Homemade alcohol burning stove

Here is my recipe for a backpacking alcohol burning stove that cooks 1/2 litre of water in less that five minutes. The cost is a mere 15 kroner/2$. That is including the food from the cans.

What you need

1 x Tunafish can (7 oz/200 gram)
2 x Tomato paste can (6 oz/180 gram)
1 x Short screw
Sheet of tin foil

Thumb tack
Tin snip


1. Use the tin-snip or the scissors to cut one tomato paste can so that it is approx. 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Cut the other tomato paste can to the same depth.
Cut the can with the
2. Use the thumb tack and the hammer to punch small holes (40-50) around the inside of the bottom of the can. About 1/8 inch (2-3 mm) from the edge. DO NOT PUNCH THE THUMB TACK NEEDLE COMPLETELY THROUGH. Make as small holes as possible. This will be the top of the burner. Use the hammmer and the short screw (or preferably a knife) to punch a hole that is just big enough for the screw to be screwed into the hole, in the middle of the can. This hole will be used to refuel the burner. It is neccessary for the screw to be approx 1/3 inch (1 cm) wide to make the refueling efficient.
Punch holes in
	the top part of the stove
3. Use the scissors or the tin snip to cut diagonal slits in the burner top. These slits makes it possible to force the top into the bottom of the burner. Use a hammer to force the top so far into the bottom that the burner is sealed. Tap gently at the edge of the top, with a hammer, to do this.
Cut slits using
	the scissors
4. Make a funnel out of the tin foil and tape that fits in the refueling hole of the burner.
Force the top
	into the bottom of the can

This is all you have to do to make a working stove, but you will probably want a windscreen and a stand for your pot too. I made this out of tin foil and a coat hanger, works OK. Just fold the tin foil 2-3 times so that it reaches the top of your pot when this is placed on the stand. It should be about 1.5 inch (4 cm) clearing between the top of the stove and the bottom of your pot. Make 5-8, 1/5 inch (0.5 cm) holes in the bottom of the tin foil. Make the tin foil circular and join the ends using binders. There should be about 0.5-1 inch (1-2 cm) clearing from the side of the pot to the windscreen all the way round.

How to light the stove

To make this stove burn it needs some preheating. To light the stove do the following.

1. Fill the stove with some fuel (denatured alcohol) and seal the opening with the screw

2. Place the stove in the tuna fish can

3. Have approx 1 tea spoon of alcohol in the tuna fish can

4. Light the alcohol in the tuna fish can.

5. While the burner preheats you can rig the windscreen and pot stand.

6. When the burner burns with a yellow flame about 4-6 inches high it is ready to cook.


This burner will with a windscreen made of tin foil have 1/2 litre (approx 17.5 oz) of water to a rolling boil in less than five minutes. And that was done outside with approx 5-10 m/s (breeze) wind. The water was cold directly from the tap (below room temperature). That is a wery good performer.

I have not yet tested how much fuel it consumes but it is probably not wery fuel efficient. With a simmer ring (my next project) it should be possible to adjust the heat output some.

The secret

I have been inspired by the following alcohol burning stoves while building my own:

Shane Graber stove is the most similar stove to mine. I was however dissapointed by the cook time of this stove and have done three important changes to make my stove burn faster.

1. The top-part of the stove reaches all the way to the bottom of the stove. This is important for the alcohol to boil, thus generating pressure inside the stove. My earlier version of the stove died out with plenty of fuel to spare probably because the parts of the stove in contact with the alcohol wasn't hot enough for the alcohol to boil properly.

2. The stove is completely sealed. The Shane Graber stove probably have pressure leakage between the top of the stove and the the pop-can part. This possibly makes for slower burning.

3. More holes. Shane Graber makes a point that it is important to make as small holes as possible. I discovered that it was easy to make even smaller holes than he did using a hammer and a thumb-tack. He forced forced the thumb-tack all the way trough using his thumb.

I would appreciate any comments and feedback on the design of the stove. If you try it out please send me a e-mail to tell about your experience.

The following sites contains more information about homemade backpacking alcohol burning stoves.

Florida Backpacker's Trailplace
GeoCities Yosemite

Disclaimer: Anyone that chooses to build/use this stove does so at their own risk.

Last modified: Tue Aug 31 13:58:00 W. Europe Daylight Time 1999