How to Make a Water Wheel Rotisserie

How to Make a Water Wheel Rotisserie


One of the greatest ways to cook big chunks of meat in the wild is by using a rotisserie or spit.  However, it is very labor-intensive and requires constant monitoring.  The good news is that you can build one that uses the currents in a river or a stream to rotate the food.  Look at the following project and see how easy it is to create your own self-cooking system that can be deployed anywhere where there is moving water.

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Required Material

1 four foot long plank of balsa (or similar) wood that is 5” wide by ¼” thick

2 three foot long planks of balsa (or similar) wood that 1 ½” wide and ¼” thick

4 wooden dowels that are 4′ long and ½” thick to serve as spokes

16 ¾” long wood screws

8 brackets or clamps to attach the spokes to the hub of the wheel

1 10” x 10” piece of wood that’s about ¼” thick for the hub

1 steel rod that’s at least ½” thick and six feet long for the rotisserie bar

Wood Glue or small nails

Water-resistant wood sealant

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Building the Wheel


The first step is to cut the long board into eight inch sections.  You should be able to get six pieces from the board.  These will be the paddles on the water wheel.  Sand down the edges to remove any splinters or jagged edges. 


Next, you want to cut the narrow piece of wood into eight pieces that are 5” long each, and sand those down as well.  Then, stand the small pieces of wood along the sides of the paddles and glue or nail them in place about ½ inch from the edge. 

Nailing will make the fittings stronger, but glue should do the trick if the water isn’t running too fast.  If you decide to use nails, consider making the lips of the paddles from thicker pieces of wood.  When finished, you should have six paddles with lips attached that resemble an “L” shape.  If you glue the pieces, clamp each one to each paddle and allow to dry for around two hours.  Then remove the clamps and allow the pieces to dry for at least a day to cure before coating them with some water-resistant sealant.


The next step is to cut the square piece of wood that will become the hub of the wheel.  The easiest thing to do is to cut off the edges and form the piece into the shape of a hexagon.  This will provide you with six sides that somewhat resembles the shape of a stop sign.  Drill a hole that is ½” in diameter in the center of the hub.

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Assembling the Spokes


Cut the wood dowels in half so each one is two feet long. Glue them to the center of each paddle so the ends touch the center of the lips. 


Bend your brackets, if necessary, to form a U shape around the dowels and anchor them in place with two wood screws for each paddle on the corresponding section of the hub you created earlier.  You can also add clamps to the paddles if you want to give the assembly a stronger fit.  All you need to do now is make sure that every paddle is facing the same direction and that all of the components are securely connected.


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Building the Frame


The easiest way to construct the frame is to use branches that you find at the site.  This will allow you to adjust the height of the system based on the conditions near the bank of the river or stream.  The easiest thing to do is build a simple A frame that will hold the rotisserie rod in place.  When it comes time to assemble the unit, simply attach the rod into the center hole and lay it atop the groove in the top of each frame.  The only other consideration is that you want to place the rotisserie so that the paddles catch the water current while the rotisserie stake is long enough to extend over the fire.  You may have to raise the fire above the bank if the ground is too saturated or the stake isn’t long enough to cross over dry ground.

In any case, this simple system can give you a lot more options in terms of preparing meals in the field.   Try it for yourself, and always remember that you can adapt this project according to your needs.


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