Ikea hobo stove – Initial modification

I really have to hand it to Ikea. Despite being a large multinational corporation with stores in almost 40 countries, countless products and almost USD $30 billion in sales in 2012, they still manage to find a way to cater to the hobo sector. I’m referring, of course, to their well-known hobo stove:

OK, OK. This product is not sold as a hobo stove, per se (it’s actually a cutlery drainer), but supposedly it works very well as a wood-burning stove thanks to its many holes, sturdy construction and size. I’m planning on using mine in place of a hobo stove I made out of a food can which proved to be a tad too small and potentially weaker than I’d like.

A few years ago, I contacted the Metsähallitus, a Finnish government agency which maintains national parks and does other similar tasks. I asked them about using a wood-burning stove for cooking in national parks, and they replied that it’s fine to take sticks and branches off the ground to use as fuel (but not dead trees or parts still attached to trees) and burn them in a wood-burning stove, as long as the stove being used is contained and does not allow embers, ashes etc. to fall out onto the ground. Problem number one:

Obviously, I was going to have to find a way to close up all those holes. After doing some thinking, I figured one way to do it would be to secure a piece of metal over the holes with some nuts and bolts. So I flattened out a lid from a food can and made some holes in it to accept the bolts. Interestingly, when I flattened out the disk it was not flat, but more like a large contact lens (concave on one side and convex on the other), but with a much less extreme curve.

Then I used one bolt and two nuts per hole to hold down the metal disk and to act as little legs which serve to keep the bottom of the stove off the ground, reducing the risk of dry material under the stove catching fire. I put the concave side of the disk facing downward so that it hugs the bottom of the stove snugly and will not allow embers, ashes etc. to escape. I put an extra bolt and nut in the center to put even more downward pressure on the disk.

I haven’t tried this stove out yet, but I will do so soon. I’ll see if any modifications need to be made to ensure a good burn. One thing I’ve learned about using hobo stoves like this in the winter is that they melt the snow they’re resting on (obviously), but I also have an idea on how to remedy that, which I’ll show once it’s complete.

Quick edit: I decided to remove the picture of the full setup with a kettle on top because it didn’t give the right impression of how stable the stove is (it looked like the legs were closer together than they are). The setup is actually quite stable (I did some stability testing with a full kettle of water). I have also used a similar setup with much longer legs before and it was also stable. If, if, it somehow proves unstable, I can always shorten the legs. I am always very careful with fire! 🙂

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20 comments on “Ikea hobo stove – Initial modification

  1. Ron says:

    Yep, these things do make nice hobostoves!
    offcourse I have got one myself (and I hope to be able to get close to many of those drainers, as i have applied for a job at the mention company!)

    You could have gotten around the ashspillingproblem by simply putting the burner onto a tray of some sort. That way ashes can still fall through the holes and allow for air to be drawn in from the bottom, burning up the small pieces of coal and ember that collect at the bottom.

    As for melting snow, I try to put the burner on top of a stump or a stone. Makes clearing the surface easier and the burner sits higher, making using it easier too.

    • Thanks for the comments, Ron! I did think about the tray option, but decided to use a different solution for reasons which will become apparent soon. 🙂 I’m sure a tray of some sort would work, though. Using a stump or stone is a good idea as well. I think I have a good solution for those cases where a stump or stone is not conveniently available.

      Good luck and hope you get the job!!!

  2. Maarten-Jan says:

    Worry a little about the legs. My best guess this setup is a little dangerous in the field. Be careful not to tip this thing over and burn yourself!

    • Thanks for the comments! I know it looks like the legs are close together in the last picture with the kettle (edit: picture removed), but the setup is actually quite stable (I did some stability testing with a full kettle of water). I have also used a similar setup with much longer legs before and it was also stable. If, if, it somehow proves unstable, I can always shorten the legs. I am always very careful with fire! 🙂

      The setup looked taller in the removed picture than it actually is, giving it the appearance of being top-heavy or unstable. The legs also looked closer together than they actually are.

  3. OZme says:

    Look forward to see the burning test! Are you going to make some opening on the side for refueling?

    By the way, IKEA also sells the compact backpacking cook set for about 10e!

  4. Ross Gilmore says:

    lol. Very cool. I think the stove is a great idea. Maybe you should contact Ikea so they can market it. 🙂

  5. wgiles says:

    I’ve got several of these and, while I have not yet used them as a hobo stove, my solution to the ashes/embers problem is to put the stove on an aluminum pizza pan or stainless steel kitchen stove burner cover. I think that it might work better if the bottom holes were open and there was an air gap between the bottom of the stove and an ash pan. This would allow air to enter the bottom of the fire and the ashes to drop through the holes. I might try drilling some holes through the four dimples on the bottom of the stove for bolts to use as legs. I use the pizza pan with my dutch ovens both for cooking and to have a place to set a hot dutch oven on.

    • Thanks for the comments! Although I’m 100% sure your idea will work, I unfortunately can’t make use of it. 😦 Putting the hobo stove on a pan to keep embers in would work, but then the pan would get too hot and melt snow/burn stuff underneath it, depending on the season. Adding legs to the stove and then placing it on the pan would provide good ventilation, bit it would allow embers to fall through the bottom and blow away. Unfortunately, I have to make sure that the stove acts as a cup to keep all the embers and ashes completely contained. I’m sure I’d use your method if I didn’t have this restriction! 🙂

      As for air entering at the bottom, I have used several other hobo stoves with no holes on the bottom and they worked very well. The important thing, I’ve found, is that the air inlet holes on the side of the can just have to be low enough and the smoke/flame outlet holes just have to be high enough in order for the air flow to work. It could very well be that the Ikea hobo stove will need additional holes for good air flow. I’ll test it and find out! 🙂

  6. Finnman says:

    I think Wgiles is right in his comment that it needs those holes on bottom to get enough air. Also if you cover top with your pot it won´t burn well only holes on sides. So I think it´s good idea to make somekind of stand for pot that raises pot a bit leaving air gap on top (like in pocket cooker).
    One idea to protect ground under cooker is to get piece of fireproof fabric (fire blankets cost from 5-10 eur and from one you can cut many or save rest for other projects). Sammutuspeite in finnish and look like this: http://turvakauppa.com/kategoria/549/sammutuspeitteet?gclid=CLqoiPTA97UCFVG7zAoddxIASQ

    – Finnman

    • Thanks for the comments, but this hasn’t been my experience at all (please read my response to Wgiles). I’ve used plenty of hobo stoves, and none of them had holes on the bottom, and all of them burned well. 🙂 So in my experience, holes on the bottom are definitely not necessary for it to work. It all comes down to where the holes are placed on the sides of the can, so some additional holes might be necessary on the Ikea stove. We’ll see! 🙂

      • Finnman says:

        My fireplace burns well when side doors are closed and ashtray under bit open (means then holes=airflow under fire) If I close it or it´s full of ash and side doors open (holes on sides) it don´t burn efectively. But try it both ways then as you said we´ll see.

        • Yes, of course a fire will burn better with air coming up from the bottom. I’m not disagreeing with you or Wgiles about that. I’m just saying that the hobo stoves I have used in the past (which only had holes on the sides) worked perfectly for me AND kept embers/ashes in. If the air inlet holes are low enough on the sides, a hobo stove will work just fine without holes on the bottom. I’m not trying to make the most efficient, hottest-burning etc. etc. etc. stove in the world. Just one that works and fits my needs. 🙂

  7. Nice set up- I have never made anything like that before but it looks like you got it down.

  8. Nice modification, thanks for sharing. Do you have actual experience with it?

    One suggestion: three legs 120° apart might work better than four. Three points define a plane, which means that three-legged chairs and hobo stoves are always stable even if the ground is a bit uneven.

    Of course, you’d need pretty level ground so that the kettle doesn’t slide over anyway, so it’s probably not a problem.

    • Thanks for the comments! I have not actually used it yet (either just have not had the need or have forgotten about it). When I finally get around to trying it, I’ll take your suggestions into account! 🙂

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