a backpack and a travel journal

DIY PROJECT

alcohol stove

These lightweight mini camping stoves are easy to make and a great addition to every backpacking kit. I have built and tested different versions and this is my favorite design.

This video shows the construction and the little stove in action.

I have slightly changed the building process. It takes me around 30 minutes to turn a can into an alcohol stove.

soda cans

The material – just one can is needed for this design. I collect, rinse and recycle cans I find lying around. I clean up the neighborhood and get the main material for free. I prefer building my stoves with slim cans but any standard soda or beer can works fine too.

tools for building an alcohol stove

The tools – a pair of sturdy nail scissors, a piece of sandpaper, a marker, a pin, a piece of aluminum corner guard, some sticky tape and a measuring tool like a ruler, a set square or a tape measure. A sewing needle can be used instead of a pin. The second pair of scissors is optional.
Combined, they make a lightweight and multipurpose kit that fits into every backpack and makes it easy to build alcohol stoves anywhere.

cutting the top of a can out
can with the top cut out
 

First I use the nail scissors to cut out the top of the can.

smoothing the edges with sandpaper
cans without tops
 

The edge will be a little bit jagged. I use sandpaper to smooth it out.

cutting a can into half

Next I use a pair of scissors to punch a little hole into the middle of the can and cut it in half. This doesn't have to be pretty.

marking a can

I place a marker on top of some pieces of wood or one thick book and keep it steady. By slowly turning and pressing the can against the pen I get a clean and even mark all around. I mark the top at 5 cm (2 inches) and the bottom at 4,8 cm (1.9 inches). The height of the finished alcohol stove will be around 5,7 cm (2.2 inches).

If I don't have a ruler at hand I eyeball it. I make the height of the top three fingers high (lady hands) and cut the bottom accordingly.

cutting the can down to the right size
finished bottom of the alcohol stove
 

Now I cut the top and the bottom down to the right size.

the results

The result will look something like this.

putting tape around a can
marking the tape
 
dividing the circumference of the can

Next I need to divide the circumference of the can into 16-18 sections.
I wrap a piece of tape around the top and mark the overlap. One mark at the beginning and one at the end. The Α and the Ω of the sticky tape. I take the tape off and stick it down on a flat surface. I measure the distance between Α and Ω and divide it into equal sections. I put the tape back on and transfer the sections.

marking the aluminum
denting the aluminum

I mark the individual sections on the can and dent the aluminum with the corner guard. A tissue paper placed between the rim and my fingers prevents a cut.

the finished top of the alcohol stove

This is what the finished top will look like.

combining the top and the bottom of the alcohol stove

Now I combine the top and the bottom.

using a pin to punch a little air hole into the top
the finished hole
 

In the last step I use a pin or a needle to punch a little air hole into the top. It is a little safety feature. The hole will enable the flow of oxygen and regulate the pressure inside.

the alcohol stove is finished

Finished and ready for adventure.

alcohol stove burn test

A quick burn test. I am pretty pleased with this one.

melted alcohol stove

The top of this stove melted during the burn test and stank up my kitchen. I always crack a window and keep the room proper ventilated when I am doing a test. Because of the fumes alcohol stoves are best used outdoors.

Send me an email if you do have a question or build an awesome little alcohol stove and want to share the result.

Disclaimer: Please handle and use your tools and flammable substances safely. Use caution and common sense. If you have a tendency to hurt yourself or to damage things don't try this at home !

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