Tin Can Fire




Everyone loves a good fire. In my opinion, the best fires are always the large campfires that you can cook over (or in), get warm from, and sit close to without getting your eyebrows burned off and your face charbroiled. Unfortunately, nice camp fires aren't always possible. Perhaps because you're are traveling light. Perhaps it is simply because of your skill level with fires. Maybe you are living on a 72-hr kit or other bug out bag type. Whatever the reason, this instructable solves that problem with flying colors. This makes a small, but surprisingly hot fire. In a tin can.

Step 1: Materials

Not many materials are needed for this, one of the reasons it is perfect for wilderness survival.

1. A good empty can. Good being the operative word, as it can never really be good if it doesn't have food in it. Oh well.

2. A knife of some sort, preferably with a smaller blade and point.

3. Something to burn. The wood pictured is really not the best. I used small scraps from my scroll saw, which was like throwing an oak log on a burning match and commanding it to light. Eventually, the thing that finally caught fire was 3/64" bass wood. Moral of the story, to start the fire, light dry, dead, soft, smaller wood. Gather a good variety of different tinder and kindling. I'll address this more later.

Step 2: Safety

It must be done. The standard safety warning. My Dad, Mom, and Workshop teacher would all have my head if I didn't address this.

Fire is not a toy. It is a highly lethal burny thing.

If possible, check the fire regulations for your area first. This doesn't often get out of the can, but when it does...No forest fires are needed or wanted.

Knives are sharp. Don't cut off any fingers.

Enough said.

Step 3: Preparing the Can

This step is not the most challenging, but it helps if you have a steady hand and a sharp knife. Start by removing the label. It will make things easier (and safer. That's addressed in a step or two). If you want to, save the label for tinder.

Next, you'll need that knife and steady hand. Near the bottom of the can, make a hole. This can be easily done by making a X and then folding back the flaps. Don't make it too large or too small, or it could affect your fire. Poke several more around the circumference of the can near the bottom. I poked four total, and it seemed to work fine. It would depend also on the size of your can. These are the air holes that allow a good circulation of air around the base of the fire.

Step 4: Preparing and Lighting the Fire

Place the tinder and kindling in the can. To start, a few things that do not work.

1. Do not fill the can up with a half an inch of sawdust and expect that to work. Just as dropping a match on dirt will not light the dirt, so it is with lots of sitting sawdust.

2. Don't start with big wood chips. Like I mentioned earlier, it's like throwing an oak log on a match. Log lands, match smothered, goes kaput.

3. Don't leave the label on. It burns. If the fire gets big enough it can lick at the top of the can, it will catch on fire and will burn off, defeating the purpose of it being a safe fire.

Things you do want to do. I don't know a whole lot in this area. If you are like my uncle, you could light a wiz fire in five minutes. If you are like me, you used about fifteen matches before it finally caught fire. No exaggeration. You can tell how long it took me from the variation in lighting between the photos. The first few, it was still light out, but both the photos with the actual fire, are when it is almost or completely dark outside. For actual advice, check out this link: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Start-A-Fir...

1. When lighting a fire, you need to remember the fire triangle, which are the things that you need to make a fire work: oxygen, heat, and fuel. If you take away just one of these elements, the fire goes out.

2. If needed, feed the fire as you go to make it large. Or just to keep it from going out.

3. Once you get to a certain size, you shouldn't need to feed it for a few minutes. However, being a small fire, the fuel will quickly get eaten away.

Step 5: Success

Not much to say in this step. There never much is. But I had a picture without a home, and I needed a place to tell you how to put out the fire once you were finished with it. The obvious way is to drench it in water. If we go back to the fire triangle, this takes away both oxygen and heat. Another way that works, but not quite as well, is to put large amounts of dirt on. This will smother the fire, erasing the oxygen element. Shovel on the dirt. The least reliable and most dangerous way, is to let the fire burn out by its self. The problem with this method is that it is hard to tell when cinders and coals are really, completely cool. Even if they look safe, they might not be. They can still burn you, and catch fire to things in your surroundings.

Thanks for reading my instructable! I hope you enjoyed it and will make little tin can fires with happiness in the future. Remember to vote for me in the Apocalypse Preparedness Challenge! Thanks again!



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Great idea! Reminds me of those wood gassifier stoves. Does this fire can give off smoke when you burn stuff in it? Sounds like a stupid question, but some wood stoves don't give off smoke (believe it or not). Just wanted to know if this was anything similar. Great 'ible!


    3 years ago

    For a bigger fire, use a #10 can. They usually are not lined. Use the church key on top and bottom and string a couple coat hangers across for a burner.

    doo da do

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I would make some holes about half way, the burnt ash will cover the ones in the bottom.

    doo da do

    4 years ago on Introduction

    To keep air available , maybe a couple of air holes half way or lower. Doodado


    4 years ago

    You might want to use a can that was not used for food. Most food cans have liners that are toxic when burned. Some you can't even see because they are just an oxidation protectant. One of the many reasons why it's difficult to recycle them.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks. I had no idea. Seems like it would make the food toxic, but oh well...

    David the R

    4 years ago on Introduction

    NIce little fire pit.

    It's usually faster and safer to use an old fashioned flat steel can and bottle opener. Get an old good one that won't bend, very cheap yard sale item.

    1 reply

    Thanks! You have a point there, but you can't stop at a convinient yard sale if you are out camping or doing wilderness survival.


    4 years ago on Step 3

    Didn't say in the instructable, but thanks Cattle Drive Gold chili, for the awesome can and the even awesomer chili!

    1 reply