Thursday, April 3, 2014


After watching a few YouTube videos recently, I was inspired to get out into the garage and make my own lightweight, portable alcohol stove.  There are endless sizes, shapes, material type, and bottle styles available in which to build them from.  Finding what size works for you will depend on your needs.  

I opted for a size that would easily suite one or two people, would easily accommodate boiling water for coffee or tea, and was capable of cooking up an easy meal.  I wanted sturdy, lightweight, and would easily store in a backpack of any sizeI also needed something that had a sturdy footprint that would hold my GSI tea kettle or my Snow Peak titanium pot. 

Cruising through the Dollar Store, I was able to find a single walled aluminum water bottle.  Score!  The only minor issue was that it was painted.  I knew it would take a little longer to remove the paint, but to me it was worth the cost of only a dollar.

Dollar Store water bottle

Using a leverage block about 1 1/2" high, brace and turn the water bottle against the block and trace a solid line using a permanent marker.  I did this on both ends of the bottle.

The Dollar Store water bottle with marks where the cuts will be made.  The top piece of the water bottle will be inverted into the bottom piece.  Both pieces should match up perfectly level to each other.

To make the two cuts on the water bottle, I used the Dremel tool.

For the attachment, I used a cutting disc.

To make a straight cut on the round surface, I used two pieces of wood clamped to the work surface.  This allowed me to wedge the bottle and turn it with one hand.

With the other hand I held the Dremel tool flat on the elevated wood piece.  Slowly rotating the bottle, I eased the cut into the bottle.  This took about 6-8 rotations of the bottleRemoving the aluminum material a small amount at a time, resulted in a smooth, even cut.

Although there were a few sharp pieces around the bottle, the cut was very even.

Using a round file, I slowly worked around the inside of the bottle to remove the sharp edges and scrap pieces.

Using the same cutting technique as the first cut, I turned the bottle over and made the second cut.

Using a variety of sandpaper, I was able to make the edge of the bottle very smooth.

Because I felt that the paint on the bottle might be a possible health hazard when the stove was burning at high heat, I used the wire brush attachment on the Dremel to remove all of the paint.

Although the wire brush on the Dremel removed almost all of the paint, I used a sanding sponge to remove the remainder of the paint.

The two pieces after removing all of the paint.  There was a fair amount of paint dust residual on the pieces after I finished sanding.  To remove the dust, I washed them both with soap and warm water and dried them completely.

On the top of the piece where the cap screwed in, I used a cone-shaped sanding stone attachment on the Dremel to create a pretty small half circle shape on the lip of the bottle.  When this piece is inverted into the bottom part of the stove, these holes will allow the alcohol to seep into the main chamber of the stove.

With the top piece of the bottle inverted into the bottom piece of the bottle, I carefully pressed and rotated them slowly into each other using the force of a bench vice.  This allowed the pieces to be forced into each other evenly.

The edges of the stove line up perfectly.

For this type of stove, jet holes must be drilled around the perimeter of the main body.  To do this, I used a soft measuring tape to find the circumference measurement; 9".  I then layed out a piece of tape measuring 9".  Every 1/2" inch, I made a mark, which ended up making 18 equal marks.

After completing the 1/2" marks, I carefully placed the tape evenly around the stove.  Using the inside piece as a guide, I eyeballed where the rounded portion of the inside part started pulling away from the outside piece.  It is very important to only drill the holes through the outer piece and not puncture the inside piece.

You can see here where the inside piece pulls away from the wall of the outside piece.

Using the drill press and a 1/16" drill bit, I was not only able to get clean, straight, vertical holes, but I was also able to set the depth to ensure that only the outer later was drilled into.

Having the creative, metal working husband that I do, he suggested that I use a chamfer bit in the drilled holes.  Holding the bit in my fingertips and using slight pressure, I turned the bit in the hole one full turn.  I then used a piece of fine grit sandpaper over entire stove to create the final finish.

The chamfer bit created a nicer, more custom looking hole than just the original straight drill hole.

Although there are several alcohol fuel types, denatured alcohol is a clean burning, cheap fuel.  If you want to experiment with a variety of fuels and their performances, it is a good idea to do some research first.  Each fuel has it's own burning characteristics.

To boil the often used water quantity of two cups, I store the alcohol in these one ounce flip top containers.  They are leak proof and provide the perfect measurement for one use.  For instances that will need more than one ounce, (like a multi-day backpacking trip), I will store the alcohol in a larger eight ounce flip top container and will bring the little one ounce as the measuring guide.

To use the stove, pour one ounce of alcohol into the center of the stove.  You will see the alcohol level slowly drop as it seeps into the main body of the stove.  (More alcohol may be necessary if using more than two cups of water or cooking larger quantities of food.)

Because the flame burns very hot, in brighter light it is very hard to see.  To be on the safe side while lighting the stove, use a wooden match or light the end of a stick and touch the alcohol.  Using a lighter is possible, but it forces your hand down into the stove and could be somewhat risky.

After about a minute, the flames will start coming out of the jet holes.

The pots sits directly on the stove.  For a more efficient burn, especially if there is any breeze, it is recommended to use a wind shield taller than the stove around the perimeter of the stove and the pot.  A heavy duty aluminum foil is a cheap effective option.

"Backpacking:  An extended form of hiking in which people carry double the amount of gear they need for half the distance they planned to go in twice the time it should take."  ~Author Unknown

No comments:

Post a Comment