How To Make An Altoids Candle Stove

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Sometimes it’s nice to have a fuel supply for cooking that doesn’t involve gathering wood. We’ve used Esbit fuel cubes before but they have a horrible fishy smell, and the price can really add up. You could use a Sterno can, but they’re heavy (if you’re out camping or backpacking), and expensive again.


We’ll show you how to construct an inexpensive alternative to these, using our favorite metal container, the Altoids tin.

How To Make An Altoids Candle Stove:


You’ll need an Altoids tin or similar container – a tuna fish can would work, but wouldn’t have a lid or look as cool. You’ll also need some wax (we melted tea lights) and corrugated cardboard.


To begin, cut the cardboard in long strips, as wide as the Altoids tin is deep. Make sure you’re cutting it against the inner corrugation -in other words, when you look at the long side of the cut piece, you’ll see dozens of little holes. Once you’re done cutting (the amount needed will vary depending on how your cardboard is), pack the cardboard into the tin in a spiral shape. You want to pack it in tight enough that the cardboard doesn’t move, but not so tight that you squish it and compress the holes.


Next, melt your wax. When melting wax, you always want to use a double boiler – it transmits the heat to your wax pot evenly, without scorching, and reduces the chance of fire. We just used a soda can with the top cut off, floating in the boiling water.


Once the wax is completely melted, slowly pour it into the cracks of the cardboard. You want to make sure every hole is filled, with no trapped air bubbles, but you don’t want the wax to completely cover the cardboard – stop when it’s just a little below the top edge. The cardboard is going to act as the wick – you’re basically making a candle with a huge burnable area.


Finally, light it! If it doesn’t light at first, that means you may have the wax too high and there’s no cardboard exposed. Try tilting it on the side and holding the flame in one spot to allow the wax to melt off, and it will eventually light. You may need to make a couple of these to get the hang of exactly how much wax to use.


Once lit, this will burn nice and hot, and last for a long time. It’s pocket friendly, and unlike Sterno cans, when it’s empty you can just scrape the gunk out and make a new one!

  • Brian says:

    How long do you think this would burn for?

  • Michael Whiston says:

    Good day all. I have another idea for you.
    Put a toilet paper roll in a quart paint can, unused to be on the safe side.
    Take the toilet roll, remove the tube, compress and push it in.
    Once in the can, pour in alcohol until it is fully absorbed into the paper.
    Pop the lid in place and you’re ready to go.
    To use, place between two rock shelves with roughly an inch to spare between the top of the can and the bottom of your pot. Remove the lid and light the paper. To turn it off, replace the lip.

  • Gijanedoe says:

    I love this idea, and I’m teaching it to my American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA Troops this year. I have made them with tuna cans, but love the lid with this idea.

  • Wendy says:

    So how do you cook on it? Don’t you need something to put the pot on to keep away from direct heat ?

    • Don Oberloh says:

      Yup, ya sure do, be inventive, stick four 8 penny box nails into the corners, place pot on those, or place can between some rocks etc.

  • Gail Vance says:

    We made these in the early 60’s when I was a Girl Scout. We called them Buddy Burners. GS now officially does not recommend their use. Shame really, that fear of lawsuits etc from injury stops them from teaching worthwhile skills. Seems like teaching things like this + safety would be ever so much smarter.

    • Deez says:

      I still make them out of tuna cans, only now, I use one of those can openers which breaks the seal and not cuts through the metal. This way I can reseal those cans. I’ve also been experimenting with using used cooking grease and oils. I’ve been happy with the results so far, not just for cooking but for light too. I have ‘rescued’ several old sterno foldup stoves from thrift stores and they work well with the normal size tuna cans…I’m still looking for something to use for the large tuna cans, if nothing else, a flat rock nested on other rocks.

    • Dave S says:

      We made them in not scouts about 20 years ago. We made fire starters though. We cut cardboard into strips, used rubber cement to put matches down the length with the heads sticking over the edge. We then rolled them up, tied with sisal twine, and dipped into wax and let dry!

    • Debra Barner-Cowell says:

      Such a true statement! It’s a shame the fear of lawsuits keep people from reaching survival skills.

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