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Instructions for Making Tin Man's Pepsi Can Alcohol Stove
Hi, my name is George Andrews and my trail name is Tin Man. A few years ago I started a business called AntiGravityGear to help buy backpacking equipment for my son's Boy Scout troop. I had made a couple of different types of Pepsi can alcohol stoves and was very pleased with the results. The quality and design however were not high enough to sell with pride so I started tinkering.
Soon, a lifetime of experience in aviation maintenance and construction kicked in and there were experiments with jet size, placement and assembly methods etc. The alcohol stoves started piling up all over the place. My first stoves were fascinating. I watched them in action over and over and marveled at how something so light could be so powerful and useful. After making thousands, I still find a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction building a stove using recycled cans that burns a non-fossil renewable and clean burning fuel…denatured alcohol.
The goal of this site is not to teach you how to mass-produce alcohol stoves but rather to educate and help the prospective stove builder with understanding the construction techniques and safety considerations involved. There are a lot of good stoves and stove makers out there and it is important to understand that this information is presented as ONLY ONE WAY of making a quality alcohol stove that will out-perform many heavier and more expensive commercial stoves.
If you are a pathological tinker-er then go ahead and have a ball. If you
are trying to learn some new skills and are excited about the idea using a
stove you made your self on your next long hike then go for it! But, if you are
just trying to save a few dollars this is not the way to go. There are a
First, count and label the fingers on each hand you would like to keep.. Eyes too, for that matter. These instructions assume you know how to use hand and power tools and have a healthy appreciation for the dangers involved. The instructions offered here are for your information only. Any decision to use the information presented here is entirely up to you. Here you will find some tricks and shortcuts developed during the last couple of years to help you decide if this is a job you want to tackle.
Please understand that I am not responsible for your decision to use any of information presented here. You must know before undertaking a project like making a quality alcohol stove that there are many opportunities to hurt yourself and others. Keep safety the most important consideration when you study this site.
SAFETY is an attitude! Ask yourself how you feel about wearing eye protection or using power tools you are not familiar with. If protection and precautions are for the "other guy" then so is this project. There are a number of quality stoves on the market reasonably priced. Is your eye worth $12? How much would you take for a finger or two? You get the idea. Don’t even think about starting a project like this without the right attitude!
The alcohol stove consists of three components, a top, bottom, and an inner chamber. [photo1]
You need two cans to make one stove. These need to be cans with a sharp bottom rim. [photo2]. Most Pepsi products have this rim and some Budweiser cans are the right type as well. Still, you can find the wrong style cans with Pepsi and Bud so be aware. Coke products have cans with a very large radius bottom rim that will not hold the inner wall as securely in place. This can allow the inner chamber to distort in construction and results in a weaker alcohol stove in my opinion. Sure, we are talking about matters of small degree but the end product is the sum of all the individual steps. Coke type cans will work, but why use 2nd best? Besides, everyone knows that Pepsi tastes better! :-)
Start with at least seven good cans. We are going to make components for 3 alcohol stoves because you should be able to get at least one good stove if this is your first attempt. Odds are you will split at least one burner top during the expansion process after much painstaking effort and learn new ways of expressing your frustration. The seventh can will be used to make the plaster plug. The cans should be perfect and free of any dings or dents. If you start with quality parts you might end up with a quality alcohol stove but if you use 2nd rate materials you will never have a 1st rate outcome. Let’s get started!
- CAN PREPARATION
2. Cut the tops off your cans and trim the top edges smooth.
- MAKE THE PLASTER PLUG
You need a tool that will hold the can securely while you measure, drill and cut. Another important job for the plug is to measure the size of the can. There are very small differences in the diameter of beverage cans and it is important to determine if a can is loose or tight
Take one perfect, trimmed can and fill it to the top with plaster of paris. When the plaster hardens, cut down the side of the can and peel the aluminum off the plug. Discard the scrap aluminum. Evenly sand the sides of the plug until it will just fit into a trimmed can smoothly but with some slight friction. The more you use the plug the easier it will fit into the trimmed cans. This is an unsanded plug [photo7] and this one is a plug that has been used for months. [photo8]
- MAKE THE MARKING BOARD
Cut a 3 X 5 card from thin but sturdy cardboard. I cut mine with the paper cutter because at least one straight edge is necessary. Measure up from the straight edge and make a mark at 3/4 inch ad at 1 _ inch. [photo9] (t shows one mark.)
Use the upholstry needle to punch a hole in the marking board at both marks. You will use this board to mark the sides of the cans for cutting. Use either the needle for scribing a cut mark or an ultra-fine point Sharpie pen. [photo10, photo11]
1. SIZE THE CANS
2. Take all 6 cans and determine if they are loose fitting or tight fitting. Since we are going to assemble the stove by fitting the botton INSIDE the burner top, it makes things easier if you take advantage of the tiny differences in can size. You are trying to determine the RELATIVE size difference.
3. Insert the plug into a can and hold the can and plug upside down. [photo12] The can is held by one hand and the plug is kept from falling out with the other. With the can/plug assembly a few inches above the table, let gravity pull the plug from the can. Note how easily the plug slides from the can. Set that can to one side and do it again with another trimmed can. Did the plug slide/fall from the can faster or slower? If it slide out faster then the second can is RELATIVELY looser than the first. Therefore the first (tighter) can will be the bottom and the second (tighter) can will be the top.
4. You are dealing with such small differences that sometimes the only indication is your imagination. If you think there is a difference then you are probably correct. Try this with a number of cans and you will eventually train your senses to determine the minute differences. This is an important step to helping with an easy assembly.
5. BURNER TOP [photo13]
Take a loose can and put it on the plug. Turn the plug over and use the heavy needle and marking board to scribe a line all the way around the can at the 1 1/4 inch mark.[photo 14, photo15]. Using the utility knife, cut along the scribed mark with the can and plug laying sideways. Keep your fingers out of the way! [photo16] The photo is of the bottom being cut and not the top but you get the idea. Make a straight cut down the side of the can from the scribed mark to the open end of the can. [photo17] Peel the side of the can away fron the burner top. [photo18, photo19, photo20] Save the side piece for making the inner chamber.
7. Print the PDF Jet Marking Tape, cut it out and tape it to the burner can with the edge marked bottom to the bottom of the can. [photo21, photo22, photo23] Note: The bottom of the can used for the burner will eventually be the top of the stove but for now, bottom of can means bottom of can. Use the heavy needle and the light hammer and lightly punch a TINY hole thru the can at each jet mark on the PDF Jet Marking Tape. [photo24] The object is to make pilot holes to allow for accurate drilling of the jets. Don't punch the hole so large that the drill won't enlarge the hole
8. The following is probably the most dangerous part of the entire process so USE GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION!!! Use the drill press with the 1 3/4 inch hole saw [photo25] to cut the large center well hole. [photo26, photo27] It may be good if you cut a number of practice cans and do this. It might also be easier for you to cut the large center well hole before trimming the side off the burner as described at the start of this section. USE GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION. Drill the jets using a #57 drill bit. [photo28]
9. Sand the inside of the burner in 4 places to deburr the jets [photo29], smooth the center well cut [photo30, photo31], and deglaze the gluing surfaces [photo32, photo33] and remove the inside edge burr [photo34, photo35].
the burner lip. This is the part that,
after all your hard work, a great
opportunity exists to destroy the burner top.
You are going to expand the
first 1/8 inch or so of the burner top. Get an
unopened soda to use as an
expanding tool. [photo36]
Put the burner onto the end of the full soda can JUST A LITTLE BIT and pull it
back off. [photo37,
Be careful to not cut your hands. Do this over and over again rotating the
burner top a bit each time. Do at least 8 insertions for each revolution. Try
increasing the angle of the full soda can slightly after each full revolution.
The idea is to GRADUALLY open up the edge of the burner can to allow it to slip
over the stove bottom piece. [photo43]
This photo shows the first 1/8 expanded. If you make a bottom section first you
can use this as a guage to tell you when you have
expanded it enough. [photo44]
Note: WHEN - not IF - you split the side of your burner top during the expansion step and render it useless, take a slow deep cleansing breath, set the pieces down on the table and edge carefully away from the scene of the disaster. Go outside and kick something inanimate, say a few choice words or invent a few new ones, and cool down. Then start all over again.
11. STOVE BOTTOM [photo45]
12. Take a tight can and scribe a mark using the
marking board with the heavy needle at the 3/4 inch mark. This photo shows the mark
being made with a felt tip marking pen. [photo46]
The pen makes a wide mark and is not as precise as the needle/scribe method.
Cut on the scribed line. [photo47]
Cut down the side [photo48]
Remove and save side piece [photo49, photo50]
Sand the stove bottom to remove the paint from the gluing surface [photo51, photo52] and remove the rim burr[photo53, photo54].
13. INNER CHAMBER [photo55]
Take a side piece trimmed from either the stove top or stove bottom procedure and cut it to size on the paper trimmer. [photo56]
Start with the straight edge up against the gate and trim the end square. [photo57]
Rotate the piece 90 degrees and cut a parallel long cut that yeilds a long strip 1 9/16th wide. [photo58]
Rotate again to trim the last edge to make a strip 6 1/2 inches long by
1 9/16 inches wide. [photo59]
Note: I have used the trimmer to make thousands of cuts and it is not harmed by cutting aluminum beverage can metal sheets.
19. Make a very light mark 1/2 inch from one end of the inner chamber piece. [photo60]
20. Measure for the notches in one side of the inner chamber. Make a mark at the center of one edge. Measure and mark at 2 inches on both side of the center mark. [photo61]
22. Lightly sand the product decal off the end you have just marked as well as the other end/opposite side. This is where the epoxy will do it's work and you want a good clean gluing surface. [photo64, photo65]
23. Mix some JB Weld 600 degree epoxy (Not the 5 minute low temp kind) and apply a thin layer to the sanded area. Keep it thin and away from the very end. You don't want any ooze-out to glue your clamp to the inner chamber. [photo66]
24. Roll one end over the other with the gluing surfaces overlapped to the 1/2 inch line and use tape to hold it in position. Clamp with 2 popsicle sticks and a paper spring clamp or 2 clothspins to apply light but even pressure. Let cure for at least 12 hours. You need to [photo67, photo68, photo69, photo70, photo71]
Take the 3 pieces, Stove top, bottom and inner chamber and check to make sure the bottom will fit in the top. Don't put the two pieces together to deeply or you won't be able to get them apart.
Pick up the inner chamber and locate the edge with the notches. [photo74] This edge will be installed on the stove bottom side. Note: If you assemble this part incorrectly , the stove will not get alcohol into the outer section and will not work.
Press the top and bottom section together evenly and incrementally. Just a little bit at a time all around. [photo81] Keep pressing until the top and bottom are seated firmly on the inner chamber. [photo82]
Use the needle to carefully clean the metal chips from the burner jets. [photo89]