In early 2008 Webb Mealy began development of a panel cooker, known as the Tennis Ball Cooker. He had seen photos of traditional parabolic style cookers being used in Nepal, and thought he could develop a cooker that would be lighter, less expensive to produce, more easily transported, and with a low profile, so as to be better suited for use in windy areas. The construction of the cooker incorporates the creative reuse of materials. The base panel is made from recycled heavy-weight "gator board" that is 1/2" thick with a tough plastic laminate surface on both sides. Then fifty-six used tennis balls were split and hot-glued onto the panel on approximately 6" centers. Mirrored vinyl film (remnants from a window coating business, available online) was cut into 5" squares and applied to used CD cases. Using a laser, he was able to aim the mirrors at a common focus point (about thirty-two inches above the platform and seven inches in front of the panel's footprint) and then glue them into place using hot glue. The cooking surface, which is thus outside the footprint of the panel, consists of a grill mounted on a recycled african drum stand.
Audio and video
- Tennis Ball Cooker Webb Mealy describes the project in more detail. Two short videos demonstrate its cooking power.