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Ultra-simple, improvised camping stove

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The simplest ideas are usually the best eh?

I have been experimenting with various designs of improvised camping stove for some time now. They have varied from a simple open cup of burning fuel to highly intricate vapour pressure devices that take hours to build.

This is my latest favourite, it is a combination of two established types of stove. A chimney stove and a low pressure side-burner. It takes about three minutes to make and so can be constructed as and when you want to use it.

This design also has the advantage that it will run on pretty much any flammable liquid you put in it. I have used methylated spirits, rubbing alcohol, xylene, white spirit and petrol.

This brings up an important safety issue though, anything other than an alcohol type fuel is inherantly a lot more dangerous. Pure hydrocarbon fuels like xylene and petrol are toxic, dirty (they make a real mess of your pan!), smelly, potentially explosive and can't be put out using water. An alcohol fire can be extinguished by upending your pot of water over it if things get out of control (don't believe me? Try it.)

For more info on improvised stoves have a look at the site that inspired me to try experimenting: zenstoves
 
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do you think I could use a big can, you know, the ones that have grapefruit in them sometimes, but use wood fuel instead? Because I doubt my fussy mum would trust me with flammable substances :D
google wood gas stoves
instiger2 years ago
hey fellow instructables,
nice idea almost every stove builder is trying.
BUT:Don't want to disappoint those who like the simplicity of this design, but this one is REALLY DANGEROUS ! It can harm you and your surrounding because of the complexity of diameter of the holes and heat output which is uncontrolable. In field testing hobo and alcohol stoves for more than 30 years we found out that the cans may collapse without warning due to too high temps causing spilling, spitting and dragonfire like effect having burning splashes several feet around the fire place leading to severe burnings, injuries and even death if fire is not extinguishable (plastic, oil etc.)

Please do check out all the noticeable sites with proven designs and security advices. Keep on instructing, folks!
Tim Temple2 years ago
A little too ultrasimple...
The thin aluminum's survival depends upon the boiling alcohol. That means a critical moment occurs when all the alcohol has vaporized but is still burning. Crash!
mkslocomb2 years ago
If you're concerned about crushing the can when punching holes in it (and you've actually got your workshop), just fill it with water and freeze. Punch the holes while it is still hard frozen.... ta-dah... also, although it may be wobbly, 4 empty soda cans can support the weight of a car (if it is settled on them properly and there are no dents in the cans). Awesome ible... I will definitely be trying this one soon.
xfrancisx5 years ago
so I tried out a stove using this design tonight and it worked well. i realized that i needed to let the alcohol burn for 30 seconds to a minute to get a good flame. now that i've been successful at making a cup of tea on a humid massachusetts night any ideas for things i could cook on this stove? soup? rice? id love some feedback with what works and what doesn't.
check out Backpack Gourmet. It has a whole bunch of recipes for traveling light. FYI, you need to dehydrate them but all you need is water on the trail! Happy camping.
Mammad2 years ago
thanks a lot!!
can i use nailpolish remover as fuel?
ohhhhh yes. its acetone which is as flammable as methanol. problem is, its more expensive. i can get 4L of methanol (1 gal) for $13-14 at my diy and it lasts me a month.
silver3624 years ago
would energy drinks (red bull etc) work too because caffeine is flammable
or would it burn out too fast
Is Energy Drinks Flammable?

dunno thats what im askin
Nope, energy drinks aren't flammable, caffeine isn't flammable either - not sure where you got that from?! You might be thinking of using high alcohol content drinks, which can be flammable. Think of a liquor over 40-50% alcohol and that should work; but it is far cheaper to just burn meths or petrol.
 well, one can of red bull contains like 80mg of caffeine. So I guess it won't (:
And btw, is caffeine even flamable? :)
R22 Harmful if swalowed
S2 keap out of reach of children
So it isn't  flamable
this is a great stove if i make a few of theese i should be able to make a good
grill
woody5583 years ago
this almost burned down my house

BE CAREFUL!!!!
Would it be possible to move the holes on the bottom up another inch without compromising functionality? If so, it would greatly increase the fuel capacity enough to also house a media to help hold it as others have mentioned. Great build though!
TarzanJr4 years ago
The 12 ounce energy drink cans heat faster cause it focuses the heat toa more concentrated area plus the flames need more oxygen so the tallcan give more room for oxygen to enter the can and the smoke or whateveremition comes from the fuel out.
the energy drink cans where im from are quite small, and still im pretty sure size wouldn't draw in more oxygen i think the size of the holes would affect that, a lrager can would hold more oxygen if that is what you meant
osmonde5 years ago
another idea would be to make one out of an aluminum can, it doesnt have the slanted top but it would be way stronger so you could have a heavier load and be more heat resistant so you dont have to worry as much about it getting soft or melting
VanWinn5 years ago
I made a stove similar to this and was having trouble getting the stove to produce a strong flame. The reason was because not enough heat was staying with the stove to keep the denatured alcohol vaporized. I solved this problem by adding 2 copper "heat Pipes" to the top of the stove. I got some 1/8 copper tubing measured it and bent it into a "U" shape. I then drilled 2 properly spaced holes and inserted the copper tubing (open side down) into the top of the stove. The pipes should be just short of the bottom of the stove. This made a HUGE difference! I could now here the alcohol boiling in the can.
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stinkwheel (author)  DELETED_dmdeford5 years ago
I find making the holes a little bigger sometimes helps. Try this as a first step. I was cooking on one just this weekend using a heineken lager tin and 95% ethanol (in addition to a "Penny stove" which is more fuel efficient but more fiddly to make). I found that both stoves were struggling to stay lit when I used it on a cold metal surface (on top of an unlit wood burning stove in a mountain bothy). I insulated them underneath using a bit of cardboard and they stayed lit much more readily. I think it needs to heat the fuel in the bottom a little to keep enough vapour circulating, once the heat is sufficient, the process is self-sustaining. It would make sense that isopropyl alcohol would need more heat initially as it has a higher flash point. I sometimes find that blowing the stove out then relighting it about 10-20 seconds later does the trick too. Just be careful because the residual vapour can go up with quite a woosh. In cold conditions and on a cold surface, you could also try 'priming' it slightly by putting a few drops of fuel on a flameproof surface under the stove and lighting those first. Three or four drops is sufficient for most alcohol stoves I've used. In fact, all the alcohol stove designs I've tried benefit from priming in this way under very cold conditions, even the open burner type.
This design works really well. I tried it and put it on youtube, it's the second one:

This stove looks good sitting on top of the can but can you put a can or something you are heating up on the stove? Why is is so dented?
stinkwheel (author)  phoenixjen5 years ago
If you watch the video to the end, you'll see a can of water being boiled on it. The dents are presumably from where the holes were punched through it. If you want to avoid this, use something good and sharp to punch the holes. A few dents here and there doesn't seem to upset the functionality but I suspect if there were to many it would make the can more prone to collapsing under a load.
and what was your fuel for both cans?
where or how did u make that pot stand and the stand for the stove?
bylerfamily5 years ago
Would 91% rubbing alcohol work in this stove?
davidp6 years ago
That's a great idea. I'm going to try it myself. Would an 8-ounce drink can work as well (don't know the metric equivalent)? Seems it would be more stable, not being as tall. Just a thought.
Yes it would work.
david_5 years ago
Do you fill the can with anything other than fuel (alcohol) ie an absorbant material? I know many commercial and home-build designs use something like this to both extend burn time and avoid that flash-back you talk about. I believe I have seen kitty litter being used. I guess it doesn't burn. I think i have also seen plaster of paris being used since it can be poured in wet and when dry absorbs the alcohol very well and will not burn.
You should try fiber glass!! it works great. you can find some in your attic or basement.
stinkwheel (author)  david_5 years ago
I think it would probably work but I also suspect it would reduce the fuel capacity to below what I'd consider a useful quantity (ie, enought to boil about a mug of water). Any absorbent material would have to come to just below the lower ring of holes. I'll maybe give it a try next time.
This is a great project and looks reli cool, but can I ask, whats wrong with a good old fashioned campfire :D
stinkwheel (author)  The Real Dave5 years ago
Nothing at all wrong with a campfire. However, they take time to light, are often not allowed during brushfire season, on official campsites or are for some other reason inpractical. I used one this weekend when firewood was in short supply. I landed up walking in to a bothy (a building in a remote place maintained by a charity for use by anyone) when my motorbike got stuck in snow. There was very little by way of dry wood to be found so I carried a bottle of meths in with me. I then used the stove to make myself and my two companions hot drinks and a hot meal leaving the firewood to heat the building. That way the wood lasted all night. For reference this one used a 500ml steel beer can (John Smiths Bitter). Indoors on a concrete floor I fried sixteen rashers of bacon on 50ml of meths.
Hawk205 years ago
I have followed alcohol stove designs for years and never found one worth the time to try. Finally an elegantly simple design that works. Thanks!
woody5585 years ago
one idea is to use a hole puncher to make the holes
woody5585 years ago
This stove doesn't work very well. Te pot ALWAYS smuthers the fire.
My favorite stove is this one:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Cool-Little-Miniature-Stove!/
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