Introduction: Cool Little Miniature Stove!

Picture of Cool Little Miniature Stove!

I'll show you how to make a great little portable stove from stuff you probably have laying around your house! It's perfect for camping, backpacking, and power outages.

I am not the inventor of this stove, and there are far better designs out there (Penny Stove is the best!), but this pressure-based alcohol stove is by far the easiest to make.

Watch the video for an overview:

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Here is a list of items you will need:

1. Two pop cans, or beer cans.
Make sure the bottom of the can is free of dents and scratches.

2. Fine sandpaper.
320 or higher grit.

3. Utility knife blade.

4. Thumbtack.

5. Wire hangar.

6. Fiberglass (optional, but recommended).
I used insulation from the basement.

7. Bottle of Heet.
You can also use denatured alcohol, everclear, or 91% isopropyl alcohol.

Step 2: Sand the Cans

Picture of Sand the Cans

Sand the paint off the bottom couple of inches of both cans.

Make it as smooth as possible to ensure a tight fit and prevent leaks.

You'll need to empty one of the cans, so go ahead and have a drink while you work on the second one. The second one needs to be full and sealed, so don't drink it yet!

Step 3: Cut the Cans

Picture of Cut the Cans

You need to cut the bottom inch or so off of the first can.

The cut needs to be almost perfectly even, so use a book to hold the blade while you press the can up against it and spin. You can also nail the blade to a block of wood.

Spin the can slowly while pressing against the blade, making sure not to dent the can in the process. It will take about 10 to 20 turns to cut through it enough to peel the two parts apart.

Then use the sandpaper to smooth out the cut edge.

Once you are satisfied with the result, use the second can to gently stretch the lip of the bottom of your stove. This will make it easier to put the halves together. Finally, put some fiberglass in the bottom half only.

Once the bottom is complete, make the top of the can the exact same way, but do not stretch the lip.

The fiberglass is optional, but important. It will prevent the fuel from leaking out while moving it around or while it's in use. It will also preserve unused fuel. Cotton balls will also work, so long as the inside of the can doesn't get hot enough to burn them - a possible concern during stove use or preheating.

Step 4: Put Them Together

Picture of Put Them Together

Now it's time to put them together.

Because the halves are pressure fit, you'll need to poke holes in the top to let the air escape. It just so happens that we need a filler hole anyway, so use the thumbtack to create one in the center.

Now carefully align the halves so the top fits inside the lip of the bottom. You'll probably have to use a shim made of left over can pieces.

Once they are aligned, squeeze the halves together as tight as you can, making sure to keep them even.

If you're having problems getting the halves together, use the sandpaper on the inside of the bottom half to remove a little of the aluminum. It also helps to smooth the cut edges of both halves to allow them to slide together easier.

Step 5: Make the Jet Holes

Picture of Make the Jet Holes

Your stove will need some jets for the fuel to escape from and burn.

Use a thumbtack to poke a hole in a random spot around the edge of the can, make one directly across from it, then another in the middle of those two. Continue in this fashion until you have about 16 jet holes.

If you want a more efficient stove, use a medium sized needle for the holes instead of the thumbtack, and make more holes.

Step 6: Make the Pot Holder

Picture of Make the Pot Holder

If you don't already have one, you can quickly create a pot holder from a wire hangar.

The ideal height is about 1/2" to 1" above the height of the stove, or right at the tip of the flames. The flame height it determined by the type of fuel you use, and the size of the jet holes.

Make sure to sand off the coating before you use it. You don't want to breathe those fumes.

Step 7: Test It Out!

Picture of Test It Out!

That's it! The can stove is complete. Now it's time to test it out.

First, slowly fill the stove with Heet, allowing time for it to drip inside. It only takes about three tablespoons to boil a pot of water.

Once the fuel is inside, it's ready to light. Use a match or lighter under the bottom to preheat the stove. It only takes a few seconds. Once the can stove is too hot to hold, preheating is done.

Quickly run the lighter or match over the jet holes to ignite the alcohol fumes that should be coming out now. Alcohol burns very clean, so the flames will be hard to see in daylight.

Place the pot stand over the stove, and cook up some food!

You can blow out the flames if you need to, otherwise it will burn itself out. If you used fiberglass or cotton balls inside, there's no need to dump the excess fuel before storage.

You can use some tin foil around 90% of the bottom of the pan to create a wind shield that will also assist in keeping the heat on the bottom of your pan.

This Cool Little Miniature Stove is extremely durable, reusable and will be with you for a very long time. I've read stories of backpackers using the same stove for over 20 years!

Watch the video again for the complete process:


NoelM3 (author)2017-12-05

when one wants to boil water the pot makes a difference. stainless is nice for the ease to clean it is a poor conductor of heat.aluminum is the best and cheapest type. having a lined pot with a nonstick surface is best.. care must be taken to not overheat the nonstick surface because it will ruin it and is also contains elements we dont want entering our body the best is cast iron. giving a nearly indestructible item that will give service for a lifetime.


NiKiToS (author)2012-01-29

thanks, great instructable. Just a couple of questions:
1) I've seen in other instructions (don't think on instructables though) that you need to cover the filling holes with something like a penny, is that really necessary?
2) Maybe somebody knows, is there an equivalent for HEET in Germany?

Gelfling6 (author)NiKiToS2013-06-10

In a nutshell, HEET, is one of many commercial names, for standard Isopropyl Alcohol. (sometimes called Dry-Gas.. You add it to Gasoline, during severe cold weather to collect water from the fuel tank, and carry it along to the engine, so it won't freeze in the gas line.) Denatured (Wood Alcohol), found in painting stores as a thinner, Sometimes found in Marine (boating) stores as cooking fuel. These can stoves are based on Alcohol fueled Marine stoves.. (which I don't see too many of anymore, but see the denatured alcohol still in camping & marine supply areas in retail stores.)

carpe_noctem (author)Gelfling62015-08-05

HEET is methanol, not isopropynol (rubbing alcohol). The burning properties are a bit different

NMullan2 (author)carpe_noctem2017-08-30

this site gives the exact formulation for people in other countries who want to know if they can get this product. I depend on the net for my information because what I dont know would fill books. advice to all even if you get information always double and triple check it never take someones word as an answer My thanks to all who always come to my rescue with information.


schumi23 (author)NiKiToS2012-02-01

Basically, keep your eyes open, and when you see any products (often cleaning) that say Danger Inflammable (in Germany :) ) you can just guess if it would burn well.
Otherwise, you can just buy rubbing alcohol (for disinfecting wounds, or cleaning stuff) and get one with the highest percentage alcohol possible (over 70% minimum)

mkslocomb (author)schumi232014-09-16

Another option is to "salt out" or dehydrate your Isopropyl Alcohol to get a lower water content (and a higher rubbing alcohol percentage).

Orngrimm (author)NiKiToS2012-03-05

And to answer your first question: It prevents (somewhat) the burning trough the big filling-hole.
If you have one big hile, most of the pressure and thus vapor will exit there and you have one big flame coming out of your filling hole. But we want many evenly spaced flames on the rim, right? So block the filling-hole with something (Penny, Screw, Plug, Insulation, ...) and let the pressure exit the outer holes and generate a neat ring of fire.

schumi23 (author)NiKiToS2012-02-01

Spell check :( Germany is german.

sokamiwohali (author)schumi232012-02-16

he meant germany. he was asking if in germany there is an equivelent for the "american made HEET".

schumi23 (author)sokamiwohali2012-02-16

I meant my comment :) (Danger inflammable (in germany)) should have been (in german)

sokamiwohali (author)schumi232012-02-16 :) i guess i got cunfuzzled. hehe

JordanL13 made it! (author)2016-02-15

I made this one as my first stove and soon after I abandoned it. As I was a fan, it had trouble if any wind was hitting it. As for fuel. Methyl Hydrate works way better than anything that i have tried and you can just get it in your local paint store. Doesnt leave any water left over.

I switched to these little guys

CaptAmazing made it! (author)2015-09-06

fun little project! ?

PyroMaster007 (author)2008-01-31

yeahh, this is confusing. I think you need to rewrite part of this. Is the Fiberglass needed?

Anything that can serve as a wick.

ironLes4 (author)Danthesoccer2012-08-08

you dont have to put any absorbent material inside the stove because i dont put anything like fiberglass or cotton in my stove but the fule and it works just fine you just have to heat the stove up first.

Gelfling6 (author)ironLes42013-06-10

Some of the designs, have a strip made from the remainder of the can, that sits inside, from the rim at the bottom, and the underside of the top rim, leaving a chamber between the center & outside wall of the can. This acts ass a catalyst, carrying heat down from the top to the pool of alcohol at the bottom, promoting boiling. I've made a few with 2 bottom halfs, and most recently, scoring out the center of the top, just leaving a small lip inside. 2-oz. of alcohol is plenty for boiling 8-Oz. of water in about 3-5 minutes. Not as good on windy days, as the wind cools the aluminum, preventing the boiling inside.

mdefilippis (author)2011-10-03

One other picture

espdp2 (author)mdefilippis2013-03-10

I made one of these, and I boiled a cup of water in just a couple of minutes. I think you should at least double the number of jets if you want a faster burning and hotter stove. It looks like this one would make a good simmer stove. Maybe good to have one of each?

smart person (author)2012-07-19

Your video isn't working, but it might just be my computer

msw100 (author)2012-06-02

Seen this a few years ago on YouTube ,now loads of variations, as Heet cannot be bought in the UK methylated spirits can be used.

elkhuntr (author)2012-05-13

love it cant wait to use it hunting.... I cooked a sasage over it within about ten min

MattBothell (author)2012-01-27

To sand mine I put my hand sander in a vice and used 220 grit paper worked like a charm

Gladiator555 (author)2012-01-23

Thank you works perfect 5/5

knowlj (author)2009-03-03

I guess I'll be the first to say that cutting an aluminum can with a razor blade is a pain. I made the 20 rotations patiently with the razor blade and only managed to etch the can. I then took a dremel to it and in 1 pass the can was cut. I'm trying to figure out how to make a cleaner cut.

Danthesoccer (author)knowlj2011-10-08

I usually make an ugly cut in the can with a razor blade about a cm above my line for my final cut. And then I do the rest of the actual cut with a simple scissor.

sbrown (author)knowlj2009-07-02

No, you use the blade to score the can. You jab the blade through in one spot, and squeeze the top of the can and it will tear along the line

NK5 (author)knowlj2009-03-03

"I'm trying to figure out how to make a cleaner cut." Why, with a razor blade and some patience, grasshopper! :-)

mdefilippis (author)2011-10-03

Good to go! Ain't as pretty, But the insulator made the alcohol last quite some time. As in, After 20 minutes it hadn't gone out, so i blew it out and refilled, put it in a baggy and it's ready to be used again.

I would suggest if you ever need this.. build a small fire, use it's embers to heat it up because it does take alot of heat to catch the fumes, however it feed's itself when it's going.

One flaw is it's lack of wind proofing, but there isnt much you can do about that except maybe make some wind blockers/ heat reflectors out of a cardboard box and some tinfoil.

Aluminum, having a low gradient heat temperature makes it possible to toss this into your pocket after about one minute of cool down.

Five stars from me, great Instructable!

crazypenguin (author)2011-08-03

I'm having some trouble getting mine together every time i try to get them together i have one of two things happen
1. one or both of the cans tear
2. one of the cans dents itself to go into the leaving a hole between the two of them letting fuel leak
any advice would help greatly

dub2801 (author)2011-06-26

Just made my first one and it took me a bit (was looking at a bunch of different instructables) to get it fired up. The tip on preheating it made my take right off....can't wait to use it this coming weekend so I can have COFFEE while camping!!! Thanks great job!!!

dscotthep (author)2011-06-10

Had my scout troop make a few of these. The boys had lots of fun making them, but couldn't get them lit. (this was my first effort and I should have tried it out at home first)

I discovered that you need to get these pretty hot before they will light.

eharris3 (author)2011-05-24

All the isopropyl alcohol I've seen on store shelves lately is 50% water.

h0meIandsecurity (author)2011-05-19

I am using paint thinner which is the cheapest but not healthy fuel,
it is carcinogenic if inhaled too much, but so cheap, you can buy it at any book store or paint store, 1L=0,35$ in my country, probably less in stronger countries(USA, england, france, deutschland, russia.......)

gooch85 (author)2009-05-10

I have now made two of these stoves. One with the insulation, another without. Both burn, but only for a short period- definitely not enough time to boil any water. We're talking about a minute. Any suggestions?

elCarlito1 (author)gooch852009-07-05

Make the can 2 inches in height instead of just 1 inch... Then you can put more fuel into it.

dagenius (author)elCarlito12009-07-06

really, if you want to have that much fuel, than you really are running a red hazard of an explosion. One inch should be enough, and like he said, a couple of tablespoons is enough to boil a cup of water.

Dread_Neck (author)dagenius2011-05-18

how about 1 1/2 inches? :D

cowscanfly (author)gooch852010-03-25

you would be surprised how short of time it takes to boil water with one of these. i made one of these out of smaller cans and was able to boil two 1 1/2 cup cans of water in the time it was burning.

dagenius (author)gooch852009-07-06

The "insulation" is actually a wick, only NK5 chose to use fiberglass.

tercielo (author)2010-12-11

can i use denatured alcohol? (author)tercielo2011-01-31

Just about anything flammable that vaporizes, paint thinner might even work. i can use nailpolish remover.will veniger work.....

nail polish remover definitely, I am not sure about viniger

IPSSC (author)jj.inc2011-04-23

Vinegar is NOT a flammable (it is in fact an acid) thus it will not burn... hope this answers your question (author)IPSSC2011-04-23

O, I didn't ask, sreepradaramakrishna did


zack247 (author)2010-05-25

will the fiberglass burn/melt from the heat?

A flyin muffin (author)zack2472011-03-12

No, it is pretty much fire proof, which is why it is used for insulation. And it's cheap.

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