Introduction: Alcohol / Can / Penny Stove

Picture of Alcohol / Can / Penny Stove

After reading lots of instructables will varying designs of different alcohol stoves made from drinks cans, I made and tested many different designs and noted down benefits from each. This instructable as been put together based on my final design. It is quick to prime, being ready for your pot less than 20 seconds after lighting and will boil aprox 500ml of cold water to a rolling boil in just under 6 minutes using less than 30ml of meths to light and boil with still some life in it if you needed to retain the water boiling for a little longer.

These figures are based on indoor conditions (please use care indoors and ensure you are in a well ventilated area as I was) using my GSI Outdoors 0.6l tin, I have had better results using an old tragia pot with a larger surface area (4:30 for a rolling boil) however this is too large to use when backpacking. Results do vary when used in cold and windy conditions however this gives you an idea of how it performs.

Step 1: Materials

Ok, so the things you will need are listed below

2x drinks cans
Sand paper (not too course 400grit is about right)
Stanley knife
Marker pen
Book / dvd or something similar to rest marker pen on
Drawing pin


Baked bean tin

Step 2:

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First we want to sand off the paint on the bottom 2inches or so of one can, I found it easier to do this when the can was still sealed with drink in as it was under pressure and less lightly to crumple. We only want to so this on one can however as this will be the outer surface. I used a fairly fine grade of sand paper 400grit as I did not want to damage the surface of the can itself.

Once sanded and you have used the contents :) and rinse out both cans.

Step 3:

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Now you have the cans rinsed out you need to make the pin holes.

Using a drawing pin make one hole in the centre of the bottom of the can you have sanded the paint from.
Now we need to make the pin holes for the burner, I found a total of 21 holes worked best, this works out one hole approximately every cm all the way around. On a piece of paper mark out each cm along the edge and cut this as a strip your can wrap around the can and tape in place. If you cut the piece to 20cm long to leave a gap this will make fixing it to the can easiest.

Wrap the paper template around the can leaving a gap between the ends, the edge of the paper should be positioned 5mm from the edge so your pin holes sit on the side, this allows for a pot to be placed directly on the stove. Start in the gap and make a pin hole in the centre of the gap and work around as shown in the picture.

When testing out other stoves I came across charlieCG's stove his was a great inspiration for some of the features of mine, he has some templates you could try out of you wanted to try different hole combinations.

Step 4:

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We now need to mark out our lines to cut, the base will be the smallest and is made from the can with paint still on, we have left the paint on as this will be the inside can and once used for the first time the paint will heat up and create a good seal with the outside can.

With your marker make a line all the way around the can 1.5cm from the base (total height from the floor not the lip), I was able to place the marker on a DVD and spin the can around to give me the perfect height.

The outer can needs to be marked 3cm from the base I once again used a few items to fix the marker in place and spin the can making a nice clean even line all the way around.

These measurement can vary a few mm if it makes it easier for you.

Step 5:

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With care you now need to cut the cans to size, I found it easiest to rough cut all the way around using a sharp Stanley knife about a cm away from the line and then go in with a pair of scissors and clean up the edges. (if your right handed keep the can on your right hand side this will allow the offcuts to push away from the can without your scissors crumpling the edge of the can)

Step 6:

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We now need to crimp the edge of the base can so it fits inside the top can, with your pliers go around the edge of the can, grip about 5mm of the can in the pliers and twist to pull the edge in, complete this every 5mm or so all the way round.

Step 7:

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Now the tricky bit, to join the cans together push the top can over the crimped edge of the bottom can, it may take a few attempts but be patient.

If you are unable to get them to fit you can get an additional can and push the base of it in to the top can, roll the edge of the can around inside of the top to try and stretch the top out a bit and make it easier to slip over the base.

Push the top down until it completely cover the paint on the bottom can and is nice and even, be careful not to push it too far as its almost impossible to pull back.

Step 8: Finished

Picture of Finished

And there you have it, a completed stove, you may want to have a finish up with some more sand paper to get rid of any last bits of paint.

Now the bit I found most important the stand or base, this is simply the top of a baked bean tin cut off to retain the lip, our tin opener fortunately works this way. If your does not and cuts down in to the tin, you may be ale to cut around the base of a tin with a very sharp knife or hack saw and clean the edge up with a file.

I use this base to hold a tiny bit of fuel to prime the stove. Sorry I didn't take any pictures of the stand on its own but I am sure you can get the idea from the image above.

Step 9: Use

Ok so now as always when dealing with fire care needs to be taken as before you know it you can burn yourself.

I have included a video if how to prime the stove. It is important to put the smallest amount of fuel you can get away with into the base and then swirl it around so it sits in the outer rim. If you have too much fuel in the base it will over heat the stove and cause the fuel to evaporate and burn quicker than you want it to, especially with a tin like I use with a small diameter it just wastes heat.

In the video I only fill the top once for demonstration purposes, trial and error will allow you to find the perfect amount for your application, I fill the top to just under the top 3 times (27ml) to boil 500ml of water to a rolling boil with a little left over just in case (there is nothing worse than running out of fuel just before you reach a boil)

Once you have filled with your desired amount of fuel, cover the top hole with your penny and light the fuel in the base, this will heat the bottom of the stove and allow the fuel inside to start vaporising and that is what you want.

Happy cooking!

Please let me know what you think as I welcome feedback. I have added a guide to what I carry in my kit with my stove so you can see how the full setup compares to the weight of a traditional gas stove.


ArizonaSRMC made it! (author)2016-06-07

after about 6 attempts and multiple videos and instructions I made one lots of good tips thanks! i found the easiest way for me to mark my can was with college ruled paper every three lines! put a hole, I will try again tomorrow with lower holes! thanks for your instructions they helped alot!

spylock (author)2014-02-21

If you put something inside of the stove like a little wick material,or something like that to hold more fuel,would it make for a longer fire,or would it catch fire inside to stove when it gets low?

lime3D (author)spylock2015-09-10

There's no oxygen inside the can, so no, it can't catch fire.

roshen (author)2014-11-18

can I use kerosene instead of alcohol

lime3D (author)roshen2015-09-10

Probably not. Kerosene would require a wick (like a tiki torch). This design is burning the fumes.

jbg365 (author)2015-07-31

I made this about 60 years ago when I was a Girl Scout, We used a m]small can such as tuna fish comes in. We rolled up corrugated cardboard that was as tall as the can and placed that in the can. We thin poured melted paraffin over the cardboard. On top of that we would take a coffee can and using an old fashioned can opener made triagular cups arouund the top. Cooked lots of meals on that little stove.

lime3D (author)jbg3652015-09-10

I made those too, but that is a totally different kind of burner.

NumbersAndLetters (author)2014-02-20

I've never had one of these that lasted more than a few minutes before starting to deform from the heat. I could put it in the ground or something I guess. What would you recommend?

Hello NumbersAndLetters, living in USA close to the Canadian border we sometimes get beverages which have been canned in Canada. We've noticed the aluminium is thinner on these containers. Thin aluminium could be the culprit.

No offence intended to our Canadian friends! We understand it's wise to be thrifty with materials.

Your can is possibly deforming because it is aluminium, try using a steel can, that should be fine (test it with a magnet to find out).

I have never experienced any issues with the heat deforming the can, what fuel are you using? I use Meths and this works fine.

I used isopropyl alcohol since it was on hand

i found that alcohol, even 97%, puts plenty of soot on bottom of my pot. when i use "Heet" gas line antifreeze, no soot, and burns clean. 4 pack at Wally's is about $5.50, and that'll last me all summer and into fall.

I am afraid I am not sure what would be causing that to happen as isopropyl should be ok, not great but should still work, I am no expert on fuel types but maybe try using meths (denatured alcohol) and see how you get on.

Lord_Sampie (author)2015-04-12

I made one, but I almost burnt my house down! :-(

luani (author)2015-03-04

I suppose that you must keep the stove hot enough for the whole time, not just at the beginning.

luani (author)2015-03-04

Great, I made this, but I sometimes have the problems with priming. I light the fuel around the stove, it starts working, but when that outer fuel burns out, the stove stops burning even if there is still enough of fuel inside. My stove is a little higher than yours. Does this happen with your stove and how to fix that problem. I would like to prime it once and that it works after that continually.

baikaa made it! (author)2015-01-14

great instructable! i made a few of these already.

willnate (author)2014-05-13

looks great

ginge2014 (author)2014-03-27

why doesnt mine work as good :(?

dan_w84 (author)ginge20142014-03-27

it took me a few attempts to get it right so keep trying :)

daleypone (author)2014-03-21

muy bueno

aquiles-areizaga (author)2014-02-27

Wonderful Idea to impress my husband :)
Thanks for sharing!

ajarworks (author)2014-02-22

Great fun, worked first time and I only had to drink two cans of ginger beer. Forgot to have a penny ready when I lit it but put the centre flame out with a pound coin. Note; pound coins get very hot.

Couldn't find any meths so substituted acetone (my wife's nail varnish remover)

Made the burner jet holes with a small safety pin and bent it onto can before removing it to angle them. Ha, ha... spiral flames.

Looking forward to trying it out doors with meths. Thanks Dan.

dan_w84 (author)ajarworks2014-02-24

That looks great, I see you went with the angled jets, they look cool!

mikecz (author)2014-02-20

Step 7, getting the 2 parts of the stove together, can be extremely frustrating. I've found that if you put a worm drive hose clamp on the bottom piece (the one that needs to go inside the other), and gently tighten the clamp's screw you can pretty easily compress the bottom piece so it goes into the top piece. If you have access to one, a vise will squeeze the pieces together in a pretty straightforward manner.

Thaikarl (author)mikecz2014-02-20

if you take a full can of the same size, put a little lube in the cut can (oil, spit, whatever) and carefully push the full can down into the cut can, it will stretch the cut can just enough so that you can push the top into the bottom easier. i also slip a small strip of aluminum (cut from a scrap can) in between the two parts i'm trying to push together, so the strip helps guide the upper part into the lower part without the edges deforming. you just have to work slow and careful.

tauhid (author)Thaikarl2014-02-23

I used to enlarge the outer can by turning with a little force pushing the cut to a beer glass bottom (although I don't drink beer). It helps much..

dan_w84 (author)Thaikarl2014-02-20

Thanks i am sure that will help.

dan_w84 (author)mikecz2014-02-20

Thanks, great idea as this is the most annoying bit.

desmondtheredx (author)2014-02-20

Im curious, or I didnt read all of it but what is the penny for?

dan_w84 (author)desmondtheredx2014-02-20

The penny sits on top of the hole in the centre when lighting, you can see in the video in the last step how it’s lit and the placement of the penny.

You can get away without using the penny occasionally however the stove works on the basis that the fuel evaporates and it’s the vapor that lights, fuel would evaporate through the top hole and you would possibly waste some not being lit once your cook pot is on top.

tauhid (author)dan_w842014-02-23

I forget where I read that the penny is to avoid blasting when you start with a flame that catch the hole. That's why some use a screw to close the hole.

ajarworks (author)2014-02-22

Very elegant, I do like things that are clever, neat and functional. I'm off to procure some cans and have a go :-)

Just a idea; have you thought of angling the holes sideways (around the can) to make the flames spiral around the cooking pot? Might improve efficiency.

parkmana (author)2014-02-22

This is the best one yet!

Have you tried using smaller pin holes around the can? Less vapor to mix with the air will give a leaner mixture and the flames will be hotter and will burn blue without the yellow flame tips.

dan_w84 (author)parkmana2014-02-22

Thanks Parkmana! Thanks for the advice, have always used the same size pin holes so will give this ago. I am not sure if its the meths that burns yellow. I have not managed to ever get a blue flame on any stoves I have made when using meths. I am still looking for a good alternative to Heet in the UK as its not sold here but I am not having much luck.

sirvine1 (author)2014-02-22

Great Instructable! I am new to the game and have not used one of these stoves before. Maybe I missed it but I couldn't find the link to the filling video. Do you basically just poor the fuel on top and let it flow in through the small pin hole? Then cover it with the penny? And you light the small amount of fuel in the tin lid to prime? I'm sure it's self explanatory but I didn't want to accidentally set fire haha. Thanks

dan_w84 (author)sirvine12014-02-22

thanks, Yes that's it, just pore in the top and once its flowed through just pop the penny on top. Only put the smallest amount in the tin lid as it does not need much to get it going. The video is a YouTube video embedded in the last step if you can't see it just search for quick prime penny / can stove on you tube and you should find it no problem.

Cueball21 (author)2014-02-21

Great article.

I've made many soda can stoves but you have shown me some things that I must try.

FWIW - soda can stoves work great to start charcoal for your grill using the chimney type charcoal starter. It's better than using newspaper because there is no residual ash.

PeteD31bgn (author)2014-02-21

This is a great explanation,

I have seen others that put cotton inside to absorb the fuel?

is that recommended? or is it better the leave it out?

dan_w84 (author)PeteD31bgn2014-02-21

I tried adding fibreglass (the insulation from inside your loft) in one and found it made no improvement at all. infact if memory serves me I think it took longer to prime and did not last as long.

eshowalter (author)2014-02-21

Save a step. Instead of using a marker and cutting with snips use a utility knife blade resting on a book or block of wood to get the right height. Spin the can against the blade a few time around and it will cut though. Good instructable.

charlieCG (author)2014-02-21

Thanks for the link! good job!


dashajiang (author)2014-02-21

it's great.

eva_maree_dixon (author)2014-02-21


zikzak1 (author)2014-02-21

Looks pretty slick. For those worried about carbon monoxide, dont worry so much. This isnt going to burn that long. With the fuel listed, it burns clean. think about people that use gas stoves. the burners are much larger, they run them much longer in most cases, and may use 4 or 5 burners at once! And that isnt counting the oven!!

mikeasaurus (author)2014-02-20

clever lighting solution, I've had trouble getting a consistent ignition from my stoves. Excellent work, thanks for sharing!

will mora lizano (author)2014-02-20

Excelente. +10

jaja, si esto fuera taringa también le dejaría mis 10 :P

Thaikarl (author)2014-02-20

you didn't mention what you use for fuel. never use gasoline and the like. i use methyl alcohol. the easiest source for this is HEET, which can be found at autoparts stores and many other places. It's intended to be put in your gas tank to absorb water in your fuel system. be sure to *only* use the yellow bottle stuff. the other stuff, like in the red bottle, as other additives besides alchohol that may not burn cleanly. burning methyl alcohol produces carbon dioxide and water vapor, which is tolerable. other fuels, or additives in other fuels might produce nasty stuff you wouldn't want to breath. nice job on the directions.

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