Side Burner Can Stove

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Picture of Side Burner Can Stove
01Can Stove.jpg
This is a side burner aluminum can stove. It combines several different designs I've seen online, with a couple touches of my own. I own several commercial backpacking stoves; the one I'll show you in this tutorial weighs significantly less than all of them. Anyone who has gone on an overnight camping trip knows that saving weight is crucial to being able to hike or ride comfortably. This stove is very lightweight, usually weighing less than 15 grams, even with tape. The wide mouth makes filling this stove with fuel much easier than a conventional penny stove. The side burners make it so that this stove doesn't need a stand, after the unit has "heated up", the pot can be set directly on the stove's top. The larger version of the stove made with Fosters cans comes out to about 25 grams.

I actually carry two of these with me so I can cook two things at once, which is great for cooking actual meals. The set that I use consists of a larger higher output stove paired with a smaller lower output stove. I have found that this combination is good for making full meals. I can boil a pot of water, while heating something else up at the same time. The stove set is about 37 grams total, making it incredibly lightweight. I carry fuel in a separate container for both stoves and only pour the amount I need.

Be careful when making and using this tool, always be safe when dealing with fire.

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Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials
can stove templates.jpg
These are the tools and materials needed to complete this project.

T-Pin or Thumbtack
Xacto Knife
Hemostats (optional)
Utility Knife
Steel Wool
Loose Blade
Scrap Wood (1.5" thick)

Aluminum Cans! (2 or 3)
Aluminum or Copper Tape
You should post instructables on your other types of can stoves.
charlieCG (author)  ethanross7175 days ago

Do you mean the larger sizes, or a different style stove? I'm open to suggestions.


smortensen1 month ago
Would this stove work with a gel based fuel? A buddy and I were throwing around the idea of an ethanol fuel mixed with sand to a damp consistency. I know it works with some other types if can stoves I've seen, but I'm unsure if it would work for this one...
wunnspeed2 months ago

You were right about putting the two together to be the most difficult part... mostly. I got it to light and it finally warmed up enough that most of the jets ignited but the second I put the pot on the whole thing went out. I tried waiting a bit longer but that didn't seem to help either. I'm actually using Isopropyl because that's what I can get here in Germany. Could that be the problem? I've tried a couple of other types of stoves and none of them have worked either using the same 'fuel'.

A question... on the inner 'sleeve', are the holes on the bottom (where I put them) or at the top? Would a vent hole or slot on the rim help or no?

charlieCG (author)  wunnspeed2 months ago

Isopropyl will work, but not very well. Ethanol fuels are best, and methanol is the next best choice. The best fuel you can get hold of is essentially pure ethanol, or lab grade alcohol (200 proof, has the highest calorie:volume ratio). Denatured Alcohol is pretty much ethanol which has been processed so it cannot be consumed. Not too sure about fuel sources in Deutschland, but look for ethanol based fuels. Local hardware stores most likely have some kind of "denatured alcohol"

The holes should be at the bottom, close to the ground as possible, so that fuel can flow into the wall when the stove is sitting upright.

Ethanol fuels will burn MUCH hotter, and MUCH cleaner than Isopropyl.

Hope that helps

Thanks Charlie for the quick answer. We're in the process of moving to Switzerland so I'm not sure what that does to my options but I know who to ask there. Oddly, even Isopropyl alcohol can only be bought at a pharmacy so I'm guessing Ethanol is even tougher to get and more regulated.... we'll see though and thanks again.

It try the notch thing and see if it helps on mine.

charlieCG (author)  wunnspeed2 months ago

Also, I have found that adding notches around the top edge of the stove will increase the air intake and help it run better in colder weather. So yes, adding notches or slots at the top CAN improve the stoves performance, especially if you are having problems with it "choking out"


morgano3 months ago
I just built two of these and tested them outdoors. Mine took a lot longer to heat up and ignite the side burners (like 5 minutes). Once the side burners ignited, the flame burned very yellow and with low pressure. I think it's not really heating up and pressurizing correctly, because the temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit outside today. For those of you with more penny stove experience, is there an optimal temperature range for these?

Also, what would you consider to be the minimum fuel fill? The instructions for this 'ible just say "fill the stove with fuel." I found that there is not an easy way to empty the extra fuel back out, because it pours out all of the side vents.

This was a fun build with great instructions, and it came together as expected. I'm pleased with the result, but it's not performing as expected for me. Any tips would be great.
normad morgano2 months ago

I know exactly what you mean. I did an overnight on the AT last weekend, and temperatures at camp were somewhere between 6-20F. It was VERY difficult to use the alcohol stove. Why? Well, when you light an alcohol stove, it's not actually the alcohol that burns, its the vapor that burns. At low temperatures, its much harder for the alcohol to vaporize, but it can be done. It just takes much more effort. The warmer the fuel, the easier it is to light. I've heard mention of holding the match close the the liquid alcohol long enough to warm a little bit of it to the point of vaporization, at which point it should ignite. I tried this and it took me 3 or 4 matches before I got a flame. Annoying! Other people like to keep their fuel and/or stove warm by keeping it in their sleeping bag or close to their body prior to lighting. More on this here:

I've also found that it takes much longer for the stove to prime due to the amount of time it takes the alcohol and stove body to warm up enough to burn efficiently. I thought I'd be smart and bring a propane/isobutane/butane mix fuel canister and a stove as a back up. I got tired of fooling with the alcohol and fired the stove up only to find its performance was equally dismal and perhaps worse than the alcohol. I read that gas doesn't perform well under 20F due to the 3 gases vaporizing at different temperatures. Basically, you may only be cookin' with one of the gases in the can rather than all 3. Below that, its time to consider switching to a liquid fuel stove. More here:

I hope this helps!

charlieCG (author)  normad2 months ago

Pretty much all stoves have problems with freezing temperatures. This is because pretty much all fuels burn in their gaseous state. If you can get the fuel warm enough to get the stove hot enough was it enough to sustain itself? Blowing on the stove, even after it has a small flame, will increase the 02 and get it up to heat faster. Try a white gas stove if your hiking or riding in high altitude and/or freezing weather.

Thanks for posting this, ill be adding some edits later about freezing weather.


normad charlieCG2 months ago

To answer your question, yes, once you get it going, its pretty much going! It heats up enough to sustain itself. The only problem I've had was when it was probably 15F and I put the pot on top of the stove, the stove was competing with the ambient temperature, therefor it had a hard time staying warm. It went out a time or two, but a relight and 10-15 more seconds of letting it burn solves that problem. Even when the stove is lit and raging, in those temperatures, its extremely difficult to get water to boil because the stove's flames are competing with the temperature of the near freezing water and the pot's exposed sides.

I think turning to a solution, whether it be home made or store bought, such as the Caldera Cone System (see photo below) would drastically improve the alcohol stove's performance in below freezing conditions. It allows for maximum heat retention and distribution.

charlieCG (author)  normad2 months ago

A wind screen might have pretty much the same effect if its wrapped closely enough to the bottom of the pot. I made a wind screen from a fosters can that works pretty well. If two cans were used, you could create something very similar to the system you showed in the picture.

Ignore the "snuffer" on the stove.


marcellahella3 months ago
Wow this is cool! Voted!
morgano3 months ago
I was using HEET, since that's all I had on hand. I guess I never considered that it would be the problem. I'll pick up some denatured alcohol and try again. Thanks.
morgano3 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
charlieCG (author)  morgano3 months ago
If both of your stoves are having the exact same problem, then the common denominator is the fuel. Thats my bet.

charlieCG (author)  morgano3 months ago
What are you using for fuel? Denatured Alcohol should burn blue.If it burns a little orange it usually means something else has gotten mixed into it. It sounds like you have a fuel issue. If its not the fuel, check your burner holes and make sure they are open, (if the cans pushed too far together they can get covered up)

I usually fill it about 1/4 - 2/3rds of the way full. Depending on how much water i'm heating, or how much food i'm cooking. The more fuel, the longer it will take for the burners to get started (because a larger volume of fuel must be heated).

If I finish with extra fuel, I usually tip the stove on its side and empty it through the burner holes at the bottom. This is made much easier if your fuel container has a wide mouth.

Let me know how it goes

ayoungbird4 months ago
nice work you took this idea from crazy Russian hacker on you tube people like you should be ashamed because all you did was add a few things not cool man
charlieCG (author)  ayoungbird4 months ago
I published this instructable to show my way making these stoves.

I just watched CrazyRussianHacker's version, i'm not really very impressed. I will admit they are very similar, but they are not the same. BTW, people have been making stoves like this far longer than CrazyRussianHacker or I have. I first saw a "penny stove" in a copy of an primitive camping magazine nearly a decade ago.

I hope you didn't create an account just to leave that comment.


charlieCG (author)  ayoungbird4 months ago
You mean this I'm assuming?
charlieCG (author)  ayoungbird4 months ago
I can find about 100 versions of stoves extremely similar to this one. Like I said in the second sentence of this instructable. Link the one your talking about, i'm interested to see it.

anyuferrari4 months ago
That's awesome! I loved it because in my country those stoves are pretty expensive, and i don't own one... what kind of fuel do you use?
anyuferrari, As CharlieCG said, Denatured Alcohol. Though, the more expensive version is Gasoline line anti-freeze (seen here on Instructables, under the label of HEET. Sometimes called Dry-Gas).. But I've seen some places charge as much for a 32-Oz can of Denatured Alcohol at the Paint supply store, as they would for the 12-Oz. bottle of Dry-Gas at the auto-supply.) I've even seen camping supply places charge far more, than the paint-supply places. (and it's actually the same stuff, just re-labeled.)

One note, NEVER use gasoline! Yes, it will work, but you're more than likely to end-up with melted aluminum, if not a lot more soot.. Likewise, Never use oils like #2 Fuel or Diesel. again, yes, it would work (might take time getting it started), but the end-result, more soot, and even melted aluminum.

CharlieCG, Just noticed, in one of the photos you posted, there is a single-can version, in , which still has the entire center plate (minus the pull-tab).. the version I made, has that entire plate removed, not just the pouring hole.

I've tried the freezing method to expand on the can.. Another method, someone suggested filling a 2nd can with something semi-solid (sand, water, etc.) and gently tapping the can into the bottom section.. This works about the same as the above mentioned, who kept having the can split. One other idea, which helps in inserting the upper piece, when you cut the strip for the inside, save the left-over piece, and use it as a shim to slip the upper section in. (use the shim like a shoe-horn, to slip the edge past the bottom edge.)
charlieCG (author)  Gelfling64 months ago
The shim is a great idea ill have to try that out next time I make some stoves.

I buy my denatured alcohol at Walmart, its about 7 or 8 bucks for a quart.

charlieCG (author)  anyuferrari4 months ago
Denatured Alcohol.

I'm not sure if i didn't read avobe or if you edited ti later. Anyway thank you very much!
asharbini14 months ago
if the aluminum can won't melt of fuel fire, then how did the WTC melt and collapsed of jet fuel?
Same reason you can melt steel with charcoal in a blast furnace, but not by setting a lump of charcoal on a plate of steel.
When I built my single-can version, I put the stone into a Sterno fold-up stove, and then put the plate from the top of the can on top of the stove.. Roughly 1.5-inches above the can stove... Within 5 seconds, the thin aluminum plate melted, and fell into the can stove below. (imagine seeing a dragon breathing fire for 2 seconds in a movie?) Yes, the flame outside the can can get VERY hot.. the side jets act as a kind of catalyst as well as the inner sleeve. as the top section warms-up you get more vapor produced by the alcohol liquid. get it hot enough, it will boil up inside the can. (but, as it hits the hot sides of the can, the bubbles burst instantly.. more vapor, less boil-over. This is why you should never use gasoline or oils.. they do have a higher surface tension, and will hold those bubbles far longer.)
rpotts24 months ago
what I've found (after crushing so many frikking cans during the cutting process) is that you can freeze water inside the can as a way to support the aluminum while you cut it. then with the can well scored, just run hot tap water over it till the ice is melted.enough to flex the score line. Pops right open every time.
Dengler rpotts24 months ago
I just taped a sharpie marker in place of the blade and drew a line around the can and then cut along the line with ordinary scissors. Worked great! I have made one can versions in the past just eyeballing that cut line while cutting and its not always been perfect and doesn't seem to need to be, I like this simple way of making it perfect though. Thanks!
dimm0k rpotts24 months ago
sounds like a neat idea freezing the can! I've made one of these previously, but the aluminum are so weak I went through a bunch of cans before getting a decent working one. now with this little tip and the steps from charlieCG I should be good to go. thanks!
charlieCG (author)  dimm0k4 months ago
Glad you liked it! Hope it goes well.

charlieCG (author)  rpotts24 months ago
Good Trick!

Thanks for sharing!
ntense994 months ago
Wow this is really awesome! I have actually been experimenting with burning waste motor oil in cut down soda cans - DONT WORRY, just a small scale flame, nothing huge! but this is really great looking to control the flame through the holes! I think I will try this out to see what effect it has on waste motor oil or waste vegetable oil! Of course, the burning is done in a controlled environment with all fumes carefully controlled safely.
mashj504 months ago
I'm curious to know if anyone has a design that can work with kerosene ? or even if this one can ??
Generally not,
you can make other things that will work, and there are people that make truly incredible stuff I would say is too dangerous. Like a glass bottle version of a copper tube alky burner that uses white gas. That one makes my skin crawl.

remember there is thermal feedback and if the burner gets too hot it can rupture of melt. I pulled droplets of aluminum out a camp stove my kid brought back from camping with scouts, aluminum droplets.

do go to zenstovesDOTnet read the entire site. Skip no pages. These are simple devices. They are "che figo" very cool.

After making a bunch and buy some, some designs are better then others but the best and the least best as water boilers are separated by a few minutes in the boil times. I tried 2 homemades and Swedish brass Army Surplus burners. They were all withing a minute or so of each other in speed. Some designs use fuel better. This does matter to hikers/back packers.

General rule of thumb is for less then a week for solo hikers use Alky, for more then a week use something else. Don't be upset by boil times....if you are back packing you plan to stop , you set up the stove for water , get the tent up, come back what else does one do in the woods? You enjoy being there, 4 minutes or 6 minutes who cares. Enjoy the moment. If you will need lots of heat,(number of people) or speed (due to bad weather) obviously you bring a different stove,(s).

If you hike or camp and you drink tea, get a plastic powder drink container put in enough water and tea bags as needed.let sit in back pack, or in tent, or in car. In a few hours you will have non bitter perfect tea. When you reheat it , yes just put in a pot and bring to sipping temperature, say 120 degrees. SAve your fuel, same can be done for breakfast tea. Over night, steep bags and water in a lidded pot, just reheat. That is how I make iced tea.

bravissimo charlieCG.
gkern4 months ago
Love this design can make it almost anywere with little or no tools, with materials that can be found in any garbage can. Works great and weights next to nothing, running on cheap easily acsesable fuel. Eligant eminantly practicle design,
k_mart_shoppr4 months ago
First of all, this is a fantastic Instructable. One of those "Well Obviously I Have To Make This Now" designs.

Can you explain what the function of the inside wall is? I've made and used this design ( which didn't require an inner wall. In that design, cutting the two can walls to equal heights provides more than enough in the way of support.

I'm assuming there must be something about the pinhole design that makes the inner wall a requirement. But since the other stove design pressurizes without any issues, I can't work out what that might be. Can you help?
charlieCG (author)  k_mart_shoppr4 months ago
Thank you very much!

Without the inside wall, I don't think the jets wouldn't be able to work (especially without the pot covering the fill hole). I've taken some physics and whatnot, but I can only intuitively make a guess as to why. Basically(my best guess), the heat creates a small area of higher pressure inside of the wall. This pushes alcohol vapor out of the "burner holes" which ignites. I think this is why the stove needs a minute to heat up before being covered.

Thats what I think anyway. I think I may try a little experiment this weekend.

Thanks for the support!

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