Tin Can Camping Stove




A camping stove is a warmly welcomed addition to any camping trip. The average camping stove can cost anywhere between $10 to $200 and they all serve the same simple purpose...to heat things up. I challenged myself to design a simple wood-burning stove using only materials I had in my apartment, the result is the Tin Can Camping Stove. 

Step 1: Gather What You'll Need

Step 1. Gathering supplies

I only used materials/tools I already had in my apartment, so here is the list of what I used but I encourage you to challenge yourself, be resourceful, be creative, and use whatever materials you have on hand.

  • One large tin can (my can was an empty 1lb can of stewed tomatoes) opened/emptied/cleaned
  • 2 Wire Hangers (one preferably with added cardboard tubing as pictured )

  • Can Opener (if you've not already opened your can)
  • A Hammer
  • Snipe Nose Pliers
  • Flat Nose Pliers
  • Scissors
  • A nail or philips head screwdriver without a plastic handle
  • A towel
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Marker
  • A Freezer
  • Kindling for your stove

Step 2: Freeze That Can!

Step 2.

     Fill your can with water and stick it in the freezer, allow the water to completely freeze. This will prevent the can from being bent out of whack when you hammer out your ventilation holes.

While you're waiting for the water to freeze you can tackle Step 3.

Tip:When filling the can, leave a little head-space at the top for the water to expand into when it freezes

Step 3: Make Your Handles! (a.k.a the Trickiest Step)

Step 3.
While waiting for the can to freeze, grab your wire hangers,scissors, tape measure, snipe nosed pliers, and flat nosed pliers. It's time to cut and bend out some handles for your stove.

First, untwist your hangers (you can do this with your hands) so that you essentially have bendable wire to work with.

Second, measure out and cut a length of wire about two and a half times the height of your can. (ex. My can was 4-1/2" tall so I cut a piece of wire about 15" ) Use your snipe nosed pliers to cut the wire. Cut a second piece of wire the same length so that you have two pieces to work with (each one will make one handle)

Note: The measurements do not have to be exact, in all honesty you could probably just eyeball it, so don't stress being too meticulous here.

Third, using your flat nosed pliers bend and shape one wire into a rectangular shape, shape the wire to the size you desire your handles to be. (ex. I wanted my handles to be about 2-1/2" wide and 4" long). Repeat this for your second handle.

Fourth, measure and cut off 2 pieces of the cardboard tube, each a little shorter than the width of your handle. (ex. my handle was 2-1/2" wide so I cut off two 2" pieces of cardboard, one for each handle)

Finally, slide the cardboard piece onto your wire and twist and seal the wire with your flat nosed pliers.

you should end up with two rectangular handles, complete with cardboard grips.

Step 4: Grab Your Can! (once It's Frozen)

Step 4.
     Once your can is completely frozen (I let mine sit overnight) retrieve it from the freezer, grab a towel, hammer, and nail (or screwdriver) and get ready to pound out some ventilation holes for your stove.

First, set your can down on the towel.

Second, grab a hammer and nail (or screwdriver) and use them like a hammer and chisel to punch out ventilation holes around the bottom half of the can. The idea is to allow oxygen in through the bottom of the stove to help feed the flames. Punch out the holes in whatever pattern you desire.

Step 5: Get That Ice Out!

Step 5.
  Once you're done punching your holes, simply run the can under some hot water to melt the ice enough for it to slide out of the can.

Note:I noticed that the bottom of my can had been pushed out a bit when it was frozen, if this happens to you just hammer it back down into place after removing the ice.

Step 6: Cut That Can!

Step 6.

It's time to make the attachments for your handles.

First, mark off a 2"x2" square on the top half of the can.

Second, mark off another 2" x 2" square on the opposite side of the can.

Third, using your snipe nosed pliers and scissors cut the two vertical lines on the square, leaving the horizontal line as a mark for where you'll bend the can. You're essentially creating a flap which you will pull down, (repeat this step for the opposite side as well)

Finally, bend the flap down, toward the outside of the can, and trim off all but roughly 1" or so of the flap. (do this on both sides of the can)

Safety Note:Be very very careful when cutting and bending the can, those are some sharp edges!

Step 7: Attach Those Handles!

Step 7.
   Time to fasten those handles.

First, take one of your handles and place the non-cardboard gripped side underneath the remaining bit of flap.

Second, take your flat nosed pliers and bend the flap down and around the handle. Ideally you should be able move the hand up and down without it slipping out.  If it slips out just pop it back in and re-bend until it stays put.

Step 8: Finished!

There you have it, your very own Tin Can Camping Stove!

Now take it for a test run!

Step 9: Test Run!

To test out the stove I wanted to see how long it'd take for it to boil 3 cups of water.

The Run Down
  • Added some kindling to the stove and set it ablaze (note: Birch bark is an excellent fire-starter)
  • Let it burn for about 2 mins before setting the pot of water atop the stove
  • Added kindling as needed through the slots on top sides of the stove
The Total

15 mins to boil 3 cups of water! Not too shabby for a little stove.

Thank you kindly for checking out my instructable, best of luck if you make your own!


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    23 Discussions


    3 years ago


    Put the can in the fridge, why, why?

    Ah, the water is solid, great idea. Just made a stove using aluminum cans, they neede holes around the top, I ended up after the third try using a #54 drill. This way could have worked for me.


    3 years ago

    love the a roxet atove qouldnt have been too much more wprk but i can see how this is a faster project i dont underatand the big cuys and rolling for the hadles im making one now as i type(well not at type) but im running wire(can use coat hanger) from side to side of top of can and have more barrel to burn in. Do u plan on insulating if so i was jw what you you use.

    Ashton c

    4 years ago

    Me like


    4 years ago

    The handles are a great feature


    4 years ago

    Nice instructable but if you would please make another one out of a metal folgers coffee can so I can get an idea.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I made a variation on this by making a large square hole at the bottom of the vertical wall and fed in wood from there. it was a bit like a rocket stove but more simple.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Paul I much enjoyed this. Your like me with this creativeness. I attempted a wood-gas stove before and it was much like this, but I like your design much more. It seems alot more stable. You could probably make the ventilation holes a little bit bigger tho, it'll eat through wood a little faster, but it'll burn hotter. And as far as feeding the flame, i always liked using long pencil sized sticks and laying them horizontally across the two open slits and as they burn through the center you just kinda push the rest in and its almost like a self-feeding fire.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'd love to make another one, I'd like to make a simpler handle design. Bigger ventilation holes would also be an improvement but it burned quite well.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Oh! Well if it works well then just use it. No need to fix something that isn't broken ehh? Haha Keep up the good work! =D


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like it!
    I have one big question for you tough,
    are you sure that all these metal heating is not a danger? I mean they could produce toxic fume landing in our foods?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's true that certain cans unfortunately have a BPA lining, while some others don't. If the can does have such a lining it will quickly burn off leaving only the tin. I find this stove to be most useful for cooking with a covered pot or pan, the lid offers protection against smoke and ash and also conserves heat allowing you to cook more efficiently.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the information! I will make sure to use an lid if I need to use it one day(I builded one, I was too curious :-))


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Made these over 50 years ago in Girl Scouts. Differences - ours were used with the open end of the can on the ground over the fire. The solid end on top gave you a stable base for a pot. Ventilation holes were punched on the vertical sides of the can at the top & bottom before cutting out the bottom of the can. Fewer vents at the top edge. We used empty tuna cans filled with strips of corrugated cardboard, then filled with melted parafin. Cheap homemade sterno.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I'd love to take a look at one of those, sounds like an interesting design.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice, simple, elegant!

    A tip when cooking a steel or aluminum pot like this over open flame: give the pot's surface a light coating of dish soap. It prevents the black soot from permanently adhering to the metal surface, and cleanup is a breeze.

    How many uses do you think you can get out of a stove like that, I wonder? (please keep writing instructables!)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That's a great tip, I'll have to try it out. A stove like this seems best fit for cooking with pots and pans (preferably with a lid) but you could also roast hot dogs, marshmallows, or the like over the flame. Also, you may potentially be able to carry the embers from one camp site to another to aid in starting a new fire, so long as they aren't hot enough to burn your fingers. I wouldn't recommend doing it but if you were in an emergency situation, it may prove to come in handy