Monday, May 10, 2010

Alcohol Stoves, My Personal Quest

There's nothing like a hot lunch when you're out hiking or hunting. I've used several camping stoves, but some had delicate parts and most were too heavy or bulky to take along when I was traveling light or when I was out for just the day. Then one day I was in a camping supply store and found a rather expensive alcohol stove that was simple in design and operation and burned denatured alcohol, which is used as paint thinner and can be found in most hardware stores. But the price was too high. I began to research alcohol stoves on the internet and found there were thousands of articles on how to build your own quickly and cheaply. I took the best ideas from several articles and built my first stove from the bottoms of two soda cans. I built another open-topped design from a tuna can. They worked great, had no moving parts to break, were lightweight, portable and inexpensive. Everyone I showed the stoves to wanted one. But no one wanted to take the time to make one. And so I began to make stoves for some of my friends who were interested. I experimented for weeks on my front steps, lighting my stoves and timing how long it took to boil a pint of water. My neighbors must have thought I was operating a homemade drug lab. I found a place to order small metal canisters for the burners and plastic bottles to use as fuel containers. I still used tuna cans -- not for the burners, but as supports for the cooking pots. It wasn't easy. I mean, how much tuna can you eat? And I had to experiment to get the right number and size of ventilation holes -- too few and the stove would burn too slowly, too many and the stove would burn empty too quickly. Finally I had a design that would boil a pint of water in about seven minutes. That's not as fast as some of the more expensive pressurized canister stoves and you can't regulate the heat unless you move your cook pot further from the burner. But if you want an easy way to boil some water for soup, tea or hot cocoa, this works great. And it costs a lot less. You fill the canister with denatured alcohol. DON'T USE ANY OTHER KIND OF FUEL OR YOU MIGHT BLOW UP! You put the top on the canister and place it in the cooking pot support. Now squirt some fuel onto the top of the burner lid. Light it and you're ready to cook. Now I'm building these simple stoves for anyone who wants one. You can check them out at