Priming Wick for Alcohol Stove [and Pot Stand]




Priming Wick Made from Household Materials

An alternative to using a priming pan or a fibreglass wick wrap on your drinks can stove.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

You will need...

Needle-nose pliers with wire cutters (or Leatherman)
1 bolt, 5 or 6mm diameter (I used M6)

Thin, bendable wire like snare wire
Loft insulation

A tent peg or bicycle spoke is handy too!

Step 2: Make the Outer Wire Coil

Wind the wire around the bolt to make a coil or spring.
Keep the wire exactly in the threads of the bolt.
You will need around 50-60 turns, nice and even and fairly tight.
You can used pliers, vice grips or two nuts to hold the end of the wire, to get you started.

When you have wound enough, snip off the excess, leaving about 3cm spare on each end.

Step 3: Stretch to Size

Unscrew the bolt from the coil.
Stretch out the coil to length - as evenly as possible.
The length should be half the circumference of your stove.

Step 4: Pack With Loft Insulation

Twist up small, tight wads of loft insulation, and screw them clockwise into the wire coil.
Use the tent peg (or similar poking tool) to compact the insulation.
Pack the wick firmly and evenly.

What do you mean it looks a mess?

Step 5: Neaten

Roll the wick with your flat hand, on something like an old towel.
It's like rolling a "snake" out of modelling clay!
Also roll it between your palms.

This will even out the wick filling, and smooth out all the stray fibres.
Compact the ends again with the tent peg.
There, much neater!

(The wick will get even neater after a couple of burns.)

Step 6: Finish the Ends

Bend the wire ends as shown, to keep the insulation in and to create hooks for the handle.
It is best if the ends are under the coil as shown, or they will glow red hot when the wick is alight.

Even better...
is to tuck the ends down inside the wick, leaving loops to attach the handle.

Step 7: Add the Handle

The handle is a length of wire with small hooked ends to hold the wick.
The grip is a double loop made around a marker pen or similar, with 2 or 3 twists to secure it.

The wick has tension like a spring;
make the handle length to hold the wick just tight enough, so that it does not slide down the stove.

The grip is also useful for adjusting the position of a burning stove under a pot.
It does not get fully hot, so you should not burn your fingers!

Step 8: How to Use

Fill your stove with the required amount of alcohol fuel ...

Stretch the wick over the stove.
Soak the wick with alcohol fuel.
Light it!

You know that the wick will boil and vaporize the stove fuel, then ignite the jets, before burning itself out.

I put 2-3ml onto the wick with a syringe; this seems to be the perfect amount.

You could always dip the wick into the fuel before stretching it over the stove.
It is still safer and less messy than using a priming pan.

The wick does not need to be all the way around the stove, or much thicker than this.
It holds plenty of fuel to get your average drinks can stove up and running!

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Pot Stand

Here, the whole setup is shown with priming wick, pot stand - and UK penny!

The pot stand is made of 2 bicycle spokes, bent to hold the pot 30mm above the highest jets of the stove.

The pot stand clamp is a clamp from a bicycle mudguard (fender) support;
basically a bolt with a hole drilled through it.
I added 2 washers and a wing-nut. You could just drill a hole through a bolt and add a nut.
It is much firmer than the usual way of wrapping with wire.



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    21 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like this, I have been looking at these pop can stoves lately with an eye to survival in a hobo type situation. I like the neatness of your ignitor, but I'm thinking that it will quadruple the cost and complexity of your stove. cans are found everywhere, but wire and insulation not so much.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    There you have it, What do you think? I had used a guitar string for the wire since i was out of snare wire and it seems to work really well. This will impress my scouts for sure.

    Great DIY and definitely and AWESOME idea.


    Go to a hardware store and buy a spring and load the insulation into the spring. This saves time and you can adjust the spring for tension of the can.

    Tom C


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I have not tried a manufactured spring yet. The wire is very cheap and probably something a lot of Instructables Members would have handy. I was going to experiment with different sizes of these wicks for a simmering wick stove. Thanks, suggestions always welcome!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good thought! I wish I'd had this sooner. As I write this, the electricity has only back on an hour at my house, after being out for a week from Hurricane Irene. I've used my stove to make coffee and noodles all week. I stood up better than 90% of the people I know, and did without the longest! The "tinkers" may not be the only ones to inherit the Earth, but will be able to make use of the leftovers!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Mulled over this one for a while, loving the idea of the spring held fiberglass batting material, but was worried about the spring hanging up on something and being pulled out of form.

    I've solved this by creating my spring, running a length of wire through the spring to tie around the entire circumferance of the can and then stuffing in the fiberglass. Still use the twisted loop on the opposite side of the can for removal and retightening.

    Works great and have gotten over my anxiety about pulling the stove from my kit only to find a knotted clump of wire with fiberglass hanging out. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Sounds good! Glad you got some use from this. I have been toying with the idea of an all-in-one stove, with a wick of this type attached around a stand under the pot, which might be a heine or normal beer can. Will need a reservoir maybe... Keep up the good work!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Since I do not know, at all, I thought I would ask this question:

    Will burning the wick ever consume it or does the fiber glass remain somewhat cool because only the alcohol's vapors burn?

    I had a thought while reading this ible that if you were to make your coil around a piece of threaded tubing (the kind used for the center of a lamp) you could pack a little fiber glass into the coil through the tubing, unscrew the coil a little and pack some more glass, etc. I thought it might be a little more rigid while you are working and might be less-likely to deform the coil while you are packing it.

    Just my $.02.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    So far, the wicks do not burn away at all (or build up much residue from the fuel). So the answer to your question is yes, the fibre stays below its burning temp. Thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions, well appreciated!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice, concise and easy to follow. Thanks. I build and make alkies and aluminum can pots. A few of your ideas will be headed to the patio this afternoon.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Every step shows a clever solution with excellent photography. Great job.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    but i *do* have one suggestion. use a mild steel rod like making coil for maille links. you can get them at any major diy for pretty damn cheap. its better then a bolt cus you dont have to unscrew the coil from it. if the concern is about no gaps in the winding? just spread the coil in a few places and use those to touch off the primer fluid.

    spark master

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have made several pepsi g's and large versions of the thing (used huge iced tea cans). If you do not want to wrap fiberglass wick on the can (tinny at this is really nice I will be making at least one of these.

    great idea, premade spring might in the end loose it sproing tension but shout be fabulous as well.