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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hobo Stove and Canned Campfire

Fire is a valuable thing, but sometimes, traditional fires just are not possible. Today, we'll take a look at a couple non-traditional alternatives. Both of them burn non-standard fuel, and are based on the principle of a candle, basically using a natural-fiber wick to carry fuel to the flame. Both can run almost* any liquid fuel that is thin enough to be carried by the wick.

*Warning: Do not use gasoline. It burns too hot and fast and can cause injuries.


Hobo Stove
Calling this a stove is a bit inaccurate; while it can be used to heat things, there are far too many variables to use it to cook reliably . It does, however, make a dandy reusable candle, and provides a fair bit of heat for its size.

To make a hobo stove, you need a tuna fish can (or similar; any can that is short and wide should do nicely.) and its lid. You'll also need some kind of wick material made of natural fiber. Jute twine, cotton cord, thin strips of cloth; all work well.
  1. Completely remove the lid and rinse the can.
  2. Make a hole or holes in the lid, just large enough to fit your wicks. More wicks mean more flame, but also dramatically increase fuel consumption. You can use a power drill and a small bit for this, but a hammer and nail also works wonderfully.
  3. Possible wick layouts.
  4. Bend the sides of the lid down slightly, just enough to give you room for fuel underneath it.  1/4" is plenty.
  5. Pull your wicks through the holes. Leave 3/4" or so on the top side of the lid. Trim the wicks so there are a couple inches below the lid as well.
  6. Insert the lid in the can and add fuel.
Any number of light, flammable liquids will work. Light oils (olive, peanut, etc.) and high-proof alcohols burn quite nicely. The fuel you use will determine how hot and fast your candle burns. Allow the wicks time to soak up fuel before you light them.


Canned Campfire
We used these when I was in Boy Scouts. All that you need to make them is a roll of toilet paper, two #10 coffee cans, and fuel.
  1. Stand the toilet paper roll on end in the bottom of the coffee can. 
  2. Add fuel, to a level just below the top of the TP roll. We always used kerosene, because it was cheap to buy in volume. (Again, avoid gasoline, it has a tendency to "run away.")
  3. When the toilet paper has had a chance to soak up fuel, simply light the top of the roll. It will burn with a flame as tall and hot as a good campfire, so don't light it anyplace you wouldn't light a normal fire.
Putting this fire out is where the second coffee can comes in. Stack the second can on top of the fire, and it will quickly starve for air and put itself out. After the cans have cooled, you can put a lid on top of your fire can, leaving it assembled and ready for use again.



Both of these fire sources work great when there is very little wood, or when it's wet or snowy. There's no need to be cold and dark out there!


Lokidude

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