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Ultralight Side-Burner Soda Can Stove
(No Pot Support Needed)

This stove is made in such a way that the cooking pot can sit directly on the stove and it can be used without a pot support. This is accomplished by placing the burner holes on the side of the stove, instead of the top. I'd heard of stoves being made this way, and decided to try it myself.

It didn't take long to realize that the design of this stove represents some challenges. In placing the cooking pot on top of the stove, a good part of the oxygen supply is cut off from the cooking flame. The stove must be configured to burn very hot, so that it can still burn effectively with a reduced oxygen supply.

I've been experimenting not only with the quantity, size and placement of the burner holes, but also with the quantity, size and placement of the fuel ducts between the inner and outer walls (these ducts allow fuel to pass between the inner and outer wall, allowing the burner holes to work).

Also, it became evident that if the stove was used without the oxygen supply being reduced (if a pot was not placed on top), that the flame output is rather dramatic. This is illustrated in the burn time. With a pot sitting directly on top of the stove, one ounce of fuel will burn about 7 minutes. However, if the stove is fired and used without a pot being placed on top (used with a regular pot support), the burn time is reduced to about 3 1/2 minutes.

The ultralight side-burner soda can stove is about 1 3/4 inches tall, and weighs 12 grams (about a half ounce). The fuel capacity is about 4 ounces, which provides a burn time of approximately 22 minutes if a pot is placed directly on top of the stove. As stated above, one ounce of fuel will provide a burn time of about 7 minutes.

In our tests, using a 10-ounce capacity "mini-pot" (shown in the right photo), 10 ounces of water was brought to a rolling boil (blew the homemade lid off) in 4 minutes, 55 seconds. This "pot" is actually an empty Handy-Fuel Canned Heat container that weighs about a half-ounce when empty. Handy-Fuel Canned Heat is made by The Candle Corporation of Des Plaines, IL. The container is about 3 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches tall. The combined weight of the stove and canned heat container is approximately 1 ounce.

Using my Wal-Mart Grease Pot, 2 cups (16 ounces) of water came to a rolling boil in 5 minutes, 39 seconds. The Wal-Mart Grease Pot is about 5 1/2 inches in diameter, just under 3 inches tall and weighs about 3.5 ounces. It will hold about a quart of liquids. The combined weight of the grease pot and stove is approximately 4 ounces.

A simmer attachment has not yet been developed.

I tested this stove on my hike of the Long Trail in the summer of 2002, with mixed results. The only fuel I'd recommend using is denatured alcohol; the other fuels don't burn hot enough to overcome the problem of reduced oxygen. Using a wind screen is highly recommended.

Bob Shaffer suggested making small holes between the top of the rim and the burner holes (on the "shoulder" section of the upper portion of the stove). I tried this, and the increased performance was obvious. Previously, I thought that the small holes would function as additional burner holes, but they didn't. Fuel does burn through them when the stove is lit, but the fuel stops burning and they begin functioning as breather holes when the pot is placed on top of the stove.

My latest version of the regular size side-burner stove is shown in the photo on the left (above). A 7/64 inch drill bit was used to make the burner holes. A 5/64 inch bit was used to make the breather holes. The burner holes are spaced 6/16 - 8/16 inch apart, and there are 14 holes. The breather holes were drilled in such a way that they are between (and above) the burner holes. A regular soda can stove is made with 3 fuel ducts to allow fuel to pass between the inner and outer walls. However, for this stove, 5 fuel ducts were used. The fuel ducts are made by using a standard size hole puncher (the kind used to make holes in papers that are to be put into a folder or binder) on the bottom of the inner wall of the stove.

The greatest problem I've encountered when using this item is that the cooking pot becomes top heavy when it is placed on the stove. The cooking pot (and stove) can be tipped over very easily, and extreme caution must be used. I strongly suggest having a firm grip on the cooking pot when the contents of the pot are stirred. Caution should also be exercised when the pot is lifted on and off the stove, and it is important to make sure the pot is centered on the stove. Also, the cooking surface should be level and free of any obstructions (roots, rocks, etc.).

To minimize this problem, I've made a larger stove from 25.4 ounce (Foster's Imported Lager, available at our Super Wal-Mart for $2.24 each) beer cans. These cans have a larger diameter than regular size aluminum cans, and provide more stability for the cooking pot. A photo of this stove is shown below. It weighs 7/8 ounce, has a diameter of 3 1/4 inches (a regular soda can stove has a diameter of 2 1/4 inches) and is about 2 inches tall. It has 13 burner holes and 13 breather holes spaced approximately 3/4 inch apart. The holes are the same size as the holes for the regular size side-burner soda can stove. A regular size soda can stove and Bic pen were included for size reference:

I strongly recommend keeping a flame snuffer handy when using the side-burner stove (or any other alcohol stove). Any metal pot, cup or can can be used as a flame extinguisher. It just needs to be large enough in diameter to go over the stove, and tall enough so that it reaches the ground.

David "Rainmaker" Mauldin