Build your own #10 Stove

Familiar with DIY rocket stoves? Sometime ago I wrote a semi coherent rant I called “The Hobo and the Rocket” in which we dove into some tin can stove history and design.

Give it a read to get a little background, or read on… 


I’m not going to tell you that I’m the first guy to have this idea but it just hit me the other day…

So, I was holding a #10 can… You know, the giant cans that are usually filled with something wonderfully obscure and industrial… like butterscotch pudding! 

Anyway, my mind always wanders to Rocket Stoves around #10 cans, so I says to myself:

“Look jackass, if you turn it upside down, pop a hole in the lid and on the side there, that’s all you need!”

…and I was right! (but like I said I’m not EVEN trying to own it)

So. Ya. That’s pretty much it. Pop a couple holes in that son of a gun. 

One of two tools you will need


  • Gloves, PPE etc.
  • Adequately strong tin snips
  • Can opener
  • #10 Can or Coffee can


    1. Open the can using the can opener. (Optional step: Binge eat contents)
    2. Remove lid. On the other lid, use the can opener to cut 1/4 to 1/2 way around.
    3. Bend the lid into the can at 45-90°ish angle. This hole is the chimney.
    4. Use tin snips to cut out an opening to preferred size (3″-4″ish square) opposite the chimney on the open end.  (This will be the fuel/air intake and your delightful fireside view)
    5. Get a fire roaring and burn out the toxic can lining before cooking with the #10 Stove. 
    Turn the dial to “11”


    Shoot, I wish there was more to write, but I think this is it… 

    The #10 Stove is simple to build, cheap, and it gets the water boiling fast with just a few handfuls of kindling. Try using a handy dandy firestarter to really get it going! 

    Construction is much less complex than an insulated rocket stove and the results are just as good, at least on the #10 can size scale. 

    No extra parts means extra ease if you decide to drag one of these babies out to a favorite secret camp spot or wherever. 

    Give it a try and you’ll probably agree!

    Simplicity is a good thing! 


    The Grocery Bag Challenge

    Just waiting to catch a sea turtle

    Here in the outskirts of Seattlepolis it’s starting to feel a lot like spring.

    Daffodils and crocus have erupted from the winter mud and I’ve already got a few rows of snow peas in.

    All this pre spring goodness gave me a good idea:

    Inside the belly of the beast

    The Grocery Bag Challenge!

    The concept is simple, get yourself a grocery bag, bring it on your next hike or walk this spring, and fill it up!

    It won’t take long, hell, at some trails you won’t even have to leave the parking lot.

    When your bag is full, take a pic, post it on a local hiking forum and see if you can get the ball rolling.

    If you want you can even send your pictures and stories to me, I’ll post them as a future article. (

    If you are a outdoor blogger, maybe you could try starting a Grocery Bag Challenge in your neck of the woods.

    Use just once and destroy


    While everyone will have their own PPE/clean up comfort level, I suggest you at least bring gloves.

    Urban parks and trails are more likely to hold dangers like syringes and encampments. Be aware.

    An old encampment


    Be exceedingly wary of encampments.

    I’m not going to get into the politics of homelessness except to say that : It sucks that people are homeless, but there are options other than living in the park.

    In my experience, encampments are frequently areas of illegal activity.

    Many of the camps I’ve seen show evidence of copper wire being stripped, scattered stolen mail and lots of bikes, bike parts and other “suspicious” debris.

    Normally I don’t like to get Johnny Law involved, but if you see evidence of illegal activity, you should contact the authorities.

    If possible work with someone else, safety in numbers!

    Five minutes of my time


    • Gloves
    • Trash picking apparatus
    • Long pants, long sleeves
    • Eye protection
    • Camera (documentation)
    • First aid kit
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Extra bags
    “We’re gonna need a bigger bag”


    Anyone can be an armchair activist in this day and age, it’s easy to copy and paste articles and such on the Facebook, but…

    You know that “American Pride” thing people are always going on about? I’ll tell you something about it.

    “American Pride” isn’t the clean trail, it’s the citizen who cleans up the trail.

    Food for thought anyway, it’s your world, make it the one you want to live in.

    Happy Trails!

    Don’t let this happen to our trails!










    The Hobo and the Rocket

    Fancy rocket stove
    Fancy rocket stove

    “Rocket Stove! …sounds pretty dramatic doesn’t it?”

    While the reality is perhaps a little less dramatic, it’s a damned handy device, providing fire, and at an efficient return for the fuel used. You can feasibly boil a pot of water with this thing using just twigs, sticks and pinecones!

    If you are a backyard tinkering type, or are leaning that way, the rocket stove concept can provide many hours of DIY engineering fun, if not just give you something to do.

    The feeder stacked to the gills!
    The feeder stacked to the gills!

    The Hobo vs. The Rocket

    The Hobo stove has been around at least as long as the steel can, and most likely even longer than that. The concept is simple; an enclosed space, adequate airflow, and a surface on which to cook.

    Coffee cans, paint cans, 55-gallon drums… basically anything can be used to construct a “hobo” style design. A charcoal briquette fire starter is essentially the same thing as a hobo stove but with a handle added.

    Hobo stoves are far more efficient than a campfire to cook or boil water, and due to the ubiquitousness of the materials, cheap or free to manufacture.

    Hobo hybrid burning brightly!
    Hobo hybrid burning brightly!

    The Rocket stove is defined by it’s “J” shape configuration, consisting of a feeder, burning chamber and vertical chimney. In the 1980s a Dr. Larry Winiarski began developing the Rocket stove based upon other earlier designs, which even included a Roman design known as a hypocaust, which the Romans had used for cooking and heating.

    Today rocket stove designs are used in many parts of the world where economic and/or resource limitations make other means impractical or impossible, and I’d say it’s safe to assume that the good ol’ trusty hobo stove is working right along beside it.

    Backcountry Use

    Hobo Stoves and Rocket stoves can be very handy in backcountry use.

    Clearly it would not be practical to hike one of these things in every time you need one. However if you have your own favorite camping spots off the beaten path, especially where available fuel is an issue, a stove like this can be a good idea to cache. (Where caching is permissible)

    Note the wispy liner residue. Burn this off!
    Note the wispy liner residue. Burn this off!

    While gas stoves are awesome, they lack the certain something that a campfire gives. Perhaps it’s the OCD satisfying effect of gathering and adding fuel to a fire, or the ambiance of fire light, the smell, who knows!?

    I’m sure though most of us can agree that camping without a campfire, just isn’t 100% camping.

    There are a lot of considerations of course: Fire regulations are there for a reason, and for the most part they include this style of stove. One man’s Rocket Stove is another man’s garbage. Be mindful, and be respectful.

    I should also mention here that one can build a Dakota Stove out of available materials pretty easily as well, but perhaps I’ll save that blog for another day…


    An assortment of cans
    An assortment of cans
    • A #10 can or large coffee can (Must be steel, aluminum will melt)
    • Can opener
    • A Dremel tool (this makes cutting WAY easier)
    • An assortment of other steel cans
    • Tin snips are a good idea as well (and gloves)


    I’ve experimented with many different configurations of the DIY steel can stove design. Different can sizes, burn chamber/feeder/chimney ratios, top load/side load, and the list goes on…

    So I’ve narrowed it down to share with you a couple designs I like best:

    Rocket Stove

    Hi-tech blueprints
    Hi-tech blueprints

    The rocket stove is a side loading, insulated stove. It’s hallmark characteristic is the “J” angle, with the elbow of the “J” serving as the place where fuel and air meet to create fire (Burn chamber). Being insulated, the rocket stove creates high temperatures which result in a more complete burn, and as a result makes very efficient use of a relatively small amount of fuel.

      1. You’ll need a #10 can or large coffee can, an assortment of smaller cans, and a tool with which to cut them. (Dremel)
      2. Cut the top off of the #10 can, leaving the bottom intact.
      3. The other cans we will call “chimney” “burn chamber” and “feeder”. Remove both ends from the feeder and the chimney. Remove only one end from the burn chamber.

        Fitting a coconut water can into a "diced tomato" burn chamber
        Fitting a coconut water can into a “diced tomato” burn chamber
      4. Measure and cut an opening the diameter of your feeder into the side of your #10 and burn chamber. Try to do so in a manner that creates a slight downward angle. Try and make them fit snugly.
      5. To build the chimney you may need at least one other can. Cut the bottom ring off. With the ring removed cut a series of short snips (1/2in±) upward in order to flange the can to fit into the top of the burn chamber. Repeat this as needed (depending the size of your available materials) to bring the top of the chimney close to flush with the top of the #10.
      6. Cut a separate piece of metal from another can and fold it into a rectangle so that it will snugly bisect your feeder tube. This acts as your air intake, if possible make it as long as the feeder/burn chamber is deep.
      7. Use a can opener to punch holes around the top of your chimney, this will allow the hot gases to escape when you put a pot or pan on top to cook.
    A jet stove with extended chimney
    A jet stove with extended chimney

    8. Fit the entire ensemble together snugly and fill the space between the #10 and your “J” with some sort of insulating material. Whatever is handy usually works, dirt, gravel, sand etc.

    9.Fire it up! Before you use the rocket stove for cooking, you should give it a good long burn to incinerate all of the can linings. I’m no scientist but I’m willing to bet the plastic lining inside modern cans probably releases some nasty byproducts when heated i.e. dioxins, furans

    The Hobo Jet™

    The Hobo jet™ is essentially just a rocket stove, but instead of using multiple cans for your burn chamber and chimney, you simply use a single large can. Usually these seem to be industrial size broth cans or juice cans.

    More hi tech blueprints
    More hi tech blueprints

    Although I have no real way to empirically measure the performance difference between the two, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you have access to the materials, this is the DIY rocket stove to build. If for nothing else, ease of construction: Less pieces=Less cutting.

    Those Dremel blades really start to cost ya if you build a lot of these…

    Hobo Jet with smaller top vent
    Hobo Jet with smaller top vent

    In fact, the only real downside I see is that because the burn chamber/chimney ratio is a little bigger, the Hobo Jet™ requires a bit more fuel, and perhaps doesn’t concentrate the heat the same way that a “tighter” rocket design does.

    The Hobo Hybrid™

    The Hobo Hybrid™ is my favorite design but…it’s not actually a rocket stove, as it lacks the “J” design. The concept however is similar, and the results comparable.

    "Many Bothans died to bring us this information."
    “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”
    1. You’ll need a #10 can and a large broth/juice can.
    2. Remove top from the #10 and from the broth can.
    3. Measure diameter of the broth can in the approx. middle of the #10. Punch holes into the bottom of #10 within this circumference.
    4. In the “top” of the broth can (with the lid still intact) you may want to cut a hole in the top, or remove the lid completely (dependent on the size of the cookware you intend to use) Either way, use a can opener to punch holes along the upper edge to allow gases to escape.

      Looking into the Hybrid Hobo
      Looking into the Hybrid Hobo
    5. Center the broth can inside the #10 and fill in the remaining gap with insulating material.
    6. Burn baby burn! Again, give it a good long burn before using it for cooking to avoid nasty chemical byproducts.

    There you go, that’s it. Pretty simple design, and it does the job!

    Some inspirational words from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

    “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

    Although it is a top loader, which some people might find disagreeable, I find that ease of construction far outweighs this downside. (If it even can be considered one)

    Experiment forever!

    If you screw around with the concept long enough, you will most likely come to your own conclusions. Which is part of the beauty of a project like this.

    Abandoned design...
    Abandoned design…

    Among other design concepts I tried were the”Hobo Jet/ Rocket stove Combo”

    Basically this was a Rocket stove with a separate air intake below it. The “J” sat on top of a perforated plate above the separate air chamber (made from an upside down Fancy Feast can)

    This I thought would increase the airflow while freeing up space in the feed tube for more fuel, maximizing the concept !

    I found that any real gains were negligible at best, and really the whole thing was a lot of work for little or no gain.

    Perhaps you can continue down this road, or any number of others and discover for yourself the future of the DIY stove!

    Happy Trails!

    Oh, by the way, try using a Handy Dandy Firestarter to really light it up!

    Handy Dandy Firestarter at the ready!





    Handy dandy firestarters

    I’ll tell you, not a lot sucks more than trying to get a fire started on a cold, wet day. Your boots are soaked, been practically drowning in chest deep undergrowth and you’d have an easier time setting fire to a waterlogged NERF football than getting any of the kindling around camp to burn. Yeah…things could be better, and they will be because you got a bic and a couple of these babies in the bag!


    Some things you'll need
    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Melting the candle

    First lets start with the tools you’ll need; Pinecones, wax, egg cartons, a pot, and some source of fire and or heat.

    Pinecones are easy enough to come by, any will work but I find Douglas fir cones fit in the egg cartons the best. Try and find cones that have the scales open, and most importantly, are very dry.

    Egg cartons can be tricky if you don’t eat many eggs. If you’re not above it though, they can be very abundant in your neighbors recycle bins on trash day. Small paper cups or something similar would also work.

    You’ll want a pot that you’ll never intend to use for any other purpose, because this project will essentially render it useless for anything else (unless you like waxy food or scrubbing pots) I made a visit to the thrift store for this one. $0.99 baby!

    Wax can also be acquired cheaply at thrift stores. Every thrift store has a shitty candle section somewhere inside, some rack populated by giant, gaudy wickless abominations that have transcended time and space. Go for size and price here, you won’t need the wick. Plain old parrafin is available at some grocery and craft stores as well. (But lacks that musty 70s candle aroma)

    Melted wax is poured onto the pineconesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Lastly, heat.  You could feasibly do this inside on your stovetop, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have no regard for nice stuff, oh and there is the little issue of potential fire hazard. I just fired up the old whisperlite out in the backyard. You might look like you’re cooking up a batch of meth, but who cares, at this point the neighbors have seen you digging through their trash for egg cartons, you’re already on their freak list.

    Now that you have your tools, the rest is pretty intuitive, though I’ll walk you through just in case it’s not.

    Take your pinecones and stick them into your egg cartons, I put them in stem side down for a nice, snug fit.

    Now let’s get your wax melting! First off, remove any stickers that may be on your candle, sometimes they hide one on the bottom. Don’t worry about doing anything with the wick.

    Using my camp stove, the pot gets pretty hot pretty quick and the wax will start smoking some. Don’t be alarmed, this is normal (or so I think) however, at this point with the open flame is your greatest chance for a fiery accident. Probably best not to do this in the dry grass or around otherwise flammable things.

    As the melt gets underway you might notice that the volume of wax contained in your musty 70s candle is too great for your thrift store pot, don’t panic, just take it off from heat before your pot runneth over. If you’re doing this on the stovetop, try a nice leisurely melt on just under medium heat to avoid many of these problems and to mitigate the risk of burning your house down.

    Fun size!
    The cuttin’

    When you have your wax all melted, just pour it over your pinecones and let set. Wax is going to get everywhere unless you got a pretty steady hand, needless to say, put down a newspaper or something.

    Voila! waterproof fire starters!

    After they’ve hardened I cut them up into individual units and carry some along everytime I head out into the woods.

    Alternatively, you could cut them up beforehand and use a pair of tongs or something to dip them into the wax, it’d result in a more even coating, but requires more work and patience than I usually care to devote to something I’m going to set on fire anyway.


    With that being said, only one thing left to do….Flame on!

    This will become…..
    This! (results may vary)