American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hobo Stove

Here's a rainy-day project that takes very little in the way of time, money, or materials and provides you with an extremely handy bit of gear that will last you for a very long time even if you use it.

I read about this particular hobo stove in Backwoodsman Magazine several months ago and had to give it a try. I was a bit surprised to see just how much light and heat it generated after getting it lit--an exercise the first time.

Here's what you'll need:

  • An empty can

  • A piece of cardboard

  • Some candle nubs or squares of paraffin

You should also have a double boiler or some other means of melting the wax/paraffin away from a direct flame.

And here's how you put one of these together:

  1. Begin melting your wax/paraffin in a double boiler, on a hot plate, or in a can immersed in a pot of hot water

  2. Make sure the inside of your can is nice and clean

  3. Cut the cardboard (perpendicular to the corrugation so you have "tubes" coming from top to bottom) to just tall enough to fit inside the lip of the can and just long enough for the two ends to butt up against one another inside the can

  4. Once the wax/paraffin is melted you can assemble the stove

  5. Put the cardboard in first

  6. Pour the wax/paraffin into the middle of the can. It will saturate the cardboard and begin to wick up the "tubes."

  7. Don't fill it to the top. The wax/paraffin will cool and contract a bit but if you cover the tops of the "tubes" you may have a much harder time getting this stove going.

  8. Once cooled, you can add a bit more paraffin/wax if you'd like but you've got a nice weatherproof little stove/lantern that will provide you with hours and hours of light and heat that was built from scraps you probably had laying around the house.

Now, a couple of caveats:

  1. Anytime you're working with open flames please BE CAREFUL! Don't burn the house down.

  2. Remember, paraffin IS flammable so handle with care.

  3. This stove should be placed on a secure surface as it will be full of melted wax/paraffin after burning for a while.

  4. Lastly, I've noticed a bit of a smell when burning pure paraffin so if that smell offends you may want to try using unscented candles as the source of your wax.

The first time I lit this stove it took a bit of effort to get going. I believe it burns some of the paraffin vapor so it took some heat to get enough melted paraffin to get the flame going all the way around the cardboard. Once it got going, however, it was easy to relight. The neatest part of this project is that you can refill the stove with more wax/paraffin once it burns down a bit. I'm trying to rig up a pot stand that will allow me to use this as a heat source for cooking in addition to providing me with warmth and light.

Thanks for reading,



At 11:01 AM, Blogger Decado said...

Nice post! Up until recently, this was a favorite stove with the scouts in my troupe/area for a long time. It was easy and cheap for the kids to make. Now alcohol popcan stoves are becoming more popular. I think the wax stoves are easier as a backup without the need to also carry extra fuel. Think I will make one tonite for my bushcraft kit! thanks!

At 2:52 PM, Blogger sam_acw said...

How do you rate the backwoodsman magazine? I'm intersted in it but they only take visa cards for foreign subscriptions.
Is it worth getting?

At 5:02 AM, Blogger The Suburban Bushwacker said...

The way i've made a pocket version of these stoves is to use an empty shoe polish tin, the lid keeps it neat in your pocket and can act as a stand for the stove.
All the best

At 7:17 AM, Blogger American Bushman said...

Man am I glad this post hit such a postive note.

I've found the stove to be lacking in a bit of heat output and so far it has taken an awfully long time to get water warm but nowhere near a boil. I think my stove stand is a bit too short or my can a bit too tall however so the pot is smothering the flame a bit.

Sam, Backwoodsman Magazine is good although sometimes a bit repetitive. I always find some little gem buried somewhere inside the covers.

Suburban BW, the shoe polish tin idea is a good one. I had considered doing this with a smaller (i.e. shorter) can but just didn't have one available. I think it would have solved a few operational problems I've been having--mainly the lack of significant heat for cooking.

I wonder if a longer coil of cardboard would give me more heat.

Thanks for your comments,


At 8:06 AM, Blogger Decado said...

Heat output has always been low on this type of stove and needs a lot more protection from the wind. It is similar to the open alcohol ones that you use for those fondue things.
One thing you might try is to roll up enough cardboard to fill the can. That is the way I was shown how to make them in a Bushcraft training program for Scout Leaders.

And I like the idea of a lid! Now I am going to need to root through my box 'o stuff and see if I have one.

Not knowing how long a stove like this would last I wonder what the difference between wax and solid fuel packed in a can would be cook-time-wise? Hrmm...

At 4:03 PM, Blogger sam_acw said...

I made one a while back with a tea light candle. All you need is already there. Use the card from a spare box and you already have a holder and wick. Thanks for the magazine review!


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