Scram bag : Aluminium can stove

Aluminium can stove photograph

Firstly I know my North American readers will say you spelled it wrong, and while you may be right in that in your area its spelled aluminum. But  according to IUPAC its been officially Aluminium for the last 15 or so years.

We are of course talking about the 13th element on the periodic table witch has low density and low corrosion rate due to its propensity to form a protective oxide layer.

Aluminium will however corrode markedly if it is left in a salty environment such as a salt spray zone near an ocean or salty lake.

I should talk more extensively about Aluminium as a material at a later date.

We live in a throw away society where things are made to be used once and then destined to become land fill. The humble aluminium can is one such product.

However we can change the game and turn a low cost one use item into something much more useful and possibly life saving depending on the situation.

Water is of course essential for life, 3 days without water and its likely that you will be dead, close to dead, or if miraculously resuced at the last minute you may suffer from life long health effects.

Water is a great mobilizer of materials and living things some of these living things will be very harmful if you drink them.

If you find water of unknown quality you will need to be cautious.

Straining water even with a cotton shirt will remove most suspended material (dirt etc) but will not kill pathogens.

Boiling water after it has been strained will kill most pathogens and make water much safer to drink.

It not appropriate  or possible to make a fire in ever possible location you might be so a small cooker is a great option to have.

You could buy a propane/butane gas cooker but they are expensive by comparison require large gas canisters and are in themselves somewhat bulky and fragile.

So there is a niche for a cheap to make cheap to run cooker for boiling water or cooking food.

I made an awesome info-graphic and I’ll add it here. it may be better to download the image or open it is a separate window to see it in its full glory.

It described the manufacture of one of many designs of the aluminium can stove.

pic

Aluminium can stove info graphic

Manufacture notes

1-Remove all of the paint from the can with sandpaper.

2-Empty the can.

3-Put holes into top section. (thumb tack or drill)

4-Cut out the circular section around the ring pull. (razor blade)

5-Cut into 3 sections. (razor blade or tin snips)

6-Cut center section.(razor blade or tin snips)

7-Flange out the  sharp edge bottom section slightly. (screwdriver shaft)

8-(optional) add glass wool between bottom and center sections.

9-Put top section inside bottom section.

Fuel

this stove runs best from pure alcohol.
Pure alcohol is quite hard to obtain. the pureset from of alcohol is methylated spirts.
methylated spirts is about 96-99% Alcohol.
the rest (1 -4%) is made up other impurities (like methanol) so that is is toxic and/or unplesant to drink.
Methlyated spirits is quite cheap at about $2-3 per litre making this a very economical fuel.

Use
pour fuel into the center section of the stove and light.
it may be easier to light the stove with a  match or piece of paper or dry grass rather than a lighter.

during day time the flame may be difficult to see.
once light the stove cannot be easily extinguised and the flame heat is not adjustable.
Different sotves produce different ammounts of heat and this may be a way of controlling heat.
multiple stoves may be used together to produce more heat.

Why is this item important.
It shows that useful things can be made from commonly available low cost items.
It introduces people to making things for themselves.
In many situations the ability to boil water to sterilise it maybe a life saving device.

The material
Aluminium does not readily corrode except for in a very salty environment.
(such as in the salt spray zone of beaches)
Aluminium may begin to corrode when place in contact with other metals for extended periods of time.
Aluminium melts at 660C, so its unlikely to melt during normal operation.
the thickness of Aluminium in cans makes them quite fragile.
A  sturdy container is recomended to prevent the stove being crushed in a backpack.

Alternative designs
there are many alternative designs to the can stove.
Each have their merits in terms of use and ease of construction.
For some people constructing these is a serious hobby.

precautions

Resources: wood ash

An important concept is life is to recognize resources and know what uses they can be put to.

There is not waste resource, just a wasted resource opportunity.

So what is in wood ash?

Wood ash makes up 0.34 to 1.8 percent of the weight of dry wood burnt in its production.

So 10kg of wood burnt will produce at least  34 grams of dry wood ash.

Wood ash is a good thermal insulator if it is kept dry, the small air pockets in it allow for it to have this insulating property, once it becomes damp or wet these air spaces collapse and do not return upon drying.

Wood ash is:

about 25-45 % Calcium Carbonate ( CaCO3)

About 10 % potash (K2CO3, KCl , K2SO4)

about 1% Phosphates (PO4¯³)

The temperature  and duration of the fire will influence the composition of the wood ash.

For example ta higher temperature will reduce the Calcium carbonate to Calcium oxide and make any resultant Lye more alkaline.

Wood ash is also used in odor control in composting especially if it has a high char content.

By adding water to Wood ash, Lye is produced, an alkaline mixture of Calcium and potassium hydroxides, thought the calcium salts will precipitate as it is not very soluble in alkaline solutions.

Lye is commonly use to reduce acidity in soils

Lye is also used in making  Soap

Lye can also be use to clean clothes directly by in doing so you are relying on the oil in the clothes being turned to soap during the washing process.

So it will be a lot slower and you will have to heat your water.

Scram bag: Char cloth tin

Char cloth is one of the easier was to turn a spark into an ember, which of course can be turned into a flame.

To make the char cloth you will need a char cloth tin.

A great source of char cloth tins are empty nugget tins, though other well sealing tins can be used.

Kiwi boot polish tin.

Make char cloth tin:

1) Remove all paint from the tin with sand paper. (otherwise it will stink as it is heated)

2) Make a small vent hole 2-3 mm diameter (perhaps with a nail) in the top of the tin.

Use of char cloth tin:

1) Add small pieces of cut up natural cloth (20 mm square) into the tin and close it. (wood or paper can also be used)

2) Place tin on the embers of a fire with the vent  hole facing up.

3) Wait for smoke to come from the tin, and wait for the smoke to stop.

4) Turn the tin over so the vent hole faces down. ( this allows both sides of the cloth to char properly)

5)Wait for smoke to come from the tin, and wait for the smoke to stop.

6) Remove tin from the embers and allow to cool.

7) Open to inspect the char cloth.

Char cloth quality tests:

If  it is brown it need to be cooked longer.

If it is crumbly too the touch  it was cooked too long and must be discarded.

It should be black and soft but not too fragile.

Store the char cloth in an air tight container. A small piece of tape or bees wax over the vent hole may be enough.

Char cloth use:

Place char cloth in your fire starting kindling nest and place char cloth in the center.

Using what ever method you have of creating a spark, attempt to create sparks on the char cloth.

The cloth will smolder with red orange ember lines flowing through the material. blow on it gently in the kindling nest and flames should take hold.

Fun facts about kiwi boot polish:

Invented in Melbourne, Australia by Scottish immigrants, Made in Indonesia, and now owned in USA.

The US army just calls it Kiwi, just like they call the fruit a Kiwi.

Connection to new Zealand? One of the inventors wives was from New Zealand.

Allegedly this boot polish cemented the Kiwi as a symbol of New Zealand.

http://www.enotes.com/topic/Shoe_polish

Cost: free* ( Some assembly required.) or possibly free with nugget for your boots.

Scram Bag: Sparking iron for fire lighting.

Not quite as primitive, difficult or slow as using friction on sticks.

Just get two lawn mower blade replacement tips heat them to red hot in a fire, if possible hammer them flat (the iron will be a lot softer when it is red hot), and allow to cool in the air.

The iron is now spark ready.

Welcome to the Iron age guys…

The blade tips don’t need to be new so they can be a re-use of a would be discarded item

Conveniently the pieces already have holes drilled in them so you can attach them together with a string/leather strip so you can keep them as a pair.

A with any other spark throwing device you will need to have a tinder birds nest ready to catch the spark.

This fire lighter will last a lifetime and if they get rusty you can just heat them again in the fire to remove the rust.

Alternate uses: could also be used as somewhat crude knives.

A large stack of lawnmower blade replacement tips. Made from carbon (mild or spring) steel.

Caution: If you are  working on or removing any part of a lawn mower blade, make sure the spark plug is disconnected and the blade cannot move.

Place large wooden objects into the path of the blades so in case they move you won’t loose a hand or finger(s). obviously its going to be hard to use a pair of sparking irons if you are missing hands or fingers.

Cost: free if you know where to look, other wise about $10 per pair.

Long term : Rocket stove plans and design

Once you have settled down you will realize the impact you will have on your environment. Perhaps not initially but eventually you will notice trees and wood will start to become scarce. You have been using solid wood as fuel in a rather in efficient way. A  rocket stove works by concentrating heat and constraining air flow into a small space, creating a small fire storm which more efficiently converts wood fuel into heat. The rocket stove also utilizes very small pieces of wood which would not be very useful in a traditional open fire apart from being kindling.

Normal small size rocket stove made from metal.

The rocket stove is a solution to this inefficiency. Made of a large can with metal tubes and insulated with vermiculite or other insulator.

A device such as this allows you to turn twigs and small branches into a way to heat your home, boil water or cook food. this is the majority of your energy expenditure in your home so its a great saving in a long recession, if that’s the storm you are weathering.

Room size rocket stove design.

It would be interesting if there are designs that contain no metal at all, such as an all fired clay design.

The smaller designs are portable but a little large for longer journeys, where a different solution might be preferable. There are custom built designs just for boiling water.