The hobo beer can alcohol stove in use with the IKEA cutlery stand wind break.

You may recall, or you may not give a toss, that the other week I made an alcohol beer can stove. Horrid thing but it did keep myself and the children entertained for an hour or so. Fire does that.

The great failing, amongst many, of this device is size - not big enough to hold a pan. You need a stand. It's also a bit crap in the wind, so something is needed to protect it. Now I was in IKEA the other week. I know, grown man shouldn't be in that den of iniquity but wife told me to go, so I did. Whilst walking around doing an adequate impression of a zombie, i.e. a normal IKEA customer, I spotted a stainless steel cutlery holder. Essentially a stainless steel wind break. So £2 was invested and I promised my children we'd give it a go.

Inverted, the cutlery holder is great, both as a pan stand as a wind break. The holes let enough air in for burning, yet not enough to blow the flame out. There are also four little raised feet - now, inverted, four little raised pan supports. The support is a bit big and heavy to wild camp with, but guess it could double up as a container for cooking stuff - that is its' designated task after all.

As you may note it worked better than expected, hence my burning wood. Not only did it offer great pan support, it both protected from the wind and enabled air to get in - far too well. This is us making hot chocolate, a job it did admirably well. OK this is us outside a perfectly good kitchen using £2.50 worth of alcohol to boil 500ml of milk, but hey, you can't have it all.

Anyway, I'm still a twat for investing time on this, but five weeks into the school holidays my kids are still entertained doing active stuff. More so really, as when we'd finished with the hot chocolate I turned the IKEA thing upside down, filled it with wood and fashioned a hobo brazier - my kids were happy playing with this, burning various things, for six hours. Yes, six hours. £2's worth of tat, bit of wood, hey presto! happy kids. Either that or I'm so boring and they are so starved of normal childhood entertainment that anything would suffice. Hmm; social workers - bad dad - fire - care home - prison.

The stove, even in stronger Mk II format, is still pants but my boy enjoyed helping make it, especially given the dangerous sharp edges and knife play involved. Oh and watching dad re-fill it with alcohol whilst in use. My how we laughed as all the hair on my arms got burnt off. There's going to be a Mk III version soon, one with just side venting jets and sealed fill hole - trying to get some efficiency here, but failing. You've got to say it, this self-sufficiency "surviving in the woods on berries" thing, well, it's not all it is cracked up to be. What's wrong with dialling the first 'friend' on my 'phone and getting pizza delivered?

And yes I did move it off the wood before we had a major incident.

Now if you are mad enough to be thinking "hey they're cool, I'll make one" well go ahead but remember these drawbacks:

  • They are fundamentally dangerous. I knocked one over and the resulting explosion woke me up. It also set fire to my hand. Ah, that rules out tent use then.
  • Do not use indoors or near anything that will burn.
  • Do not allow your children to play with them..... Bit late that one for me, but you have been warned.
  • Grossly inefficient. £3 worth of fuel to cook ten sausages on mine.
  • Oddly addictive to make - once you've made one, you're tempted to make another more efficient and prettier version.
  • People have posted how to make these things on-line. Some serious stoves out there. Life is too short - some of these people must make hundreds of these things to get to the level of competency they are at now. I've made four and am bored of it now..... although just one more, with smaller holes and a primer ring may be nice. You see? They draw you in.
  • And if you make the variant where you block off the primer with a coin, don't be tempted to pocket the coin as soon as the thing stops burning. Don't ask.
  • For 36 hours afterwards you'll smell and taste of burnt meths. Not nice.
  • In going down this road to making stoves out of pop cans, you're well on the way to dressing daily in combat gear and reading books about urban survival. You may well start to talk about "being off grid" and believe conspiracy theories from people in the pub. Road kill looks like food. Black silent helicopters fly at night, and you were conceived in Area 51. You have been warned.