Tin Can Sterno Stove

tin can

In an emergency, a tin can Sterno stove is an effective and easy tool for heating food. Sterno is an easily lit, non-explosive fuel, purchased cheaply from any sporting goods store. One can of Sterno cooks up to six meals and that tin can stove could be a lifesaver in bad times. This handy guide will show you how to make a Sterno stove so that you’re ready when some improvising is necessary.
For this guide you will need:

A Church-Key Can Opener Under Creative Commons License Photo by Book Hughes on Flickr
  • Manual can opener
  • Church-key can opener
  • Empty fruit or soup tin can (29 oz)
  • Screw
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Sterno
  • Pliers
  • Wire hanger
  • Wirecutter

Let’s build a stove.

Prepare the Can

Let’s start with the assumption you already ate the soup or the fruit, and it was tasty. The lid is off and the can is empty, so remove the label first. Using your traditional hand can opener, remove the bottom of the can.

Next, with the sharp, triangular end of your church-key can opener, pivot off of the bottom rim of the can inwards to punch six equally spaced holes into the sides of the can. These holes will be the oxygen inlets for the fire. At the other end of the can, another four punch holes will ensure plenty of airflow.

At this point, you could light the Sterno, place the can over it, and have a basic stove. Well, that is if you want a basic stove. If that is the case, the YouTube video below will get you all the way there.

But you don’t care for just basic, do you? This is serious prepping here, so let’s make this can spectacular.

Sterno Stove Under Creative Commons Photo by Paul on Flickr

The Prettied Up Version

Remember all those other tools? Let’s use them.

First, the aluminum punchouts are sharp! To take care of those, use your pliers to bend them around the bottom and top of the can, wrapping them tight enough that the chance of bleeding all over your new stove is minimal.

Now that it is much safer, do something dangerous and use the screwdriver and screw two holes on each side of the can with about an inch and a half between them. Place these about an inch below the rim. Honestly, if you can, throw out the screwdriver and screw and use a power drill with a metal bit instead. That’s far less dangerous. Even better, put on some safety glasses unless you’re into living dangerously.

Taking that wire hanger, clip it on both sides of the bottom with the wire cutters and bend it into a square fork. The ends of the wire fork are slid through the holes in the can to come out the other side. You now have a little shelf for heating smaller items like a metal cup that might even have the soup in it that you haven’t eaten yet.

See also  The Homelite UT49103 Log Splitter

Fancy, right?

Another Play On the Sterno Stove

If you’re out in the woods and Sterno isn’t available, your tin can still has a life as a stove ahead, but one that uses the small sticks or biomass found around you. For this Sterno stove to biomass stove conversion, leave the bottom of the can intact. With your church-key opener, punch out eight openings at the top of the can and eight at the bottom.

At the top of the can, wrap the punched aluminum around the top rim with pliers or your fingers. Be careful, that metal is sharp. Finally, using a nail or the tip of your knife punch small holes around where the bottom third of the can begins.

Take small dried twigs, fill them to just under the top air ports and then light kindling at the top of the stove

This amazingly effective and simple survival tool is very efficient as the burning at the top creates a vacuum that pulls air from the bottom. It can burn a very long time, and the wood gas doesn’t smoke. Even as the fuel burns, if the bottom vents start to clog up, the tertiary vents you made at the bottom third of the can will continue to bring in air.

The great thing about a tin can stove that uses biomass is that it is easily found all around you. This little stove is a great reason to have a church-key opener handy even when going out into the wilderness.

Still, have that metal hanger lying around? It is easily bent into a stand to place pots on for boiling water or making soups or teas. Even without the hanger, the can is still strong enough to support the weight of a pot or pan.

The excellent video below shows you the whole process of making this simple stove that could be a lifesaver.

Amazingly, little everyday items can be helpful for potentially dire situations. The Sterno stove can be fun to try out with the kids, and they’ll love learning a new skill that might be useful someday. That little tin could be a lifesaver.

Tell us what you think in the comments? Are you planning to try out a Sterno stove? We would love to hear your comments and any tin can stove hacks you might have.

A Must Read
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top