When it comes to camping, backpacking, and hiking, I generally follow the same rules most die-hard outdoorspeople do: Travel light! This means that you don't necessarily want to carry a bunch of excess baggage around, true, but we are going to talk about an item that weighs little, stows easily, and is a great help in many situations. The tin can stove, or 'Hobo Stove', is an appliance that I first learned to make when in the Boy Scouts. There are several different types and patterns (and also several different size cans to use), but I like this one because of its versatility. It can be used with a candle, a small fire, or a jet stove (which we will talk about at a later time).
**PLEASE TAKE NOTE: This item is designed to be used with FIRE. Fire is VERY DANGEROUS when not used properly. Misuse of this device can result in accidents and injury, and possibly even wildfires or house fires! Children should not be allowed to play with this item, nor should they use it without adult supervision. The aforementioned adults should have enough mechanical ability, experience, and good sense to build and use this device without causing harm, harming themselves, causing property damage, or dying. If you have never done anything like this before, in the name of all that is Holy, please seek out an experienced person to help/teach you how!
Step 1: Parts to Gather. . .
The parts are simple: I used two cans, one capable of fitting completely in the other (the cans I used here are 3 1/2" diameter x 5 1/2" tall, and 3" diameter x 4 1/2" tall), and a coathanger. A tea light candle is also shown, but I will explain later why there are better ideas to use. As far as tools, all I used were a rotary tool, drill, and linesman's pliers. Oh! And always remember your eye protection!
**Note that both cans have been opened with a safety can opener, so the lids may be placed back on the cans**
Step 2: Marking and Drilling. . .
At this point, you are going to take the large can and make 12 dots on it with a marker to show you where to drill. The door will be marked at its corners: The bottom dots will be right at the bottom of the can wall, 2 1/2 inches apart, with the top corners marked 1 1/2 inches above that.
The other dots are to mark the holes for the can supports. There will be two sets, to allow the user to adjust for different heat sources. The first set will be 1/2 inch above the top of the door, the second will be 3/4 inch below the top of the can. When the drilling is complete, the supports will be about 1 3/4 inch apart.
Step 3: Don't Forget the Cooking Can. . .
The can you will be cooking with is going to get very hot while in use, so you will need a handle to, well, handle it. Drill two holes 1 1/2" apart and about a half inch from the top of the can. Cut a piece of the coathanger about 12 inches long and place a lazy bend in it at the halfway point to form a handle. Bend 1/2" of both ends to a 90 degree angle with the linesman's pliers.
Step 4: Don't Forget Your Eye Protection!
Using the rotary tool, cut out two support rods for the cooking can to fit the dimensions of the large can (for the can I used, I made mine 3 3/4" long). Bend a 90 degree turn into the ends of both, as shown in the pic. Then, use the rotary tool to cut out your door, remembering to only cut out the top, bottom, and one side (you will need the other side connected to act as a hinge).
**Note that the edges of the door and the holes you drilled will be exceptionally sharp. The cutoff wheel on the rotary tool can take off the burrs from the drilled holes. I recommend a small file to take care of the door. Getting cut in the shop is no fun. Getting cut in the woods is just plain bad news!
Step 5: That's About It. . .
The only other thing I did was attach a chess piece from one of the kids' old game sets to the lid of the cooking can to use as a handle. The pic here shows the configuration to use for a tea light candle, with the cooking can set in place.
**Some notes on fuel: This design was made with tea light candles in mind, but the heat transfer is not the best. I have experimented with several different fuel types, and found many to be wanting. With a tea light, given the cooking can's height above the candle flame, I was able to bring a cup of water (8 ounces) to a gentle boil after a healthy 92 minute wait. That time can be shortened quite a bit by bringing it closer to the cooking can, using something stable and non-flammable upon which to set the candle. I have been able to boil 8 ounces of water inside of 5 minutes by building a small fire in the can bottom. This proves to be a bit tedious, as you can only use small fuel, requiring you to constantly feed the flame. The best time we achieved in testing was with an alcohol jet stove, which brought the 8 ounces to a violently rolling boil at just over 3 minutes.