Thursday, January 31, 2013

Making A Super Simple Alcohol Stove

I've fiddled a bit with alcohol stoves before, but I'd yet to find the right combination of stove, pot stand, and pot that I could put together effortlessly and cheaply (read: free). That is, until I found this stove idea, which couldn't be simpler. Here's how you make it:

  1. Cut off the bottom of a soda can
  2. Use a whole punch or scissors to cut vents in the top of the stove
  3. There is no third step

Here's what the "stove" looks like when it's done:

To use the stove, you pour some fuel into the soda can, light the fuel, and plop a pot on top. There's no messing around with filling a mostly sealed stove, and best of all you don't need to bother with a pot stand. The stove is the stand.

I had no problem cranking two of these out, taking about 5 minutes each. For one I used a razor blade to slice open the can, for the other I used a scissors. I won't get any points for aesthetics, but it got the job done:

For the pot, I used a Blue Diamond Almond can, which will allow you to easily boil up a cup or so of water. Along with the pot, I used a mess of tin foil. Here's the whole setup in action:

HEET fuel really does burn almost completely clear, so yes, it's kind of hard to tell that the stove is working its magic. For my test, I couldn't have been any more unscientific: I put a splash of HEET fuel in the stove and in about 7 minutes I had an almost boiling cup of water. Unfortunately, I ran out of fuel before the small bubbles in the water turned into a rolling boil. I believe this estimate when it says:

With about .5 oz of Heet, this stove will simmer 2 cups of water in 5-6 minutes, and achieve a rolling boil in 8-9 minutes (and then go out).

The stove, a bunch of tin foil and a lighter fit neatly in a Blue Diamond pot and it weighs almost nothing. Here's the setup packed up:

As for fuel, I've re-purposed some TSA friendly 3oz containers. My plan is to store 3oz of HEET with each stove, along with 3oz of 91% isopropyl alcohol. The isopropyl alcohol burns a lot dirtier than the HEET, which means that it's not as efficient. On the other hand, it gives off quite a bit light and heat, turns the stove into more of a heater / signaling device. In the right context, that could be really handy.

My plan, for now, is to package all this up and chuck one into the trunk of each car. A few years back we had a nasty storm which left people stranded for hours, if not all night, in the cold. By being prepared for that scenario, I figure it will never happen.

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