Picture of Pocket Sized Camp Stove (The Improved
This instructable actually came about through necessity. I love camping, and often go hiking in the woods. How often have you spent a day fishing, and wished you could throw some fresh fish into a pan right there on the dock?

For me, this always meant carrying a bulky, expensive kerosene or propane stove which themselves can be something of a pain to get warm enough to use.

There are numerous instructables here on how to make a "Penny Stove." However, there are a series of problems with the Penny Stove concept that need to be addressed. For instance:

1.) You cannot put a large pot on a penny stove without crushing it.
2.) Penny Stoves get very hot, so must be placed on something that will not burn to be used.
3.) Putting a Penny Stove in your pocket or backpack for a hike, it will get crushed fairly quickly.
4.) Penny Stoves are either difficult to light, or do not conserve fuel well.
5.) Penny Stoves are easily blown out in the wind.

As for the commercial "camp" stoves, the *only* ones I've found are either glorified penny stoves (with all the same problems) or require you to carry bulky, heavy, expensive canisters of propane or butane. (Or a mix of the two.) I never did get the point of spending $50 for a "3 oz stove" only to have to carry a 13 oz canister to use it for 1 hour.

Most DIY Camp Stoves I've been able to find use a separate wind screen that's generally a piece of aluminum that would get bent and banged up in my backpack, or no wind screen at all.

All of these issues have been addressed with the new and improved "Penny Stove" or as I like to call it, the "Pocket Sized Camp Stove." I do honestly prefer this over any commercial stove I've yet seen (and I've seen a lot). Better still, it was free. Even a cheap commercial camp stove starts at $30 and goes up quickly from there. I've seen less useful stoves selling for over $100. Considering that commercial stove fuel is also more than twice as expensive as denatured alcohol (calculated by burn time) and harder to come by, there's just simply no reason for me to purchase anything commercial.

While this isn't the size of an Altoids tin, and won't fit in your hip pocket, it will easily carry in a cargo pocket, or in the pocket of your backpack. I keep it in one of the smaller pockets of my ruck sack whenever I go hiking.

For $1.25, you can get a bottle of HEET, and numerous other fuels are even cheaper. (Though I'll tell you from experience, you'll get odd looks buying half a dozen bottles in the middle of the summer. I think the guy thought I was cooking meth.)

Compare this to the Esbit Stove that takes solid state tablets that burn (realistically) for approximately 10 minutes at $0.50 a piece. That's $3/hr, and it's not easy to come by.

While I haven't tested it, I'm pretty sure a $1.25 bottle of HEET (that can be picked up nearly anywhere, including gas stations) lasts me more than an hour.

My preferred fuel is Denatured Alcohol. (See the "Fuel" step.)

Finally, the problem I've had with solid state fuels is the time it takes them to heat up, the amount of heat they put out, and the amount of time it takes to put them away. This stove is ready to go in 1 minute, can be extinguished by blowing it out, or putting the measuring cup over it, and cools off in less than 3 minutes.

For a quick stop to fry up some lunch, this is my stove of choice.

If anyone has suggestions for improvements, I'm all ears.
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Javin007 (author) 2 years ago
For anyone interested: It's been over three years since I've posted this 'ible. (And the response has been fantastic! Thank you all!)

To date, I still regularly use the stove that is in this video, and it doesn't seem any the worse for wear. I haven't even painted it or sealed it in any way. The rack pins have a small amount of rust on them, but other than that, it's still in great shape!
How is it holding up now?
Javin007 (author)  darman128 months ago

Still going strong! Haven't had to build a new one yet!

jef400dread6 months ago

When I tried drilling the 1/4" holes in the wind guard, my bit ran all over the place. Even after drilling 1/8" pilot holes for the 16 staggered holes, I have 16 different looking 1/4" holes. Oh well. For me, the most difficult part of the build was getting the 8 "thumbtack" holes in the burner. I didn't attempt these holes until the 2 can bottoms were fitted together, perhaps that made it more difficult. Brass thumbtacks didn't stand a chance. I went through 2 push pins to get 8 holes. The first one in a C clamp did 3 holes before breaking. Changed to a nail that made a bigger hole for 4 and 5. Pushpin number 2 I figured out that if I rotated it as I applied pressure, it was making progress. It got to the point that I was sharpening the point of the second pushpin. Then, the pin was spinning within it's plastic handle assembly. Once I noticed that, I held that portion in place with some needle nose pliers...Finally. 8 holes.

As other commenters suggested, I JB welded bolts to the inside bottom of the wind guard to hold the rack pins. I also used the paper folding method to keep my marks evenly spaced. I could use some practice using my dremel to cut cans. Even when trying to focus on the "down" ribs of the large can, I found my dremel cut-off bit wondering off the path.

Regarding the thumbtacks, I took the old-fashioned brass kind, and crushed them in my needle-nosed pliers, so that the sides bent inward. Then with the thumbtacks gripped in the pliers, I put two fingers inside the can, one on each side of where the hole would poke through, and pushed the thumbtack through with a twisting motion from the outside. Worked really well (after going through the same frustration as the rest of you).

bishopfamily4 months ago

For my cooking stove all I have is a tin can slightly bigger than my stove cut about an inch taller than my stove then drilled in holes so it would be a windscreen, chimney, and pot stand. I also don't use a stand because the bottom of the tin can is enough protection that the ground doesn't burn.

keveldevel8 months ago
love it. read about it and 6 long hrs later I had my very own model just like yours. I did have to make a custom rack my pot was to slim for your design. I also made my wind guard a little taller. it works great. it really does. first try and I'm completely satisfied with it. it will be my sole cooking devise on our week long canoe trip. thanks man.
Javin007 (author)  keveldevel8 months ago

Awesome! I love to hear about people making it! Would also love to see pics!

gorth11 months ago
Good 'ible. Just a short note. Since you are using a pot rack with this setup you don't have to wait for the stove to heat up. Just put the pot on and don't waste the heat.
I like your design so much I've started constructing my own kit. I'm looking forward to testing this bad boy out in the woods to see what it'll do. So far I've finished the penny stove and am about to do the rack pins and wind guard. Tally ho!
agian harbor freight tools has them. dont buy the 10.00 dollar specail uill spend more in gas returning it. get thier 20 bock unit .
I just built one of these I haven't tested it yet and all Ive built is the stove and measuring cup but the instructions are the best and easiest to follow!! Thank you so much for posting!!!!
ac-dc1 year ago
You can make the epoxy structure thicker and stronger if you use it similar to how fiberglass is laid. That is, wet the surface with the epoxy then wrap some saturated steel wool around it. While this isn't as pretty for certain applications, for mechanical ones it is superior. Of course you could also use asbestos or equivalent heat resistant cloth, but don't snort the stuff since it is theoretically a hazard to your lungs if asbestos.
I read all the talk about MSDS sheets and changes folks have made to this great little life saver. I have come to believe most alcohols are dangerous and I have seen people drink liquid sterno on many occasions, well enough on that I will be making mine just like you show, simple is almost always better.

I am about to make my first "Improved Pocket Sized Camp Stove" and I give you 5/5 rating after seeing your video and puppy. I just might make a change to fit my needs and will send you pic's of the results as well as my puppy.

Almost a professional prepper I guess, retired from public safety and now a disaster services worker supporting government communications when they fail thru ham radio, our motto is "when all else fails".

Our people ( many are retired ) carry go kits and the heavy MRE's since we must be self reliant and show up in area's that may be devoid of all infrastructure, meaning we're on our own. Now old and gray, I'm gonna use the much lighter freeze dried meals so I want to heat my water with a "home brew" stove, not a $150 stove made in China.

Most of our people are volunteers on fixed incomes, so I hope to bring this to a training session to let everyone see how great your little stove works with mostly recycled can's. If it's ok with you I would like to send them a copy of the download so they can gather up what they need ahead of time.

I had everything on hand including Denatured alcohol and the same refried beans which I am using as dip for my chips, minus the METOH Kudo's!
btw, I am curious, why no fiberglass, smell or melting?
Javin007 (author)  brokenmedic1 year ago

By all means, use it at your leisure!  I'd be proud to have the stove used in such a way. 

The reason for no fiberglass is that it's simply not necessary.  In some stoves, the fiberglass supposedly helps vaporize the fuel, or "slows down" spills (neither advantage did I see in my tests).  In mine, I saw precisely zero improvement, but did find that it took up space in the can meaning I had to put less fuel in it, so got a shorter burn time per fill.  As you said, "simple is better."  I've seen and tested literally dozens of different designs of the penny stoves, and found that the absolute simplest model worked the best. 

To be fair, there was ONE model that proved to give a very SLIGHT advantage.  It was almost identical but that the holes that are punched with thumbtacks here were instead drilled with a very tiny drill bit, on the top, at an angle that produced a "tornado" effect. 

This was great if you wanted to quickly heat a single (thin) cup of water, and increased boil times by nearly a full 40 seconds on average.  Still, for all the extra work, I determined it wasn't nearly worth the effort, particularly in light of the fact that it would not heat a pan evenly if you were trying to cook fish (which is where this all started for me in the first place). 

So yeah, long-story short (I tend to ramble) nothing goes inside the penny stove because there's no point in it. 
cege1 year ago
kilber171 year ago
This Thing Is Awesome!!!!!
teaquack1 year ago
I don't get the rig, I'm finding it hard to make and even harder to use
can you explain the wind guard better? pics would be great! thank you!
it was kid of difficult building the actual stove from the two can lids, they kept tearing (yes the cans were tearing) but i got it to work on like the 8 try.
Best instructable i have ever seen, i am going to make multiple of these for natural disasters that come about. thank you very much!!!! :)
what kind of alcohol is in the denatured alc.? my mom is a chemist so she can get me some without the poison!
it's methylated spirits in the uk fyi.
90%ethanol with 10% methanol to make it poisonous so no tax has to be paid on the ethanol.
thanks so much!

the natural impulse is to drink alcohol to get drunk

denatured it to mean drink this to get drunk and you will die

nuff said ?
do that, then you don't have to bring whiskey for drinking.
denatured = poisoned so people cant drink it
Javin007 (author)  Ben_the_Sci_Kid3 years ago
Chemist or no, there would be no point in having her get the stuff "without the poison." The entire reason the poison is added is so that you don't drink it. If your intention is to drink it, then just get regular alcohol. Otherwise, the addition of the "poison" (which is also a flammable liquid) makes no difference at all.
heetbeet1 year ago
Awesome instructable! I have to make one of these before christmas. I am from Stellenbosch, South Africa where we have wonderful mountains to climb on weekends.
SgtHawk1 year ago
Really great stuff, 007. Did you every contemplate a reflective windscreen skirt that covers the entire side of the pot from below the flame to above the pot top with about a 1/4-7/16ths of an inch clearance all around between the pot & relective skirt? I made one last night out of an appropriately resized large juice can and heavy aluminum foil with a 1/4-1/2inch air gap( insulation) between these two "skirts and used my infared temp sensor to take temp measurements all over. Significantly improved boil time. When at a full boil, outer aluminum skirt down low was temp(78F versus ambient 59F); upper was about 95F. Top of pot was around boiling of course, Very hard to measure bottom of pot or flame; got a reading around 650F but not sure what I was really measuring.

The point is, you, and about everyone else who has contributed concerning alcohol stoves here are, about 1000% smarter and more experienced with this than I am so I would appreciate your or anyones suggestions.
Please pardon me if this is not the appropriate place to post this.
Javin007 (author)  SgtHawk1 year ago
"The point is, you, and about everyone else who has contributed concerning alcohol stoves here are, about 1000% smarter and more experienced with this than I am"

I would beg to differ. Nobody is "more experienced" when it comes to doing actual real-world tests. Nothing is "more experienced" than a real-world (aka: clinical) test. Sounds to me that you've taken the testing one (or two) steps further!

I've very much been interested in seeing what the end result of a better reflective internal screen would do on the efficiency, which, realistically, is what this is all about. From what you've said, it sounds like you may have found a method to make this stove even MORE efficient by reflecting more of the heat to the target, which may in fact make the vaporization even that much more efficient! I'd love to see what you've come up with! Are pictures a possibility?

My end barometer in this has been, how long does it take to bring 2 cups of water to a boil? If your method is doing it in under 4-5 minutes, then you've clearly found a further improvement! Please share!

And let me know where you're located so I can add you to my map of "places people have built this stove!"
SgtHawk1 year ago
Spectacular overall job 007. The outer wire lock to keep it together is brilliant.
SgtHawk1 year ago
I'm a newbe and find this site and your particular instructions to be nothing short of outstanding. I do seem to recall from one of the hundreds of instuctions and youtube videos I have watched that freezing one can portion and heating the other allows them to go together easier.
Again thanks very much for one of absolute best of the best!!
donn222 years ago
Hey Javin just came across your ible yesterday.. Love it! going to be making one as soon as i get the right sized can together... got to make some allowances for can differences as im in South Africa and cans are pretty monotonous here. anyway i decided to make a stronger burner than the soda can version by using the bottoms of two deodorant cans. the walls are a lot thicker but the diameter is somewhat smaller so the hearing of the unit not so much a problem. what i want to know is there a higher chance of a spectacular detonation due to the thicker walls. everything is the same as the soda can version in terms of topping it up and the position of the jets. the deodorant version is hell of a lot more sturdy anyway. will try post a pic of the unit soon. comments welcome.
Javin007 (author)  donn222 years ago
South Africa! Awesome! I'll add you to the map!

One of the reasons I built this stove was to protect the fragile penny stove with a shell around it so I was able to stick with the super-light-weight penny stove for the main burner. This said, using the deodorant cans wouldn't necessarily increase your CHANCE of detonation, that would still be the same. But with the thicker walls and (presumably) tighter fit of the two halves, this would mean that any detonation that DID occur would be many times more VIOLENT. The soda cans of the penny stove are flimsy enough that a detonation will be primarily absorbed by the penny stove itself. Even then, in an early test, it was enough to blow off the bits of JB weld, and bend the wind guard enough that I had to toss the stove.

With the thicker walls of the deodorant cans the pressure from the detonation would have to build up to a much higher, more violent level to cause a rupture. I'd imagine that, being that the denatured alcohol isn't massively violent by nature, the thicker stove can MAY be able to contain the full detonation without exploding, but there's also a pretty good chance that this isn't the case. If so, the detonation with a much "stronger" penny stove would be exponentially more violent, possibly even shredding off shards of metal and going off like a small grenade. (Sounds extreme, but rapidly expanding gasses can do frightening things.)

If you have the ability (I'm not sure of your age or experience with this sort of thing) it can be tested like so:

1.) Heat up the unit as if it had been used
2.) Add a VERY SMALL amount of fuel to the penny stove
3.) Pack the stove up as in the video (while it's still hot)
4.) Shake it up to ensure that the fuel is vaporizing throughout the stove,
5.) Place it a VERY SOLID container (box with thick wood, or a metal barrel)
6.) REMOTELY detonate it. (Rocket engines on long wires work well.)

I'd have to do this 20-40 times in succession before I'd be confident that the detonation is contained safely, but even then, I'd probably still be a bit paranoid. You MAY have the equivalent of a miniature pipe bomb on your hands.

Personally, I'd stick with making the penny stove out of a weak soda can since I know for a fact that when/if it DOES detonate, the detonation is small (like a small firecracker) and primarily absorbed by the weak soda cans.

Best of luck to you! And BE SAFE!
Thanks so much for posting these instructions. Some friends of ours were prepping to thru-hike the AT about five years ago, and bought one of these online. I studied the exterior and after a case of cans, I got a working model produced. Your procedures, photos, and the comments of others made this so much easier. I made two last night. I'm using a Campbell's soup can and a tealight as a pre-heater (not that I guess it's necessary), but the height works perfect when building a wind-screen from a #10 restaurant can. My wife and do primitive camping, but usually within a 1/2 mile of the truck, so height isn't an issue; we like the self-sufficiency of DIY, and not being a slave to the propane or butane tank sellers (sorry Hank Hill). We were both amazed at how quickly and efficiently this design works. Thanks!

We're from Virginia, lived most of our married life in Texas, and now live in East Tennessee. My nephew, who's heading to Fort Benning like I did 27 years ago wants me to build one with him next weekend. This weekend ours will be heating soup on Bald Mountain in Western NC. Thanks again. G
Javin007 (author)  Tennessee Burl2 years ago
Thank you for your response! I always love hearing about people's experiences with the design.

It was actually an after-effect that the stove design did turn out to be so effective for ultralight backpacking. I'd once upon a time purchased one of those $100 ultralight (3 oz) camp stoves only to find out that I had to carry a 13 oz can of propane (love the Hank Hill reference, BTW) to get one hour of use out of it. So this "ultralight" $100 stove turned out to weigh a total of 1lb. and I had to carry a propane tank that was highly pressurized and just hope I didn't accidentally smash the mouth of it while out... For one hour's use.

With this stove weighing in at 6 oz. (4.5 oz. if you remove the unnecessary bits) then every half hour of fuel adds 2 oz. So for the same 1 lb, I could get 5 hours of fuel, or only carry as much as I need for the hike... With the fuel carried in robust, difficult to hurt plastic bottles that if they DO get punctured, the fuel simply evaporates.

For free.
Brockley3 years ago
Is there any way to open the can without using a new opener? Would using a hand opener side ways make the can open in the desired way? I don't want to go out and buy a new opener just for this preoject. Is there anything else that you suggest?
Eax5 Brockley2 years ago
Yes it would. I was curious and tested it out on a tuna can.
rushwiz2 years ago
Javin... It has been over 3 years since you shared this awesome instructable. Could you consider taking the many excellent ideas and suggestions, and your own improvements on your stove, and sharing a new and improved version?
My eight year old son and I are going to build this stove today! KEN
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