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)  darman1210 months ago

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

usefulinsight made it!1 month ago

I didn't include pics of the pot holder and such.

WARNING: This stove blew up on me with first try. Luckily it was not welded together and the pressure just blew it into 2 pieces saving my body from shrapnel. I did singe all facial hair though and got one of the biggest scares of my life. I was very scared to try again because I didn't know what went wrong. Logically, if pressure built up enough to explode, one would think there's not enough vent holes. I doubled them (not shown in pic) and tried again. Now it works. These things demand a lot of respect.

I should add that at first I added paint thinner to the stove but it wouldn't light. I shook as much out as I could and then add methyl hydrate. not sure if this was actually my problem or not. For one, paint thinner is petroleum based, just like regular gasoline. For two, who knows what concoction formed when I added the methyl hydrate after. As stated,I did empty the thinner as much as shaking the stove would empty it. I'm sure there was some residual left over when I added the hydrate. So I really don't know if the stove actually needed more venting or just less operator stupidity. In one of the posters pictures, there are a certain amount of vent holes and in another picture there are double the amount. The video and pics of the working stove seem to show the stove that has less holes(by way of counting the number of output flames). So I am still a little confused as to what really went wrong but bottom line is be very careful.
Furthermore, upon rereading the posters warnings,I realized I broke 1 if not 2 of them.
For 1, I was stupid enough to stand over the stove when first lighting it. If I would have listened to warnings then I may not have had to shave the singe off of my eyebrows.
2, it's possible I didn't add enough fuel originally. Which would break posters number 2 warning which days not to attempt to light a stove that is nearly out of fuel..
I'm just trying to spell every possibility out that may have contributed to my explosion..any insight is definitely the way, awesome build man. It does work really nice and is so much lighter and smaller than what I was previously using. Thank you
Javin007 (author)  usefulinsight1 month ago

*heh heh* I'm glad you didn't loose any body parts that wouldn't grow back!
So there's a good number of places you could've had trouble.

1.) "I should add that at first I added paint thinner to the stove but it wouldn't light."

Bear in mind that not all "paint thinners" are made the same. Some are Mineral Spirits, others are Acetone, or in the worse case, some are turpentines (and now you're playing chemistry when you mix them with something else). So be absolutely sure that what you're using is "Methylated Spirits" or "Denatured Alcohol." Often it will even say "Marine Stove Fuel" on it. Its primary ingredient should be Ethanol (alcohol) with some Methanol (another, poisonous alcohol) added to "denature" it. Note that "Methylated Spirits" are NOT the same as "Mineral Spirits" (aka: "White Spirit" in the UK).

2.) "For one, paint thinner is petroleum based, just like regular gasoline."

This seems to be your primary problem. You most definitely do NOT want a petroleum based paint thinner (most likely Naptha, or Mineral Spirits). That will be very explodey, but worse still, you never quite know when it's going to go since it has a very touchy oxygen to fuel ratio.

3.) "In one of the posters pictures, there are a certain amount of vent holes and in another picture there are double the amount."

Yeah, I did numerous experiments with hole counts/sizes to see which would give the most consistent flame with the most efficient use of the fuel. The 8 larger holes (thumbtack) ended up working better than the 16 needle sized holes. They also clog less easily.

Back on the fuel, you mention using straight Methyl Hydrate. I don't know one way or the other if the off gassing from pure Methyl Hydrate is worse than the off gassing from Ethanol, but to be on the safe/disclaimer side, I would recommend using only fuels that specifically say "Marine Stove Fuel" or something along those lines.

I'm fairly certain your explosion came from the combination of the Mineral Spirits (assuming that's what you used) and the Methyl Hydrate. The Mineral Spirits are petroleum based, and come in 3 different "flammability" grades, with the most common consumer version being the least flammable. I assume it wasn't properly vaporizing before, and then having a small amount in your can and adding the Methyl Hydrate, you significantly lowered the flash point, allowing it to go boom.

Without question, avoid the "White Spirits" as they are not alcohol based. I would only feel safe using alcohol based fuels in this stove.

I just looked and the paint thinner I used was Mineral spirits. I will take your advice and use Methylated Spirits. I did try the 99.5 % pure Methyl Hydrate I had on hand but after some reading, I'm kind of scared of it now. Pretty nasty stuff. I'd much more prefer ethanol that is denatured with a smaller percentage of Methyl Hydrate.

Good to know about the holes. I assumed they were my biggest problem and therefore I doubled them for more, but after reading your reply, I realize my original hunch may have been more accurate (petroleum based fuel = explody). What I have working now seems pretty good though but maybe I'll make another with less holes again to experiment. Just won't use paint thinner this time. I think your right about why mine exploded. Especially considering yours worked with less holes. My paint thinner is mineral spirits and that = petroleum based. That just spells disaster. I feel so stupid. I hope others can learn from my mistake.

Thanks again. If I do anything else, I'll be sure to show you.

btw, here's some more pics. One of the stove packed away in my MSR alpine 2 cookset. Fits in there nice with 3 (2oz) bottles of fuel. The other is of the stove on it's own with flame in the dark.

Javin007 (author)  usefulinsight1 month ago

Sweet! That's a nice cook set! I'm actually going to be taking the stove that was made in this 'Ible camping this very weekend. It's slightly oxidized from use, and there's a little rust on the pins/rack, but other than that, it's still working as well as the day I made it (and that was 5 years ago!). So you can look forward to many years of use out of it!

And don't feel bad. I did mention that you could find the denatured alcohol "in the paint thinner section" of the store, so it's an easy mistake. At least you weren't like some other person (who will remain nameless - no, it wasn't me) who put straight-up gasoline in it and ended up with a fiery ball of OMG.

Javin007 (author)  usefulinsight1 month ago

Thanks for the pics! It's always amazing to see other people building this stove. Where are you located so I can add you to my map?

Ontario, Canada.

jef400dread8 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).

bishopfamily6 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.

keveldevel10 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)  keveldevel10 months ago

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

gorth1 year 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.
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.
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