Beverage Can Camp Stove




About: art/tech/craft hacker and member of Ace Monster Toys hackerspace in Oakland, CA

Using a couple of empty beverage cans, you can make a lightweight and functional camp stove.  Useful for survival situations, backpacking expeditions, or just impressing your pyromaniac friends!

If you are having trouble keeping the stove lit, you can make a windscreen for it as well.

Thanks to Sam for demonstrating the project for this Instructable.

"Submitted by Ace Monster Toys Hackerspace in Oakland, CA for the Instructables Sponsorship Program"

Step 1: Tools & Materials

* 2 aluminum cans
* blocks of scrap wood (one approx 3/4" thick + a few thinner ones)
* razor blade
* pushpin or two
* old Phillips screwdriver
* pliers, needle nose if you have them
* one penny
* liquid camp fuel (e.g. white gas or perhaps methanol -- isopropyl alcohol won't quite work)

Step 2: Make Beverage Can Cutting Jig

First, we want to assemble a jig for cutting the beverage cans in a straight line all the way around.  In a pinch, you can just use scissors (that you don't mind getting dull!), aviation snips, a survival knife, etc., but things are easier if you get a nice clean cut.

The jig is basically a razor blade held into place onto the top part of a block of scrap wood with push pins/screws.  You need two different thicknesses here: we used 3/4" for the burner (top) part and 1 1/8" for the body (bottom) part of the stove.  Our piece of wood was 3/4" thick, and we had a few thin bits to put under it in order to get more thickness for the second part.

Be very careful with this part, and with cutting the cans in general.  Metal can be very sharp!

Step 3: Cut the Cans

The next step is to cut the bottoms off of the two beverage cans to make the two parts of the stove.  As previously mentioned the top part of the stove (burner) is approx 3/4", while the bottom part (body) is a bit bigger than that (approx 1 1/8").

Use the jig from Step 2 (or snips etc. as previously mentioned) to carefully cut the cans cross wise. 

Use your thumbs to carefully push in the top part of the can to separate the metal where you have scored it with the razor.

After cutting the cans, burnish the sharp edges with a screwdriver, file, or just use sandpaper to sand them.

Step 4: Prepare the Burner

The smaller 3/4" tall can piece will become the stove's burner. 

Using  a pushpin, make six small holes around the perimeter of the base of the 3/4" can piece.  Having them evenly spaced is nice and improves the stove a little, but it is mostly aesthetic.  it is important for the holes to be on the side as that helps heat the outer can which then heats the fuel.

Next make the single center hole, make a pilot hole with a push pin and expand it with a screwdriver or whatever else you have to hand.  it should be about a quarter of an inch in diameter, but bigger is fine too.

next, make larger holes around the edge one under each of the first six holes.  a phillips screwdriver also works for this, but be careful not to make them too big.  It is important not to disturb the top edge of the can, as that is what will make the seal with the second can.  crimp the can edge to the inside at twelve evenly spaced points, one for each of the holes (this will also get the aluminum bits at the edge of the hole out of the way) and one in between each hole.  A nice crenelated edge results.

Step 5: Assemble the Stove

We are now ready to put the two can pieces together.  Insert the smaller burner piece into the larger body. with the bottom of the can facing upward. It is important to push the pieces together evenly.

Step 6: Prime and Light the Stove

In order for the stove to get working, it has to be primed with fuel.  The idea is that the fuel gets heated up, which produces vapor which can then be lit.

First, put the penny over the large hole in the center of the burner.

Next, pour fuel in to the little cup formed by the bottom of the can (this area is used as an approximate measure here).  Push the penny aside, which causes the fuel to drop down into the bottom cup.  Leave a small amount of fuel in the outer rim which you will light to prime the stove.

Eventually, the outside of case is heated up by the burning priming fuel, which in turn vaporizes fuel inside the bottom cup.

After priming, the jets will fire up.  The penny acts as pressure valve… (you could also use a nickel which will cause the flames to be higher, but the efficiency of the stove suffers).  Periodically, the stove will "burp" the penny to release pressure inside the stove.

At this stage, look for leaks between the jets.. if the two pieces of the stove are not sealed properly, you may have to adjust the crimped bits and/or try again.

If you have to break camp in a hurry and want to burn off the remaining fuel, quickly move the penny off of the hole (with a knife or stick or something -- be careful!) and the fuel will burn off.

If you are using this in snow, you could cut another bottom can and use it to elevate the stove higher and insulate the stove from underneath.



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    20 Discussions


    3 years ago

    thanks for sharing. i must make one one day


    You can also put hand sanitizer that contains ethanol in it as fuel, it produces ~equal heat


    5 years ago

    I fallowed your directions and starting tips but mine only burns on the to and when i get a "burp" its a huge one and then it goes out?

    1 reply

    No penny on the hole?
    The penny does not seal good enough? Maybe because of dents in the can?
    The sideholes are WAY to big?
    Also see that you have tight seals. A burn like you desribe it is not unknown to me. I had it in a few stoves... Always was a problem with air coming into the can...
    Remember: The flames heat the alcohol to a vapor. Then the vapor comes out the holes and is ignited there. As soon as the flame is able to pass inside, you get the *poof* and then it is out.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    To cover the filling-hole. If it isnt covered, the central hole would make one big fire-column like you see it in Step 6, image 5.
    With the penny in place, the vapor-pressure goes out more to the sideholes and gives a much more controlled burn.

    If you want to know more about the penny, google for "Pennystove" ;)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    In a pinch for fuel you can mix 10 parts hand sanitizer and 1 part salt together and use the clear fluid that floats to the surface it is denatured alcohol the salt removes the cleaners and non burning ingredients from the hand sanitizer


    5 years ago

    What are you using for a fuel source?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Try denatured alcohol (paints & solvents at the hardware). High proof drinking alcohol - Everclear (only good use that I know of).
    Suggestion - use a clearly marked bottle that is different than your drinking water supply. Don't use just any squirt bottle, and try it out. Denatured is a solvent.


    5 years ago

    Nice instructable. I have been messing with alcohol stoves for a while. Check out the "white box" style stove. no pot support needed, very efficient


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice. I learned how to make something quite similar before. I think i'll make one to add to my survival stuff.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    First off, nice instructable.
    A little more info:
    This kind of stove is known as a penny stove for the penny placed on top, well known in the backpacker community. Alcohol is typically used as a fuel.
    Here is some more reading and plans for different designs of similar stoves:
    The stove on italian page (second link) is temperature adjustable.
    Also, a good way to make a pot holder is out of a wire hanger (mentioned in the linked plans)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Super idea, although if you put a pan on it would it not go out? There needs to be some oxygen so that you have a flame, maybe make your outside edge wavy instead, I know I'd have trouble making it really straight. Going to get some cans asap to make this tho! ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    It depends on what you're doing and how big the pot is. Your modification sounds interesting.... Also, check out the linked Instructable "" for a windscreen/potholder for this stove.