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. :)


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