Friday, January 4, 2013

Buddy Burners and Vagabond Stoves

Remember Buddy Burners and Vagabond Stoves from Girl Scouts?

Great for emergencies, great for camping and great for cooking out in the back yard, these little stoves make a wonderful addition to a preparedness kit or long term pantry.

Here are simple, straight forward instructions from that describes the process better than I can. These little stoves are easy to make (if you can still find a metal coffee can!) and work remarkably well. You can cook directly on the surface or use small pans set on the coffee can to boil water or heat canned food such as spaghetti. The little tuna can heaters are also easy to make and the whole “set up” costs the price of the paraffin or wax, unless you have some used candle scraps or jelly wax in which case it is basically free.

Do remember to use them outdoors only, and use in a safe manor. Vagabond Stoves get really hot!


·        Flat tuna, pet food or pineapple can

·        Plain corrugated cardboard (not printed with bright inks or coated with wax or plastic)

·        Candle wax or paraffin

·        # I0 gallon can (the large institutional size) or a large coffee can

Making the Buddy Burner

Cut the cardboard in strips in a width which is the height of the tuna can - across the corrugations so that the holes show.

Roll the strips until the cardboard roll fits snugly into the tuna can. Melt the wax. It is best to use a double boiler. as if the wax gets too hot. it can burst into flame.

You can improvise a double boiler by putting water in a large pan and then setting a smaller pan into the water.

Each tuna can will take about 4 ounces of wax.

When the wax is melted slowly pour it into the buddy burner so that it runs down into the holes and saturates the corrugated cardboard and fill the can to the rim.

You can put a small piece of cardboard sticking up or a candle wick in the middle to help start it. but this isn't required.

Let it cool and harden.

Making the Vagabond Stove

First. cut out one end of the # 10 can. Then cut a door about three inches high and four inches wide on side of the can at the open end leaving the top of the door attached. Pull the door open.

Slide the cutout lid into the can setting it firmly against the closed end.  (Neat trick that I did not know)

The following procedure will hold it there permanently and the double thickness of metal will conduct the heat more efficiently.

At the top of the stove (the closed end of the can) punch four smoke holes around the side with a punch-type can opener.

The metal from the holes will hold the extra lid in place. Your stove is now complete.

You will cook on the top of the can either directly on it or by placing a pan on top of it with the

Buddy Burner underneath for the heat source. You can also use the Vagabond Stove without the Buddy Burner using or a wood fire for the heat source.


Set the Buddy Burner on a brick or concrete block (these get VERY HOT. so make sure you place them on something heatproof).

Put a lighted match in the middle of the can (or light the wick if it has one). The flame will spread across the top of the can; that's what it's supposed to do. It is also helpful to turn the can on the side so that the flame of your match can spread across the cardboard more easily.

Once lit place the Vagabond Stove over the Buddy Burner with the open end down. You can place a pan with whatever you want to cook on top of the Vagabond Stove or you can cook directly on top of it. (Be sure to wipe the top of the stove after it has gotten hot to remove the coating. Use a throw-away rag, not your Troop Leaders good hot padJ )

 If you need to regulate the flame, you can use a piece of aluminum foil (several thicknesses folded and slightly larger than the Buddy Burner) and place it partially over the name in the can. To extinguish the flame place the foil over the entire top of the can.

If you need to bake something you can use tuna cans as little pans. Place the food to be baked in the tuna cans place on top of the Vagabond Stove and place another # I0 can over that to form an "oven". Anything you would bake in a regular oven can be baked this way (if it is small enough).

Refilling the Buddy Burner

Each Buddy Burner should burn between 1-1/2 to 2 hours without needing to be refilled. They can be used for an indefinite period of time if they are replenished with wax though because the wax burns at a lower temperature than the cardboard and lengthens the lite of the cardboard. To refill the Buddy Burner place small chunks of wax on top of the corrugation while it is burning.

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