tape nor bubble gum were needed in this activity.]

These kits are easy to set up with a drill, drill bits, some bolts and nuts (wing nuts and washers are a double-big-plus) and the scavenged lens from the laser pointer. Even the younger kids used the drill to make the pilot holes (with proper parental approval, of course).

cell phone microscope made from wood, acrylic, nuts and bolts, and a laser pointer lens.
This simple cell phone microscope is easy to build and super fun to use.

The tool kits were also popular–both with patrons and with kids interested in using rasp files. Although we didn’t bring in too many tools, some of the kits went out the door and the kit we built on-site was made better by some sweat equity from one of the Market youth to even out a few of the corners.