Aluminum Can StoveDate: 2004, Jan 16
Author: Jason Basham
Build this project at your own risk! Planet Isuzoo cannot vouche for its saftey in any way, shape or form. This is just an idea submitted by a member.
What You Need:
- 2 aluminum soda or beer cans
- Fine emery cloth (400 grit or finer)
- Utility knife blade
- Short piece of 1x2 lumber, about 6 inches long
- Pin or needle
- Needle nose pliers
- Tin snips
- Alcohol - more on this later
How To Build It:
(1) Attach the utility knife blade to the 1x2 so that the blade is parallel to the table about 1.5 inches above the table. You could also put the knife blade in a thick book about 1.25 - 1.5" above the surface. Spin the first can against this blade to SCORE the side of the can. Once it is scored, you can cut into the can from the top using tin snips, down to the score mark...and then the can will pull apart. This sounds weird, but it works like a champ and makes a nice clean cut at the bottom of the can.
(2) Take the second can, and CAREFULLY work the bottom side of it into the bottom you just cut out, to flare out the top edge a little. This will make final assembly of the stove A LOT easier, just don't over-do it.
(3) Take the needle or pin and poke a series of holes in the bottom side of the second can. This part is important and will affect the performance of the stove. I made a ton of these before settling on a pattern that is not unlike the one pictured below. I have also attached a diagram showing a preferred pattern that you can use. To make these holes, I laid out my pattern on the can with a marker, then while holding a sewing needle with a pair of needle nose pliers, tapped the needle with a hammer not allowing the full diameter of the sewing needle to penetrate. This is hard to explain, but after making 5 or 6 of these you will get the hang of it.
Just keep in mind that the more holes you have the less pressure the stove will build, and vice versa. You can use this to "tune" the stove too. if you see the flames shooting out too far, you can poke a couple more holes...if the flames just kind of linger, you need less holes.
(4) The center hole is to permit easier filling of the stove. It really could be just a couple of small holes to allow the fuel to drain into the stove, but I wanted a better system. I drilled a 1/4 inch hole, and fitted a T-nut into it. I had to flatten the spikes on the T-nut and then secured it with JB-Weld. I had a bunch of these left over from the stereo shop days, we used them to mount subwoofers to boxes, and the matching hex nut was cut down to an acceptable length. I also slotted the hex nut so it could be turned with a knife should the heat cause it to seize to the T-nut. This slot is NOT shown in the pictures. I simply remove the screw to fill the stove. The screw is steel, so it stays hot for some time, but when taking it out, I usually just dunk it in cool water to cool it while i'm refilling the stove.
(5) Cut the bottom off of the second can, just as you did for the other half before.
(6) Some people now fill the can with Perlite (obtained at a lawn and garden store, this is the silver flakey stuff used in potting soil. It is heat "proof" and holds heat for a more even boiling of the alcohol. My stove works fine without it.
(7) Now you are ready to assemble the stove. Drink a beer and calm down before doing this. You have to feed the 2 cut edges of the cans together so that the top (the part with the holes) goes INTO the bottom. If you get this done right you will need no further sealing of the stove because they seal up pretty good on their own. if it crinkles at all, you will need to get some aluminum tape from the hardware store and put it over the junction, or you can smear JB weld around the second can just before you get it down into the bottom all the way. After doing a dozen of these I no longer need any tape or JB weld. Step 2 is paramount to getting this right!!!
Okay, your stove is done. Set it aside to let the JB weld cure (if any was used) and kick back watching Monster Garage for a while.
Lighting the Stove and Using It:
Fill the stove with about 2 oz of alcohol. Keep in mind that alcohol is not alcohol is not alcohol. There are many different kinds. What you want is primarily ETHANOL, but it's hard to get your hands on. Usually it is mixed with small amounts of METHANOL to make it poisonous. The yellow bottles of HEET make good fuel, but check the label. You don't want any nasty fumes. I get Alcohol from the hardware store (Lowes) for about 4 bucks for a quart. A quart will last a LONG time.
Getting the stove to light is kinda tricky. You have to get the alcohol in the can to the boiling point so that the stove will pressurize. To do this, i have a half of a cat food can that I place my stove in, and pour a tiny bit of alcohol in the cat food, lighting it. this will get the stove heated up and should light the stove too. Keep in mind that you cannot see alcohol burning in daylight...at nite it is a dim blue flame.
I can get a burn time of 7.5 minutes out of my stove with 2 oz of fuel, and it will boil a pot of water (1 quart) in 5.5 minutes. This stove has a HUGE following in the backpacking circles and it truly is a love it or leave it thing. the stove is super light, very efficient, and uses a fuel commonly available (for the most part). If you are cooking for a group of people, this won't work for you. If you are cooking for yourself or need an emergency supply of heat when out camping or wheeling, at least knowing HOW to make one of these will come in very handy.
To make this stove truly useable as a viable alternative to other stoves in the backwoods, a proper windscreen must be made, and mine was fairly easy to make. I took some rolled aluminum flashing and cut a piece out that was 2-3" longer than the diameter of the pot I was going to use, and about 4 inches taller than the stove. Using a STRONG hole punch, I made a series of holes along what would be the BOTTOM edge of the wind screen, and i creased the ends of the screen so that when it is opened up the creased edges lock together making a ring. I have 3 holes punched in the screen about 2 inches above the stove top that allow me to put 3 pieces of coat hanger thru them making a triangular pot stand. see the diagrams below for further explanation.
I use a 20oz pepsi bottle for fuel storage, and use about 6 cap fulls of fuel to run the stove. (this includes one capfull for starting, poured into the catfood can). This whole package rolls up into the screen for storage, and i put it all in a small 10" long, 4" diameter stuff sack. The sack holds the stove, screen, rods, fuel and the catfood can.
For more stoves like this, and other home-made gear, go to http://www.backpacking.net/makegear.html.
There are many variations of this stove and others that are similar in design and function, all have different performance statistics. I think the point here is just the knowledge of HOW to do this in case you ever have to.