Tin Can Sterno Stove




This is a soup can that I turned into a stove to use with the well known sterno gel fuel. It will heat up soup, tea, ravioli, hot chocolate, and a lot of those other canned/liquid goods. It can be used indoor and outdoor safely. This is my second instructable/ my dads first.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

You will need as follows:
-Can Openers (both like in the picture)
-Screw Drivers (one for the screw, and one for enlarging the holes)
-Large Can Of Soup
-Container That Can Fit All The Soup
-Coat Hanger

Step 2: Preparing the Can

First: Cut off the sticker, being carful for your fingers.
Second: Remove the top lid (not the bottom one).
Third: Empty the can into the container.

Step 3: The Holes Part One (May Contain Scenes of Violence)

These will be the holes that will give oxygen to the fire. They will be made using the compact can opener. You will make six of them, (try to make them even if you want somthing pretty).

Step 4: The Holes Part Two (The Cans Have Eyes)

Take the screw and screwdriver (easier with square and less dangerous), if you have a drill, it might be a better idea but ours were somewhere (i don't know). Then, using the pointy screwdriver, you will enlarge the holes so that the fork fit in: as you will see in the next step. By the way... the holes have to be at the top of the can. I made two rows of holes. It works really well.

Step 5: The Adjustable Fork

Take the coat hanger and bend it to make a fork that will fit in the holes. The fork has to be long enough to make its way across the can (plus a few centimeters).

Step 6: The Bottom

The bottom MUST be removed, or else... So, this is because you have to be able to put the stove over the sterno can once it is lit. Dont try to light the sterno once it is at the bottom of the stove. This is because you would probably burn those little, or big fingers.

Step 7: A Visit to the Dentist

So... you are the dentist and there are very sharp teeth inside the can. To avoid accidents; you will use pliers to flatten the "teeth".

Step 8: Testing 1, 2, 3, Testing

This is where you will remove the lid (no picture) and light the can. Then, moments later, the reward... hot soup. Now you can go and show off. Everyone will be jealous and ask "Where did you buy that?!?"

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    24 Discussions


    Can you please tell me if the pot of soup can be put on the sterno can in the Tin Can Sterno Stove directly ?? Will there be enough oxygen to circulate ?? I understand that it is better to have the air and heat flow around the bottom of what we are heating. But I have a pot that is much bigger than my can. Should I put more holes at the top ?? Or what do you suggest ?? thank you. I am heating up soup for 40 people. Thank you.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Umm, if I were you, I would invest in a $15 propane stove from Walmart if your cooking for 40 people. ;-) But assuming that your just cooking for yourself, with a large pot covering the top of the can, a few more holes at the bottom should do the trick. Hope this helps!


    6 years ago on Step 8

    great job done mate, thanks tony

    Tim Temple

    7 years ago on Introduction

    To have full, one-way flow through a round hole, the minimum height above it would be 1/4 the minimum diameter of the hole. To allow for two-way flow (when using a Sterno can) the minimum height would be 1/2 the diameter of the hole.

    Since the coffee can would be too hot to handle, toss the can lid in and poke it into place with the coat hanger. The fire will go out. Ten minutes later, you can take it all apart.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Holy crap! I just made one of these 2 weeks ago with the same design: coffee can with 2 thick wires at the top to hold the pan/cup. Except mine is wood powered and works great. I will test it camping in later October. For the wires I used 2 very long pegboard pegs (metal of course). It boiled 10 oz of water in less than 7 minutes. And you don't have to carry fuel if you use wood. (Unless you are in a wood free place like the desert.)

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I think wood powered stoves are great (enough isn't said about the ambiance of fire), but I know that I am not proficient at lighting them with anything but tinder dry wood, something that is in short supply after anything more than light rain. and to carry lighter fluid to me defeats the purpose of carrying a wood stove.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    search Lint vasaline Fire starter. I saw that guy from Man, woman in the wild had some vasaline lint or vasaline and cotton balls in a foil packet and he used it to light the fire.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Or look for Char Cloth (very easy to make) and some sort of spark maker. My blacksmith friend provided flint and steel (an old file).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You might consider making a wire basket to lower the Sterno can into the stove, so your stove doesn't have to have the bottom removed. You can then light the Sterno and lower it into the can. Dunno if this is of any advantage, but it's another approach.

    Thanks for the instructible. Last year we had a 3-day winter power outage, and I used Sterno to heat water. A small stove like this would have been handy.


    8 years ago on Step 8

    Recommend adding some sort of insulated handle, maybe to the fork- that way you can't remove the can't and snuff the sterno when you're done.

    Johnny Bot

    9 years ago on Step 8

    Hey,  You can use almost any size can and custom fit it to your situation, and if you have a Handy Dandy P38 handy it will make it just like making a C-Rat stove, with out the triox tabs


    11 years ago on Introduction

    this is probably a dumb question, but if you were to burn wood in this kind of stove, would you need to cut a side door for the addition of fire wood or would you need to just slide the wood down the sides, in between the cup and stove wall.

    6 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thats awsome!

    I hope that one day I can become an egale, right now im just a star scout though. 


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    no, the question isnt dumb. personally, if i were to make it into a wood burning stove, i would make more air holes, leave the bottom on, and make a door\hole to put the wood in. and maybe choose a larger can, like maybe a coffee can, or something. -gamer