Sterno Stove Question

1:56 p.m. on March 1, 2010 (EST)
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My wife just picked up a Sterno stove windscreen at a garage sale for .25 cents. She didn't get a burner with it. It says to use the 7oz Sterno burner. Can I buy any Sterno 7oz can and it will work? Should I use an alcohol stove in it? Here is a video I found on Youtube.com it shows the windscreen.

 

6:34 p.m. on March 1, 2010 (EST)
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The alcohol stove pictured looks like the Trangia, and yes, I would use an alcohol stove long before messing with Sterno if it were me.

Sterno works good indoors, outdoors not so good, although a windscreen does help.

7:06 p.m. on March 1, 2010 (EST)
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You don't need a windscreen with a sterno stove... I remember upgrading to a sterno stove, it was hot... mine looked diferent though - mine was probably a LOT OLDER!

Jim

6:56 p.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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We used to use soup-can Sterno stoves when I was a Scout, long ago. I recall 'em working okay, though a little slow to get things where we wanted 'em. Big advantage was the ease of use.

Q: Given that Sterno is essentially an alcohol gel, what's the heat output compared to regular isopropyl alcohol? Anybody know? This information's probably out there, but I don't want to wander through Al Gore's sock drawer looking for it, as I'm only modestly curious.

8:41 p.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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Perry,

Sterno burns at about 2500 BTU's

Alcohol stoves burn Methanol that can be purchased at any auto parts store (HEET gas line dryer), paint store (SLX), and Walmart as well.

Methanol burns much cleaner and a good bit hotter than sterno, depending on the performance / design of your alcohol stove.

I have a self pressurizing alcohol stove made by John Austin that will fry fish in an iron skillet, that's pretty hot.

John's website:

http://www.minibulldesign.com/index.htm

11:16 p.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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I found a box of safe heat in the storage. I must have 12 of them. It boiled water pretty fast. It says it will burn up to 5 hours. They are supposed to keep food warm in a chafing dish.

12:09 a.m. on March 3, 2010 (EST)
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trouthunter--

I've never been much of an alcohol stove sort of guy, but I'd managed to develop the impression that ROH stoves were intended to burn pretty much any alcohol, and that isopropanol was often used because of its ubiquity--in drugstores, groceries, etc., although I guess methanol is probably pretty easily found, too. (OTOH, doesn't methanol burn less hot than isopropyl or ethyl alcohols?) Did I misunderstand? Might there be more classes/types of ROH stoves than I realized?

One of the reasons I generally use other stove types (white gas or canister types), if not the primary reason, is that their fuels burn quite a bit hotter than alcohols, meaning I carry (significantly) less fuel and take less time to boil my water, make coffee, etc. And when it comes time for me to get my coffee in the morning, time is an enemy!

But back to ROH stoves and fuels. You've got much more knowledge and experience with them than I, so I'm sure you're right about Sterno being less efficient than straight liquid alcohol. But I am curious as to which alc. is preferred by guys like you, and why.

Thanks.

2:14 p.m. on March 3, 2010 (EST)
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I ordered a Trangia stove off ebay before I found the Safe Heat cans so my son's stove system is finished. He should be able cook whatever he needs now. I think his system is going to weigh a lot less than my Optimus 8R.

9:16 p.m. on March 3, 2010 (EST)
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DrReaper,

You'll like the Trangia, they are good little stoves, just screw the lid on after letting the stove cool, and you're on your way, no pouring back or letting the fuel burn off.


Perry,

I have 4 alcohol stoves, all 4 are slightly different in design. In my experience they burn Methanol the best, followed by 180 proof whiskey or vodka.

White gas and canister stoves definitely burn hotter, and are my stove of choice most of the time for that reason. Alcohol stoves are much lighter though (empty beer can light) and are favorites of ultra-light backpackers for 3-4 day trips, or on thru hikes with frequent re-supply, because your only weight is the fuel.

However that weight advantage disappears on longer trips without re-supply because, as you stated, alcohol is not as efficient as white gas or canisters and you would end up carrying 30 ounces of alcohol vs. 18 or 20 ounces of white gas.

I often take one (alcohol stove) as a back up stove, plus they are great for heating water for coffee, or tea, as I use my Whisperlite for cooking. Depending on how the stove is designed and jetted, they can burn a little cooler and more efficient (great for simmering & baking) or pretty hot.

For set up time I think it is hard to beat a canister stove, for all-around use I think it is hard to beat white gas, alcohol stoves are the lightest and least expensive.

I think everyone finds a system that works for them, and has their own reasons, and requirements of course, but it's good to experiment some.

7:26 p.m. on March 4, 2010 (EST)
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180 proof, eh? That oughtta get something heated up. Is the methanol the best burn because it's cleaner, or is there another reason? I've burned a fair amount of alcohol in younger days--all in small alcohol burners/lamps in lab settings, and all using isopropyl. Just kinda assumed it was the preferred choice (for all these sorts of things), but never really questioned it.

9:43 p.m. on March 4, 2010 (EST)
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Here's a site that discusses alcohol stoves and fuels with a look at several fuel types:

http://zenstoves.net/Stoves.htm#Fuels

11:55 p.m. on March 4, 2010 (EST)
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I got info and really good schematics "just print and cut" from that site to build my own stove, its super helpful.

5:48 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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Interesting site.

8:55 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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That website says the Safe Heat is poisonous. I guess I better take it out of the kit. I also purchased the S-L-X denatured alcohol. It is also bad. I am not having much luck with these Alcohol stoves so far. Anyone else have a suggestion on what fuel I should get?

The S-L-X says on the front of the can "Cleans Glass. Clean-burning fuel for marine stoves." Is the poison eliminated when it's burned?

9:13 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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DrReaper,

It means don't drink it, it's not the kind of alcohol you can drink, it is toxic. Also don't hold you head above any kind of stove while cooking, you can inhale the fumes, and are at risk of burns if the stove should flame up.

White gas is toxic as well, so is propane, gasoline, diesel, etc.

You can use either S-L-X, or the yellow plastic bottles of HEET gas line dryer that is found at convenience stores, Wal-Mart, & auto parts stores, lots of people prefer the HEET. Most people I've been around use a clear plastic bottle with a flip up nozzle as a fuel bottle, this makes filling the stove a breeze.

The Safe Heat is going to perform poorly outdoors, it's hard to light as well.

What problems are you encountering with the stoves? You've got the Trangia now?

9:29 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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I just got the Trangia just in time for my son's trip. It is small for the windscreen. We are going to mod the base.

My can of safe heat didn't have a lighting or burning problem it burns just like in the picture. I have to do some more reading before I let him use the safe heat.

10:40 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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My experience with the Safe Heat (the kind with a wick) is that they are difficult to light, especially in the woods, maybe you have something better than the batch I had DrReaper.

Here is a photo of my favorite alcohol stove, a large pressurized top jet type. I included the Whisperlite for scale, and also did a boil test with both.


This is a stove made by John 'tinny' Austin of Mini Bull Design, it is made using the bottoms of two Fosters beer cans, the stove is wrapped with fiberglass wick for priming. A threaded fill hole is in the top, and is closed off using a small thumb screw.

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Here is a picture of both stoves being primed, lit at the same time.

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Here is a photo of both stoves at jet stage, achieved at about the same time.


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Here is a MSR stainless pot with two cups of cold water it on the alcohol stove.

Boil time was 5:36 on the alcohol stove.

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Here is the same pot with another 2 cups of cold water on the Whisperlite.


Boil time was 4:43 on the Whisperlite.


In this test the Whisperlite was 53 seconds faster to reach boil time, but weighs a whole lot more than the alcohol stove made by 'Tinny' out of two beer cans, I paid only $18.00 USD including shipping for the alcohol stove.

10:42 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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Here is a link to the website where you can see all the stuff this guy makes, it's really good:

http://www.minibulldesign.com/index.htm

11:18 a.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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Very interesting post, trouthunter. Thanks. Now I've got an excuse to get back into thinking about stoves again, which often leads to consideration of buying another stove, which means I'm gonna have another item to store, which means I need more shelf/closet space, which means...<sigh> Is interesting post, though.

July 26, 2014
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