The buddy burner

The buddy burner is a simple cooking/heating burner made with very common materials found in any house. Basically, it’s a big candle with a giant wick. I’ve never used one before, but I found plenty of examples online of folks using them with success, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m hoping it’ll be a good alternative to cooking with wood in my pocket cooker in cases where wood isn’t at hand.

Materials needed:

  • Empty food can without plastic lining (preferably a low-height can like those for tuna, pineapple etc.)
  • Plain corrugated cardboard (with no plastic, ink etc. on it)
  • Wax (can be old candle stubs, tea lights, crayons etc.)
  • Metal container to melt the wax in (I cut the top off a drink can and formed a spout at the edge)
  • Small pot of water (boiling)

The first step is to empty the contents of the can into your stomach. 🙂 Then remove the label, wash the can and let it dry off.

Cut the corrugated cardboard into strips which are as wide as the can is high, making sure to cut across the corrugations, i.e. so that there are holes running along the long edges of the cardboard.

The next step is to roll up the cardboard as tightly as possible and fit it into the can. I also added a cardboard wick to aid in lighting the stove.

The final step is to boil water in the pot, add a sufficient amount of wax to the metal container you’re using and carefully hold the metal container in the pot of boiling water. This is known as the double-boiler method and it prevents the wax from getting too hot and bursting into flames, which could happen if it were melted directly in the pot. When the wax has liquefied, slowly and carefully pour it into the burner, filling all the spaces in the cardboard. In my case, I filled it up to about the height of the can in most places, and the cardboard extends about 0.25″/6 mm or so above the top of the can.

In the evening, I went outside on the terrace to test the burner. I lit the cardboard wick with a match and sat back to watch. The temperature was about -9*C/16*F.

After a few minutes, the flame started to spread.

After about 8 minutes, the whole surface was aflame.

I don’t know if it will take this long to get going each time. Maybe it took a while the first time because some of the wax had to burn off and the wick had to burn a bit, too. I’ll know for sure the next time I light it up. In any case, I would definitely call this project a success so far, as the stove burned hot and steadily and didn’t seem to use up a whole lot of wax. I have read that these burners will burn for 1.5 to 2 hours and are easy to refuel. All you need to do is to place solid wax on the burner as it’s burning, and the wax will melt and enter the burner. Sounds easy enough.

Somehow I managed to remain totally unaware of the buddy burner throughout my adolescence. This is strange, because I was very interested in camping stoves, making fires etc. back then, and apparently this is a popular project among scouts etc. I guess this is a project that’s 20 years overdue. 🙂

Check out Part 2 for more testing and use of the buddy burner.


15 comments on “The buddy burner

  1. Akiri says:

    Nice idea man, I have only readed never tried. But must try myself too 🙂

  2. Ron says:

    Good idea! A perfect way to use waste. You could make a few and store them for emergencies, powercuts and such.
    But the flame in the large picture looks quite large and uncontrolable. Is it meant for heating, lighting or cooking water/food?
    You said you could refuel it, but I guess you are supposed to do that at an earlier stage, so the cardboard doesn’t burn down, right?

    • Thanks. 🙂

      I am planning on making several of these, because I think they are really handy.

      I think the flame is not higher than when I make a small fire with wood in my stove, so it should be OK. It looks a bit big and uncontrollable because there was a breeze blowing, but most of the time it was burning steadily. The can itself is not huge. 🙂 In any case, this burner will be inside a metal wood-burning stove, so it should be more under control there. 🙂

      A little bit of the cardboard on top has to burn a bit, just like a candle wick. The interesting thing is that, even though the cardboard is “burned”, it’s still very solid because it’s filled with wax. In other words, the cardboard looks the same as before, except black. If I add wax before too much of the wax in the can is burned up, it will keep soaking into the cardboard and preventing it from burning too much. I think that’s just how it goes with these stoves. But I might just keep some extra cardboard strips in my pack just in case. 😉

  3. pure_mahem says:

    I’m thinking you could make this an all in one deal if you used a quart paint can like you can buy at home depot but I’m thinkning leave the card board about a half inch below the top so yo can but the cover on for storing and also make a pot stand out of hardware cloth that would just wrap around the can when not in use. Hope that all made sense. At any rate You got me thinking so I’ll be testing. Thanks for the idea. I’m wondering also how a pyromaniac like myself missed this growing up as well?

    • Thanks for the comments. 🙂

      Your idea sounds like it would work, for sure. Just remember that the bigger the can, the wider and higher the flame. I found a small pineapple can to be the perfect size for cooking camp type meals. I personally wouldn’t want it any bigger than that, but you might be looking for something different.

      Check out Part 2 to see the hobo stove and extinguisher I made for the burner.

  4. […] out my buddy burner stove in the field (and on top of the snow, for that matter) (see buddy burner Part 1, Part […]

  5. Linda says:

    I’ve seen them made in grandma’s old heavy sauce pan with a handle so that you can move it around your campsite nite light style.

  6. […] you can use wood in it. Hobo stoves can be fueled with firewood, charcoal (use a very sturdy can), a buddy burner, or a tightly-rolled paper […]

  7. Peter Flynt says:

    If the BB is essentially a big candle why not just keep a big candle around for emergencies. Someone truly prepared would have the right equipment in case of an emergency.

  8. […] Source: […]

  9. gurjendersihe2012 says:

    Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
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