Introduction: A Cubical Pocket Stove

Picture of A Cubical Pocket Stove

Even with all of the fast food restaurants in my area I occasionally find use for this stove to make boiled eggs or hot water for coffee or tea. If you are careful you can use it in your cubicle at work to do the same thing. For pan fried foods, however, I do not recommend this stove but rather one of the pressure pocket stoves, since your fry pan needs to move around.

If you need boiled water for coffee, tea, soup or to make eggs then this stove will get you there.

Step 1: Basic Materials

Picture of Basic Materials

Acquire some small, pocket sized, zip lock storage bags and some paper towels, absorbent paper drink coasters or tissue paper. Try to avoid using absorbent material that might contain unwanted chemicals. Tissue paper works okay but becomes delicate to handle when it gets wet. Ever tried to dry your hand with tissue paper? What a mess!

Step 2: Cut Out the Stove

Picture of Cut Out the Stove

In this example I used the bottom of a tall coconut water drink can as a form to cut out the stove. You can use a regular soda can or any metal can that you want to use later for the pot.

Note: While these "pads" can also be used as regular hand towelettes and as emergency first aid wipes you may want to use serialized gauze pads instead of paper towel to avoid chemicals in the paper that may leach chemicals you do not want to get into an open wound.

Step 3: Place the Stove in the Bag

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I found a package of 100 pocket size bags at the flea market for $1.

Step 4: Add Some 91% or Some "salted Out" Isopropyl Alcohol

Picture of Add Some 91% or Some "salted Out"  Isopropyl Alcohol

Just pour enough inside the bag to saturate the paper towel.

Step 5: Usage

Picture of Usage

At your cubicle when you are ready to cook just place your stove on something that will protect your desk from fire, heat and flame. I used an empty tuna can, turned upside down.

Step 6: Add the Cooking Pot

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Place the pot on top of the stove. (To help prevent the alcohol from vaporizing too fast when the pot starts to boil you can cut out a piece of window screen to place between the pot and the paper.)

Step 7: Light It Up

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If smoking is allowed in your cubicle then a match will work fine. If not use a lighter.

Step 8: Get Your Food Ready for the Boil

Picture of Get Your Food Ready for the Boil

I boil eggs or make tea most of the time

Step 9: Plop It in or Use a Spoon

Picture of Plop It in or Use a Spoon

This coconut water can will easily hold three large eggs, but sometimes some water must be removed to prevent spill over before the last egg is added.

Step 10: Tips

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- Trimming the stove to fit the bottom edge of the can will help improve the stoichiometric ratio.
- You can use an eyedropper to add more fuel. Just be careful not to burn your fingers or spill any on your desk.
- Keep a glass of water handy to put out any accidental fire.
- If the fire alarm goes off put out the flame, hide the pot and stove and follow the instructions given for the fire drill.
- Try to look innocent and puzzled, but agitated and bewildered at the same time by such an interruptive event. Also be sure to walk and not run.
- In case someone sees you or smells smoke coming from your cubicle and reports you here are a few tried and true responses:
> "Care for a hard boiled egg?"
> "When did they fix the microwave?"
> "The Instructable said it was perfectly safe."
> "I had a glass of water handy."
> "I do this at home all the time."
> "Rubbing alcohol is not supposed to smoke."
> "My kid is studying to be a Boy Scout."
> "These pads are great if you ever nick yourself."
> "You can get salmonella poisoning from eating raw eggs."

Step 11: Experiment

Picture of Experiment

Try other types of absorbent material, pots and stands.

Picture below shows use of Heineken 24 oz beer can for pot.


sfranger (author)2015-04-23

I haven't thought it all the way through, but carbon tape may work really well in this instance.

Matt D655 (author)2011-03-20

I appoligize for my comment so many years ago.

are you japanese?

maxman (author)2010-05-13

A cheap metal hip flask, the kind used for booze, makes a good container for your fuel.  Just be certain to CLEARLY LABEL IT AS FUEL so that no one drinks from it.  You could spray paint it red then label it with black letters.

dathomar (author)2010-04-19

I wonder if you could use this setup to make char cloth at the same time you are cooking your eggs. Don't know will have to look into that. Great instructable BTW!

sk8erdude (author)2008-03-28

that's rubbing alcohol right??? (isopropyl???)

blodefood (author)sk8erdude2008-04-08

You should use only methyl hydrate. It is very clean burning, reasonably cheap and is available in the paint section of your local Crappy Tire or hardware store. It is also used as a shellac thinner.

You must have an easy and effective way to extinguish this.

Broom (author)blodefood2009-06-26

And make sure you only boil distilled, organic water, using a clean oxygen source that you backpacked in to avoid absorbing any air pollutants... Personally, I use sterilized free-range wood chips for my camp fires.

admiral001 (author)Broom2010-03-08


thinkahead (author)blodefood2008-04-08

One of the drawbacks of methanol as a fuel is its corrosivity to some metals, including aluminium. Methanol, although a weak acid, attacks the oxide coating that normally protects the aluminium from corrosion:

6 CH3OH + Al2O3 → 2 Al(OCH3)3 + 3 H2O

The resulting methoxide salts are soluble in methanol, resulting in clean aluminum surface, which is readily oxidised by some dissolved oxygen. Also the methanol can act as an oxidizer:

6 CH3OH + 2 Al → 2 Al(OCH3)3 + 3 H2

This reciprocal process effectively fuels corrosion until either the metal is eaten away or the concentration of CH3OH is negligible.

Source: Methanol as fuel

blodefood (author)thinkahead2008-04-13

Hmm. Ok, but since the exposure is brief, during cooking time only, is this not better than using rubbing alcohol, gas-line antifreeze and the like? I don't have the science behind it. Besides, I avoid aluminium in favour of steel or glass where possible for storing and using liquids of any sort. Would like to hear your comments thinkahead, thanks.

thinkahead (author)blodefood2008-04-14

The advantages of Isopropyl are that while you can not easily make your own like you can ethanol, 70% can be easily dehydrated, is readily available in small quantities, can be used to clean wounds and burns cleanly when used as a fuel for LTCFV type stoves. The ideal alternative in my experience is solar when available or wind or water powered resistance or inductive based heaters. One meal heating project I know of was designed around a human powered friction generator attached to a bicycle but humans do not make very good energy storage units, i.e., batteries and need what little energy they can store just to power their brains. I like butane, even though it is pressurized at ambient temperature. Hydrogen fueled fuel cells and micro turbines are being developed to power everything from cell phones to ipods and possibly to heat food. Only in science fiction is there a hydrogen fusion reactor to heat water for coffee or tea. Given enough time and an era of post-terrorism and we may have a fusion based suitcase that will solve any and every energy need we have.

bylerfamily (author)sk8erdude2009-04-08

Yes it is rubbing alcohol.

thinkahead (author)sk8erdude2008-03-28

Right. I havent tried EverClear yet or Methanol but the flash points are nearly the same. Of the three Isopropyl is the cheapestor at least was prior to about a year ago when 1 quart of 70% sold for $0.99 and today sells for $1.76 - nearly a 45% jump in price.

junits15 (author)2009-09-03

imagine making like 20 and bringing them on a backpacking trip. easy way to avoid paying $40-50 for a cheap backpacking stove!

J@50n (author)2009-07-05

I used 70% isopropyl alcohol and it worked amazing!!! it took about 10 minutes for the water to boil and my dad took the temp of it and it got up to 240 degrees feranhight (sp?). i have a few pics i they r..... i also rated it 5* it deserved it!!!!!

Broom (author)2009-06-26

Thanks, this is really food for thought for ultralight camping cookstoves.

pb92929 (author)2009-04-19

Really works! I made a 'kit', so that I can use it to make coffee when I'm out in the woods painting. Weighs next to nothing and, with the addition of a tinfoil windscreen, works every time. With the stove already wet and in its bag, and an additional 1 oz. bottle of fuel, I can make up to 4 cups of coffee and never have to worry about sparks or other fire hazards in the field. Thanks!

coolkid109 (author)2009-03-19

um..would 70% isopropyl alcohol's all I've got at home

bylerfamily (author)coolkid1092009-04-08

Yeah,it would.It would not burn as long as 91% though.

blodefood (author)coolkid1092009-03-29

I wouldn't use anything but Methyl Hydrate which is found in the paint department of hardware stores. The label should say on it "Methyl Hydrate" as well as "Alcohol Stove Fuel." It is cheaper by unit cost than the isopropyl you get at the drug store and burns a lot cleaner. You can buy it in larger quantities too.

blodefood (author)2009-03-29

This would be ok for outdoor use, but I would not use it in an office or workplace setting.

Fred82664 (author)2008-07-28

effective however I would not use it in my cubical or office . for under $10.00 at most to just about any Army surplus store one can pick up a shirt pocket stove and a box of Trioxide fuel bars. at a good out doors camping store one can get a little three winged bottle cap stove and Trioxide tablets that fits it like a big pill. both will boil a Qt of water in 5Min @ low altitudes less @ higher altitudes the can fit in side a pack of king sized smokes (Box)

HAL 9000 (author)Fred826642009-02-18

I have read some pretty nasty things about Triox, ESBIT, and Hex solid fuels. the molecular structure of that stuff is incredibly complicated, and as Sangamon's Principle dictates the more complicated the molecule the more unpredictable it is. Those fuels give off ammonia and formaldehyde, among many other chemicals. Sure, they're fine for emergency use, but for just cooking an egg at the office they might be a little too toxic. I dont know if you have ever used a Penny alcohol stove (or any pressurized homemade alcohol stoves) but i absolutely love mine. as others have stated below, burning alcohol is very safe and smokeless, however i dont think i would use this in an office. cool instructable, also, interesting idea. ill have to try this as a way to prime my Soda can stove.

Fred82664 (author)HAL 90002009-02-18

personally I would not cook any thing in an office that used any open flame. regardless of what fuel. it just has way to many things that could go wrong.
most brake room that I have seen are large and have a fresh air supply that will dissipate small exotic gasses that Trioxide may produce. granted if you burn a 10l Lb block of it at once, yes you could get lots of toxic gasses that would put you in grate danger. now be realistic a pill about 3/4 " to about an 1" OD and 1/2 thick that puts out 1 part per 800Mil. of toxic gasses. I do not see the grate concern considering the office contains much worse toxic items. like Inks, Toners, ect

lukethedog (author)Fred826642008-07-30

Hmmm...If you use this in any office, cubical or any building where people are working you will surely get a one-way trip out the door. The fumes, smoke and flames will set off every fire alarm in the place. After the evacuation, security will be waiting for you with a box for all your personal stuff. Whatever you do don't use this inside or in an office building. But, other than that. The design is effective.

the flame on this is blue and stoichiometric. it won't make smoke. the can won't smoke because the water inside won't let the surface get above 200 deg.F. the flame is practically invisible. just stay out of view of the security cameras. the fumes become undetectable about 5 ft. above the stove.

Matt D655 (author)2008-07-17

Now that makes me a bit peeved heinekin is my favorate beer.

Thaikarl (author)Matt D6552008-11-22

but is it your favorite can? and somebody has to get the beer out, so you can use the can for a stove pot. heh heh heh

redkcir (author)2008-11-01

Instead of paper, use cotton swaps, like the kind used to remove makeup. A bag of 100 large round ones are a dollar. Don't have to worry about the mess wet paper leaves.

rbneville (author)2008-10-24

wont the paint from the can create smoke??

Foaly7 (author)2008-09-06

Interesting instructable....

P.S.: You spelled CUBICLE wrong :-)

stevec038 (author)2008-07-26

I have tried several of the "cat stoves" described in the "" sight but for ease of use and simplicity I really like this one. Try it with gas line anti-freeze (Heet), the methanol version for less smoke. It seems to burn hotter also.

jman109 (author)2008-07-19

thats really cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if u upsize the pot just upsize the paper towel and base,right?

GroundedDreamer (author)2008-07-17

Simple, effective and quick! This is an excellent Instructable! This would work well too if you need to boil water for safety reasons in a disaster situation. Thanks for the contribution!

Matt D655 (author)2008-07-17

Actually thats a unsafe but creative idea

Matt D655 (author)2008-07-17

That could burn your whole house down ya pyro.

motorcyclegrrl (author)2008-07-12

I didn't pay attention to exactly how much burn time I got. I'd say about 7 to 8 minutes.

motorcyclegrrl (author)2008-07-12

Ok, that didn't take long to set up and I now have 10 oz of boiling water at 2minutes.. I used a coffe can for a base and a 12 oz keystone light beer can for my "pot" I put about 9 oz of water in it. I used a paper towel folded and folded until it was about the size of the beer can. I trimmed it, soaked it in a alcohol and set it on fire after I put the "pot on it". I'm starting to worry it might boil over but so far it hasn't. The kitchen sink would have been a better place for this experiment. If only the room I work in didn't have fm200 in it for fire safely. HA!

motorcyclegrrl (author)2008-07-12

This is the single most informative and instructive "alcohol stove" how to I've seen yet. and by far the most entertaining. thanks so much. I'm going to try it now . . .

cyberoaf36 (author)2008-03-29

water alone won't extinguish an alcohol fire it will just spread it. maybe water with baking soda

Estwald (author)cyberoaf362008-04-17

Yes methanol can be extinguished with water. The water dilutes it to the point it will not sustain combustion. That is one of the reasons that many classes of race cars are required to run on methanol.

See the link thinkahead posted earlier: Methanol as fuel

kadris3 (author)cyberoaf362008-04-01

u already have the water in the blotter. just spread it on dry. good thought. caution:don't try to use flour. it will blow.

jtobako (author)cyberoaf362008-03-30

Just add enough water to take the alcohol below 60% and it won't burn. You are thinking of liquids that don't mix with water, like oil.

thinkahead (author)cyberoaf362008-03-29

You are probably thinking of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, like gasoline, which float on the surface of water. Alcohols form an azeotropic solution with water. As the percentage of water increases in the azeotropic solution the vapor pressure of the alcohol is reduced resulting in a lower concentration of vapor in the air, until the fire point can not be sustained. You will learn more about this when you get to the 9th grade and take your first chemistry course.

sockeye101 (author)2008-04-17

could you use those pads girls use for removing nail polish?

Kaiven (author)2008-04-12

If you were late for work, could you just grab a pre-alcholized pad? I mean, for use instead of having to cut out the paper stuff.

turner22 (author)2008-03-30

could you possibly use nail polish remover? +1

kadris3 (author)turner222008-04-01

if u want to kill yourself, sure. it is WAY too volatile. use only alcohol, please. we like u the way you are.

thinkahead (author)kadris32008-04-02

Yeah, besides the fact that it dissolves the plastic cap on the cans of acetone you buy at the hardware store and the volatility the vapor pressure is high enough at ambient temperature for the vapor to push between the can and the plastic seal and between the plastic/plastic seal. Forget keeping it in plastic storage bags or anything except a metal can with a metal cap you can screw on with a foil seal backed up by compression plastic that acetone will not dissolve.

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