Using the Brasslite DIY instructions constitutes an agreement to the conditions of the statement listed below:
I the user (hereafter referred to as “I”) understand that these instructions are copyrighted and protected by applicable copyright law. I understand that the Brasslite stove instructions on this page are presented to inform viewers about the manufacturing process of three (now discontinued) Brasslite stove models. I understand that Brasslite has permitted me to print and make copies of these instructions for informational purposes and/or for constructing Brasslite stove(s) for my personal use. I understand that I am also permitted to distribute copies of the instructions to others so that they may construct Brasslite stove(s) for their personal use. I agree to not construct any Brasslite stove(s) for sale. I agree that the stove(s) built from these instructions are my product, and are not the product of Brasslite. I agree that Brasslite assumes no responsibility for the integrity, functionality or safety of the stoves produced using these instructions. I agree to hold Brasslite harmless for any aspect of the product produced from these instructions.
If you have made any of the stoves that are listed in the Homemade Stove Archives or Sgt.Rock’s Hiking HQ then you may enjoy this project. That being said, I would be joking if I told you that this one is going to be as easy as any of them. If you have some experience doing high temperature silver soldering (aka brazing) and you are handy, then you have overcome half the challenge. I’m not going to address the basics of soldering in these instructions. There are many published jewelers on the web who have outlined what’s involved in detail, and much better than I could do here. If you don’t have experience and you still want to try to make this stove, I suggest you carefully read the whole Project Instruction page, and also read a detailed article about soldering to help you grasp the concepts before starting. Then get the materials and tools you need and practice with scrap pieces of brass until you are comfortable with the process. Otherwise, you may find yourself very frustrated as you melt your stove half-way through the project. I’ve been soldering and welding metal of one sort or another for more than 25 years, and I still have problems sometimes. It’s a constant challenge, especially when working with thin metal. My job here is to tell you how I did it, and the rest is up to you. If I can do it, you can too.
Unfortunately, unless you already own or can borrow most of the tools needed to do this project, you will also find that it will cost you far more money to make this stove than it will to buy one from me. I’m not saying that to discourage you and sell you a stove, it’s just a fact. This is not a soda-can stove. It involves complicated sheet metal fabrication and it demands some skill and patience. Some people have written to me and asked how much it will cost and how long it will take. Actual cash outlay depends a lot on your ingenuity and skill level. The more tools and materials you already have, can borrow or make the less the cost. The minimum cost for the brass, stainless steel mesh, solder, flux, pickle, tweezers and drill bits is about $40.00 including shipping; more if you buy the optional tools listed. That minimum amount immediately goes up to $55.00 if you have to buy a torch. There will be additional expense for the items needed that you don’t have. As for how long, you will see there’s quite a time commitment just assembling (or making) the needed tools and materials before you can even start making the stove. It takes me about 2 hrs. to actually make a stove, less for each if I work on a batch all at once. That length of time is made possible with a number of templates and jigs I constructed to standardize cutting and soldering.
In spite of the cost, I think this is a worthy project. When you’re finished you’ll have a truly lightweight, functional stove that will last indefinitely. I think that this stove is better than other alcohol stoves because it’s as light as a soda-can stove but far more durable. Durability is a serious problem for soda-can stoves, and after one failed for me in miserable weather I resolved to make one that would not fail and also not weigh a ton. If you make one there are benefits besides just having a stove. Unlike a stove you buy in the store (or from me), it will be “yours”, and you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride every time you use it (not to mention honing your craft skills). It’s also fun to make your own gear and impress your friends! Like me, you may also grow to feel that your stove is a “trusted friend” like I felt years ago about my old, heavy, Svea. What can I say? I’m also a clinical psychologist. It’s in my nature to help others feel better. Whether or not you decide to do this project, reading through the steps will (if nothing more) instill an appreciation for the technical skill needed to do this sort of work. If you’re still game, read on.
Brass Shim Stock (0.012 in. thick (0.305 millimeters), can be ordered online from McMaster-Carr. It comes in 6in.x 25in. rolls. Enter the site and type “brass shim” in the search box, then navigate to shim stock, choose brass material, then the thickness, then the size you want. If you have a hobby shop near you that sells brass sheet, you can also get a piece of 4in.x10in. 0.012 in. brass shim made by K&S metals for about $2.00. This is enough to make one stove.
0.5 inch stainless steel wire cloth. Can also be gotten from McMaster-Carr. Search for “wire mesh”, choose Type 304 stainless steel welded wire cloth 2×2 mesh per linear inch. It comes in 36in. width, but you have to buy a 3 sq. ft. minimum. It’s possible to use 1/2in. galvanized wire cloth from a hardware store, but it has poor durability and is more difficult to solder. One square foot is enough to make 12 stoves.
From Hardware Store: Package of 10/24 x 1/2in. brass machine screws (round end), and 10/24 brass nuts. Do not use steel nuts because it’s more difficult to braze brass to steel, and the steel will also contaminate the pickling solution. Trust me, if you use steel you will have a big headache that cannot be fixed. Optional: 10/24 x 1/2in. thumbscrew. This is for the fuel port (see finished stove. It’s easier to grasp with gloves); Tube of cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue); small artists brush (#3); 2 packages of 2 oz. total weight 5 minute setting liquid epoxy; can of denatured alcohol (yes, the same stuff you will fill the stove with); Coil of 20 gauge galvanized steel wire; coil of 19 gauge stainless steel wire; coarse metal file, coarse emery cloth.
From Jeweler’s Supply (such as I.Shor or Pearson): All the item numbers listed here were pasted from Pearson’s catalog. 1/4 oz. sheet of easy grade (NOT easy-flo) silver solder (G12-1126); Jar of Dandix Paste Flux ( G12-1068). Meisinger Twist Drill Burs (M99-0104) Wherever you get your drills from, you want them to be 0.027 in. (0.7 mm); Can of Sparex Pickle (K32-0020) No not kosher dill 🙂 this is a chemical solution that you mix in water to remove oxide and flux, after soldering. You will mix it in one of the plastic containers according to package directions, heat it in the microwave until hot (not boiling) and immerse the parts. Fiber grip soldering tweezers(straight) (E56-0244) These have plastic on the handles, so you can still pick them up if hot.
Miscellaneous: Jar of powdered boric acid (from drugstore), 2ft. x 2ft.x1/2 in. piece of plywood (to protect table from stray flame during soldering), screwdriver, ball peen hammer, regular pliers, nipping pliers, one 6 penny nail, a wood block (a piece of 1in.x 6in. about 6in. long is good), 2 wide mouth plastic containers (such as 1qt. yogurt), scissors, package of modeling clay, compass (you need one that has points on both ends), roll of 2in. masking tape, a ceramic mug, a soup can filled with clean stones (just get it, you’ll see why later), 12in. ruler (preferably clear plastic with millimeter and inch markings).
Tools and Preparation
Plumber’s propane torch (Bernz O’ Matic is the most widely known name), can be gotten from Home Depot for about $15.00 or at any hardware store that sells plumbing supplies. There are several models from basic to fancy, pick the one that fits your budget. I like one that has a self-contained piezoelectric ignition. Lights first time, everytime. But I use that only for annealing (you’ll learn what this is later). For stoves and jewelry I use a Hoke propane/oxygen jeweler’s torch. Hoke is the industry standard.
Soldering board ( E56-0303) Buy one from jeweler’s supply or the low-cost alternative is to use a brick bought from a building supply or taken from outside your house and cleaned. If you use a brick, it’s a really good idea to bake it first in the oven at 250 degrees for at least 1hr. before using it the first time. The reason is that moisture that may be inside it expands suddenly when it reaches boiling temperature, and you can unexpectedly have hot pieces popping off in your face while soldering. But bricks also absorb a lot of heat and you may find that it’s sucking up enough to hamper soldering. All this I speak from experience. It depends on the material used. I recommend spending the money on the soldering board.
Soldering pick (E56-0979). Buy a non-stick titanium one or make your own (solder will stick to it though): get a 1/2 in. wooden dowel rod from a hardware store. Cut a 4in. piece. Drill a 3/32 hole about 2 in.deep into one end. Cut an unpainted coat hanger to get a 5 in. straight piece. Round one end with a file. Grasp the wire with a pair of pliers in one hand and the dowel in the other, and twist the wire round end in, into the hole until it seats. Use no glue, it will only catch on fire while soldering. If you can’t get it seated all the way and it’s stuck, that’s fine. Cut off any excess to have 3 in. sticking out. File the wire to a point. You use this to pick up and draw solder around seams.
Tin snips. They look like heavy duty scissors or mini pruning shears, depending on the style. You can buy a pair of snips at any hardware store. I like the type made by the company called Wiss. I own both curved and straight Jeweler’s snips (the straight ones are pictured here), but that’s an unnecessary expense for you. A really heavy pair of scissors might be enough to cut the brass. However, most regular scissors will be dulled or bent if you try to use them to cut metal.
Mandrel(Important). This is a custom form on which you will bend the brass to make a cylinder, and crimp the top. For the Solo and Micro, it’s made from a 6 inch piece of standard 1.5 inch (inside diameter) galvanized steel pipe. It should be 48 mm in diameter from ouside edge to edge. For the Duo, the pipe size should be 2 inch (inside diameter) with an outside diameter of 60mm. All the measurements in the project are based on these forms. If you go to a plumbing or building supply where a lot is being cut, you can usually get a scrap this size for free. I got mine at the plumbing dept.of Home Depot. Smooth any defects on the outside of the pipe with a coarse file and coarse emery cloth. You also want the end to be as flat and level as possible. Use the file and then move the pipe end back and forth on a the emery cloth that is sitting on a table, to level the end. This should be done until it sits flush with no visible gaps, and the pipe is sitting 90 degrees relative to the table (use a carpenter’s angle or soup can to check). Then roughen 2in.of the inside of the pipe at the sanded end with the emery cloth. Get a smooth scrap piece of wood about 4 x 4 in.(thickness of the wood doesn’t matter, but smoothness does). Place the wood on a table,and grease the face lightly with vaseline. Place the pipe sanded-end down on the vaselined surface. Wipe the vaseline away from around the outside of the pipe. Pack modeling clay around the base of the pipe. Mix 2 oz. total of liquid 5 minute-setting epoxy. Pour the epoxy into the pipe. When it has set, remove the mandrel from the clay and carefully sand the end again until you have a flush, level surface. If there is shrinkage in the epoxy and it’s below the end of the pipe in spots, mix some more and apply enough it to the end to be able to sand it flush with the pipe. Next, wrap a piece of 2in. masking tape around the mandrel, on the opposite end of the one you just sanded. The tape should not overlap on itself. Leaving a small gap is OK. This is a spacer that will allow you to refit the cylinder onto the pipe after soldering. Later on you’ll drill a hole in the center of the mandrel so the stove body will sit flush on it.
3/8 inch standard drill, preferably one with a key-less chuck that will grip small diameter drill bits. If you have a drill that will not close that small, another option besides buying a new drill is to use a pin-vise to hold the bit and set the pin-vise in the drill. You also need a 7/32in. and 1/2in. drill bit.
Ring-Bending Pliers (Optional) Convex jaw on one side, concave on the other. The economy type (G12-1678) is good enough for this project. Ring-bending pliers are used to make pleats in the pan. It’s possible to bend up the pan with regular pliers to make a receptacle for the preheat fuel, but it will not look as nice or be as strong. It’s also possible to make your own by modifying a standard pair of pliers: Use a Dremel tool or bench grinder to grind a curved concave channel lengthwise at the center of the ribbed part of the jaw, out to the edges until it has a depth of about 1/8 inch at the bottom of the curve. Grind the other jaw at the sides to make it convex, so that it fits into the concavity. It takes quite a bit of time to get it all even. File and sand both surfaces smooth. The concave part is especially time consuming. I’ve offered this option because I did it myself when I was poor and made a lot of my own tools. In my opinion if you have the money it’s not worth the time. My advice is to spend the money on the pliers.
Optional but highly desirable: A Dremel Rotary Tool. These are available at Home Depot, hardware or hobby store. Sears also sells their own brand. If you buy a Dremel, you also need to get the small chuck insert that will hold thinner tools (such as small drill bits). I use a handpiece specially made for jewelry making, called a flexible shaft (jewelers know the old joke: “Jewelers do it with a flexible shaft”….nyuk nyuk nyuk).
Cutting the Parts
Measure the metal for the chamber cylinder first. If you are making a Solo, the dimensions are 160 mm x 38 mm. If you are making a Micro, the dimensions are 160 mm x 24 mm. For both, this is the correct length to fit on the small mandrel described above with the desired overlap. These pictures illustrate the making of the now discontinued Solo, but the process is the same for the Micro or Duo. If you are intending to make a Duo, the cylinder dimensions are 198mm x 38mm.
Using the 6 penny nail (I’m using a jeweler’s scribe in the picture) scribe the lines in the brass. Carefully cut on the lines using the tin snips. If you veer off the line at all while cutting, try to do it outside the line. You can always sand to the line, but you can’t add. If you are making a Micro or Solo, cut out the Micro/Solo Top Template printed from the link. If you are making a Duo, cut out the Duo Top Template. Tape the template to the brass. Using your compass, measure the radius of the circle from the center of the circle to the outside edge (48 mm). Set the compass aside. Using the nail and hammer with the brass resting on the wood block, lightly tap a mark on the center hole and all 24 jet holes. Using the drill and 0.027 drill bit, drill the jet holes (I’m using a jeweler’s handpiece in the picture). Be careful to not apply too much pressure with the drill or you’ll easily break the bit. They’re hard and brittle and aren’t much more strong or flexible than thin uncooked spaghetti. This is where a Dremel Tool comes in really handy. After the jet holes are drilled, remove the paper from the brass. Scribe a circle on the brass with the compass that was previously measured from the template. Then, cut on the line carefully with the tin snips. Lastly, drill a 7/32 in. hole in the center. The cutting of the cylinder and top is done. Now you will cut out the bottom.
Returning to the brass shim stock, scribe a circle that is 2 1/2 in. (65 mm) in diameter. Be careful to not use too much pressure with the compass on the center or you may poke a hole in it that will leak alcohol. Cut on the line with the tin snips, the same way as the top.
Soldering the Parts
Forming the Cylinder
Begin the soldering process by preparing the cylinder and bottom for soldering. When you buy brass, it has been rolled repeatedly with steel rollers to make it thin. This works the metal and creates stresses in the crystal structure, making it hard and inflexible. You must first anneal the metal to relieve these stresses, or you will have a very difficult time bending the cylinder and the bottom will severely warp when you try to solder it (the top will be annealed when the nut is soldered on, so you don’t need to anneal it now). First mix 1 tbsp. of boric acid in 8 oz of alcohol in one of the plastic containers. Dip the parts in this emulsion, and set aside on the soldering pad. The boric acid solution prevents excessive amounts of oxide from building up on the metal when you heat it. (If you don’t believe me, try annealing a piece of brass without the boric acid. You’ll never be able to solder it unless it’s pickled first). Close the container and remove the container from the soldering area. Turn off the lights in the room. Light the torch, and ignite the alcohol on the brass. Let it burn off. This leaves a white powdery boric acid residue evenly coating the metal. Pass the flame back and forth over the metal evenly until you see it glow a cherry red. Be careful not to overheat or you’ll melt it. Turn off the torch and let the brass cool to room temperature. Don’t quench it in water to hasten cooling, or you’ll wash off the boric acid. You’re now ready to bend the cylinder chamber.
Cut two 8in. pieces of galvanized wire and twist each piece into a ring that fits loosely around the mandrel, with room enough to accomodate the brass. Leave a twist on the ends that you can grasp with tweezers. Set these aside. With the mandrel resting on the table epoxy end up, wrap the cylinder brass around the base of the mandrel that has the tape on it. You want to press it tightly so that the ends overlap and they are even. Release the brass, and apply a bead of Krazy Glue to what will be the inside of the overlap. Return the brass to the mandrel, and press the overlapped area together tightly. Hold until the Krazy Glue has set and the overlapped area will not pull apart. Then slip the wires over the ring one after the other, putting one on each end of the cylinder about 1/4in. from the edge. In this picture I get away with using only one wire, but I think you’re better off with two. Line the twists up so that they’ll both rest on the soldering pad. Twist the wires on the sides with pliers so that the cylinder is bound, tightly but not too tight. Don’t crank them! They should be tight enough that they can’t be moved easily with finger pressure. Gently slip the cylinder off the mandrel. You’re now ready to solder the cylinder chamber.
Dip the cylinder in the boric acid, and then using a small brush, apply flux to the inside of the cylinder seam only. Don’t put flux on the outside or you may solder the wires to the cylinder. Place the cylinder on the soldering pad, seam down. If you think you may have a heavy hand, attach the tweezers to the twist to hold the cylinder down. Cut 2 mm square pieces from the solder sheet. You may want to cut up the entire sheet at once and store the pieces in an empty film container. Place 4 or 5 pieces of solder on the soldering pad next to the work. Light the torch and begin heating the inside of the cylinder at the seam. If you’ve bound the wire correctly there will be no shifting of the edges when the glue burns off. If they shift, stop, wait for it to cool and re-glue/re-bind it. Otherwise, look for the metal to become slightly reddish, then turn the flame to one of the solder pieces. Melt it into a ball and pick it up on the soldering pick. Return the flame to the cylinder and apply the solder on the inside seam near the edge closest to you. Heat the joint until the solder flows along the seam. Draw the solder along the seam with the soldering pick. Repeat this process as needed until the entire seam has solder flowed into it. Then heat on the inside of the cylinder over where the outside seam is. If you do it right, solder will follow the heat and flow under the entire overlapped area without going beyond the flap. Turn off the torch and allow the cylinder to cool. Mix the pickle in the other plastic container according to the package directions. Heat the pickle in the microwave. Remove the binding wire from the cylinder and then immerse the cylinder in the pickle for at least 5 minutes. It’s very important to remove the wire first before immersing in the pickle. Steel will ruin the solution and cause the copper and zinc being leached out from the brass to plate onto the outside of the brass by galvanic reaction. This will play hell with your solder joints! While you’re waiting for the cylinder to pickle, work on the top.
Next you will solder the machine screw nut to the inside of the top. The screw that seals the fuel port will thread through this nut. Apply a drop of crazy glue to two sides of the center hole on what will be the underside of the top. Pick up the nut, and while looking through the hole from above, stick the nut to the underside of the top so that it is centered on the hole. Hold and wait 30 seconds for the crazy glue to set. Thread a screw into the nut until it’s seated tighly with finger pressure. The screw will hold the nut after the glue burns off when you begin soldering. Dip the top into the borax solution, flux the sides of the nut, and solder it to the top. You want the solder to flow all the way around the nut, making a complete seal. By the way, see how dark the brass is outside the flux in this picture? In case you didn’t try it, this is what happens when you don’t use boric acid first! Soak the top in hot water to loosen the flux, then gently remove the screw from the nut with the screwdriver. If it offers resistance, grasp the nut with pliers to hold it rather than hand pressure. Once the screw is out put the top into the hot pickle for 5 minutes. While that’s soaking, work on the cylinder.
Rinse and dry the cylinder and return it to the epoxied end of the mandrel. Twist it gently to get it on. Leave 3 mm protruding from the top and gently tap on the edge at a 45 degree angle with the ball peen hammer to fold (crimp) over a shelf all along the perimeter of the top of the mandrel (I’m using a rawhide mallet in this picture; it doesn’t dent the metal). The shelf should be even, and cover a little more than half of the metal edge of the mandrel. Important: Make sure you don’t have too much metal protruding when you start tapping, or the jets will be covered. Carefully tap along the top to flatten the metal and make it conform to the mandrel. If it’s needed, also tap along the sides to conform the metal back to the mandrel. Gently remove the cylinder from the mandrel and put it back on a few times, to make sure you can get it on easily. If it’s really tight, you can tap more along the sides to make the cylinder spread slightly. You want to be able to return the cylinder to the mandrel after the top is soldered on. Check the top inside the cylinder, to make sure that the shelf you crimped doesn’t interfere with any of the jet holes. There should be an even 2 mm gap between the edge and the jets. If there is interference anywhere, you left too much brass protruding above the mandrel when you crimped the top. Remove the top and sand the inside edge of the shelf. Check again. Repeat until all the jets are cleared.For the next step, it’s a good idea for you to put the wires back on the cylinder and twist them before you remove it from the mandrel for the last time. It isn’t shown in the pictures, but unless you’re experienced with soldering and confident of your technique, it’s highly likely that the side seam will reflow while you’re attempting to attach the top. If that happens and there’s no wires to hold it the cylinder will pop open. You will not be happy.
Attaching the Top to the Cylinder
Next you will flow solder on the inside of the shelf you just crimped. This solder will be used in a two-step process to attach the top to the cylinder. Dip the cylinder and top in boric acid and apply flux to both the inside of the shelf and on the top opposite to the side with the nut. Put the dirty screw part-way into the nut on the inside facing side. The nut should be inside the container. You will press down gently on this screw during soldering to hold the top against the shelf. Set this aside for now. Put the cylinder on the soldering pad, shelf side down. Heat the cylinder from the inside and make sure that a bead of solder is flowed all the way around the corner of the shelf where it meets the cylinder wall. If the flux is properly applied and there is no oxide formation, the solder will naturally flow along this path by capillary action. Use tweezers to pick up the top by the screw and lower it into the cylinder. Heat from the inside again to make the solder bond to the top. You will see the solder flow around the edge of the top; a glowing silver colored line. Move the flame around the circle incrementally after this happens, and you will see the solder “following” the flame. The top may warp while heating. If this happens, you must force the edge of the top down with the soldering pick so that it makes contact with the shelf in that area, to allow the solder to bond.Do it carefully or you may dent the top or even perforate it if it’s red hot. The part of the top that was warped will stay soldered to the shelf as soon as you take the flame away from that section. This is the most technically sensitive and difficult part of the project. Be careful to not heat the bottom edge of the cylinder too much (the edge closest to you) in your zeal to get the solder to flow on the inside. When it’s this thin, you can accidentally melt the brass pretty easily. Once the soldering is completed, you can pick up the whole thing by the screw with tweezers and quench the work in water. Remove the screw and immerse what is now the stove body in the heated pickle solution for at least 5 minutes.
Rinse and dry the stove body and return it to the mandrel. Of course it will not seat all the way down because of the nut soldered to the inside. Remember a while back I wrote that later you would drill a hole in the top of the epoxy? Now is the time. The stove itself will be used as a template to locate the center of the mandrel, which is otherwise pretty difficult. Make a mark on the epoxy by rotating the 6 penny nail around the inside of the center hole while it’s on the mandrel. Remove the stove from the mandrel and drill a 1/2 inch wide hole on the mark that is also about 1/2 inch deep (enough for the nut to clear the epoxy). Then return the stove body to the mandrel and seat it all the way down gently. If the soldering was done perfectly, there will be no need to tap on anything. The ideal is to have the top butting up tightly against the shelf all the way around, and the stove body seated firmly on the mandrel, flat and tight. Solder should have flowed under the shelf and completely sealed it, so that you can see a silver line circumferentially around the inside margin of the top, next to the jets. But things in this world are rarely perfect, and most of the time there will be gaps. If the solder has sealed the top on the inside the functional work is done, and there is no need to re-solder. If there are any gaps that go all the way through however, there will be flame leaks when you light the stove. If you see gaps, re-soldering is necessary. But first, tap down on the top of the shelf so that the gaps are physically closed and the solder can flow there. Repeat the solder and tapping process until the top is sealed on the inside and everything is properly seated. If you soldered again, pickle again. Flux will prevent the stove from seating on the mandrel.
Remove the stove body from the mandrel and place the stove body on the wood block with the top facing up. Check to see that the bottom edge is flat and level. There should be no visible gaps. Solder will not fill gaps. There must be contact with the wood all the way around to attach the bottom successfully. If there are gaps, gently move the stove body back and forth on the emery cloth, the same way as you did with the mandrel. Check again. If you distort the cylinder at all doing this, return it to the mandrel and press it back with your fingers to smooth it, or if necessary gently tap with the hammer. Repeat sanding until the cylinder sits flush on the wood block. Return the stove body to the mandrel for one last check, before gently removing it. Turn the stove body over and measure the diameter with the ruler. It should be about 49 mm from outside edge to outside edge. There may be a slight variation from this number, depending on how tightly you wrapped the cylinder when you glued it. But whatever it actually is, reduce it in half to get the radius, then open your compass slightly wider than this. Scribe a line on the bottom disk, using the same center mark you made when you cut it. This line will serve as a placement guide for the stove body to assure that it’s centered on the bottom. Assemble the stove base and body on your soldering block. Carefully place the soup can filled with stones on top of the stove body. You should be able to see the line you just scribed on the base all the way around evenly. If you scribed it too big, that’s OK. Just make sure you have the same amount of space between the scribed line and the stove body, all the way around. Once the stove is centered and everything looks good, you’re ready to solder the bottom to the stove body. The can will hold the stove down during soldering while the bottom is warping. Even if you annealed it correctly, when you solder the bottom it will warp and push the stove body up, temporarily creating gaps. This is normal. Even the heavy can will not hold it down until the metal has fully relaxed. Without the can, making a good solder joint between contorting pieces of sheet metal is a nightmare.
Apply flux all the way around the joint between the stove body and the bottom. Light the torch and begin heating the brass, concentrating the flame on the bottom. The heat will mostly be on the walls and if the heat is not even the solder will flow up the walls instead of along the joint. Apply solder in beads as needed the same way you did previously. Gently rotate the pad around as you go, soldering in sections. After the first section is done, you need not worry about the stove shifting position. Once the first solder piece has flowed and you move on it will not shift. If the metal is warping very badly you can put down the pick briefly and gently push the body down by pressing on the can with your hand. It should not be too hot to touch. If it is, you are heating too long. Once you make contact between wall and bottom, solder will flow along the joint by capillary action and you can move to the next section (which hopefully is not warping). Once the solder is flowed all the way around, pickle the stove for 5 minutes. The stove is almost a sealed container and will float. Use the mug filled with hot water to force it under the liquid. When you remove it, dump out the water in the mug and turn the stove upside down in the mug to drain the pickle out. Put the pickle back in the container, you don’t need to discard it. Then run some water inside the stove, shake it and let the water drain out before proceeding to the next step. Pat yourself on the back and take a break. You’re more than half-way done!
Forming and Attaching the Stand
Get the wire mesh and cut a piece that is 11 squares long (5.5in.) x 2 .5 squares high (1.25in.). The stove stand is actually only 1in. high above the stove chamber(which would be 2 squares even), but the prongs protrude down the stove body, providing stable points to solder to.
Hold the cut stainless steel mesh in your hands with the 3 horizontal wires facing towards you, and the prongs facing up. Gently start to bend the mesh towards you, gradually working it into a circle. If you can get it to the point where the ends are close to touching that is ideal. You will then be able then spread the opening a little and work it onto the stove chamber. The stainless will act like a spring to hold itself tightly to the stove cylinder. If you bend it right, you won’t need any wire to hold it to the stove body for soldering. It will not help much to try to bend the stainless around the mandrel. Unlike brass, stainless steel doesn’t get any more malleable with heating, and it tends to be springy. It also can’t be pickled.
Fit the stand onto the stove body prongs down, as shown. If the wire doesn’t conform exactly to the perimeter of the stove chamber, it’s not necessary to play with it to bend it into the right shape. Cut a 9in. piece of galvanized wire and twist it around the mesh about 1/2 way up.then slide the wire down until it’s just above the horizontal wire nearest to the prongs. Twist the wire with pliers to tighten the wire and conform the mesh to the stove body. Make sure that the bottom horizontal wire of the stand is evenly seated on the top of the stove. If it’s not, your cookpot will not sit level. There will be a gap between the ends. This gap is where the simmer ring is inserted. You’re now ready to solder the stand to the stove body.
First, put the “dirty” screw into the fuel port, and using the rinsed-off flux brush, paint on boric acid solution over the whole surface. It’s important to not get alcohol inside the stove or it may ignite all at once and create quite a pop that can distort the stove chamber (another experiential tip). You will solder the stand in 3 places: Next to each side of the opening, note the vertical wire resting on the stove body, and at the middle point of the stand in the back. Apply flux to these places. The soldering will be different than what you’ve done before now. Heat the wire and hold the bead of solder to it with the soldering pick. The solder will quickly flow onto the steel because it heats so fast in a small area. This is because steel has poor thermal conductivity. You want to flow the solder onto the stainless wire first, then heat the brass below it to get the solder to flow to it. The stainless will very quickly build up a black oxide that will prevent solder from flowing once the flux has burned off. Adding more flux will not help, and neither will pickling. The only way to get it off is by abrasion (sanding). You want to get the joint flowed quickly before this happens. Once the joints are completed, remove the binding wire and immerse the stove in the pickle. The stand will cause the stove to float upside down. The steel will not be cleaned by the pickle, but the brass will be. Pickle is not ruined by stainless steel, only by iron-based steel. Stainless steel contains no iron. After pickling, rinse off with water and dry. The soldering of the body is finished!
Hold the stove in your hand upside down. Using the ring-bending pliers with the concave-jaw facing down, grasp the base with the jaws butting up against the stove body, and crimp a series of pleats in the base. Work your way around, lining up the jaw with one line made by the previous crimp until you have gone all the way around. Now turn the stove over and use the nipping pliers to cut off any nibs on the stand that are sticking out. The reason this was not done earlier is that soldering can disturb the factory welds if they are cut close too soon. Using a file then the emery cloth, file and sand the cut ends smooth. Lastly, screw in the 10/24 x 1/2 in. machine screw (or the thumbscrew). Wow, except for the windscreen you are DONE!
Finished Brasslite Solo Stove: Image forthcoming
Constructing the Reflector and Windscreen
Important Note: Shipped stoves do not include a windscreen. This simple but time-consuming step has been omitted in order to keep stove labor costs down. Also, pots come in different sizes and accurate cutting according to your pot size saves more weight than a “fits all” windscreen. The instructions are easy to follow.
Materials: 12″ wide heavy duty aluminum foil (purchase from any grocery store), paper clips (optional). Alternatively, aluminum oven liner can be used, which is thicker and more durable. If you use oven liner, use a single layer cut to the dimensions listed below (instead of folding it over itself to make it thicker, like you would do with the aluminum foil).
Tools needed: Yardstick or tape measure, permanent black marker (a sharpie works well for this), scissors, standard office paper hole punch.
To make reflector:
1. Tear off a piece of foil that is about 24 inches long. With dull side up, fold foil in half widthwise to make a double-thick piece that is 12 inches x 12 inches. Smooth flat.
2. Place your pot on the center of the foil, open side down.
3. Trace around the pot with a permanent black marker.
4. Cut out a circle of foil that is 1″ larger than where the line is.
5. Fold edge of circle over ¼” to reinforce it. Repeat this step so reinforcement is folded to the line.
6. The stove will rest on the center of this reflector during cooking to reflect heat back towards the pot.
To make windscreen:
1. Measure the pot you intend to use by wrapping a tape measure around the widest point, or alternatively, wrap a piece of string around the pot and measure the length of it. Add 3 inches to the measurement. Unroll this amount of foil from the container, plus a little extra (It’s best to tear off a little extra rather than trying to tear off the exact amount. It’s easier to trim after folding).
2. With dull side facing up, fold the foil lengthwise in half, then half again, to obtain a strip that is 3″ high, and “X” number of inches long. Smooth foil flat.
3. Fold loose side over ¼ ” to reinforce it.
4. Fold one end over ¼ inch to reinforce it. With fold towards the top, wrap foil around pot under the handle and check to see that there is 2 inch overlap of the ends. Trim foil as needed with scissors to get the correct overlap.
5. Fold other end over ¼ inch to reinforce it.
6. Using the paper punch, and starting 1inch from the end, cut holes at 1inch intervals ½ inch above the bottom of the windscreen to within 1inch of the other end. This allows proper airflow during cooking.
The windscreen may be wrapped around the pot just after lighting, or alternatively held together with a paper clip and lowered around the stove from above after the stove is lit, before placing the pot on the stove. It’s important to make sure that the windscreen is not wrapped too closely to the stove. A gap of 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) is critical for proper airflow and proper stove operation. Wrapping the windscreen too tightly may dramatically reduce burn time due to greater pressure created by the elevated heat around the stove chamber. It’s also recommended that the windscreen be wrapped around your plastic fuel bottle to store it. Hold it in place on the bottle with a rubber band.
Filling and Lighting Stove
Acceptable fuels for Brasslite Stoves: Pure methanol (such as HEET brand auto gas-line de-icer, or its generic equivalent), Ethanol/methanol mixture (a.k.a. Denatured Alcohol sold in paint and hardware stores), Pure ethanol (i.e. 200 proof grain alcohol sold in liquor stores and pharmacy supplies (very expensive!). Note: Isopropanol (ie. ISO-HEET, or rubbing alcohol) is NOT recommended because it burns with a very sooty flame that will prematurely clog the jets. NO OTHER FUELS ARE RECOMMENDED.
CAUTION: In daylight the flame of an alcohol stove is virtually invisible. Unlike a white-gas or compressed-gas stove, there is no hissing sound to assure you it’s running. When lighting the stove in daylight it helps to have the windscreen partially around the stove so that the flame can be seen more easily. DO NOT OVERFILL STOVE. A space above the fuel inside stove is necessary for proper operation. If the stove is overfilled liquid fuel may be ejected instead of alcohol vapor, creating a potentially hazardous fire.
Filling Stove Using Custom 8 oz. and 16 oz. Dispenser Bottle: *
Amount Of Water To Boil Amount Of Alcohol Needed
16 oz. (500 ml) 0.75 oz (22 ml) +
24 oz. (750 ml) 1 oz. (30 ml)
32 oz. (1 liter) 1.5 oz (45 ml)
40 oz. (1250 ml) 2 oz. (60 ml)
1. Squeeze desired amount into fuel reservoir. Insert tip of spout into stove fuel port and dispense fuel. Repeat as necessary to dispense desired total amount of fuel into stove, depending on how much water you want to boil.
2. Replace thumbscrew a few turns (it’s not necessary to tighten thumbscrew all the way).
3. Choose desired fireproof, level cooking surface. Unfold and smooth reflector and place stove in center of reflector.
4. Squeeze alcohol into priming pan at base of stove until pan is full (2.5ml., 1/2tsp).
5. Ignite alcohol in reservoir using match or piezo-electric type lighter.
6. Place pot on center of stand and immediately enclose pot with foil windscreen.
* Minimum fuel quantities for boiling are suggestions based on field-testing and owner reports. They may need to be adjusted to accommodate your specific pot, windscreen configuration, hiking environment. Longer cooking will require more alcohol.
+ Except in cold weather, the Micro may require less than 0.75 oz to bring 16 oz. of water to boil. Experiment with your pot and conditions. Many people have reported successfully bringing 16 oz. to boil with as little as 0.6 oz. (18 ml) alcohol.
Important: If cooking finishes before fuel is gone, allow remaining fuel to burn off before cooling stove and storing. It’s recommended that you store your stove inside your cookpot to protect it. Wrap it in a bandana or pack towel to prevent it from rattling around. This cloth can double as a potholder.
Brasslite Stove Field Tips:
Saving Fuel: Make Your Own Pot Cozy. Saves LOTS of fuel.
Cooking in cold weather: Alcohol stoves need special care to operate properly in cold weather conditions. To conserve fuel and make stove performance more consistent, please observe the following: At night, store your fuel and water bottles inside your sleeping bag at the foot end. While hiking during the day, keep the fuel and water bottles buried inside your pack rather than storing them in an outside pocket. Carry a tealight or other candle and before filling the stove with fuel, warm the body of the stove from beneath for a minute or so until it feels warm, but not too hot to hold.
Fuel Filler Spout: If you somehow lose your filler spout in the field, all is not lost. Carry some aluminum foil and duct tape in your repair kit (a good idea anyway for general repairs). Fashion a small funnel using a triangular piece. If you don’t have foil, you can always cannibalize the heat reflector for this purpose. The funnel will work without tape if you crimp the foil at the top opening.
Fuel Filler Screw: The stove will function without the filler screw in place (not efficiently), but It’s not recommended that the stove be operated with the filler hole uncovered. Several customers have expressed concern about losing the filler screw in the field. One customer reports painting the paddle of the thumbscrew with red high-temperature paint to make it more visible. An extra machine screw comes with your stove. If you want to buy another at your local hardware store, the correct size is a round end, 10/24 x 3/8″ or 1/2″ length machine screw. The best material is stainless steel, but brass is acceptable. Plain steel will rust and is not recommended. If you have lost your filler screw and did not remember to bring a spare, in a pinch a coin such as a nickel or quarter or a small flat stone will cover the hole successfully.