Instructables
Picture of Pocket Sized Camp Stove (The Improved
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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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SgtHawk2 years 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
Javin007 (author)  rushwiz2 years ago
That's not a bad idea, actually! I'll tell you some of my favorites:
* Heating one half of the can while cooling the other to make the fit tighter.
* Painting the can with heat resistant paint.
* Adding nuts to the bottom to put the rack pins in, instead of drilling the holes. (Or rivets if you have them).
* Using a piece of folded paper to get evenly spaced holes.
* Add a pack or two of matches to tighten things up when it's put away.
I'm sure there's others I'm missing.
fatboy072 years ago
very nice! keep it up man! :)
surf4point02 years ago
Thanks for the stove, I made one and plan to use it all the time its great!
Just a note to those who may not understand the priming process: We don't want to light the penny stove directly (lol explosions, see below), so when we pour a little fuel in the "wind shield" and light that, it heats the stove from without, creating more vapors within it, and then lighting them. Priming is the safest way to light these stoves, and yeah, dont shake them, creates an insane amount of vapors.
mwarren_us3 years ago
Heating the bottom (to expand it) and cooling the top (to shrink it) makes this step much easier. Heating the bottom to at least 400°F (in a toaster oven) and cooling the top to 0°F (standard freezer temp) creates a 0.002 inch clearance making it much easier to slide the top into the bottom. You may need to use oven mitts!

While 0.002 in. might seem small, it's enough to greatly simplifiy the assembly. Here are my calculations... http://www.editgrid.com/user/mwarren/Aluminum_can_walls
Javin007 (author)  mwarren_us2 years ago
I thought I'd responded to this post back in 2011. O.o Sorry for the super late response. I just wanted to say I love this idea, and I'm going to try it the next stove I build!
acalacci2 years ago
Javin 007,

Thanks for a wonderful project for my sons and I to build! We built it the other day and have boiled water and heated up some chicken noodle soup on it. My fuel consumption results were greater than your instructions called for, but very good nonetheless. We got 22 minutes even out of 2 ounces of denatured alcohol at 68 F (indoors),

I have passed out ths URL to a couple of other handy fellows that I know, and I'm sure they will have fun with it as well.

I took a video of the first firing, but I'm sorry to say that it looks like it's too big to post. Just look at yours...it's the same!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E3ezYVzrdk&feature=plcp&context=C367da65UDOEgsToPDskIVjFM7Cn6KCgyYSVovoLk9

Javin007 (author)  acalacci2 years ago
Just watched your vid! LOVE it!

To answer your earlier question: I'm in Virginia now, but when the stove was built, was in Maryland.
Javin007 (author)  acalacci2 years ago
Awesome! I love to hear about people building it, ESPECIALLY those that do it with their kids! Where are you located so I can add you to the map?
We're in Georgia, Vermont, USA. By the way, mine's not exacty like yours...I added nuts to the bottom of the wind guard like one fellow suggested, but lined up the first set with the TOP set of holes by accident, so I now have 8 nuts in the bottom! Little extra weight, but no problem other than that. Where are you located?
cryophile2 years ago
Awesome! It looks like this would come in handy if you were homeless.
This was a fun project to do, and made a great gift for my brother. A couple of differences in what came out of my garage:
1) I used a penny stove made from the 7.5oz Pepsi cans, not 12oz. It made a small tomato paste can usable for my measuring cup. Also, a box of matches fits tightly in the unit, greatly reducing rattling noises.
2) I added "leveling screws" to the pedestal, so if the ground isn't completely level, an adjustment can be made so the stove section is. In the future, I'm going to add a drop of JB weld to the screw tops, to make them non-skid.
3) I used two washers JB'd to the windscreen for the pot rack leg attach points - it works really well, I had about 4 pounds of water and pot on, held just fine.
4) for heating a sierra cup, I added some heavy gauge wires to the mix. They are notched using my Dremel.
Most of what I've described is visible in the images I've loaded.
stove1_assembled.jpgstove2_lid_etc.jpgstove3_potrack_detail.jpgstove4_sierracup.jpgstove5_burning.jpgstove6_heating_sierracup.jpg
Javin007 (author)  walkercolt442 years ago
I always love seeing people's builds of this stove! Especially the great additions they add to tweak it and make it better!

I've seen people making this stove literally all over the world now. In google's statistics I can see that almost every single country in the world has now viewed the video, and I get notifications from people worldwide that they have built it! The response has been way more than I ever expected! Thank you so much for the photos! Where are you located so I can add you to the map? ;D

I love your additions to the stove!
I'm in Southern California, Orange County.
orion33 years ago
Awesome stove! Just got mine finished. Instead of drilling holes for the rack pins, I JB welded small nuts to the bottom of the base can. After words, I was concerned that they might get in the way of the measuring cup once it was assembled but, it all fits well. Also, I used a 24 oz. tuna can for the base and riveted it to the lid instead of cutting the larger can down and JB welding together. I was a bet eager to try out the stove and didnt have any Denatured alcohol, so I used rubbing alcohol. (Not sure of the difference) I found the rubbing alcohol a bit hard to light at first (Hoping the Denatured alcohol works better). But I used a propane torch and soon got it blazing. Took a few minutes for it to settle down, then it started burning nicely. Had a problem with the fire staying lit for more then 10 minutes. (Again, could be the rubbing alcohol) I would then relight it with the torch again and it would take off again. I'm thinking the torch is heating up the alcohol in the can making it evaporate faster. All in all, A fantastic project and I plan on making more as gifts. A 10 out of 10!
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I've found that the best feul for any alcohol stove is methyl hydrate. it's sold as a gasline antifreeze for about $10 a gallon, and is something like 99.9% methyl alcohol. it works amazingly well compared to other feuls, and MEC even sells it as feul for their stoves, so you know it must be good!
Javin007 (author)  14kurbili2 years ago
Methyl Hydrate is also known as "methanol." It's often added to ethanol (9:1 ratio of ethanol to methanol) to make denatured alcohol. Methanol is highly toxic, and can even be absorbed through the skin. Ingesting as little as 10 mL can make you blind, and 30 mL (roughly one ounce) will likely kill you. I would strongly recommend against keeping this in your house, particularly if you have children. Denatured alcohol is bad enough, with the methanol added and diluted, but pure methanol is downright dangerous. Even if you don't drink it, extended exposure to your skin can cause enough to be absorbed to destroy your kidneys and liver. I'm not going to tell you what to do, but for the purposes of my instructable, please know that I very strongly recommend against using it as a fuel source.
I just compared the MSDS sheets for methyl hydrate and denatured alcohol, and as it turns out, they both impose the same health risks. I'm not saying you're wrong about the dangers of using methyl alcohol, it's just that denatured alcohol isn't any better for you. now that i know the fuel I'm using isn't that great for me, i'll try to start using other types of less harmful alcohol. Thanks for the heads up!
Javin007 (author)  14kurbili2 years ago
All of this said, the "ideal" fuel for an alcohol stove would be pure alcohol (ethanol). Unfortunately, I'd much prefer to drink it. :P

It's also not as cheap as its denatured component.  This is why ethanol is denatured in the first place:  

Because companies can produce vast amounts of ethanol incredibly cheaply, there's an excess availability of ethanol.  In the U.S., though, if it's sold for consumption, Uncle Sam has to take his cut in the form of alcohol taxes.  Plus, only so much is going to be consumed by the public.  The extra ethanol is sold for other uses (paint thinners, gasoline supplements, etc.)  To prevent people from drinking it (coz again, the gov't wants its cut if you're going to drink it) they "denature" it by adding poisons.

It's quite likely that when we get ethanol based vehicles (it's inevitable) that they'll denature that as well, to keep you from drinking your car's fuel.

Creating pure ethanol is actually so easy that you can do it with some stuff laying around your house.  Assuming you don't want to ferment your own sugars, you can even distill the ethanol out of beer, wine, etc.  (Moonshine.)  Now, don't take this to mean that you can just distill anything with alcohol in it and call it ethanol.  You'll find the old-school moon shiners will pour off their first batch of alcohol from a batch because it's poisonous.  This is because of the following:

The boiling point of methanol is 68 degrees Celsius while ethanol's boiling point is 78 degrees Celsius.  This means it's possible to "boil off" the methanol while keeping the ethanol if the environment is perfectly controlled.  Would I ever do this to save a buck or two?  Not in a million years.  Don't know why I bothered to mention it, really...  But this lower boiling point (and thus vaporization point) is why methanol is so much "colder" when it evaporates than ethanol.  Because the evaporation happens so much faster.  (The lower the boiling point, the faster the evaporation.) 

Because in many types of fermentation a small amount of methanol (aka: wood alcohol) is produced along side the ethanol (grain alcohol).  The distillation will first vaporize the methanol making that first batch highly poisonous.

Mostly I'm just rambling right now because I'm partaking of some ethanol at the moment, in the form of a martini.  :D
Javin007 (author)  14kurbili2 years ago
Yep, you're right! The MSDS for denatured alcohol will be the same as the "worst" component in it. This is because the MSDS doesn't usually take into account the ratios of the chemicals in them.

Drinking 10 ounces of denatured alcohol (of course, talking about denatured alcohol that has been denatured with methanol, which there are some that are denatured with other chemcials) will have the same effect as drinking 1 ounce of Methanol (ie: high probability of death).

So yeah, try not to drink either one.  :D

For instance, look up the MSDS on polymethyl methacrylate, and then the MSDS on crazy glue.  While their MSDS's look quite similar, the polymethyl methacrylate is about three times more toxic than the crazy glue.  
Javin007 (author)  orion33 years ago
It's always so awesome to see people build this stove. :D Thanks a ton for the pictures!

I love the modifications you've made.  The riveting and using the tuna can could only make the build that much easier, and dare I say more stable.  Makes me wish I had a rivet gun.  I also like the idea of welding the nuts to the base instead of drilling the holes and using JBWeld. 

The rubbing alcohol is definitely your problem.  Rubbing alcohol is typically about 60% alcohol with the other 40% being water.  Denatured alcohol is 99% alcohol with 1% "additive" to keep people from drinking it.  (It's also used as "marine stove fuel".  Commonly used to fuel stoves on boats.) 

Your problem with keeping the rubbing alcohol lit is because the rig eventually cools down enough that the alcohol stops vaporizing.  You won't have this problem with denatured alcohol, and lighting it will be MUCH easier.  I even light mine with a flint striker if I don't have a lighter handy.
can you use 70 percent alcohol
orion3 Javin0073 years ago
Awesome! Just the info I needed. This is a great build and is extremely well thought out. I will be heading to the store for denatured alcohol ASAP! I am getting started on number 2 today. I'm going to make my wind guard just a tad higher this time to more easily accommodate the nuts. I only went 1/2 inch higher then the stove last time. It fits but , just barely. I need to invest in one of those fancy side cutting can openers as well. I dremmeled the last lid off. It's passable but rough. By the way, the pot rack design, imo, is just Genius! Super strong and very sturdy! Thanks a lot for this great instructable . If I stumble across any more updates I'll post them here. \m/
Fitwit3 years ago
Apologies Javin. I meant Javin. :-). I'm actually pleased with the 8 one inch flames. I heated 18 oz soup in 8 minutes tonight and it was too hot to eat. :-)
Javin007 (author)  Fitwit3 years ago
Wow, nice! That's almost microwave speed! (If you have a cheap old microwave like mine.)
Fitwit3 years ago
Jason- all went well but only getting 1" flames after priming ends. Probably hot enough to cook with, and probably no chance of a 'boom' but what should I alter to get longer flames. Used a push pin / thumb tack for my jet holes. Thanks !
aa_kim_3 years ago
how will i put off the fire after i finished using it/
Where exactly do we put the penny?
do i put it in before i connect the two pieces?
sorry if it's a dumb question
It goes on top of the whole. Watch his video to see it in action. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj5xZmXOZ8A&feature=related
jagr603 years ago
Wery good instructable!
Wow! I'd never heard of a penny stove before seeing this. Seriously wow :-)
Directions were great. Here is my contribution. We were on a several night trip so I just brought the HEET bottle. After it is unsealed, be sure to wrap then neck/cap area to reseal it. I have a ten foot length of Gorilla Glue tape wrapped around my emergency kit so I just cut off a length each night to seal up the bottle.

Instead of the fancy pot holder, I cut 4" pieced of coat hanger that I bent at 90 degrees. I then inserted it into an upper hole and wove it down into a lower hole. The first time I had to bend and play with them a bit to get them to sit firmly. This way I didn't have to walk twenty feet to the garage and find my epoxy. I also ended up with about six legs so the pots sit very securely.

Great post. Fun to make, Satisfying to use.
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