Introduction: Tin Can Woodstove

Nothing gives you that warm feeling like making something useful from junk destined for the scrap heap. Unless it's fire. Fire gives you that warm feeling too. Now you can have both with this Tin Can Woodstove.


1 - 5 gallon metal can

1 - coffee can

1 - juice can

1 - old lawnmower handle

4 - 12" treaded rods, nuts & washers

1 - grill roasting pan

1 - 4" x 4' ducting

Step 1: Warnings, Disclaimers, Waivers of Liability

I bought this 5 gallon metal can at a college surplus sale. It was empty, bone dry, and had a big FLAMMABLE label. It probably goes without saying but please Do Not use a cutting torch on any former metal container of flammable material. Do not expose such a container to open flame, electrical sparks, or sparks from saws, angle grinders or other cutting tools. Do not taunt flammable containers. The coffee and juice cans are fair game.

Always wear gloves when cutting sheet metal and working with cut metal edges. Goggles or safety glasses are always a good idea. Do not use a tin can woodstove in an enclosed space. This is an outside appliance. This instructable shows you how I made this stove. I am not encouraging you to make this stove and waive any liability for injury or loss resulting from making a tin can stove. And as always, I hope you have as much fun making this stove as I did.

Step 2: Make the Stove Door

Most small woodstoves have a hinged door which are a pain when working with thin metal. It is hard to get a good seal, the heat warps the door. Plus the tiny hinges often melt or rust closed. So here is a solution, the Can-Door!

Cut about 2" off the top of a coffee can using tin snips or an oscillating multi-tool with a metal-cutting blade. Using pliers, bend about 1/4" of the cut end in and down to make a finished edge. Hammer the seam smooth. Next flute the edge. I taped 3 small finishing nails to the jaws of my pliers to make this dented pattern and worked around the edge in just a few minutes.

Modern coffee cans have a 1/4" lip around the top that foil is attached to before the can is opened. This flange will be screwed onto the bottom of the 5-gal can after cutting the opening. Center the coffee can flange side down on the 5-gal can bottom and trace the inside circumference of the coffee can with a marker onto the 5-gal can. I used a hammer and nail to start a hole and then the oscillating multi-tool on slow speed (no sparks) to cut the hole. Clamp the cans together and attach the Can-Door to the stove body. I used self-tapping sheet metal screws I had laying around.

Step 3: Can-Door Cap

Cut about 1" off the remaining bottom of the coffee can for a handle. Bend both long edges over and hammer smooth for a finished edge. A Hand Seamer is a handy tool to this process. Bend about 1/2" of each end back on itself and hammer smooth. Curve the handle to the diameter of the coffee can. Drill and attach the handle with bolts. Rivets aren't a good choice here as most will melt with woodstove temps. Place the Cap on the Can-Door, not too snugly to allow for expansion. Next drill 8-12 vent holes through the sides of the cap and door. Twisting the cap will control airflow, acting as a damper.

Step 4: Add a Chimney

Use a can opener to make four holes in the top of the juice can. Cut from hole to hole across the top of the can, and repeat. The bottom of the can is removed. I used pliers to pull up the four tabs.

Next cut a square hole on the side of the 5-gal can at the end opposite the door opening. I used a hammer and nail to start a hole and then an oscillating multi-tool with a metal cutting blade on slow speed. Push the juice can flanges through the hole and bend the flanges back up against the inside of the 5-gal can. I used self-tapping sheet metal screws to fasten this in place.

Step 5: This Project Has Legs

To be honest, when I started this project I had a more elegant block "S" design in mind for the legs made out of rebar. But then I spotted this old lawnmower handle in the shed and thought, "what beautiful trash." Plus the two parts are almost the same size and already had holes drilled. The stove is sandwiched between the legs with external threaded rods - no holes in the stove are necessary and the legs slip off for travel.

To keep the bottom of this tin can stove from burning through, I bought a grill roasting pan from the Dollar Store (cost $1). I had to cut it in half with tin snips to fit it through the Can-Door and then overlapped the halves inside. Finally, I added a 4 foot length of 4 inch ducting that fits snuggly in the juice can for an extended chimney.

Step 6: Fire in the Hole!

Various residues and metal coatings will burn off the first time you fire up a tin can woodstove. Be like me and do it when your neighbors are at church. Keep the cap off until the fire is roaring. This little stove heats up quickly thanks to the strong draft provided by the tall chimney. Cook a quesadilla, boil up a stew, or just enjoy that warm feeling.

Reuse Contest

Participated in the
Reuse Contest