Introduction: Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove

Picture of Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove

I've seen this all over the internet, and decided I would make one myself. There isn't a whole lot of variation that can be done to the design, and this is pretty much a direct copy of the stove design found here:
This is a cool idea, very cheap to make, and I think it needs more coverage, so here it goes, my first instructable, how to make an Altoids tin camping stove!

Step 1: What You Need:

Picture of What You Need:

A mint tin, for this one we're using a rectangular Altoids tin.

A section of fine metal mesh, windowscreen works great.

Some perlite, which is cheap, and easily found at most garden supply stores. I've heard you can substitute fiberglass insulation for the perlite, but I have not tried this and cannot confirm.

Some shears or other tools to cut the metal. Heavy-duty scissors should work fine.

A ruler to measure the tin and screen.

A permanent marker to mark your measurements.

Some sandpaper to remove the paint from the tin.

Step 2: Measuring the Tin and Screen

Picture of Measuring the Tin and Screen

Before you cut the windowscreen, you need to measure the dimensions of your tin. Obviously, a square tin will be easier to cut for. The Altoids tin we're using happens to measure a little under 9.5 cm x 6 cm, but if you cut the screen at those dimensions it should fit. Mark your measurements with a permanent marker on the windscreen.

Step 3: Cutting the Screen

Picture of Cutting the Screen

Use your metal cutting instrument to cut along the lines you just marked. You will need to trim the corners slightly to fit the rounded corners of the tin. I trimmed the corners 1 cm diagonally. Trim the rest of the screen accordingly to fit.

Step 4: Filling the Tin

Picture of Filling the Tin

Fill the Altoids tin with perlite, as close to level with the top as you can. Try to get the largest chunks of perlite.

Step 5: Fitting on the Screen

Picture of Fitting on the Screen

Now, push the screen on to the stove. Fit the corners under the rolled edges of the tin, and once you get it in it should be in there for good. Once that's in, you're ready to go!

Step 6: Tips for Use, and How It Works

Picture of Tips for Use, and How It Works

Use ONLY Denatured Alcohol, 91%. 70% is also available but has too much water and will smoke. You can find the fuel at a hardware store, and an example is pictured below.

Copied from Paul Dryer's site:

"I use a little plastic spring water bottle as my fuel bottle and find 3 capfuls burns plenty long for most meals. Also for shorter trips, a 4 oz. nose spray bottle with the internal straw removed makes a good fuel bottle. You can squirt fuel (Alcohol Only !!) right into the stove....un-lit, of course! You can even fill the stove to the brim and be ok. To simmer simply cover part of the screen with a bit of aluminum foil. Boil times are about the same as a soda can stove.

Principle of operation: Alcohol 'wicks' up into the perlite for initial lighting. As the perlite/stove heats, alcohol reaches vapor pressure and accelerates through the screen to the flame. Looks like an esbit tab on steroids when burning and if used in an esbit stove, the height is perfect."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Additionally, I've found that keeping the lid attached is a great idea, because you can essentially "turn off" the stove by flipping the lid closed!

WARNING: The flame is INVISIBLE, so be careful! Be safe and enjoy!


YotaTruck (author)2009-08-02

Is there a version of this stove that will let you top it off while it's running?

YotaTruck (author)YotaTruck2009-08-02

I think I'll try running this on Methyl Alcohol as well (HEET gas line antifreeze) because it would be really convenient. Most gas stations carry HEET or similar products.

TANZMEISTER (author)YotaTruck2010-07-17

HEET is nothing other then (approx) 90 percent isopropenol alcohol (by volume).

Billster36 (author)TANZMEISTER2016-02-20

If you use the ISO-Heet that is isopropyl alcohol. Also better for your car if you use it in your gas tank.

Certain HEET products are isopropanol, but the others are methanol (methyl alcohol). You really don't want to mix up the two if you're working with them

siegeking (author)YotaTruck2014-10-05

no no design will really allow that

siegeking (author)YotaTruck2014-10-05

no no design will really allow that

jibbers75 (author)YotaTruck2010-07-28

i think if you add it in small amounts then you can do it while it is running

Billster36 (author)2016-02-20

Can you tell me how long it burns?

THEJJRAT (author)2015-07-02

Micky Mouse: Yey

Ben_the_Sci_Kid (author)2011-02-22

great ible but could you use rubbing alcohol instead?

glorybe (author)Ben_the_Sci_Kid2015-05-14

You may have to ask several stores but 90% alcohol in available and it is 180 proof meaning it will burn nicely. A quart might cost $1.50 these days.

It doesn't burn all the way so you might have residue on the perlite, but you could use it.

dolfinmagikpro (author)2012-03-09

Everclear is another alternative, or any cheap vodka. Since they are grain alcohols they won't make you sick if you accidentally spill it on food that you may be cooking, plus their fumes, in my opinion, smell better. Great idea for the stove! Thanks for sharing!

glorybe (author)dolfinmagikpro2015-05-14

Cheap Vodka is not so cheap these days and being that 100 proof is only 50% alcohol it is a bummer and unlikely to stay lit or lite easily. Moonshine might reach 190 proof but it is illegal and expensive. best to buy alcohol at Home depot or Lowes in a decent sized container.

glorybe (author)2015-05-14

Try using sand instead of the perlite. It may work for you. It may depend upon the sand used. Larger versions of this have worked with sand. In essence the sand gets warm and the fuel lower down in the sand sends vapors to the surface which ignite. i do not know the depth limit for a sand filled container to function properly.

bwshillington (author)2015-05-06

How would it work to keep the lid and poke a couple rows of holes? Would it essientially become a lightly-pressurized jet stove?

Biopyro (author)2009-06-03

I wouldn't want to cook mini sausages in the alcohol fumes directly. Fibreglass should work fine, it won't melt or burn, and will stop the alcohol spilling

isrlear (author)Biopyro2009-07-11

Do not use fibreglass! Most fibreglass contains formaldehyde, and it will burn and possibly get into whatever you're trying to cook.

Tampaguy (author)isrlear2010-06-03

In the USA, formaldehyde is BANNED in the manufacture of fiberglass. Fiberglass (USA) contains only fiberglass, which is finely spun silicone (sand).

txadams (author)Tampaguy2014-05-20

Good info to know but as was seen in sheet rock from China during the housing boom I wouldn't trust fiberglass until I know for sure it was produced in this country.

bettbee (author)Tampaguy2011-05-26

Silicon :-)

blodefood (author)isrlear2010-01-31

Thanks for this info.  I didn't know this and I thought fibreglass was the best thing to use.  Is there a way to find out if it has formaldehyde in it?

A flyin muffin (author)blodefood2011-03-13

Fiberglass NEVER has formaldehyde if you live in the U.S.A. Fiberglass is actually perfect. Double check your sources ( even me :) before you trust them.

Weissensteinburg (author)Biopyro2009-06-11

(I realize how delayed this comment is) Alcohol stoves are pretty common for campers, so I don't imagine this would be any different.

lilpepsikraker (author)2009-08-06

Can i use anything other than perlite or vermiculite? I really dont want to fork over $5 for 8 quarts of the crap when I only need 4 ounces. Maybe I'll ask around if I can have a cup of it.

txadams (author)lilpepsikraker2014-05-20

Use the rest in pots for plants. Perlite works great to give more space in the soil to prevent root rot. Works great for a hydroponic project also.

use fiberglass insulation, has a much much much greater surface area thus working better as a wick.

pood (author)TANZMEISTER2012-01-01

Using the insulation instead also makes it way lighter.

abadfart (author)TANZMEISTER2011-01-30

i wouldn't want to try fiver glass i have seen/tasted what happens when it gets to hot

A flyin muffin (author)abadfart2011-03-12

Why are you eating fiberglass insulation (you said that you tasted it, unless you mean tested)? And unless your alcohol burns at 2075 degrees (at which point the Altoids tin would probably also melt) you shouldn't have any problems :)

abadfart (author)A flyin muffin2011-03-15

we had a fire at a job site, the smoke was so thick you could literally taste it

xd12c (author)lilpepsikraker2010-06-21

I wouldn't use vermiculite. There are concerns with vermiculite containing asbestos

cindi59 (author)xd12c2010-12-02

Vermiculite is now tested for asbestos. So not a problem to use it.

if you have extra altoid tins and all the excess fluids n perlite, make a few extra stoves? give em to friends who go hiking, may need it in an emergency since winter is coming and who knows what happens, heat is very valuable. or sell them to other folks for 5 a piece and make a profit lol

civiloutlaw (author)2011-03-23

I can't personally recommend using the window screen wire mesh as it melted upon first test. It melted even faster when exposed to direct flames.

jlanham (author)civiloutlaw2013-12-10

You didnt use fiberglass window screen did you?

simplebeep (author)civiloutlaw2011-10-06

A metal window screen melted? I'm a bit surprised. Perhaps try one of a thicker gauge, or of a metal with a higher melting point.

n0ukf (author)2012-07-03

Make sure your metal mesh is not galvanized. Burning zinc fumes are a nasty health hazard.

n0ukf (author)n0ukf2012-07-03

BTW, how do you not put out the flame when you put a pan on the stove?

SniperBEAST1515 (author)n0ukf2012-08-22

you need a pot stand, which will hold it about 1-2 inches above the stove

kc8hps (author)2011-12-13

I've also used epsom salt instead of the perlite.

tazsapp (author)2011-08-18

how hot does it usually get?

knektek (author)2011-01-15

can you use methanol?

unominame (author)knektek2011-05-26

Anything that evaporates quickly and is flammable should work just fine. I.e.
Heet or isopropyl alcohol, methol, and Denatured alcohol.
Late comment ftw :D

carlpogi_11 (author)2011-02-28

this is awesome i think im gonna do this

John-4 (author)2011-02-19

This So cool. I made one but I had Three layers of mesh two were the kind you used but the top one was a stronger mesh that the squares were 1 cm squared. But I soldered the mesh to the tin. But I use lighter fuel because it has a bigger flame.

portalturret2 (author)2010-12-20

pretty sweet invention

liammk (author)2009-06-09

to make the flame visible add table salt to the alcohol, note that it should be about half a teaspoon of salt to one cup of alcohol

rocketman121 (author)liammk2010-04-29

Wouldn't the salt make the alcohol burn less efficiently?