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An Alcohol Stove made from Aluminum Bottles

There are plenty of aluminum can stove designs out there. This one is different in that it is not made from aluminum cans but rather from aluminum bottles (aluminum beer bottles to be specific) After building a few stoves myself I wanted to design one to address a few shortcomings of other can stoves:

1. Priming - A number of stoves require an external heat source to bring the alcohol to vaporization temperature. Some require heating the bottom for a few minutes or burning some alcohol in a separate "primer pan" or on the ground around the the can as a means to heat the exterior of the of the stove to achieve a self-sustaining burn.

2. Separate pot stands - A number of stoves have a low profile and are very compact however the smallest of the small require separate pot stands to cook with. Kind of defeats the purpose of a compact stove in my mind.

Sure there are side jetted designs that hold a pot however I wanted a design that would also address a third shortcoming.

3. Cold pan Flame-out - Of the can stove designs that do support a pot, I have seen them suffer from this condition. When a pan of cold water (fresh from the camp pump) is placed directly on a can stove, it acts as a large heat sink. Before the stove can warm the water, the cold pot cools the aluminum stove so much that it cannot maintain alcohol vaporization and the stove goes out.

Admittedly, there are are many great can stove designs out there; many are self priming (nothing new there) and some have integral pot stands. Each has pros and cons depending on your priorities. This is another design for consideration.

and besides, I just wanted an excuse to work with those cool aluminum beer bottles.

Update 9/15/09: Just posted an Instructable that that shows another stove related use for aluminum bottles http://www.instructables.com/id/Aluminum-Bottle-Tumbler-Cup-Cook-Pot/
 
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Step 1: Aluminum Bottles

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If you look hard enough you will find a local retailer that usually stocks at least a small quantity of these specialty aluminum beer bottles.

I prefer the use of these aluminum bottles over the traditional aluminum cans for the following reasons:

1. Stability - The overall diameter of a can is larger than a bottle, however, the bottles have a larger diameter where it counts, at the base were it contacts the ground. The wider base is important because we are making a stove to support a pot and every bit of width helps to prevent tipping.

2. Heavier Gauge - The bottles are a thicker gauge aluminum. The thicker metal is a little more challenging to work with (you can't cut it with a utility knife) however it brings a solid, durable feel that you just don't get from a can.
This also means more thermal mass to help counter the "cold pot flame-out" syndrome.
(Sure more metal is more weight however once you step away from a propane grill; a quarter of an ounce here or there is not my biggest priority. (By the way, don't forget to add the weight of a separate pot stand to those other designs)

The last photo show some of my trials with earlier aluminum bottle designs.

Step 2: Construction Section

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This stove is built from (3) empty aluminum beer bottles (be sure to dispose of contents responsibly...)

No glue or epoxy

No tape

No flux capacitors...

The assembly is all press fit together. The cross section below shows the naming conventions for each of the four parts referenced in the following steps

Step 3: Bottom Cuts

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1. Cut the bottoms off of the three bottles. Cut two bottoms 1.5" tall and one bottom 1" tall

I found that because to the thicker aluminum, the bottles could not be cut easily with a utility knife.
A hack saw works well to make the cuts.

The fixture shown below helped to start the cuts and made sure they were straight around the can. Several turns with the blade pressed against the can started the cut; which was finished by carefully sawing around the outside of the can with a hack saw. (do not try to cut straight through the can as the blade will bend the edges of the can once it breaks through the skin.)

2. Finish the edge of the can to remove any sharp edges or nicks. Any nicks at the edge will initiate a split when the can is stretched.

Place emery cloth (sand paper for metal) on a flat surface. Place the entire edge of the bottle flat on the emery cloth and turn the bottle to evenly smooth the edge.

Step 4: Cut Burn Bowl

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This part is the BURN BOWL and serves two purposes. It initially is the internal primer area where alcohol burns to heat the alcohol to vaporization. It also serves as a heat sink, when heated by the jets, to keep the stove at at self-sustaining vaporization temperature.

1. Cut off the neck of one bottle. The cut should be at the tangent where the bottle neck just reaches full diameter.

2. Make a second cut at the top of the bottle opening as shown. This location is approximate. Start out with the cut a little long. it will be adjusted when fitting the burn bowl to the jet deck in step 8.

3. Smooth the edges as before.

Step 5: Jet Deck

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1. Drill a large hole in the center of the bottom of one of the 1.5" bottle bottoms. This will be the JET DECK.

2. With a file enlarge the hole to about 1 5/16" diameter (or a little smaller to leave room to tune)

3. This opening will need be tuned to create a force fit to the neck of the Burn Bowl

4. Drill (8) eight 1/16" diameter holes evenly spaced along the ridge of the bottle bottom. These are the jet holes

Step 6: Widen base

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1. Widen the opening of the shorter 1" bottle bottom. This is the BASE This opening should be widened to allow the jet deck to tightly telescope inside to the bottom.

I used a 1.5" diameter PVC pipe fitting to widen the aluminum "cup". Place the PVC pipe in the cup and by angeling the cup while pulling, the cup is "rolled" off the pipe. This is done repeatedly rotating the cup a few degrees each time to gradually increase the diameter of the cup.

Be careful not to "flare" the edge of the cup. You do not want to create a "lip" on the edge. The goal is to increase the whole diameter of the cup to slide tightly over the outside of the Jet Deck.

Step 7: Telescope Jet Deck to Base

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1. Insert the Jet Deck into the Base.

2. Press evenly to fully set the Jet Deck to to bottom of the base. You may need to place a board over the assembly and use a hammer to finish stretching the base to fully seat the Jet Deck.

Be careful to force the two pieces together evenly. They need to be aligned or the side wall of the Base could split or the side wall of the Jet Deck could crease.

Step 8: Assembly

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Take the Burn Bowl from step 4 and remove material from the small end of the neck as necessary, until the neck is short enough to allow the tapered portion to fit tightly in the hole of the Jet Deck.

It should be a tight force fit without gaps. Also the narrow end of the Burn Bowl neck should be touching the bottom of the Base so do not remove too much material at once.

Step 9: Colonnade

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This part will be the COLONNADE. Openings are cut in the sides to allow for the jet flames to burn while the remaining series of columns support the Burn Bowl.

At this point use emery cloth and steel wool to remove the paint (if you like the bare metal look). It is easier now before all the openings are cut.

1. Widen the opening of the remaining 1.5" tall bottom.

Only widen the first 1/2" of the opening so that it just fits tightly over the Jet Deck.

2. Drill a hole in the center of the bottom and widen it as described in step 5 however this hole is wider. Make it about 1.75" in diameter ( widen the hole to remove the "dish" in the bottom - just to the ridge at the edge.)

3. Cutout (8) openings in the side walls to form the Colonnade. These openings are approximately 0.5" wide by 0.75" tall. (Make sure they line up with the jet hole in the Jet Deck)

I could not find an easy way to make these openings. I started with a few drill holes and widened with a file from there.

4. Assemble the Colonnade over the Burn Bowl and press the bottom opening of the Colonnade over the top of the jet deck.

Note: the Colonnade should press tightly down on the top of the Burn Bowl. it bottoms out on the top of the base prematurely, material may need to be removed from the bottom of the Colonnade to allow it to seat down far enough on the Jet Deck. The goal is to clamp the burn bowl into the opening in the Jet Deck.

Step 10: Time to Cook

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I use Ethyl rubbing alcohol as fuel. An old plastic film canister is a good dosing tool. It is the right amount for about a 10 minute burn (enough to boil a few cups of water.)

Safety note: Never use petroleum based fuels in this type stove. There explosive nature make them unsuitable for this type stove.

Pour the alcohol in the burn bowl and light.
After about 30 seconds the stove is hot enough to vaporize the alcohol and ignite the jets.
At this point the pot can be placed on top of the stove.
The jets will heat both the pot and the stove.
This continuous heating of the outside of the burn bowl is what keeps this stove lit when a cold pot is placed on it.

Make an option cap from another can bottom and then you can store a canister of fuel in the stove for transport.
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can't you just use an oil filter
caddywumpus4 years ago
Wow I just completed my first instructable build... and WOW.... are my hands bruised and swolen. Stretching the bottoms so that on could telescope into the other one was almost as hard as drinking the Bud Light (I'm a New Castle/Guinness/Chimay Beer Fan). Between the construction and sanding all of the paint off the bottles it took me 11hrs. Would have been less if I didn't live in an apartment, had access to power tools, and wasn't drinking while building. After completing I took the stove out to the back deck to try it out. I didn't have any alcohol so the only thing I could think of was charcoal lighter fluid. It appears to work.. but I wouldn't suggest ever using lighter fluid... Now I have a lot of black soot covering the top half of my stove that I previously sanded to a beautiful brushed aluminum look. The main problem that I encountered was as the stove warmed and the jets began to sputter it seemed to skip the jets and ignited the fuel that was evidently seeping from where the base and the jet deck meet.  So the whole stove was on fire from the bottom joint to the top with a  bright orange flame (probably from using the lighter fluid).  Any suggestions besides not using lighter fluid?
triumphman4 years ago
I have never seen a metal bottle her in southern New York. No one carries metal bottles here. So I'm stuck without a paddle or a canoe. Maybee New Jersey has them? I'll look there next! Thanks for a great instructable!
MrRedBeard4 years ago
I made a very simple/crude version of this stove for a 3 day hike that ended yesterday. The stove worked beautifully and only used about an ounce to bring ~1 liter of water to a boil.

I used an aluminum pepsi bottle and it only contains 2 pieces. I used mine to boil water in an MSR 1.1L pot with no discoloration.
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Johnclave4 years ago
That is a new stuff shown here we all know that alcohol is a flammable but its can be used in such a way is really some thing amazing thanks for sharing this

alcoholism disease
Advise please: I'm having trouble widening the base or the colonade. What am I not doing right? Any other suggestions to make this process easier?
Just made mine today and tried it out. Works like a charm. I also used the Venom "cottles". I think I'm going to go ahead and make some for friends. Thanks so much for posting this design. I think its way better than the others that I have looked at, and I have looked at hundreds. Thanks again.
nickhallen4 years ago
A "Nibbler" tool was very easy to use to make the openings in the bottom of the bottles and then I used a file to smooth and fine tune hole shapes. Mine works! Black pot using 91% rubbing alcohol so might experiment with different fuels. I tried coors light bottles but much thinner then Venom bottles. So made final stove with venom bottles. The "Venom Stove".
red9er5 years ago
How does the "optional" cap on the last line not allow fuel to leak out but still stay on? Also very well written. I could easily see how someone could make this confusing.
hpstoutharrow (author)  red9er5 years ago
The Alcohol is stored in a separate container. The cap is used to retain a small fuel container/bottle inside the stove. In this case I referenced using a plastic film cannister but any small plastic bottle with a secure lid that fits in the stove could be used. Any Ideas for small fuel containers? You could also store other small related items inside the stove like matches, folded aluminum foil for a wind brake, or a pocket knife, etc.
Saw somewhere else that those small "5 hour energy" plastic bottles are secure for carrying the alchohol. They have a screw on cap.
would a paracetamol/aspirin container be small enough
I'm not sure if it would fit in this particular stove but I've had a friend save several of those small energy drink bottles (you know, the ones that are supposed to last for 5 hours) specifically for storing camp stove alcohol. They should hold enough for a 15-20 minute burn and they have a screw-on cap, which is less prone to leakage. I've taken a crack at several camp stoves and this one is, by far, the best looking/working one that I've seen. I suppose I'll have to make a few myself. Thanks for putting this up, it's very well done.
Mukumbu5 years ago
How long does this stove last?  The other can stoves last about a week, maybe two.  Is this more durable?  Thanks.
hpstoutharrow (author)  Mukumbu5 years ago
 A week or two? seriously?  I have not tried the pop can variety.  I have only used the thicker alumnium bottles.  With all the trials and tweeks; this stove has been lit-up about 30-40 times over the course of the last year.   It's still going strong!
That's perfect.  The problem with the other stoves is their longevity.  They are basically throw away items.  I plan to use this to supplement or replace my current camp stove on a mult-month motorcycle trip.  I didn't want to go through the effort to make something that wouldn't last the duration of the trip.  Now it's off to the store for me.  Thank you for making this!  If I can make this stove it means at least an added day to my trip.
a) imo This stove is much better then the pop can style.  It speaks volumes to not need a separate pot holder.

 b) I usually get 30-40 burns on an (American) popcan stove it then has a bit of sputtering for 10ish more burns before I've tossed them (they only take 5 min to make and can be done with a pin, a good thick book [quality of the writing non-essential] and a razor).

c) many of the drink cans (i.e. coconut juice, thai tea) from an asian market use steel-aluminum alloys and are 2-3 times thicker then the 3004 series aluminum used in American popcans.  I've Never burned one of those out (but I have given many of them away to envious friends and other throughhikers).  Just be careful of the ones with ridges, they aren't always conducive to a tight fit.
what, are you EATING your stoves!?!?!
I've made several, and bought one (can stove), and they are ALL still with me, work just fine after several years! You must really be hard on them!! =)
I have never used or made one.  I was researching to determine whether or not to try and came across comments about other stoves not lasting very long.  I like this design and have purchased the Venom Energy Drinks to make one.  The drinks are disgusting and I wish I could have found beer instead.  I will be making mine this weekend.

Thanks for verifying the OPs statements regarding durability.  I'm even more inspired to make mine.
where did you find the drinks im under age so its my only choice
At Kroger.
RVogel5 years ago
Execellent job on this. Very elegant design which counts for a lot. 
mtchansan5 years ago
Thank you for showing us how to construct this beautiful stove. I have started to build this stove but there is one point that requires your kind advise. Do I need to cut a few notches, in way of the small end of the burn bowl, for the fuel to leak in to the space between the burn bowl and outer wall?
hpstoutharrow (author)  mtchansan5 years ago
You can add small notches. The stove shown does not. Given the dimensional tolerance capability of the file and sandpaper, the interface at the bottom of the burn bowl is not a perfect seal. The alcohol has no trouble seeping though without notches but they couldn't hurt...your choice
g.petinati5 years ago
I built it and it worked beautifuly. Great instructions. Great.
robot7975 years ago
 were does i buy this bottle in holland

i wanna make it but i does not find the right bottle
big-jamie5 years ago
 so how long does the amount of alcohol in the video acctually last for burning ? and how long does it take to boil a pan that size ?
Omni DIY5 years ago
 I just made a conventional penny stove and boy are you right. Those things don't want to light and burn unless they are really warm (closer to hot) in the first place. Gasoline was the only thing I could get to work despite no differences in design. I'm going to mod it into this when I get the chance. Made with Venom bottles btw.
dakkenly5 years ago
Venom has crazy thick cans too, and they're real cheap and good so grab one of them for the under 21 crowd
thats exactly what i was thinking!! but the neck doesnt taper as much as a beer bottle, resulting in a shorter, fatter looking stove
 Have you tried the venom can approach? I was wanting to use those too. hmm...
I found some similar which don't taper as much, planning on doing this soon. I hope it works as well!
cool where can I find myself some venom energy?
you can get them a kroger
Gas station, local convenience store, Wal-mart, Target... Get fruit punch flavor
cool i go by walmart on the way home from school i maybe ill pick some up today.
Wasagi junits155 years ago
 Black Mamba is the Best.
word
Just built one this past weekend, and it works great! I had no trouble following your instructions and everything worked out pretty well. The vents in my colonnade don't quite line up with the holes in the jet deck, but I notice no issues with the stove because of it. Thanks for the excellent design!
R4Man185 years ago
harder than hell to make effectively, will end up doing it a few times to get it perfect but man are they tough.... need to learn to make one out of an actual can instead of these.
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