These are known by a few different names (Billy, Thermette, BackCountry Boiler, storm kettle, volcano kettle, Kelly Kettle, or Bush kettle) depending on your locale. They all work on basically the same principle of a water jacket around a wood fire to boil the water.
The commercially available varieties are quite expensive however, and when I spotted an old broken electric jug in my favorite local dumpster, I had to have a go at making one.
The process I used involves fabricating a cone out of the same material as the donor jug, and welding it in place, making a donut of sorts.
I've seen copper, aluminum, and stainless wood-fired kettles, this one is stainless steel, and to my knowledge is the first of its kind with transparent viewing windows in the sides.
- donor electric or stove top jug
- donor thermos (optional)
- sheet metal the same as your jug
- fork (optional)
- welding setup
- Dremel tool
- drill & bits
- angle grinder
Step 1: Gut the Jug
Step 2: Cut Some Circles
Step 3: The Cone of Shame
I'll bet you could salvage a decent one of these from either the inside or outside of an old thermos if you had one.
Step 4: Weld It Up
I probably could have gotten away with using the original jug handle, but opted instead to use an old stainless fork I found in the A/C ductwork of my VW. I bent it to the shape I wanted, it really wasn't keen to get welded to the jug, but I got there in the end, albeit a little ugly.
Note: you will probably find, as I did, that there are some holes in the top of the jug near the handle. Don't weld these up or you won't be able to pour the water out of your jug, and you'll have to drill them out again and feel a bit like an idiot, as I did.
Step 5: Fire It Up
Unfortunately the graduations on the windows are no longer accurate, but the jug can still hold about 1.25 liters of water. Also the fork handle stays cool enough to hold even after the jug has been boiling for some time.
I'm sure this will be a welcome addition to any future car camping trips in my VW camper!