SHTF blog – Modern Survival

DIY – How to Build Your Own Alcohol Stove

So you want to put together a bug out bag, but who has the money to go out and buy all the fancy expensive equipment that goes inside one?  Don’t despair!  I’m going to show you how to outfit a BOB for cheap, because I’m always looking for a bargain and figure there must be other budget minded people out there as well. 

Let’s start with an alcohol stove.

There are several good things about this tiny little stove and almost no bad that I can think of.  First of all, it’s light weight.  Second, the fuel is relatively cheap an easy to come by and third, it’s pretty easy to operate. 

So let’s jump right into the construction.  For materials you’ll need the following:

  • Two empty soda cans
  • A small handful of insulation
  • A razor blade
  • Push pin
  • Denatured Alcohol – HEET works great and you can buy it just about anywhere
  • A wire clothes hanger or small piece of fine fencing
  • Book – any book will do as long as it’s thicker than a inch or two




In the photo above I put the razor blade in the book at a height of 1 inch.  Then keeping a firm grip on the can I slowly turn it against the blade until the bottom inch of the can is cut free.  See photo below.


Yes, that is one ragged cut.  To avoid doing this make sure you’re using a new blade.  Not like mine.


Go ahead and cut the other can exactly the same way.  This time I tried to make a few turns to score it in before trying to make the actual cut.  I had marginal success.  Again, get  sharp blade.

In the next step take some insulation and put it in the bottom can and then put the top into  the bottom.  In other words the bottom can should be the one that is outside once they’re together.  It’s a little work to get it just right, but take a few minutes and be patient and you’ll be able to wiggle it in.



Once the two cans are together squeeze them together tightly so they don’t accidentally separate.  In the next step (below) poke about eight or ten holes in the middle of the top can.  This is where the alcohol will drain through.


Next, poke evenly spaced holes all around the outside edge of the top.



Once you’ve done that you’re ready to light it up.


Now, there’s a small trick to lighting an alcohol stove.  First, put in an ounce or two of fuel.  Experiment a little, but I’ve found that an ounce will heat a cup or two of water fairly quickly depending on environmental conditions.  Next, I put the stove in a metal container like the one shown above and put a little fuel in the bottom outside the stove.  The alcohol stove needs to be preheated in order for it to burn.  Some people will just hold the stove and put a lighter underneath it to preheat it, but I like this method as it doesn’t require me holding something potentially explosive in my hand.


It might take a minute or two, but pretty soon you’ll have a nice flame like the one pictured above.  I turned out the lights so  you can get a good idea of what it looks like.   WARNING!  It’s very difficult to see the flame in daylight.  If you light it and can’t see it make sure to test it before picking it up.  You might get a nasty surprise if you don’t.


Above is a picture in low light.


In the picture above I’ve put the pot on to boil.


I made the pot stand (above) out of a piece of wire fencing.  Notice the bends in the end of the wire.  I use these to latch on to the other end of the pot stand to hold it in place.  You want your pot to be about an inch or two above the flames.  You can also put in a wind break for this stove, but I didn’t include one here.


Above you will see how everything is stored in my cozy.  This set up weighs virtually nothing is easy to carry around plus it costs next to nothing to make. 

The Good – This stove is super light and as you can see is pretty easy to make.  It’s very quiet unlike other stoves out there and it runs off denatured alcohol and you can also make one for the price of a couple of beer or soda cans.  I use Heet to fuel this stove. 

The Bad – Very little actually.  The only thing I don’t like about this stove – and it’s a minor point – is that you have to preheat it in order for it work.

All in all these little stoves really do the trick.  I used an alcohol stove hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail here in Maine and it performed great.  In the summer and fall this is the stove you’ll find in my pack. 

Build yours and let me know what you think.  If you’ve already tried one post here and let me know how it worked for you.

-Jarhead Survivor

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20 thoughts on “DIY – How to Build Your Own Alcohol Stove

  1. Great idea!!!!

    One of the best reasons for using an alcohol stove is that it can be used safely indoors without creating carbon monoxide. This is very comforting when it’s below zero outside and you’re dying for a cup of coffee in an emergency situation. I used a home-made alcohol stove many years ago with success.

    I store chafing fuel as part of my preps. Being a New Englander, I want something safe to use indoors in the winter. If you do store chafing fuel, such as sterno, the cans should be checked periodically for evaporation – even if you haven’t opened them. I buy a chafing fuel that has a screw-on cap so that it can be sealed better for reuse.

    This is a very clever stove!

  2. Just built one and boiled a cup of water in 4 minutes. Thanks.
    On another note – am reading “Without Warning” by John Birmingham and began to wonder – what would I buy if I had a day to shop and $200 (or ? amount you stash) to spend. Might make interesting question for your readers. I would really like to see the answers.
    Synopsis of the book is: most of the US, parts of Canada and Mexico suddenly are “gone” – enclosed by an inpenetrable energy field. All of the primates (including people) have vanished. So, in that case, the survivors would have at least a day to do some prep, create a redoubt, etc. Great book so far.

  3. @preseage – I actually hadn’t thought of that benefit – being able to use it inside that is. Hell, when the power goes out I get my propane camping stove out and make coffee and pancakes, but I also make sure to ventilate too. I like the idea of chafing fuel too.

    @Dee – thanks for the feedback. 4 minutes seems like a reasonable time to boil a cup of water.

    Is “Without Warning” a scifi book? It sounds like something I’d enjoy.

    1. l love this stove and have made several and practiced with them. l haven’t been able to find heet yet (guess gander mountain might become a new haunt lol ) however l was wondering can you use the gel fuel they sell for tiki torches to get a longer burn time? mine would boil water but didn’t get bacon done needed a few more minutes. l realize the citronella might smell a bit, but the upside no mosquitos while cooking 🙂

  4. Jarhead,
    I guess SciFi – or SHTF. Lots of books that I would have considered scifi a few years ago now seem prophetic. Seems that we are living in scifi times. Who would have though that the most powerful country in the world would be on the verge of becoming a 3rd world country with 10+% unemployment, bank failures, home prices crashing, food prices rising, and individual privacy a thing of the past. Not much would suprise me now.
    Re: stove – may have been closer to 3 minutes.
    REALLY like all of your posts.

  5. Thanks Dee!

    I couldn’t agree more about the direction of the country either.

    “May you live in interesting times.” Old Chinese curse. (So I hear.)


  6. Truly! Got that in a fortune cookie once and thought it was a good thing. Now, 30 years later, it has come to pass and I vacillate between fury and terror.

  7. I understand the whole DIY aspect of this post, and home-made & hobo-ish is great for when camping or fishing with the guys. but for SHTF reliability I prefer stronger materials and more commercially engineered tools. So, for a more polished and wife acceptable type of alcohol stove, I bought a new ‘still in the box’ fondue set for $4.00 at a yard sale today.

    It has an adjustable alcohol burner with cap & stand, plus a cooking pot, plates, bowls, and forks, all stored in a smallish box. I can take the small adjustable alcohol burner with me camping or in my BoB. The whole fondue set will make a good bean & rice cooker at home if SHTF with an adjustable flame, and a stand and pot specifically engineered to cook over a small alcohol flame.

    The adjustable alcohol burner with cap looks something like this:

    1. @Jack – that looks likes a really nice little stove! The one that I show here is actually a lot sturdier than it looks though. Don’t let the fact that it’s a really simple stove fool you.

      P.S. I liked the “wife acceptable” comment. 🙂

  8. I got a similar alcohol stove for Christmas last year, its made out of one of those GIANT sized energy drink can. This one is cut down in size by roughly 1/4, the top half of whats left of the walls is rolled to make a rib, and it has some really small holes drilled around the rib that was formed by rolling the sides. Last year we had a pretty ROUGH snow storm here in VA and the power went out in the neighborhood I was living in for 3 days. All the neighbors came over when the gas ran out on their grills and they couldn’t cook. That little can would support the 2qut. titanium backpacking pot that I have for camping and the BOB, completely full to the top. It holds enough alcohol to keep burning for 45min., that’s enough to bring the pot full of water to a rolling boil 3x! It even worked well with my omelette pans (very fancy things from France), which are pretty delicate. I think they cost about $7 on ebay and only weigh about 2 oz.

  9. Guess I am gonna have to be the one to say it!

    “It’s a little work to get it just right, but take a few minutes and be patient and you’ll be able to wiggle it in”……. That’s what she said!

    Sorry couldn’t help myself!

    1. LOL….yup, I was thinking that but, well, darn, you beat me to it! Thank you, still chuckling. Will share it with my wonderful wife, we use “That’s what she said” all to often. LOL Thank you!

  10. NOT A JOKE! Could also use “Everclear” DRINKING alcohol… not to drink unless a bit would help, but BURNS just as well, it’s NOT Poisonous, can Clean Wounds safely. Think about it – in some places, can buy it in ½ pint and 1 pint PLASTIC bottles. It is 190 ‘Proof’, so it’s become my choice.

  11. I’m thinking of making one, though a bit larger, for my pop up blind when I’m deer hunting. I detest cold hands, and this would really do the trick.

  12. You can buy 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol at most chain drug stores and that works well. Denatured alcohol is available in gallon cans at paint stores and home centers.

  13. Unless you’re using something drinkable for fuel (i.e., safe for human consumption), don’t use an alcohol burner indoors unless well vented to the outdoors. Some of the fuel evaporates unburned and you will end up breathing it in – breathing toxic fumes is bad for you

  14. I’ve made these before from 12 oz cans, checked in here to refresh my memory, so I can make a couple more. What is the point of the insulation? I never used it in the small ones I’ve made. Thanks! Nice website!

  15. I realize this is totally off topic, but those plastic coffee cans with a handle have another excellent use. They are GREAT paint containers. You put in enuff to do a couple of hours of painting, and if you don’t use it all at that session, just seal it with the lid. I’ve had paint last over a month and still be just fine in one of them.

    Again, I know it’s off topic, but some of y’all might find it handy. Sorry if I offended.

    Y’all have a blessed day,

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