Ultimate Penny Stove ( Camp / Backpacking Alcohol Stove )




This is the best stove I've made so far. I've made a lot of the stove designs from the internet and they've all come up short in one way or another. After trial and error, this is the best one.

     Main Features: Safety, Durability, Built in Pot Stand and Funnel, Wind Resistant, and Easy to Light with no priming pan.

Step 1: List

The list of items you will need:

cooking spray can (PAM or equivalent)
metal knockout from an electrical panel or other metal disc
hack saw
permanent marker
fiberglass insulation (formaldehyde free is recommended)
metal snips
needle nose pliers
gutter crimping tool
drill and bits
jb weld

Step 2: Being an Idiot

Make sure the can is empty!

Cutting a pressurized can is stupid and I'm not responsible for you being an idiot.

As long as we're on the topic of being an idiot. Use a cooking spray can, not a spray paint can. I wouldn't want to eat anything cooked on a stove that had chemicals in it.

Step 3: Cutting the Can

Use the cap as a height guide. Set the can upright on the table and set the cap next to the can. Take a marker and by spinning the can mark the cap height from both the bottom up and the top down. This way the top and bottom will be the same size and you'll have a straight cut line.

Use a hack saw or a dremel tool to cut the can on the marker lines. Be sure to keep the cuts straight. You will need to save the cap and the middle section of metal for later use.

Inside the can will be some junk from the oil and a plastic straw. Clean it out the best you can and remove the straw.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes

The top of the can will be the top of the stove. Before putting the top and bottom together you will need to drill the holes for filling and for the burner. The large hole in the center of the can will be just big enough to get rid of the raised part that holds the valve. The burner should be 16 evenly spaced hole. 8 of the holes need to be drilled at 1/8 inch and the other 8 need to be a 1/16 inch. The pattern need to alternate 1/8 inch hole, 1/16 inch hole, 1/8 inch hole, 1/16 inch hole...and so on.

Do not put the holes in the low area of the rim!

Step 5: Stuff the Stove and Put It Together.

The top part of the stove needs to be on the outside.

Use a gutter crimping tool on the sides of the bottom half of the can. This will allow the bottom to slide up inside the top half of the stove, but before shoving them together the stove needs to be stuffed. I recommend stuffing formaldehyde free fiberglass insulation in the bottom half of the stove and some in the top half.

The fiberglass will not burn, it acts as a wick when soaked with the alcohol, controls the burn, and makes it safer. If the stove is kicked over the fiberglass will keep the alcohol from spilling all over and starting a fire. This stove will be more fuel efficient then a normal alcohol stove as well because the alcohol cant escape as fast.

Step 6: Sealing the Stove and Making the Pot Stand

If you have a little trouble getting the top and bottom together use a scrap piece of wood, put it on the top of the stove, and use a hammer to tap it down. The bottom and the top halves of the stove need to be sealed after they are pushed together. I used metal tape that is designed for stove pipe, but I would recommend using J-B Weld as a more permanent bond.

Remember that middle part of the can that you saved? This is the time to get this back out and make it into a pot stand. You'll need to use the gutter crimping tool again and crimp the whole thing all the way around. This will make it the right size to fit in that small groove on the top of the can. Drill some holes in the pot stand, again using the 1/8 and the 1/16 inch drill bits. some additional air channels need to be cut in the top and bottom of the pot stand to allow oxygen in.

I used a pair of needle nose pliers to bend the metal in rather than trying to cut it off.

Step 7:

By now you should have something that looks like the pictures.

Remember the plastic cap you saved? The cap has a hole already in it from the factory so you don't need to drill one. It makes a great funnel to fill the stove and (after the stove is cooled) the cap can be put back on to keep everything together.

Step 8: Firing the Stove

Firing the stove is the easiest part. I recommend using the cap as a funnel because you will need to pour some of the alcohol in the rim of the top. This is like having a built in priming pan and you will only need one match to light it.

The pictures show the stove seconds after being lit. there is still a lot of alcohol on the top of the can, that is why the flame is so tall. The flame levels out to burn about 2 inches above the pot stand.

Step 9:

After 30 minutes the stove has died down. This is plenty of time to boil your water and you friend's water. Even with the stove still going I'm able to touch it and move it. It does get hot enough to burn you and boil water, but it isn't as bad as using soda cans. I'd like to see you pick up a stove made from aluminum. It will also cool down quickly so it can be capped and put in a pocket or backpack within a few minutes after putting out the flame.

One more thing, don't use a penny on a penny stove unless you need to. Copper gives off some bad fumes when you heat it.




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    29 Discussions


    3 years ago on Step 2

    Speaking about idiocy. We don't have any thing like cooking spray here in Europe, as we use good, old and healthy olive oil.

    This is an issue for me now as I can't build this project! :)

    Any suggestions about what to use instead? Maybe a deodorizer can?


    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I'm not sure what type of cans you would have available in Europe, I've never been there. But I don't think you should use a deodorizer or anything that contained a harmful chemical. I only say that because you could get some nasty fumes from any residual chemical. I would say look first at the food stores, maybe a can that contained whipped cream or some type of cake frosting might be the same size?



    Reply 3 years ago

    You should be able to get a can on Amazon, unless it's a restricted item in your country for some reason.


    6 years ago on Step 9

    Some excellent ideas. What a great comment on the penny. We all probably know what copper can give off but I think you are probably the first person to connect the dots when the penny is used on the stove. Well Done!
    How much fuel did you put in it to last 30 minutes. Do you think a version about 1-1 1/2 inches tall would work for 10-15 minutes if full?

    Did you ever consider or play around with a tight windscreen from below the flame to above the top of the Cup or pot with some sort of filler flap to cover between the top and bottom of the handle?
    I made and tested a shade tree version out of a resized large juice can and HD aluminum with an 1/4-1/2" air space (insulation) between the inner juice can skirt and the outer HD aluminum skirt. The resized juice can leaves 3/8" all around between this reflective insulated skirt and the cup. Results were very impressive so I am trying to see how to make the stove as efficient as possible when I use it to heat water in a 750 ml to 1 liter aluminum water bottle. Any thoughts on this or any fuel efficiency improving ideas would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.
    Regards and nice job,

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Step 9

    this link contains data about accute Copper poisoning


    Human data: Exposure to copper fume causes upper
    respiratory tract irritation, metallic taste, nausea, and metal fume
    fever. It has been reported that no ill effects resulted from exposures
    to copper fumes at concentrations up to 0.4 mg Cu/m3 [Luxon
    1972] and that there is little evidence that copper presents a serious
    industrial hazard, either from acute of chronic poisoning [Browning

    Well, I've tried this stove out a lot in the last year or so. The things I found out about the real world trials with it include; 1. the wind shield and pot holder work but not as well as a manufactured, foldable one you might get from a camping supply outlet. 2. I don't bother putting the "penny" on anymore. I find the flame is too low of a burn to get my water boiling when I want a hot drink or a meal in the morning while hiking.

    Other comments have mentions of steal wool. I've never tried it but there is also a product on the market called carbon felt. I've seen a few other stoves on the market that are using this stuff as a wick for a similar purpose in the design.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Am i mistaken or aren't there types of insulation that have chemicals in them? I wouldn't want that in my stove either. Anyway, great instructable! Keep it up!

    2 replies

    Not all fiberglass insulation is the same. You do want to make sure you know what you are putting in the stove. That is why I'm specific about using formaldehyde free insulation.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, good job!
    I was just looking thru the back recesses of my desk drawer and came across a well worn 1943 steel penny. An idea flashed into my mind about a name change:
    "Steel-Penny" stove.
    It goes along with the steel stove concept, and removes the copper penny problem.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    I made this, but can't get it to light, even shortened the height, but it just sputters and goes out. Using rubbing alcohol.

    3 replies

    Try using heet, or denatured alcohol. Rubbing alcohol doesn't work very well. And I think the fumes are bad for you

    I'd be interested to see a picture of the one you've made. That might help me trouble shoot it for you. The only thing I can think of is that you're not getting enough air to the fire. If the pot stand doesn't have sufficient air flow then it will smother it. I ran into this a lot with some of my designs. Check this by removing the pot stand in a no wind environment. Let me know how you make out.

    Thanks for your reply. I noticed something as I reviewed your instructable. I didn't drill enough holes and need to drill the smaller size. I just skimmed it the first time and thought I had it figured out. I'll rework mine to see if it works.