I saw something on the Internet this week that got me thinking about solid fuel stoves. Some of you'll remember firing up your Mamod steam engines as kids, using the little white solid fuel blocks ... no, just me then.
My knowledge of cooking with fuel tablets pretty much stops and starts in the same place ... don't bother, they take ages to warm water, let alone boil it. So, I never bothered, until today. Obviously the first thing required was a 'stove'. My thinking was, make the stove support the pan, contain the flame and concentrate the heat and try to minimise the effects of a breeze/wind. I set to work and 10 minutes and a couple of cans later I had a rough mark 1 stove. I put 2 fuel blocks in, lit them, waited a few seconds for them to get going, put my pan on ... and the flame dwindled to half the size. Stupidly I'd forgotten to put any sort of air gap at the top of the stove between it and the pan. I quickly remedied the matter with some tin snips and a piece of aluminium (as you can see in the picture). Once more the pan was placed on the stove, I checked the flame, it was the same size as it was prior the the pan going on ... all was well. I sat back and waited, and waited. 21 minutes and 47 seconds later I had half a litre of boiling water! I'd started to suffer the effects of tea withdrawal at around 14 minutes, so had nipped back in to put the kettle on anyway.
Point proved then ... that's why no one bothers with the things. I couldn't leave it there though. I'd obviously had plenty of time to stand and stare at the thing and I'd decided that the fuel block wasn't really burning as well as it could have. The conclusions I came to were, even though the stove had a large air hole, the air been drawn in wasn't fully reaching the rear of the stove. I also guessed that the pan wanted lifting above the stove (as I'd done with the cobbled aluminium ring) but the air gap wanted to extend over a greater percentage of the circumference. Armed with another cup of tea I had a little think. Perhaps Mark 1 was just too complicated, I needed to make everything as simple as possible.
You'll die of thirst first
This is it, it doesn't get simpler. A base to hold the fuel block, 4 legs to support the pan and as much air from nearly every direction as the thing could ever need. As you can see from the picture, I put a fuel block in, lit it, then put my pan on top. I wasn't really expecting much to be honest ... possibly because it doesn't look like much.
To my surprise 7 minutes and 38 seconds later I had boiling water, proper boiling water, none of your little bubbles rubbish. It had just about used a complete block to achieve it but I was quite impressed. I was even more impressed when I realised that I'd possibly just built the worlds lightest stove ... that's right, the worlds lightest functional stove. I know there's a few titanium Esbit stoves out there but they're all over 5g ... this is just 3g and you could easily shave another off.
Oddly, it works