Interesting Stove Links

I tend to go on binges of interest. Some of them are persistent over very long times, coming and going, but always returning. For a variety of reasons, stoves is one of those. They are useful, I’ve always had an interest in fire – what with being a Smith and Dad showing me early how to work metals in fire, they are a major determinant of fuel consumption – especially in 3rd world countries, and they are important for survival / camping. Some of them are interesting technical creations too, so the Engineering side of the brain keeps wanting to look them over.

So here are a couple of interesting links. At least one of them was the result of someone saying “Look at this”, but I don’t remember who. So h/t to whomever it was and take a bow. ( I looked in the last two “tips” postings but could not find it. Likely it was on some other page as o/t.)


First off, my major “go to” link for interesting things about camping stoves. More reviews and designs that even I can make, buy, or use. Zen stoves.

They have a bare bones presentation that is minimalist, and that I really like. But what else would you expect of Zen?

They also have things like international names for fuels that explains things like in the USA paraffin is a wax, while in much of the ROW it is kerosene. Important to know in a following link that looks at a ‘paraffin’ stove… Here’s an example of their stuff:


(A Lightweight version of the Tuna Can Stove)

Roy L. “TrailDad” Robinson

The original tuna can stove hiked with me along the Pacific Crest Trail last year (1999) for over 1500 miles, from Donner Pass near Lake Tahoe to Manning Park, British Columbia. It served me well for almost three months, heating water for soup, cooking dinners and warming the occasional morning cocoa without any problems or failures.

This new, lightweight version of my stove was introduced at ADZPCTKOP2, (i.e., the Second Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off Party,) at Lake Morena. It wasn’t the prettiest or the lightest stove there but it did boil one cup of water the fastest in 2 minutes, 24 seconds. Like the original tuna can alcohol stove, it will bring two cups of water to a boil in about 5 minutes, has no moving parts and will fit inside your cook pot. Unlike the original, the new cat food can stove weighs just 1.6 ounces including the stand and windscreen. To save space, let’s just call it the Cat Stove.

The full link has an animated graphic at the top that is tasteful and not offensive (unlike most animated things). The article goes on to give full materials list, fabrication instructions, and more. Photos included. You can spend hours (days?) looking over various stoves in the DIY section and reading performance comparisons in the commercial section. If you are thinking of getting a camping stove, or a “preparedness” stove, read there before buying. It will save you from collecting a couple of dozen stoves like someone I know ;-)

Save 80 (percent of wood fuel)

Usually when talking about 3rd world stoves, the discussion is all about rocket stoves. Efficient and very cheap to make, often from local materials, but also often brick or ceramic so large, heavy, and often immobile. But literally dirt cheap, since they are often made from dirt / clay mud; and cut wood use significantly. I even took a try at designing one that could be made in the field from bricks left over post earthquake knocking down buildings (that would be useful right now in Nepal…)

This link has a different approach. It looks like a very high tech stainless steel design, with a matched cooking pot and insulated slow cooker surround. Nice. Very nice. Yet still simple enough it can be made cheaply.

Fact Sheet of the Highly Efficient Stove Save80 ®

The name “Save80” means that an experienced person can save 80% of the firewood consumption of a traditional open fireplace (3-stone-fire). The “Save80” needs around 250 g of dry firewood to bring 6 litres of water to the boil.

Nominal effective thermal power: 1.5 kW
Pot capacity: 8 litres
Recommended pot content: 6 litres

The interior parts of “Save80” are made of stainless steel to ensure a life-span of many years, high efficiency and burning at high temperatures for complete combustion with low emission of smoke.

Time for bringing 6 litres of water to the boil: about 25 minutes

The supply of air is regulated automatically by the design of the cooker.

“Save80” is not affected by the wind.

They have thought this system out well. Large enough for a family meal, so you don’t need more than one for a group. Durable. Wind screening built in, with fitted pan, so heat is highly efficient. Uses an underused fuel source (small bits). But then they took it another important step. They made a highly insulated (and also durable) jacket into which the pot can be placed. So you bring it to the boil, then put it in the jacket and just let it sit. This saves a lot of labor tending the pot and the fire.

Fact Sheet of the Heat Retaining Box Wonderbox ®

The “Wonderbox” is used for cooking with retained heat and for conserving high temperature of the content for many hours. It is suited to the 8-litre-pot (with lid) of “Save80”. After 2 hours the temperature of 6 litres of water will decrease from 100°C to about 90°C; after 12 hours the temperature is still above 65°C.

The “Wonderbox” can save more than half of the firewood consumption, in addition to the saving by the “Save80”. The material of the “Wonderbox” is specially designed for the heat retaining of food and water, up to the boiling point and has a life-span of years (no polystyrene).

Manufacturing information: Mass production has started; capacity of production can be adapted in a short time to any quantity needed

So it saves another half on fuel use. That 250 gm that boiled the water is now all you need to do, the rest of it is carryover cooking heat.

They then go on to include a couple of examples of meals / cooking.

Examples for Using Save80 ®

in Combination with Wonderbox ®

(According to the experience of cooking instructor Imma Seifert, Neuötting)

Note: The higher the amount of cooked water or food in the 8 litre-pot, the larger is the percentage of firewood saved by “Save80” and “Wonderbox”


l 5 litres of water, 800 g rice

Bring the water (with a teaspoonful of salt) to the boil by “Save80” and add the rice. Boil it up and place the pot with lid into the heat retaining box. The rice is ready after 30 minutes in the “Wonderbox”.

Fire wood consumption: about 250 g

Dried Vegetables (Beans, Peas, Lentils)

l 4,5 litres of water, 1 kg dried vegetables

Add the dried vegetables to the cold water, without salt and bring it to the boil by the “Save80”. Boil up and put the pot with lid into the “Wonderbox”. After about 2 hours the peas, beans or lentils are cooked. Season only at the end. Soak the beans (especially large beans) overnight in cold water.

The “Wonderbox” saves all the labour usually connected with the time and firewood consuming cooking of dried vegetables. The pot remains in the box without supervision and without any fire burning.

Firewood consumption: about 250 g

Even though I’m not their target demographic, I find myself wanting one. Post quake or post hurricane I’d be able to cook a lot of meals just based on a couple of 2 in x 6 in x 4 ft boards in the junk pile. Then that “boil, put in the box, and walk away” is a very nice feature when you are trying to put up a tent next to your rubble pile that was a house… The “8 litre” is a bit large for a family of 2, but then again, odds are post disaster “friends” will show up, so a larger size is likely a good thing. (After the Loma Prieta quake we had about 4 or 5 guests, as we had electricity and they didn’t… so we had a wine and cheese party… Never let a disaster go to waste! ;-)

I have no idea what prices are, or how to get only one. (They talk about how many fit in a shipping container…) But this is the kind of thing that can save a forest in a 3rd world country, while saving sight and health of a village of women. Just well done.

When Is Paraffin Not Paraffin?

This stove is a DIY design that was, from the get go, designed to be easy to make, work efficiently, and be incredibly cheap while staying safe and effective. To me, it shows exactly what Engineering is all about. Doing the most possible with the least of what you have available.

The FSP Stove was developed by Crispin Pemberton-Pigott for the Free State Technikon in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The design criteria were:

– A fabrication cost of $3.50 or less
– A CO/CO2 ratio of less than 2%
– It must be able to be manufactured in the typical low-income townships surrounding South African towns

The problems faced by paraffin stove users around the world are legion. Most of the devices in use are known to have a tendency to explode, or to make a loud *BANG* every now and then. They are notorious for their emission of carbon monoxide (CO) due to incomplete combustion of the fuel. Many thousands of people die each year in fires caused by paraffin and paraffin stoves. People continue to use them in large numbers because of a lack of alternatives at a suitable cost.

Thus it was agreed that this technology will be in the public domain insofar as the basic unit is concerned. It was agreed between the FS Technikon and the developer that the technology resulting from the project was, upon reflection, so fundamental an improvement that it should be immediately spread around the world as quickly as possible. For that reason you will find (eventually) on this website complete plans for making and operating a Free State Paraffin (FSP) stove.

Note the attention to Carbon Monoxide production? And that price! $3.50 or less. Yet it isn’t some soda can kludge. Hit the link to look at the photos. It’s a very well thought out and effective device. And yes, I’d like to buy one of these too ;-) But don’t have the time to make one…

One of the pictures is captioned:

“A 3 Kilowatt FSP stove made by Ludrick Barnard. It can boil 1.7 litres of cold water in 7 minutes. This picture will be released after the 5th of November 2004.”

Since the small burner on my electric stove is a 2 kW (more or less), this is more like the big burner in speed and capacity. That’s a heck of a nice performance. The fuel is pressurized by the simple expedient of hanging a bottle higher than the stove. The picture shows a 2 L Coke bottle as a lowest cost option. Minimalist and elegant while reusing otherwise waste materials.

Here is their picture of the stove:

FSP Stove

FSP Stove

You can see that it is a simple to fabricate basic design, but well designed to be made with common materials.

That’s All Folks

So that’s it for this posting. A few views of different approaches to minimalist stoves. Mine for “post aw-shit” fabrication from debris. The shop made kerosene stove as a DIY 3rd world option – BYOP bring your own pots. And an integrated stove / pot / slow cook insulator design for use by families in a day to day setting where wood is the only fuel, and designed to conserve not just the wood, but the labor of the folks as well. Along with a link to a place with more DIY stoves and reviews of commercial stoves than you could ever need.

So many things you can do with simple stoves.

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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...
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10 Responses to Interesting Stove Links

  1. tallbloke says:

    Nice post Chief.

    I’m big into lightweight efficient stoves for backpacking use. My ‘go-to’ staple is a half oz pepsican stove burning alcohol. Not the most energy dense fuel, but quiet, clean burning for in-tent cooking and has multiple uses as disnfectant, cleaner and woodfire starter.

    I also developed a 2oz alcohol fired beer can kelly-kettle that works well in the open where wind adversely affects most lightweight setups. Here it is in action on the top of Red Pike in the English Lake District at Eastertime some years ago.

  2. Steve Crook says:

    Went and looked at Zen Stoves. Really useful and funny too. This from the section describing the users of different stove types.

    “They are an unusual bunch with very odd trail names who often wear homemade gear and are mistaken for the homeless as they travel across America”

  3. Another Ian says:


    Not a stove but also from South Africa

    Highly favourable comments on some old machinery blogs your side. I just got mine, no use yet.

    Do your Mercs have grease fittings?

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    My mechanic says yes.


    (Really, I know it does as I’ve seen them from below the vehicle. But as they get a shot of grease essentially for free as part of the ‘regular service inspection’ I’ve never had to deal with it.)


    Would you happen to have a posting up on the fabrication of your kelly-kettle? Somehow I thought they were much larger than that… but maybe that was your point ;-)

    @Steve Crook:

    Yes, there is that moment when you find a kindred spirit and it is delicious. Likes stoves and fire. Obsessive enough to explore it fully. Technical enough to have the meat in it. And with that sense of puckish humor that just can’t be suppressed… All in a Zen wrapper. Gotta love it!

    But, speaking of stoves and fire, I need to “put the kettle on”… I’d been using a propane bottle single burner camp stove the last couple of months, but the propane finally ran out. ( I’d stored several 16 oz cans “for that day” and decided I ought to rotate some of the stock after a decade…) and now I’m using a Sterno Stove (folding sheet metal with jellied alcohol fuel). The Sterno Stove is just barely able to simmer the kettle if you wait about 6 minutes… while the propane stove has it done in maybe one. (Only one cup of water in the kettle). My conclusion was that the Sterno Stove is better than nothing, but only barely…

    When “on the road” I’d been using a Trangia alcohol stove. MUCH better than the Sterno Stove. However, for use by the spouse and others not so fire inclined post disaster, the Sterno is of obvious operation and not subject to spilling and other modes of disaster. It works very well as a ‘side burner’ for slow cooking a pot of stuff. Essentially on simmer for hours by default. In a real disaster that’s how I’d use it. Get rice to the boil on propane, set over onto Sterno to finish for 20 minutes… Or get mess of greens to the boil on alcohol, move to Sterno to simmer for 20 minutes while I make tea / coffee on the alcohol.

    But right now it is the one with too much old fuel to use up. Also, I’d bought a couple of different brands to figure out what made one fuel better / more expensive than the other. Some had methanol as the alcohol fuel, others ethanol. All had the same weight and burn time. Turns out that not on the label is how much water is in the fuel or BTU rate. The really really cheap methanol cans are the same size and weight and burn time, but get there via watered fuel that has low heat output. Sterno brand is hotter and faster cooking. So I have a flat of methanol fuel to use up… At the present rate of tea making, it will be gone in about 2 years… Sigh. One bad decision… ;-) But I’m set for emergency fuel post quake for a long time… ( I also have a can of alcohol fuel, so in a real disaster I can “juice up” the weak fuel with a shot of added alcohol. Just have to be careful about spills for a while…)

    At any rate, tea needed… back “soon”

  5. punmaster52 says:

    @Another Ian:
    Nothing here has had grease fittings for years. We haven’t Mercs since 2011. I assume you meant Mercury cars?

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    I drive old Mercedes. From ’79 through ’89 as our ‘newest’…

  7. Larry Ledwick says:

    I always enjoy your random idea posts like this. I got a kick out of the “wonder box” in one of the links. It is a modern incarnation of an old sheep herders trick. As I heard about them the story was the sheep herder would dig a pit deep enough to put a dutch oven kettle in, build a fire in the bottom of the pit. Put the food to be cooked in the kettle with an appropriate amount of water and bring it to a boil for a couple minutes, then smother the fire with a bit of dirt and cover with grass, leaves etc as insulation. Then go off with the critters for a day of grazing. Upon returning to the sheep herders camp site at sun set the food would be nicely slow cooked and perfect temperature for eating right out of the pot.

    Obviously a bit of experience involved to get the amounts of water and such right. I have played with the same method on the stove top to experiment with minimum energy cooking like you might want to do on camping trip and a bit short on stove fuel. Put rice in a pan, add just a bit more that 2x the volume of rice in water. Bring it to a rolling boil for about a minute or two in a covered pot then shut off the heat and cover the pot with an old towel or other suitable heat blanket. After 20-30 minutes of steeping in the pot the rice is ready. You may need to bring fire up the heat for just a minute or so to steam off the last bit of water, then serve.

  8. tom0mason says:

    E.M. have a look here “Wonderbox” and many other preparedness items

    There are many other sites with variations on this theme. This is the simplest I’ve seen —

  9. Another Ian says:


    Then your mechanic might be interested in that grease fitting?

  10. Sera says:

    I’m still using my rocket stove made out of a gutter drain spout, but here are some others that work quite well in the field…

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