Opening morning of hunting brings with it many things. Slushy coffee, frozen pre-cooked eggs and uncooked oatmeal are the only breakfast Mother Nature allows the unfortunate soul waking up on opening day. What do these frosty treats all have in common? No single person who has choked them down for breakfast has any desire to do so again, and having done so myself a time or two, I hope to never again have to force them down.

There is a simple solution, but starting a fire isn’t always the fastest proposition, nor is fire a certainty. The alcohol-burning stove might be the best solution, being an ingenious blend of cheap to create, easy to use and packable. Pack an alcohol stove in the camping kit and never again worry about staring down a bowl of raw, dry oatmeal and cold coffee before beginning the day.

There are expensive commercial stoves available, but for those of us with a limited budget or a can-do attitude, a homemade version is easy to create. There aren’t any special skills required to construct one, and they can be made from almost any aluminum can materials that are available. A new stove can be ready in under an hour. Here’s how to make one with the most basic tools and techniques.

Get To Grillin’

The stove is more or less complete at this stage, and all that remains is testing. The main issue is that the holes on the side of the stove could be too small to allow for proper ignition, so if during testing the stove fails to ignite on the edges, simply enlarge the holes slightly and try testing again.

To test, pour some fuel into the center of the stove and light it. It may be difficult to see flames so I recommend using an area of limited lighting for this test. After it is lit, let it burn a few minutes and flames should emerge from where the holes were drilled. If they do not, the holes are too small and should be enlarged slightly. Using a drill and starting with a 1/16-inch bit works best since the size of the holes can be carefully regulated and enlarged slowly. If a drill is not used, be careful and enlarge the holes very slowly, testing each setting before enlarging further.

To safely put out the flame, take an empty 15-ounce can of any kind, invert it and place it over the stove, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the flame. It cools quickly, but always wait five minutes before touching it. Extra fuel can be poured back into the fuel receptacle.

At this point I like to create a makeshift grill for the top of the stove out of excess bits of aluminum. This gives a cooking vessel something to sit on atop the stove, providing stability and ensuring adequate oxygen flow to the stove while cooking. A grill can be improvised by taking another aluminum can and cutting it into two equal strips 1.5 inches thick. Cut two 1-inch-wide strips and two 1-inch-deep notches into the wider strips from the previous step. Take these smaller strips and insert them into the notches made in the wider strips so they form a grid. What should result is a quick version of a grill that will stabilize a vessel atop the stove.

This article was originally published in the AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN™ Winter 2016 issue #205. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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