Instructables
Picture of Better Sterno Alternative
How you pack for the outdoors depends on how you spend your time exploring nature. Packing light seems to be a common goal among campers, hikers and survivalists. Most also agree that having a compact way to cook and boil water is preferred. I will show you a pocket sized piece of survival gear that will surely be included in your next adventure.
 
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Step 2:

Picture of
First you will need to cut the cardboard to the depth of the container.

Next pack the tin so the exposed side of the cardboard is facing outside of the tin. I use a spiraling shape but it makes no difference on how it’s formed to fit. It does, however matter how tight it is placed it the tin. If it is so tight that the cardboard’s zig zag pattern within its side walls is flattened then the wax won’t fill inside and the flame time will be shortened.  Having the best ratio of wax and cardboard is the goal.

Step 3:


Next melt the wax and pore it slowly into the cracks of the cardboard ensuring that it has as little air as possible. The goal is to allow the cardboard to burn slowly. In short, you are creating a candle with a large surface area. The round one is what I am going to use to light a pumpkin!
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We made these in the 80's when my son was in Cub Scouts. We used empty tuna cans, dryer lint, cardboard pieces and paraffin wax. It was a great family activity to make them and very useful when camping.

yelleena4 days ago

I've been making these for over 20 years, we sometimes include a piece of string in the cardboard to help it light easier and if you have a very large tin with you like a big coffee or milo can with a seal-able lid you can turn one into an instant camp stove. Take the lid of the big tin and turn it upside down, Make several holes in the side of tin near the top edge, if possible do the same around the bottom edge. Light your pocket sized lamp and sit it on the underside of the tin lid, place the big tin over it so that the big tins base is above the flame, now you use it like a cooking plate and make small pancakes or put a pan or billy on to heat your food/water. The holes at the lid side let air in and the holes above the flame help the air to flow through and any smoke.

This is dandy. I love it!. I've never seen one in an altoids can before.

joe.ardin.31 month ago

There are a lot of variables but Methanol methyl alcohol has a surface flame temp of about 1910c while wood /wax combo should be around 1970c so they in the same range with wood/wax being slightly higher temp.

DonB22 months ago

I make these for use as survival candles but with a slight twist. I use tomato paste or tuna cans I have opened with one of those can openers that leaves no sharp edge. The lid can be replaced. I tear the cardboard to leave a sort of frayed edge about 3/16" shy of the edge. I preheat the can and cardboard, pour in the wax nearly to the top and replace that lid. If you use one of the can openers that leave a triangle opening, you can light the cardboard through that hole. As the can heats up, you can move the hole around to use a different spot of the can. Want a bigger flame? Make more holes or pry the lid off. I keep a couple in my snowmobile. If i lose it or someone steals it...so what? I'm out less than a $1.

lamerc11 months ago
They taught us to do this in the Girl Scouts in the '80s in empty tuna cans. I'd completely forgotten about them. They work great!
Lt.Greg3 years ago
Tjesse - Nice ibble - I've seen it before but its always nice to teach things like this to new people. I have a question however - how do you know that this burns hotter than an alcohol stove? Do you have empiracal evidence, or is it hear-say?   Not trying to be smart just wondering if its been fact-checked.
Good job though,
Thank yoiu
GM
tjesse (author)  Lt.Greg3 years ago
Lt.Greg, thanks for showing enough interest to comment!
I can't say that I have found hard data on this, however, I do have experience with both sterno and "buddy burners". Sterno is not the greatest way to bring water to a boil but it can be done, as many sterno fans will tell you. I have not done any side-by-side comparisons, but from my experience this can be a hotter stove as stated in the instructable. "It will last a few hours and CAN be hotter then sterno...". This is a homemade stove so testing against a commercial product is difficult because of different cardboard to wax ratios and even the types of waxes and cardboard. I make this not because it is better, rather, but because its more economical and fun. So to answer the question... hear-say.
Lt.Greg tjesse3 years ago
Hi sir- thanks for the come-back. I'd say you sound like you might be an engineer, except that you didn't give the "Average rated BTU's" in your original ibble! LOL!

Say, I tried this once before and didn't get it right, maybe you can give me some advice. Just how much of a gap should I leave between the cardboard slices? I think I packed it too tightly and couldn't get enough wax into the spaces. You mentioned the idea, but can you expound a little more about what the "proper ratio" of wax to cardboard might be?

Again, nice job, thanks
Greg
tjesse (author)  Lt.Greg3 years ago
I'm no engineer but I did stay at a holiday inn express last night. I don't put space between the cardboard. The corrugation has enough spaces in it for the wax. It takes a minute to get to a good temp, I would try lighting the one you made again. Even if it is tightly packed it should work the same just not last as long. The wax, just like in a candle, controls the flame as well as fuels it. If the wax is curing before it soaks in to the cardboard you can try heating the whole thing on the stove. I posted a pic in the comments.
Lt.Greg tjesse3 years ago
I was also thinking - warm up the tin and cardboard a bit, so the wax doesn't solidify before it reaches the bottom of the tin and has a chance to saturate the wick.
Other option: if you have a pot big enough you could pre-soak the cardboard strips in the melted wax. Pull them out and let them cool down enough to handle. Then roll them up and stuff them into the tins.
The melting point of paraffin is between 115 and 154 °F, so you could put several of these in the oven, to keep the wax in a liquid state for a much longer time, allowing it to be wicked into the cardboard.
oraco lime3D2 years ago
Parafin vapors or wax vapors will concentrate in the oven causin a dangerous explossion as soon as they reach the fire.
lime3D oraco2 years ago
Not at these temps.
Parrafin has an autoignition temp of 428F - so it's not likely to burn, but the flash point is only between 100 and 162F, so if you're using a gas oven, it's probably going to deflagrate when the vapors hit the pilot light. It's pretty hard to get a Gas oven under 200F. I would bet though, that using a water bath in a slow cooker (Crock Pot) would do just as well with no risk of fire.
"space between the cardboard"

This makes sense to me now. I tried making one a while ago but gave up because I just got shooting flames that went dangerously high. I didn't use a lot of cardboard and there was plenty of space between.
On average, beeswax has 19,000 Btu/lb, paraffin wax has 18,000 Btu/lb, Ethanol has 11,570 Btu/lb. Theoretically, wax is one of the hottest fuels you can burn. The problem is that it doesn't burn as fast as you would need it to in order to compete with an ethanol stove.
marccase2 years ago
I've been experimenting with my own camp cooking stoves and have found that wax tends to be sooty and leave a hard to clean residue on the underside of my cooking pots, this is a real problem since they nest inside one another. Does anyone know how sooty this kind of stove makes your cookware?
you can stop the build up of soot by coating the undersides of your pots with fairy liquid
oraco marccase2 years ago
Cover all the outside of your camping cookware with mud. Let it dry and it's ready to be exposed to wax flames. Then, just wash out the mud and Voila!
Clean as brand new.
marccase oraco2 years ago
Thank you!
If you will take liquid dish soap and smear it liberally on the outside of your cooking pans, then let it dry thoroughly before you put it over the fire, the soot will not collect on your pans and will be MUCH easier to clean. Reapply and let dry after each washing to be ready for the next use.
I'll have to try that next time, thank you.
you can use hex burners as stands
tastewar3 years ago
As a kid I used to bring a sucrets tin that was packed (not tightly, or anything) with paper towels soaked in denatured alcohol to the bus stop on cold mornings. Could light it and let it burn for a bit, then close it up and it would act as a pocket or hand warmer for some time afterwards.
Tastewar -- Sounds like you were a kid sometime before, oh I'll guess about 1975. Because nowadays the idiot sheeple who run the school system would have you arrested for carrying an incendiary device, and the numb-nutzes who ajudicate the laws would charge you with terroristic intent.
:-)p
Maybe I was...

I think the sea change was more recent that that, though. Pocket knives were quite common then, too.
I figure the change began quietly right about 1979 and picked up steam sometime around 1989 - because when I started at the HS in '93, the admin Dweebs were all so nitwit liberal that they actually got upset at me for wearing a Leatherman on my belt one day. (I was the safety director, and 36 years old at the time!)

I told the head idiot that in the first place I was an adult and the tool was useful to me in my daily work - and in the second place, that I'd been up since 0200, looking for (and eventually finding and helping evac the body) of a hunter who'd sliced his own throat, and I never went into the woods without at least a Leatherman and a 4-inch Buck knife - and that I'd come right to work from the morgue, and she should be happy that I'd remembered to leave the buck knife in my office!. (She damn near fainted!)
lime3D2 years ago
I have been thinking about making these from paper cups, or paper chinese take-out containers, to use as campfire starters.

Who cares about the proper amount of kindling and small twigs, when you've got one of these babies?!
CasCom982 years ago
Can this be lit with a firesteel or do you need matches/ligher?
lime3D CasCom982 years ago
It is basically a candle with a very large wick. You need a flame (matches/lighter) to get it going.
lime3D2 years ago
These work great!

Back in middle school, I took an 'outdoor education' elective class. We made these Buddy Burners from tuna fish cans, and cooked pancakes on our version of a Hobo Stove made from large upside down coffee cans with these burners inside. Cooked the pancakes right on top of the coffee can; no additional pan needed.

And yes, these get HOT!
dadoffour2 years ago
I loved this idea. I minimized the size, using a min altoids tin and dryer lint. Took a bit to get it lit, but once it was burning it burned great!
One thing I forgot to say. Do NOT tape over the holes in the altoids can to fill it all the way....the tape will fall off and as the wax remelts while the candle is burning you'll have a big mess to clean up!
Tim Temple2 years ago
When you use an Altoids for a candle, put some scotch tape in the back over the hinge holes first. That way you can use the whole 2 cm of room.
Wow, what an easy idea, and I bet a few of these in your pack could last a good while. I wonder though, how is the best way to put it out, and can it be lit again?
The best part is that you put it out by shutting the lid. And yes it can be re-lit many times, depending on how long you burn for.
le-Sid2 years ago
Love it! I,m gonna make one for my next expedition ^-^
bpaul32 years ago
us hoboes call this a "squat candle"....
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