This is a project I read about in Backwoodsman Magazine. In the May/June 2006 issue, David Eley submitted an article entitled "Campfire in a Soup Can". It looked relatively inexpensive and easy to me and something we could use while camping, while hanging around outside, or in emergency situations. I was really glad I attempted it, and intend to make several more of these. Below is the step-by-step commentary of what I did.
This is pretty much what I started with - thick cardboard, one large soup can (18.8 ounces), 2 small tuna cans, a couple boxes of parrafin wax (you may also use beeswax, or even small pieces of leftover candles), a pot to melt the wax, and a pair of sissors. I also ended up using a pencil and ruler to mark the cardboard for cutting.
The first thing I did was cut the cardboard line the cans. The cardboard serves as the wick for the candle, so be sure to cut it so that it pretty much lines up with the very top of the can. Here are the measurements for what I ended up needing: For a 18.8 oz. can, you will need a piece of card board that is 9 3/4" X 3 7/8". For a small tuna can, you will need a piece of card board that is 1 1/4" X 9 3/4". Crink it so that you can line the cans and make sure the ends butt up together.
After I melted the wax, I carefully poured it into the cans lined with the cardboard. I made sure to do this with a papertowel underneath the cans - which is a good thing, as I spilled some as you can tell.
This is the larger can that I filled with wax. I did a better job here and didn't spill a drop. By the way, fill the cans within about 1/4 " of the top of the cardboard and then don't touch them! They will be extremely hot. Let the wax cool, and you'll notice that it shrinks a bit. You'll want to top them off with melted wax after they've cooled - but don't fill more than 1/4 " from the top - you need to be able to light the cardboard.
Here's the tuna can completely cooled and ready for use.
For this demonstration we lit and burned the candle on a rock on a picnic table. Just light one side - the wick will slowly burn all the way around. David Eley recommends digging a hole in the ground and sinking the can into it. I believe this is an excellent idea as the entire unit gets extremely hot - and accidently tipping it over could prove to be quite an ordeal.
Here it is in full flame. In hindsight, I probably wouldn't make one as small as a tuna can. They burn relatively quickly (I figure about 3 hours). The flame is very intense and it puts out a lot of heat. David Eley recommends using 3 or 4 together to generate warmth if needed. You could definitely cook with it by using some sort of a stand over it. I intend to use them when we have gathering of people outside. They provide excellent light, and generate just enough smoke to chase off gnats and mosquitoes. They produce no sparks or embers - and you can add a touch or two of scented oils for a pleasant aroma!Check out Backwoodsman Magazine for lots of useful and fun projects and a ton of information on getting back to basic living.