Sunday, November 13, 2011

Building a pop can stove

Hello everyone, this is Ed.  Just like every other morning for the past few years, I have woke up thinking about the ride to Alaska.  With the ride being only a few months away, there is still a lot to be done.

This week, I am going to focus camp stoves.  I did a ton of research on the internet about stoves when I was planning this as a solo ride.  I needed a small, lightweight stove with readily available fuel that was reasonably priced.  This is when I learned about a home made stove that is used by many motorcycle adventurers.  A pop can stove is easy to build, burns HEET which can be found at any gas station, cooks well, compact,  light, and is extremely cheap. So pull up a chair at our kitchen table and let's look at how to build one of these things.

Here are our supplies; two full pop cans, a bottle of HEET, and a penny.  As for tools, can you hand me the scissors, those books, that knife, my Leatherman, the drill, and the smallest drill bit that will fit in the drill?  Cool, thanks let's get started.
The first step is to drain the cans.  Thanks for helping me with that.
We are going to have to cut both cans at different heights.  With the first stove I built, I free formed my cuts.  This turned out good, but I went through four pop cans before I got it right.  I have found that using two books as a guide helps to keep your cuts straight.  I suggest using some of those books about Alaska that you have laying around your house.
For the first can, stack the books so the height is about 1 1/8 inch tall.  We'll place the knife on top of the books and score a line by rotating the can along the knife blade.  This will give us a scribe line for our cut to this can. 
Here is what the scribe line looks like on this can. 
We will remove the thinner book and scribe a line on the other can.  This line should be about 1 inch in height.
The scribe line on the second can.
Time to cut the first can.
This piece will be our burner when the stove is done.
Time to cut the other can.  I found that it is easier to cut the can in small strips until you reach the scribe line.
Can two will become the fuel chamber of the stove.
Let's look at the can piece that is 1 inch high which will become the burner of the stove.  On the bottom of this can, there is a raised number.  Not all pop cans have numbers stamped into the bottom.  If there are raised numbers on your can, you will need to remove them so your penny will seat correctly (we will go over this a little later in the post).  So, if you will follow me out into the garage, we will do a little metal work with precision tools.
We'll take the largest screwdriver in my tool box and place it in the vice.
We'll place the pop can on the screw driver.
Gently tap the can until the stamped numbers are no longer there.  It is important not to flatten this area of the can, you want to keep the curvature of the can so the aim is simply to remove the stamped number.
Here is what it will look like with the stamped number removed.
We will now take the smallest brill bit that will fit in the drill and drill three small holes in the shape of a triangle in the center of the can.  I held the can in my hand while drilling the holes so the edges would not bend.
Here is what the holes should look like.
Now, we are going to drill 12 holes around the edge of the base of the can. 
This will become the burner of the stove.  Doesn't the Wing make a great backdrop for this photo?  Let's head back inside to finish the stove.
OK, now that we are back at the dinner table, we'll take the Leatherman and make a series of crinkles along the side of the burner.  This will allow us to slip in into the other can half.
Very nice, well done!
Next, we'll slide the burner into the other can section and push it all the way down.
This is a side view of what the stove should look like.  At this point, the stove is basically complete.  Let's go outside and test it.
Pour the HEET into the center of the burner and fill the lower chamber.  You will need to experiment with how much fuel you are adding so your stove will stay burning for the desired amount of time.  I like to fill mine to burn for 8 to 10 minutes.  This generally allows me plenty of cook time.  You will be surprised at how quickly water will boil on with this stove.
Place the penny over the holes in the center.  The penny is used as a pressure valve to increase or decrease the size of your flames.  You can move it around once the stove is burning to determine the best position for you.
Pour a little HEET on the penny and go ahead and light it, then let it burn for a bit.  What will happen is the HEET in the fuel chamber will start to boil, the fumes will come out of the holes with an even burn pattern.  You will be able to hear this happening.
Isn't that cool!
Here's a picture in the dark that shows the burn pattern a little better.
Here is the final product.  To build a stand for the pot, I took a canned chicken can and drilled holes in it.  The pop can stove was placed in the chicken can.  The chicken can not only acts as a stand for the pot, but also as a wind screen.  Since I was cooking in a dry field, I put the top of my mess kit on the ground for the stand and burner to sit on.
On our trip, we are planning to bring two of these stoves to use for boiling water and cooking smaller meals.  We are also bringing an old dual fuel Coleman two burner stove that we have had laying around for about 15 years.  It looks like this, only not as new and clean:
As with any home made piece of equipment, especially one that uses fire and fuel, be careful and use it at your own risk.  I hope you enjoyed building this stove and hope you get some use and enjoyment out of it. 

Next week, we are going to try to install the components for our heated gear on the bike.

Thanks for looking at our blog, I look forward to talking with you again soon.

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