Mr Woodley’s 114 Year Old Smoker Fuel Recipe Recreated!

[UPDATE JULY 13TH, 2018, I have made a video on how to keep your smoker going which incorporates Mr Woodley’s recipe, please see below]


In 1901 Mr Woodley provided his readership a recipe for a smoker fuel:

Most of us have experienced the failure of our “smoker” to belch forth a volume of smoke when urgently needed, and have endured much pain in consequence.  Now if those who suffer in this way will dissolve 1 oz. of saltpetre in 1 quart of water and immerse the smoker-fuel in this solution, then ring same out and dry the rag, brown paper, or whatever material is used, it will burn continuously until consumed. [NBTW 20 June 1901]

So, this is how I recreated the smoker fuel recipe…

Materials and Paraphernalia:-


  • 1 imperial quart (1136 ml) of Warm Water
  • 1 x imperial ounze (29g) of Saltpetre (I sourced mine from Amazon)
  • Rags


  • measuring jug.
  • scales.
  • small bowl to put the saltpetre in.
  • bucket to put the water, saltpetre and rags in.
  • rubber gloves or similar water proof hand protection.


Put rubber gloves on.  Place the water and saltpetre into the measuring jug and mix together.  Add rags to the bucket and pour the liquid from the measuring jug onto them.  Use hands to ensure the rags and liquid are thoroughly fully combined; wringing out and re-dunking the rags ensures the rags gets covered in the liquid.  Hang on washing line to dry.

Once the rags are dry, cut them into strips to the desired width so when they are rolled-up and tied, they will fit into the smoker.

I found that the smoker didn’t take too much encouragement to start smoking.  It gave out a good amount of smoke for about 2 1/2 hours before I needed to use the smoker’s bellows to keep smoke coming-out.  I am very pleased with the performance of this fuel.

Smoker bursting with smoke!
Smoker bursting with smoke!



3 thoughts on “Mr Woodley’s 114 Year Old Smoker Fuel Recipe Recreated!

  1. Hmm… seems like a fair bit of work! How much did the saltpetre cost? I always have problems keeping the smoker going, but I think this recipe would be a few steps too many for me.

    1. Charlton Estate Trust 21 April 2015 — 8:41 pm

      The Saltpetre cost £7 although the postage was about £6. It took about 5 minutes to prep the rags and the saltpetre solution, a day to dry the rags and 5 minutes to wrap them. But I have to say, when lit the smoker stays lit. Many a time I have had awkward situation with my bees only to find out the smoker had gone out. I think Mr Woodley’s recipe should do the trick – but I will keep everyone posted on how it works out over the season.

      1. Thanks, yes will be interesting to hear how you get on.

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