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How to make a Rocket Stove from a #10 Can and 4 Soup cans

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Picture of How to make a Rocket Stove from a #10 Can and 4 Soup cans
This instructable will show you how to easily make a functional rocket stove from recyclable cans for almost no cost.

Items you will need:
1 - No. 10 Can (Standard restaurant size can. Mine was a pineapple chunks can from a local pizza parlor. They gave it to me free.)
4 - Regular soup cans (Standard 8oz Campbell's Soup cans)
Insulation material. I used Perlite. It's cheap and available at any garden center. I had it on hand for my garden. You can use sand, dirt, ashes, foam, any insulator.

Tools:
Tin snips
Hammer and nail (to punch starter holes)
Pliers (makes bending the metal a little easier, but not totally necessary)
File
Gloves
 
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Step 1: Mark and Cut hole in No. 10 can

Picture of Mark and Cut hole in No. 10 can
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Remove all labels from cans.

Take one of the four soup cans (soup can #1) and trace the shape onto  No.10 can. I cut my hole slightly above the bottom of the can to make it easier to avoid dealing with the bottom of the can when cutting and shaping the hole. Seems to have worked out fine.

I then punched a number of holes into the circle so I could get the tin snips in there to cut the circle out. Punching that many holes turned out to be a waste of time as a single hole would have been fine. The tin snips cut through the can quite easily.

I used a pair of needle nose pliers to bend the edges of the hole back to get the final shape, but in retrospect I would have probably just relied on the sharpie outline and cut the hole wider to begin with. I was somewhat conservative when cutting and widening the hole took some effort. Later can fittings were made easier by just cutting the hole to the right size to begin with. I was afraid of cutting too big to begin with and therefor spent a considerable amount of time fidgeting with it.
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Wouldn't it be useful to cut small tabs into soup can #1, so that it will hold on to soup can #2?

RhisiartG5 months ago

I've made lots of rockets, both the simple Winiarski L-rocket and the Ianto Evans J-rocket. I cook and heat with my latest model, right now. This one of yours is really nice; not least because - clearly - you understand the principles which make rockets work so well, and they're faithfully reproduced in this handsome quickie knock-up. I would question, though, sand or clay as insulators; heat sinks, more like. And as you point out, good insulation of the riser tube is critical to make the stove work effectively. Very high combustion temperatures - near 1000 degrees Centigrade for larger-diameter rockets - are an essential design principle; only achievable with a thick layer of good insulation. The proportions which you built in, and the absolutely-vital insulation, are the outcome of long, careful, very much field-tested development periods, by Larry W., and by Ianto independently, and with help from many colleagues.

Beware the YouTube vids about 'rocket' making! Far too many of the posters clearly don't understand the basic principles of rockets, and make very bad, cargo-cult-style sort-of-rocket-like stoves that don't work right, because they're not built right. Lots of cases, for example, where sand or soil are recommended as high-grade insulators, when they're nothing of the sort. Quite a few cases where the insulation is deliberately left out altogether (kiss of death!). Lots of other examples where the proportions are quite wrong, producing vastly inferior results. Sure, they still cook stuff, after a fashion; but with low temperature flames licking out of the top of the riser, and sooting up your pans. Proper rockets produce super hot carbon-dioxide and water vapour at the top of the riser tube, just as they hit the pan, and virtually nothing else except a very small amount of fly-ash.

To achieve this final, very hot completion of the fuel burn just at the top of the riser, chimney height needs to be two-and-a-half to three times the diameter; and the more high-grade insulation round the chimney and the inner end of the feed tube the better. Make it three inches thick, at least. Play around with quick, dirt-cheap knock-up rockets like this one, whilst you get the hang of it all. That's what I did. Proper rockets are in a class of their own, better than any standard wood-stove. PROPER rockets, that is! DRY fuel is a great help too.

BTW, don't try glass-fibre for insulation. A properly built rocket gets so hot, it melts the fibre back from the riser-tube's outer surface. Tried it. Doesn't work! Good insulators are: DRY wood ash, perlite, or vermiculite. They can take the bright-red-to-white-heat.

Once you're confident that you're up to speed with all this, try making a rocket in stainless steel tube, with 3mm wall thickness. Stainless appears to resist burn-through indefinitely; well, for at least fifteen years in my experience. Four inch diameter is a good starting size. Bigger diameter tube gives a very hot, strong fire, which will need a little more fuel. Still amazingly fuel-economical, though. That's part of the original design-spec. for rockets, for Third World and refugee-camp cooking, where fuel is very scarce, and is often nothing more than dried plant stalks. Tried that with nettle stalks; works amazingly well! The other main design spec. was a very clean burn, to reduce serious lung illnesses to people using firewood long-term for cooking. Only possible at very high temperatures.

Weld up the parts of the stainless fire tube, rather than just pushing them together. You will need an angle-grinder to cut them to shape. Outer can, to contain the fire-tube and the insulation, can be any suitable mild-steel available. Doesn't have to stand up to the high temperatures and the super-heated oxygen, the way the fire-tube must.

Smarti19575 months ago

Enjoyed this tutorial very much. Well done. Still working on tin can Rocket Stove. If you want to see the grand daddy of Rocket Stoves, check out BCTruck on YouTube! That is where I saw my first Rocket Stove and have been a fan ever since.

abraun21 year ago
Thanks for posting. This was my first instructable and rocket stove. Easy build and well described.
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darrinmcl (author)  abraun25 months ago

Dude... Great job!

darrinmcl (author)  abraun21 year ago

Hey great job.

deidrejoy9 months ago
soulhunter0 made it!1 year ago

Ok, i took a shot at this oven and i found it a great little work. I did it with a some personal twists partly because of what i had available to work with. First as you might check it's not "closed" of the top, that way you can see i have used ash as insulation, since i had it right on hand (though i originally thought of using sand). Upon its first firing the ash closest to the burner nearly turned to a sort of spongy "stone".

I had a problem with fixing the top can of my chimney to the lower "L" part, i used aluminium tape for it but it burned so hot it melted and inflamed the tape so the can got loose. I know it wasn't meant to be done that way but at the moment i didn't remember how to do it according to here but if i redo or do a new oven i already have a few ideas to solve this problem besides the one proposed in this instructable (live and learn).

No trouble in igniting the first time i used a piece of newspaper imbibed with some alcohol and a couple of sticks of well dried wood trough the shelf, lighted it with a wooded match. It burn really well so well in fact that i was frightening, in the 20 min i was feeding it, it burned loads of twigs which surprised me a bit, since i thought it wouldn't burn so fast and i had the idea it was efficient as in "low fuel consumption". The outside wall grew really hot and even after the fire inside was dead the outside kept on being very hot for quite a while.

Another problem i didn't expect was the amount of ash it produced, so much in fact that after a while i stopped feeding the fire because it was having a hard time to let air through. From what I've read about this type of oven i had the idea that it didn't produce much ash. Anyways i'm planing to place a second shelf like part to the bottom of the feed can so i can, on occasion, remove the acumulated ash before it strangles the fire an burns it out.

Other than that it worked out great and it shows great promess to be a little portable stove (it weights less than 4 pounds) to take on my beach/camping days, for cooking/grilling/heat a bit of food on the spot as well as providing a little heat if the party drags on throughout the night.

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Dan34531 year ago

A good way to make this a heavy duty stove would be to use concrete and perlite mixed.I think that's my next project.Thank you!

John in Boston made it!1 year ago

Made it with bigger cans for prototype. (what I had) Will make the next like yours.

Thank you for posting this.

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setista1 year ago
This is going to be my next rocket stove. I recently built one out of 4 cinder blocks but it is not as effective because it lacks insulation. I have not tinkered enough with it but have at least succesfully made tea. Thank you for the new project, looks like a lot of fun!
suboxygen1 year ago
awesome.does it take long to cool down after its been burned out? just curious for snowboarding/camping out as to how long before i can pop it back in my backpack and ride out.
darrinmcl (author)  suboxygen1 year ago
I would think that if you shoved it in the snow, not more than a few minutes. Because it is so well insulated it never gets too hot.
I am going to build this. I am a boyscout so this will come in handy
wdevers1 year ago
What temperatures does this little stove generate on average?
darrinmcl (author)  wdevers1 year ago
I have not put a gauge on it. I have no idea.
how has the ash build up been?
darrinmcl (author)  HeWantsRevenge1 year ago
Since it burns so hot and completely, there is not really any ash buildup. It burns the fuel completely.
msloan81 year ago
I am not getting good flames. I think can #1 may be too far into #2 in mine. Do you think trimming the portion of #1 that is blocking the chimney would help? Seemed like it was just a bit choked. Didn't want to adjust something that would mess it up. Great build, like you said, very little ash left.
darrinmcl (author)  msloan81 year ago
Yes. Definitely cut it down. Also, be sure to pre-load the chimney with paper when getting it lit. You want to pre-heat the chimney so it is nice and hot before it will really hold a flame.
Mister L1 year ago
Built this handy little stove the other day. We didn't have any perlite, and the kids' sandbox was wet, so I used some "Roxul" insulation. I traced the bottom of the can on to the insulation, then cut them out using an old bread knife. I then traced the bottom of a soup can into the middle of my insulation circles, then removed sections so that they fit snugly around the chimney/feeder tube parts. I used high temp silicone to seal any gaps in the chimney.
The stove works very well.
Thanks for the instructable!
orbit.al2 years ago
thanks for that. Gonna try it this weekend. out on the cycle today to scrounge up a big can
Hi Darrin,
This instructable is a little old now so I don't know if you're still watching the comments. The problem I have is that the Perlite I am using is a range of different sizes and some of it is very small and nearly a powder. How do you stop this stuff pouring out the cracks. I made one stove like this and when I encountered this problem I used a steel putty. That was pratley's putty that dries out to be of near steel strength. The problem is that it gave of black smoke from the chimney seal that I was not comfortable cooking food with. So I am now set up to try this again and any suggestions would be welcome.

Currently I am thinking of using aluminium foil with some wire to hold it in place. Any thoughts?

Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Regards, Martin.
darrinmcl (author)  martincoetzee2 years ago
Sorry I hadn't seen this earlier.
I used brand new Perlite and it was still quite fluffy and round so I didn't have the problem of it creeping out of the seems. I would think you could pretty much wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil and be good to go.
The way that I cut the openings and crimped down the sides for the top make mine quite a tight seal all around.
orbit.al2 years ago
great 'ible. 1 question. Do you need to insulate under the inner can? Maybe I was not reading carefully, but I didn't see. Thanks
darrinmcl (author)  orbit.al2 years ago
No. Just around the inner can.
orbit.al2 years ago
great 'ible. 1 question. Do you need to insulate under the inner can? Maybe I was not reading carefully, but I didn't see. Thanks
sjamison2 years ago
How easy is it to clean out the ash after a burn?
darrinmcl (author)  sjamison2 years ago
There is really very little ash left. The rocket stove burns the fuel almost completely. There is no reason to tip it over to empty the ash.
I started investigating pottery clay for this but was told it would just become brittle and break if it was not glazed especially if it was heating and cooling all the time.

I was told kiln cement is the way to go. Comes in putty form and dries out and can handle up to 1300 degrees Celsius. Will check it out and report if it is a success.

Regards, Martin.
Hi FireCGun,
I haven't measured the temperature but mine cooked two rashers of bacon in the same time it took to cook on the gas stove in the kitchen.
You could easily cook a bacon and egg breakfast on this stove. I think bigger meals in a dutch oven would be a problem especially due to the requirement of watching the fuel supply into the stove for a long period of time.

Regards, Martin.
FireCGun2 years ago
to what temperature does the stove get up to?
odinmoksha2 years ago
This is great. I will see about doing this with our Boy Scout Troop. And this prevents me from needing to travel with a little coleman stove on some occasions! ;) Thanks.
I'm really impressed with this instructable. I read many and often there are steps which are simply skipped by the author, thinking they're simple, but that leave me stranded. This instructable left me knowing that if I have it by my side I can build this stove. Thanks for the effort you put into making it so clear and detailed it is very much appreciated.

Regards, Martin.
darrinmcl (author)  martincoetzee2 years ago
Thanks. I appreciate your comments. It was fun to make and to document. I hope you're able to make one yourself. I have had tons of fun with mine.
Thanks Darrin. My son is just turning 8 and I am planning our first camping trip. I think I will get us to make this together as a project to take with us as our camping stove. (I will make sure we have a backup as my construction skills may not be as strong as yours). If I manage to build it I will try and remember to send a photo or two.

Regards, Martin.
solarbobky2 years ago
Foams shouldn't be used for insulating a rocket stove. They will burn/melt/smolder from the intense heat and release toxic smoke. Stick with noncombustables.
krdog2 years ago
Built it. Lit it. Couldn't get it to boil water. Best I got was pin bubbles in the pan and steam. I thought these things were s'posed to boil water at a rolling boil. Did I do something incorrect or this the best I can hope for? Also, standard soup cans are 10 oz. not 8. To get an 8oz. can I had to use 'single-serve' fruit/vegetable, and 'beenie-weenie' cans. The insulator I used was 'just plain ol' dirt/sand off the ground from my camp. Yes, I live in a camp! Propane, sterno, and kerosene are sometimes difficult to aquire but there's plenty of wood' however; open burning, i.e. campfires, are prohibited. (something to do with idiots not knowin' or carin' how to properly build a campfire)
Paulus443 years ago
Start next week to make one. I go use salt as isolator. Here in the Philippines is it very cheap.But a little heavy.
Thanks for posting this.
Ausipitator3 years ago
Great design,I'm just having a problem with the second can in the chimney. When i try to fit it, the gap/slit i created never closes ive tried a few different ways but i cant seem to figure it out. any ideas?
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