Pennies and Beer Cans

Pennies and beer cans, huh? Leftovers from an entertaining evening?

For some maybe…but for me, and seeing that it is the third day of WROLC (catch up: Day One Day Two) here in Santa Cruz,

I’m definitely talking about ultra-light backpacking gear. Devo and Miles led an excellent hands on workshop on soda can stoves / beer can stoves / penny stoves…whatever you want to call them.

I have used quite a variety of stoves over the years and back in 2009 I made the switch to an alcohol stove…a cat food can stove. For those unfamiliar, a cat food can stove is different than a penny stove. I’m a fan of the cat food can, but what the heck, what’s up with this penny stove?


Construction process was relatively easy and the materials and tools needed were few and basic. Excellent. Devo and Miles broke down the assembly process so that it was logical. How to make a penny stove. Test run went relatively smoothly.


A few pennies melted, but other than that, stoves burned well.

Why are the pennies melting?

Try using a penny that’s older than 1982 .. that’s when they were changed from 95% copper/5% zinc to 97.5% zinc/2.5% copper. (Zinc’s melting point is: 787.2 F Copper’s melting point is: 1,984 F)

For now, I’m sticking with my cat food can stove. I’ve constructed a few different variations of the cat food can / tuna fish can stove, but my most recent one (Jan 2013) is a model that I highly recommend. This link has directions on how to make this excellent cat food can stove. It’s cheap (mine cost a buck), light, easy to make, and best of all — it boils h20/cooks efficiently and quickly.

Do note that whenever indulging in a do-it-yourself project, interesting things can happen. Think, safety first!


The first night ever cooking with a cat food can stove, August 2009. Cameron and I became friends about 5 hours earlier that day, sharing a hole punch while making our stoves from cat food and tuna cans in the trunk of Blake’s car. Since then, we’ve refined our construction tactics and contained the wild flames. Photo cred to Blake Boles.

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