Buddy Burner Camp Stove

This may very well be the ultimate summer project for our kids — a homemade personal camp stove!  The materials for this project are pretty easy to come by (cheap or free) and it’s easy enough for older kids to make (supervision recommended).  Although my instructions are detailed, be sure to watch the video so you can get a visual on how it all comes together.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Large metal coffee can (33 ounce or something similar), a 5 oz. tuna fish can (empty and clean), corrugated cardboard, wax (old candles work fine), tin snips, a “church key” can opener (makes a triangular hole), scissors.

Step #1     Remove the label from the coffee can and clean the can well, inside and out.

Step #2     Using the tin snips, make two cuts on the open edge of the coffee can as though you were cutting a little door flap about 3-4 inches wide and 2 inches tall.  Bend the flap open toward the outside of the can.  Be careful — the cut edges are SHARP!!!

Step #3     Using the church key can opener, make 3-4 holes in the side of the can.  These holes need to be on the opposite side of the can as the flap you cut and near the cooking surface of the can.  Make sure you make the holes on the side of the can and not on the cooking surface!

Step #4     Cut a long strip (40-50 inches) of corrugated cardboard about 1-2 inches wide or however deep your tuna can is.  When cutting the cardboard, make sure the corrugation runs perpendicular to the long edge of the cardboard strip.  Roll up the cardboard strip and shove it into the tuna can — it should be SNUG.  If you did this correctly, you should be able to look into the can and see all of the corrugation holes — this is where the wax will go into it.  Cut a 1/2 inch strip of cardboard for a wick and slide it into the middle of the cardboard roll and leave an inch sticking up above so you have enough to light with.  If the wick won’t slide into the roll, use a pencil or scissors to push into the center to make a space for it.

Step #5     Melt your old candles in a saucepan and carefully pour the melted wax into the tuna can.  Do this gradually.  As the wax settles in, you’ll need to keep adding a little at a time until the wax overflows a little.  Let the tuna can cool overnight or at least a few hours.


Now it’s time to cook!  Be sure to set your buddy burner on a non-flammable, level surface.  Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby in case the fire gets out of hand.  Also have potholders and metal tongs on hand so you can move or steady the burner as needed.

Light the burner wick and put the burner under the coffee can.  The cooking surface heats up QUICKLY, so make sure your food is ready to go!  We made bacon and eggs, so the grease from the bacon helped prevent the egg from sticking.  If you aren’t cooking a greasy meat first, just use some butter, oil, or something similar before cooking eggs or pancakes.  DO NOT spray cooking spray at the buddy burner or you will have a flame thrower!!!  (Not as fun as it sounds, kids)

Never leave your hot buddy burner unattended.  When you are done cooking, carefully move the coffee can away from the burner (use potholders or tongs!), and snuff out the burner with an intact tin can (an extra coffee or food can works great).  Let the burner sit and cool so you don’t spill hot wax on yourself or other stuff.

We had a blast making these and cooking with them!!  Next time we want to try making pancakes with them.  I highly recommend this project, and it could be done a long time in advance of an outing or camping trip.  Got questions??  Leave me a comment or send an email and I will answer as quick as I can.  I’d love to see pictures or video of you using your buddy burner.  What else could we cook on these??  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Happy cooking!