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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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_Kid4 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.
heetbeet2 years 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.
SgtHawk2 years 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)  SgtHawk2 years 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!"
SgtHawk2 years ago
Spectacular overall job 007. The outer wire lock to keep it together is brilliant.
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!!
donn223 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.
Brockley4 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 Brockley3 years ago
Yes it would. I was curious and tested it out on a tuna can.
rushwiz3 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)  rushwiz3 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.
fatboy073 years ago
very nice! keep it up man! :)
surf4point03 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_us4 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_us3 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!
acalacci3 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!

Javin007 (author)  acalacci3 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)  acalacci3 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?
cryophile3 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.
Javin007 (author)  walkercolt443 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!
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)  14kurbili3 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!
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