Can Stove

548,730

723

202

Build a backpacking stove out of two aluminum cans: design is strong, reliable, and extrordinarily lightweight, burns alcohol fuels, and can be made for next to no investment of money. Boil water rapidly, deploy a 'campfire' in the middle of your house, and amuse yourself, with a stove that weighs ten grams and costs nothing.

Step 1: Assemble Your Parts

You're going to need:

Two empty aluminum cans and one full one. The type matters very little, although there are some bottom-brand beer cans that are simply too thin to make a good stove; this assumes a 12 oz can although obviously the 14 oz tall cans work since I'm using one.

A single edged razor blade

Some number of thumbtacks and a nail

A piece of flue tape (ideal) or heavy gauge aluminum foil

A ruler, book, and sharpie marker

Your life will be made easier by a hammer and a pair of scissors

Step 2: Mark Burner Holes

Using the Sharpie, mark the bottom of one can with 32 holes. Start with two across, then four square, eight, sixteen and finally 32; eyeballing can give good results if done carefully.

Step 3: Puncture With Thumbtacks

Go around the burner puncturing every other hole with a thumbtack, then go around again to get the rest of them. Be careful in this and other steps not to dent the can any more than necessary, handle towards the top and bottom and put pressure as evenly around as possible. The thumbtacks will bend, some of them, so you'll be going through a few.

Step 4: Add Center Drain Holes

Take the nail and pound in seven holes in the middle of the bottom in a 'daisy' pattern. These are where the fuel drains into the chamber. The full can works fine to pound in the nail but a hammer works better.

Step 5: Score a Groove

Taking the book and the razor blade, score a groove several times around the base of the can, 7/8" up.

Step 6: Cut Can and Peel Along Score

using the razor blade and scissors if desired, cut through the can near the score, and cut down towards the score at an angle. Peel the aluminium towards the score, and then along the score: it should part easily, leaving a reasonably smooth rim.

Step 7: Cut Out Bottom Section

Using your book and razor, score the second can 1 3/8" from the base, and cut and peel along the score to make the bottom of the stove.

Step 8: Cut the Middle Wall

Out of the wall of one of the cans, cut a 1 1/2" by 7" strip; this can be done by scoring and peeling but scissors work better. At least one long wall should be smoothly cut.

Step 9: Fit the Wall

Taking the middle strip, fit it to the inside of the top piece. Check the fit, making sure that the edge that contacts the top piece is entirely smooth. Tape down the bottom side of the middle strip with a piece of flue tape or crimp it down with heavy guage aluminum foil; flue tape is just heavy gauge aluminum foil with adhesive anyway, and the adhesive dissolves in alcohol so it won't be there long.

Step 10: Cut Notches in Middle Wall

Three V shaped notches in the bottom part of the middle wall, evenly placed.

Step 11: Build a Jig

Taking the cut off top of one of the cans, slide it over the bottom of the full can, getting it as tight as you can by pounding it against the table a few times. This lets you drink the full can later, and is used in the next step.

Step 12: Jig the Bottom and Join

Taking the bottom section, press it over the jig and remove. This part is tricky; lubricant would help but I confess I haven't bothered as the aluminum is just that smooth. You can get a bind but if you screw in and down then out and up without stopping you can jig it smoothly. Do NOT dent the rim at this stage; if you do, carefully smooth it on both sides with a thumbnail.

Now, put the middle piece into the top piece as before, and fit the top piece so it slides inside the bottom piece. I use a shim, made by smoothing a cut piece of can with sandpaper, to fit these pieces together. It takes practice, and is the hardest part of the project; you will really benefit from undented pieces at this stage of the game, but I've assembled some pretty sad looking pieces with a little patience. Once together, push the top down into the bottom until the middle wall engages; this often includes a 'click' noise that makes it clear that you've done the thing to the nines.

Step 13: Ignite!

You're done! Due to the double-walled construction and the integral can bottoms, the stove is much stronger than an empty aluminum can and can be expected to last years if you want it to. The best fuel is methanol, which burns blue and ignites quickly. Absolute ethanol is expensive, but denatured alcohol isn't and works well. The photos are taken with Iso-HEET isopropanol, probably 91%, which is what I had on hand; it works but burns yellow and is less efficient as the combustion continues up the sides of the pot, uselessly for heating food or water.

The stove is filled through the holes in the center, and primed by burning either a pool in the center or a little sloshed over the sides, which I find efficient. When the fuel in the chamber starts to boil, vapor rises up the side and comes out the holes, giving us our gas stove. It will burn merrily until it burns out, and with accesories you can simmer it, too; perhaps a later instructable there.

Special thanks are owed to Scott Henderson of PCTHiker and Zen Seeker of Zenstoves.net for the substantial technology behind this critter, as well as the anonymous distillers of cognac who developed it in the first place, or who are at least as far upstream as the story takes us.

The main known disadvantages of the stove are difficulty lighting in cold and windy conditions, as it doesn't carry a lot of thermal mass. A good windscreen and insulating pad would solve these problems; I have a fantasy of Jb welding a piece of aerogel to the bottom so you could fire it on ice without melting it. These stoves are favored by thruhikers, and there's just something liberating about building a 10 gram stove from dumpstered parts.

3 People Made This Project!

Recommendations

  • Toys Contest

    Toys Contest
  • First Time Author

    First Time Author
  • Big and Small Contest

    Big and Small Contest

202 Discussions

0
None
NoelM3

1 year ago

putting a filler inside helps contain spills should you drop it or knock it over. safety is always first.

Grampa

0
None
mrwonton

1 year ago

the book- razorblade thing to score the can was ingenious

0
None
christines105

2 years ago

Can you refill yours while its burning ?.

0
None

Doctors in the U.S Don't recomend that you use aluminum cans or anything aluminum to boil water but yet... we do lol.

The Oxidation of Aluminum may be linked to demontia

3 replies
0
None
MatthewK41JohnDaSurivor

Reply 2 years ago

I know i heard that somewhere, i just can't remember, but I've been using aluminum for as long as I can remember. ?

They recommend not cooking your food directly in the Aluminum can or pot, but this aluminum is not touching your food, so it is ok. As long as you’re cooking the food in a Stainless steel or cast iron can or pot, your ok.

0
None
ColinC36

2 years ago

Made this a few years ago and I drilled a hole and screwed a slotted bolt for a screwdriver or coin to undo it. works a treat.

0
None
HarryM10

2 years ago

I know this is an old thread, but search it out. I learned to make a stove from one can with just a pocket knife. Much easier and in a SHTF situation you won't be packing pins and stuff.

1 reply
0
None
JouniM1HarryM10

Reply 2 years ago

A very simple solution is enough as long as you control the air flow and fuel consumption, which is the point of having such burners and not just an open pot filled with ethanol. I have made two alternatives, one very similar to the one in this article and another from a bit sturdies can. The model is from the Swedish Trangia, where the burner is open in the middle to allow filling up fuel without touching the burner and to allow lighting the burner more easily.

I made some tests with my junkyard burners against the original Mini Trangia. The text is in Finnish, but the images and charts tell the story.

http://gamma.nic.fi/~citybear/keitin/tenu.html

0
None
ValeryS3

2 years ago

oh.. Forgot to mention, it is self heating ))) need only energy to start, then works just by adding some chopped wood ;o)

0
None
ValeryS3

2 years ago

oh.. Forgot to mention, it is self heating ))) need only energy to start, then works just by adding some chopped wood ;o)

0
None
ValeryS3

2 years ago

I've made a mini wood gasolator from 3 empty conservation cans, and it works perfectly!

0
None
ValeryS3

2 years ago

I've made a mini wood gasolator from 3 empty conservation cans, and it works perfectly!

0
None
ValeryS3

2 years ago

What if .. using a gasoline ??? smell doesn't matter.. temperature matters ;o) have you tried?

0
None
ValeryS3

2 years ago

Well, I have seen dozens of such projects and made quite a few.. but never thought about a double wall... may be interesting to try. I will.

0
None
dosserj

2 years ago

The middle wall- I get a bit confused about the "top" and "bottom." Is that the top of the finished piece? The notches- are they just to allow the alcohol to flow to the outside? Thanks!

0
None
Billster36

2 years ago

how long will this burn without refueling?

0
None
lime3D

3 years ago on Introduction

You lost me with the jig. What is this step for? Is it just to expand the bottom/outer piece?

1 reply
0
None
eng_Andylime3D

Reply 3 years ago

Yes, this is to stretch the rim of the outer piece and make it easier to fit the inner piece into it. Putting that top section over a full can seems like a wasted step to me, and I just did this by pushing my outer can-bottom with one hand onto the bottom of a full can held with my other hand, with a slight swirling motion to help work it in against the air pressure.