Make a Buddy Burner

Materials & Tools Needed

  • Plain corrugated cardboard (no bright in printing, no wax or plastic coating)
  • Flat tuna/pet food cans or flat pineapple cans and lids
  • Number 10 can (the large institutional size)
  • Candle wax or paraffin
  • Punch-type can opener
  • Tin snips

Construction Steps

  1. Cut the cardboard in strips whose width is the height of the can-across the corrugations, so the holes show.
  2. Roll the strips until the cardboard roll fits snugly into the can.
  3. Melt the wax. Use a double boiler, because if the wax gets too hot, it can burst into flame. You can improve 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.
  4. 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 fills 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.
  5. Let it cool and harden.
  6. To light it, set it on a brick or concrete block. Put a lighted match in the middle of the can or light the wick. The flame will spread across the top of the can.


If using indoors, place in front of a door or window open at least 1 inch. Set the burner on a brick or concrete block. It produces a lot of heat and the flame can be 6 to 8 inches high. This doesn't mean it is unsafe, it does mean you can't play around with it or treat it casually or without thinking about what you are doing. Be careful and pay attention to details and use common sense whenever handling open flame. Don't set it on the floor, as someone may kick it over. Don't let the kids play with it (toasting marshmallows is okay).

Use For Cooking

  1. Cut out the end of the Number 10 can. Use the tin snips to cut a 3 inches high and 4 inches wide "door" on one side of the can at the open end.
  2. Leave the top of the door uncut. Bend this flap of metal up so the door is "open."
  3. Take the punch-type can opener, and make 3 or 4 holes on the other side of the can at the top (this is your chimney).
  4. Light the tuna can, place the Number 10 can over the Buddy Burner, and cook on top of the can.
This "can stove" can be adapted to fuels like twigs, charcoal, or charcoal briquettes, but these should not be used indoors. Charcoal briquettes should never be used indoors under any circumstances. The fumes can kill you.

Regulate Flame

  • To regulate the flame, use the can lid as a damper. Place it over all of the flame to extinguish the fire, or cover it partially to regulate the amount of flame. You can also use a piece of aluminum foil (several thicknesses folded), that is larger than the tuna can.
  • Handle the damper with a pot holder, or a pair of pliers, or punch a couple of holes in the edges of the lid and use some wire to make a handle.
  • To refill the buddy burner, place small amounts of wax on the cardboard while the burner is operating. As long as it has wax, it will burn.

Baking Use

Using tuna cans as little pans, anything you would bake in a regular oven can be baked on top of the Number 10 can stove. Simply place another Number 10 can over your baking pan and its an oven!

Emergency Heat

Don't put the Number 10 can over the buddy burner, as it makes more smoke with the Number 10 can than without. Light the buddy burner, let it warm up a room. As soon as the room is warm, extinguish the buddy burner.