Back to Basics, DIY Soda Can Stove

A small portable way to cook your meals while you are out backpacking and do not want to carry something heavy, using a soda can stove will allow you to boil water, cook your meal, or rehydrate your meal while on the go or in an emergency situation. There are many different types of can stoves out there, here is one version. For this version the directions were taken fromthesodacanstove.com. After looking thru many different sites and youtube and ehow, this site had the best directions, that anyone who has never made a Soda Can Stove could follow, and a lot of the other sites left you wanting more information, which we could find here. Read our comparisons of can stoves.

 

What is denatured alcohol
How do I use my Stove
Lighting stove
How do I use the simmer ring
How do I make a pot support for my soda can stove

Materials List

  • soda cans (a minimum of two, but a few extras for mistakes or simmer rings)
  • ruler or measuring tape
  • sharp instrument (push pin or nail) / hammer to tap the nail
  • heavy-duty x-acto knife (or something similar)
  • Sharpie
  • scissors
  • high-temperature tape

Step 1: Create Burner Holes

Poke holes along the bottom edge of one of the cans with the hammer and nail. Make the holes as evenly as possible around the ring. If you have about 16 holes evenly spaced that will be enough.

Step 2: Create Main Opening

Cut out the bottom of the can you just poked the holes in. The can is fairly thick here, so it needs to be a sturdy instrument to do this. An X-acto knife would work, but use one with a heavy-duty blade on it. Use whatever you have available, and remember to take your time so you don’t accidentally cut yourself. If the edges turn out particularly jagged, you can file them down using sand paper.

Step 3: Cut Out Stove Top

Measure up 3/4 in from the bottom of the can and cut. This will be the top of your stove.

 

Step 4: Cut Tabs on Stove Top

Snip 8 evenly spaced cuts along the bottom of the the edge of the stove top, this will help when we assemble the soda can stove.

Step 5: Cut Out Stove Bottom

Now it’s time to grab a new can and cut out the bottom of it. Don’t poke holes in it or cut out the bottom like you did for the top of the stove. Measure 1 in from the bottom of the can and cut.

 

Step 6: Cut Out Inner Wall

The inner wall. Take the left over remains of one of the two previous cans you cut up. If you didn’t mangle them too badly, you can cut out an inner wall from one of those. Otherwise, you’ll have to operate on a third can. You need to cut out a strip that’s 1 1/3 in wide.

 

Step 7: Size the Inner Wall

Size the inner wall in the stove bottom. You’ll cut halfway through the strip on each end on opposite sides of the strip where the ends will lock together.

 

Step 8: Notch the Inner Wallnotch inner wall soda can stove

Cut three small notches about equal distance around one side of the strip. This allows the fuel to flow through the inner wall to the outer wall.

 

Step 9: Putting Your Stove Together

all peices for soda can stoveTime to put your stove together. Start by placing the inner wall in the stove bottom, with the notched ends down. Then fit the top of the stove on, tucking the ‘tabs’ you snipped earlier inside of the stove bottom.

A couple of hints to get that top on—it’s not as easy as you may think. The sharp edges of the ‘tabs’ tend to get caught up when putting in the top, so curve the tabs slightly inward before you begin. Check that the inner wall is fitting into the grove of the stove top properly. Work the top on slowly and evenly, and eventually it’ll all fit together.

Step 10: Taping your stove together

soda can stove taped togetherUsing a high temperature tape, wrap it around the stove, securing the top and bottom of the stove together.

 

Step 11: Creating a Simmer Ringsimmer ring soda can stove

The simmer ring comes in handy if you want to simmer your food. It’s made from the top of a soda can. Take off the tabs, then cut it out to just where the can curves downward the length of the can. Leave a little too much, then trim a small bit off at a time until it fits snugly over your stove.

 

 

What is denatured alcohol?

Denatured alcohol, also known as methylated spirits, is ethanol with additives to make it more poisonous or unpalatable and sometimes dyed to give it color. Since most parts of the world heavily tax and control alcohol meant for consumption, these additives get around those issues.

Where do I purchase?

You can find it at any hardware store, usually somewhere in the paint section. Paint stores also carry it. Most outdoor stores carry denatured alcohol. (From experience just got to a hardware store like Ace)

Denatured alcohol is usually sold in heavy, metal containers, much too heavy for trail use. Just reuse an old water bottle (Make sure you mark the container) by pouring only as much denatured alcohol as you need into it. It looks just like water, however, so be sure not to accidentally take a drink of it during your hike.

How do I use my soda can stove?

When you use a stove, you are using the heat from a small, controlled fire to cook and warm your food. The key term here is to make sure your fire stays in control, so before lighting your stove, take these sensible precautions:

  • Clear a surface to cook on that won’t catch fire.
  • Make sure there are no flammable materials near your cooking area.
  • Look for a location that has a natural wind break. It not only makes it easier to cook, but it’s safer too.
  • Always have a full bottle of water nearby as your emergency fire extinguisher.
  • Make sure all of your food, pots, pans, utensils, and other accessories that you’ll be using are in easy reach.

Lighting the Stove

To start, pour the denatured alcohol into the main opening of your stove, filling the stove about halfway for a 10 (or so) minute burn time. As you gain experience with your stove, you’ll probably adjust the level of the fuel to suit your purposes and situation, but to start with, fill the stove about halfway.

Then light the fuel. Be careful in daylight, the flame is nearly invisible and you’ll have to listen for a small ‘puff’ as the vaporized gas ignites, and as soon as you hear it, get your hand away quickly.

On cold mornings, you’ll need to get the flame of your lighter practically on the surface of the fuel to get ignition. If lighting the stove is difficult because the fuel is so far down in the stove, it sometimes helps to hold the stove in your less dominant hand (left, for most people) at a slight tilt to get the fuel higher up the side of the stove and light the fuel at the high edge. If you’ve spilled any fuel at all along its exterior, though, don’t do this! You don’t want to catch your left hand on fire.

At this point, you can put your pot support around the stove and start cooking. It will take your stove about a minute to completely warm up, but you can start cooking immediately. Don’t worry about the jets around the lip of your stove catching fire, that will happen automatically as your stove warms up.

The first couple of times you light a new stove, you might find the adhesive on your high temperature tape catches fire along the exposed edges, especially at the top of the stove where it comes into direct contact with the flame. This is normal and nothing to worry about, but after the fuel burns off, you’ll want to use your fingernail to rub the tape securely to the stove where it might have loosened.

How do I use the simmer ring?

Before using a simmer ring, wait until your stove is fully warmed up which takes a minute or two after the stove has been lit. If you try to put a simmer ring on immediately after lighting the stove, you’ll snuff out the flame. Since most products have you bring your meal to a boil then simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, your stove will already be at normal operating temperatures when it’s time to simmer.

The trickiest part in using a simmer ring is getting it on the stove in the first place. By now, your stove is quite hot, so it’s a lot like a game of ring toss where you try to drop the simmer ring, snug and firm, onto the top of the stove. Move the simmer ring as close to the stove as you can, then drop it into place as best you can.

Most likely, the simmer ring will bounce off at an angle, at which point you’ll need a stick or utensil to shift the simmer ring into its correct position.

Without the simmer ring, a half-full stove will burn for 10 to 15 minutes. With a simmer ring, the same amount of fuel will easily burn for as long as two hours, so it doesn’t take much fuel to simmer.


How do I make a Pot support for my soda can stove?

Read our Can wars.

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