A Wax Stove – Who knew?

I was looking at stoves, again… Something to do while using one of the ones I’ve already got. One thing led to another, as it tends to do, and I ran into a stove that vaporizes wax and makes a fairly clean flame of it.

Wax Burning G-Micro PSL Wax Gasifier stove

Wax Burning G-Micro PSL Wax Gasifier stove

While this picture is the most visually pleasing, there are others at the Zen Stove link below showing the stove mode with a pot on top and a very blue flame. Including this one:

G-Micro PSL with Guinness Pot

G-Micro PSL with Guinness Pot

It’s an interesting idea. Makes a sort of candle like flame, but with enough added air and vaporization of the wax to be much cleaner than a simple giant candle.

Looks like they just did a price discount to $100. A bit light on power, at 1100 BTU/hr per this page:

http://www.gattgen.com/#!features/c1ger

​Kit Weight

Burner weight 2.1oz – 60g
Stand weight 1.7oz – 48g
Cooling Ring 0.3oz – 10g (for hot climate / Removable)

Kit Dimensions

​Burner 1.5dia x 2.25h
Stand 2.75dia x 3.25h

Fuel
Any Pure Paraffin Wax

Burn time full reservoir 30min
Paraffin wax consumption 26g hr / 0.91oz hr /
Energy 1,100 btu/hr
Cold water boil 1 min / oz

That 1 minute to boil one ounce means it’s 8 minutes to boil one cup and 16 minutes to boil one pint. About the same speed as Sterno (or a little bit less).

The major feature they advertize is the non-spill nature of the fuel and that it can go on airplanes. OK. For the cost, I’d likely rather just pick up some Sterno at the other end of the flight. Pretty much every hotel destination in the world has chaffing dishes and the fuel cups for them. Though I suppose if going to “Dead End Nowhere” commercial you could find a place with nothing available. A nice multi-fuel stove that runs on kerosene and / or gasoline is available from many makers for about the same price, so not sure what airplane one might fly in on that would NOT be running on gasoline or kerosene…

Still, it’s a neat idea and would be especially useful in a stowed emergency kit where fuel survival was marginal. At one time I had a ‘perma-kit’ in my car boot / trunk. Many kinds of fuel just don’t survive well, others are a ‘risk’. The high pressure highly volatile fuel cans, like propane and butane, survived in the trunk in Phoenix, but got hotter than I like. I’m pretty sure that in some cases they would overheat and vent. (That is WHY the propane cans have an overpressure valve in them…) I had other fuels just evaporate away (like Coleman fuel in a metal can. OK for months. Over years, a tiny bit past the cap seal adds up.) Wax candles melt and make a mess of anything like cloth or paper near them. Yet, one can store wax easily in a glass jar. Just put the lid on and be done.

There’s a picture of my standard self made emergency candles here:

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/thread-wicks-and-rolling-your-own-candles/

If the wax melts (WHEN it melts in the trunk in summer in Phoenix ;-) it is contained in the jar and just sets up again on cooling.

So one of these stoves with a jar of wax will be pretty reliable.

So I can see a use for this stove. Just not one that I can justify for me, now.

I came to that site from Zen Stoves. They have a great set of pages about all sorts of stoves:

http://zenstoves.net/G-Micro.htm

They make the point that this package is very light. With the low power, it’s not a winter stove, but for a spring hike in a wilderness area at the end of a ‘flight to nowhere’, it solves some logistical issues with very little weight.

Raymond Gatt of Gatt-Gen released his G-Micro PSL (Personal Stove and Light) wax gasifier stove to the public sometime around 2011. It was originally marketed as a survival stove and light which will run off of alcohol and solid wax sticks. It is important to note that Raymond Gatt now markets the G-Micro PSL as a Wax only stove and light and no longer endorses the use of alcohol or other liquid fuels in his stove (more on this later). Even without the ability to use alcohol in the G-Micro PSL, a wax fueled stove makes for a potentially useful cooking system. Solid wax fuel allows you to safely store your stove and fuel in your car, garage, or closet. And since solid candles are allowed by the TSA in the US, the G-Micro and fuel can be packed in checked baggage for air travel or even mailed to your destination. This stove and light system opens up new possibilities for survivalists, disaster preppers and international travelers.

Solid wax also has considerable amount of heat potential per gram. Because of this, many ultralight hikers have experimented with various wax powered stoves in hopes of making an ultralight cook system which would allow for minimal stove and fuel weight. And if the G-Micro PSL published specification are near accurate, it has the potential of being a light weight stove contender for many.

They have a series of pictures of using the stove with a variety of fuels, from alcohols to kerosenes and even gasoline. Some a bit spectacular. In an emergency it would be “worth it” to take the risk, but not in a typical tent…

The two points that were most of interest to me were the very slow time to boil water, and the fact that it’s one of the few stoves that does a decent job of burning wax with anything approaching a clean blue flame. That it also can be fitted with a glass globe to be a lantern is interesting.

This is one of the only stove options available which allows you to check in both the stove and fuel at the airport. This allows you the ability to use your stove immediately after arriving at your destination without needing to go on a hunt for fuel. It also likely doesn’t need to be cleaned prior to checking in at the airport like a pressurized petrol stove would (unless you use a liquid petrol fuel in this stove). This makes it possible for many types of travelers to now travel with a usable stove without the fuss and delay of trying to track down fuel before heading out to their final destination.

Raymond Gatt provided an example of a coffee drinker who travels around and tries out coffee in the fields of Central America. For him, the G-Micro PSL stove can be easily packed and used in the coffee fields or in many of the homes which tend to be well ventilated. There is no need to carry stinky gasoline and a heavy multifuel stove which needs to be odor free before getting it back on a plane. Other fuels (i.e. canister fuel, denatured alcohol) are often difficult to locate and spending valuable time looking for fuel while on holiday is often undesirable.
[…]
For its intended use as a wax gasifier, this little stove is impressive compared to the dirty and sometimes dangerous homemade survival wax stoves used by many. There is a lot of fiddle factor with this stove and a learning curve to use. Wax fuel will need to be casted to the proper size or cut up to fit the tiny filler hole on the G-Micro PSL. Economy tealight candles seem to be an ideal fuel as they are easy to pack and can be used without the stove for light, heat and limited cooking. The supplied Wax Stix were the perfect size for use with the G-Micro PSL but burned dirty compared to other wax tested.

While I’d love to have one of these stoves to play with / test, I just can’t justify blowing $100 on “yet another stove”. Between the 1/2 dozen I’ve got, as long as I’m not flying somewhere, I’m pretty well set.

Speaking of those DIY wax stoves. I ran into a page that did a very interesting thing. They came up with a ‘wick design’ that is both more efficient and easy to make, while making less smoke and soot.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/candle_stoves.html

Instead of making the entire “Altoids Tin” a wick with coiled up cardboard, they realized that getting enough air to mix with the wax is the big issues. They make an “X” shaped wick.

Cross Wick Stove

Cross Wick Stove

More pictures in the article, including one where it’s lit and burning.

Boiled 16 ounces in 16 minutes, so about the same speed, but a lot more soot, than the ‘fancy stove’. Nice to know how to make one for “emergency use”.

As mentioned above, in general the stoves made a sooty mess of the pots, and if the soot included some wax condensate it was very hard to clean the pots afterwards. And of course the stuff makes black marks on anything it touches: hands, clothing, gear .

Which makes that costly stove look like a much better deal after all! ;-)

They do caution against using beeswax in bear country due to anecdotal reports of bears smelling residual honey smells in the wax…

In Conclusion

Yes, I’m on a “stove kick” right now. In my experience, wax is not the best fuel for a stove. It works well in candles. Ikea sells candles made from stearic acid, that small like Crayola crayons ;-) and ought to be edible in moderation. They also burn rather cleanly. It would be very interesting to test the G-Micro PSL on that fuel.

I’ve also got an alcohol fuel stove that is super light. It works fairly well, and for ‘day hike’ use, I’d take it. Given that, I can’t see myself in need of fuel in “middle of nowhere” any time soon. But who knows, maybe some day I’ll have that “problem” and be able to justify a new stove ;-)

For now, pictures will have to do.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A Wax Stove – Who knew?

  1. adrianvance says:

    This is all well and good, but these systems are weak compared to a Prius, from Sweden, or the Coleman, US, that both burn readily available gasoline and really put out a lot of heat and unfortunately noise such that it is almost impossible to converse over them, but they surely can cook a pound of beans in less than an hour and go out nicely to signal dinner is ready and soon the farting competition will begin.

    See The Two Minute Conservative at: http://tinyurl.com/7jgh7wv and when you speak ladies will swoon and liberal gentlemen will weep.

  2. Petrossa says:

    Next on the list solar stove?

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    You want me to talk about one, or just looking at the only thing I haven’t done? ;-)

    I played with solar stoves a couple of times. Long ago. VERY disappointing. Even in a California summer. IMHO, not worth even thinking about. IMHO, the only way it can work is with a 5 m square or so parabolic reflector and solar tracking. Everything else is just various combinations of too slow, too unreliable, to uncontrollable, or “warmer not cooker so BIG health risk”.

    So I’m not going into solar oven / solar stoves unless someone asks for it (and then not by making one, but only as a ‘paper search’… )

    Essentially, you bet about 1/2 kW / m^2 and need 2 kW minimum, plus shadow losses from the pot holder. That’s about a 5 m^2 dish. Just to boil water for coffee (and not that fast). ANY clouds, wind, precipitation, poor ‘pointing’, shading, … and you need more collector to make up for it. 2 m radius is ‘nice to have’. So 6 foot diameter dish. WITH pointing / tracking and pot stand. (Remember, maybe a 12 lb ham or turkey, so a sturdy one…)

    Might be interesting to see if anyone makes a portable one for boiling just one cup of water…

    Looks like Zen Stoves covers it:

    http://zenstoves.net/Solar.htm

    Yes, they are made. Notice the complete lack of “performance data”?…

  4. Speed says:

    “Cold water boil 1 min / oz”

    For some value of “cold” and some set of environmental conditions.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @All:

    I’ve added a picture of the stove with a “Guinness Pot” on it from Zen Stoves. There seems to be something about folks who like testing stoves and playing with fire also being interested in Guinness… ;-)

    @Speed:

    The particular pot used also matters. (More than I care to think about. Even just the aspect ratio of the pot. I’ve done tests with two pots from the same maker same materials same construction different H to W and the times change. Lid or no-lid is a huge difference. The stove maker brings that up in this discussion from the bottom of the Zen Stove page (that includes environmental conditions):

    Note: After reading this review, Raymod Gatt of GattGen responded with:

    On the subject of 2 cup boil times; You seem to be getting 20 min boil times. I on the other hand get a boil in 12min +/_ with wax. To do this I start with about 68f water in a MSR Titan Pot with tight fitting lid having a small hole in the lid to hold a temperature logger probe. I carry out the testing indoors with no wind at about 70F ambient. 20 min seems a bit long to me but maybe it’s what happens when a, low tech, tin soup can is used instead of a high tech Titanium Pot. Maybe fabricating a tight fitting lid will improve the soup can boil times. There is a sweet spot wick height setting which gives max boil times and minimal soot / wax deposits on the pot. Increasing wick height does not quicken the boil but does increase odor and soot. Every stove will be a little different and finding the spot is like adjusting the fuel jet screw on an English petrol engine … meaning painfully small adjustments are required.

    Part of why folks like to do their own stove testing… different makers using different pots and conditions…

    @Petrossa:

    I like the duck tape on a pressurized air appliance. Shows courage… ;-)

    @Adrianvance:

    I wasn’t aware of a Swedish “Prius” stove. Please enlighten…

    Per the Coleman: Yes, and it weighs a ton too.

    Every stove has a design goal. A purpose. Some, like a 2 burner Coleman, are directed at “car camping”. Others, like this one, are directed at “ultralight” or “expedition to nowhere” with limited fuel. That’s part of why I have several.

    So just like you would not wear muddy rain boots to a dinner / dancing night out, you would not use a Coleman 2 Burner for a day hike. (And many of us would not be cooking beans in any case… they take too much fuel if dry, and are too heavy if already wet.)

    So yes, the Coleman stoves are much faster. Their single burner “Dual Fuel Sporter II” (that is marginally light enough for a backpack – if shared between two people and you need it for winter conditions) puts out 10,500 BTU or about 10 x as much. (That also is more than the burners on my electric stove in the kitchen – it is a bit of a blowtorch so be careful not to burn those beans of yours Oh, and stay down wind please…) But I’d not want to ‘slip one in a day pack’ for a cup of fresh coffee at the end of a 10 miles trail… That’s the realm of the “Ultralight stove” which is what this one clearly is. At a bit over 4 ounces, all in, that’s nearly nothing.

    I have a Trangia for the same general purpose.
    http://ultralight-hiking.com/stoves-trangia.html

    Hardly more than a very lightweight brass fuel cup with lid and an aluminum cup to sit it in.

    While you could cook for a family of 4 on it while car camping, it would be long, slow, tedious, and you would eat last while cooking one dish at a time in a small cup. But on a day hike alone, it’s much much lighter and works out fine for personal use.

    Camping stoves are like your weather and tent gear. Different gear for different places, seasons, size of group, etc. Ranging from a full on cabin tent in the truck for a large group of not very hardy folks, to nothing at all on a day hike. I have a little fuel tablet stove that weighs about 11 grams ( titanium ;-) Easy to put in a shirt pocket “just in case”… Can’t do that with the Coleman stove…

    Oh, and you mentioned noise. One of the major features of many of these stoves is the silence. In many kinds of survival situations, silence is golden. In many wilderness day hike places, it is essential to the ambiance. The Trangia started life, I believe, as a military item in Sweden. Per the wiki:
    “The Trangia burner is also a component in the Swedish military mess kit. The Finnish Defence Forces also use the Trangia,”
    There are times you don’t want the other guy to hear you…

    Finally, BTUs are pounds of fuel. As a ‘slow heater’, this wax stove will give longer duration of low heat per pound of fuel carried. A kind of enforced discipline. 1100 BTU is enough to keep hands warm and melt snow for drinking. Spreading out that heat delivery over a longer time can be a feature in survival situations.

    So I’d encourage you to think just a bit more about “what situation is suited to this tool” rather than just running off to “Look, I have a bigger hammer! Is that a nail?”… Sometimes it is not a nail, but a thumbtack that is needed.

  6. adrianvance says:

    The Prius was invented and made in Sweden and is sold all through Europe. It holds about 200 ml of gasoline and will cook a full pound of Pinto beans, after overnight soaking, in one filling. The tank is 9 cm wide and 4 cm tall, the burner stands another 6.5 cm and it comes in a kit with a 1.5 and 2 liter pans plus a cover that is also a frying pan, gripping handle and a wire cleaning tool for the burner as it tends to build a carbon plug after a few hours of use. The whole kit, fueled, weighs about a pound and is very handy when backpacking.

  7. Petrossa says:

    EM the tubes are stuck together with superglue, the ducttape is because those bits are silicone tubing which ballooned faster then the tube inflated :) Guess i won’t try it up to it’s max of 13 bar

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    It was just humor…. Duck tape is the universal design and repair material. In high school, my kid made a wallet out of the stuff. Nothing else, just cleverly folded and faced Duck Tape. Had pockets and foldsouts and everything… I think it was even included on space flights and was part of what saved Apollo 13 (IIRC they stuck together an air scrubber that involved using some tape). In theatre, just about everything is done with Gaffers Tape, a first cousin…
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaffer_tape
    it is black (to not reflect lighting and cover unwanted shiny things) and comes off cleanly (instead of the Duck Tape goo – yes, I know it’s Duct Tape – that leaves bits behind…)

    You can build an entire (erstaz) city with little more than plywood, paint, nails and gaffers tape…

    BTW, my, um, “improvised projectile device” has ample use of “wound reinforcing” of the launch tube, then topped with a finish layer. First got the idea when making “spud guns” in college. Long before they became fancy PVC things, we used soda cans joined together with tape. (back when soda cans had a metal top and ring at each end) Strapping tape with fiberglass threads for the inner layer, then Ducktape over that for finish and griping surfaces. Also insulates to better retain heat for fuel vaporization of later shots. Lighter fluid and a match, launched a tennis ball over a 4 story building… that was a ‘4 can model’ with 1 ‘injector’ can, 1 ‘combustion’ can, and 2 ‘barrel cans’. (The bottom can has pencil sized holes in the top to inject flame into the 2 nd can and amplify the ‘whoof!’… so it ‘compresses and ignites’ the combustion chamber above it, then the T-ball launches up the tube…) Ducktape, don’t leave home without it ;-)

    So I admire folks who do interesting things with it…

    But you could improve your design if it included fire somewhere ;-)

  9. Speed says:

    Re boil times: Altitude matters too.

  10. Ralph B says:

    EM…rather than charcoal would it be possible to use actual coal in your POB stove and DO? Not sure how well it would do on the lid, but underneath you can get a nice long burn time…maybe too hot though. Of course that is assuming they even allow the stuff in CA.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ralph B:

    I once bought a sack of coal at a local hardware store. Must be 20 years ago now. The sulphur level in it was daunting in the fireplace… But yes, it would work in the POB Grill and the G70 Stove. Likely on the Dutch Oven / American Camp Oven as well. It’s just highly compressed wood.

    @Adrian Vance:

    I wonder which came first, the Prius Stove or the Toyota Prius…

    I’m familiar with the Primus line, are you sure you didn’t drop a letter? Also the Optimus stoves were common here. And the Svea.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svea_123

    I really like a lot of the old ‘tank built in’ brass camping stoves, but they are now ‘antiques’ here. Largely replaced by the “fuel bottle and burner on a hose” style. Just not the same…

  12. adrianvance says:

    Yes, you are right I have this decade on the brain, which is remarkable as I actually got my Primus out to measure it and confirm my recollections, but fumbled the name.

    The Swedes have a saying, “Peace is when the Primus runs out of fuel,” as the thing makes a lot of noise when burning. The burner over oxygenates the fuel as it is designed to be used at high altitudes where air is thin so at lower levels it roars, but I will tell you, there are few things more comforting when you are in a snow-covered tent on the side of a mountain than the roar of a healthy Primus heating a batch of chicken-noodle soup.

  13. Gail Combs says:

    Me? I still use my old Svea for camping and the trusty Coleman for car camping.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gail Combs & Adrian Vance:

    I love those old brass pressure stoves…

    Even though on one trip on a very cold wet morning a friend was having a whole lot of trouble getting his self pressurizing ( I think it was an Optimus) warm enough to send fuel out the spout… I used my ‘stove’ to heat his and get it going. As a poor college kid, my ‘stove’ was a small hand held propane torch and 3 rocks … Worked instantly, and very well. I did go a bit “cheeky” and made hot breakfast cocoa for 3 or 4 of us while they all were trying to get their stoves to run ;-) We all had hot cocoa and I had my hot breakfast pretty much done when they got their stoves running. Some with a bit of help…

    Yes my ‘stove’ was a bit heavy (well, the fuel bottle was – the burner head was not that heavy) but on a very cold wet morning after nothing but rain all night with the ground all wet and limited dry matches available, some of the folks where running out of matches while having very cold numb hands challenged with the fine motor functions needed. Me? I had my ‘sparker’… Turn knob. Spark. Fire. Pot on for cocoa…

    So I probably had a 1 lb weight penalty, at least. But warming hands over a steaming pot while sipping hot cocoa, asking your friend with the fancy expensive gear if you ought to make one for him? Priceless ;-)

    But I did like the look of the shiny brass stoves, the light weight, the precision manufacture…

  15. adrianvance says:

    Just what you need on a camping trip: A smart kid with blowtorch.

  16. rogerknights says:

    Here’s a link to a bunch of reviews of the lightweight & compact wood- and Sterno-burning Littlbug (no e) stove. I have one and like it.
    http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=littlbug+stove+review&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

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