How to Make a Plumber’s Stove on Steroids for Cooking and Warmth

by Todd Walker

How to Make a Plumber's Stove on Steriods

Being the son of a plumber, I’ve witnessed many inventive ways to stay warm while working on cold steel in frigid winters atop a 700 foot tall powerhouse. From modern acetylene torches to alcohol stoves, plumbers get creative when it comes to heat sources.

Before the time of pressurized gasoline blow torches, alcohol was used as fuel for melting lead and soldering. However, at some point in history, before the modern thermos came about, a smart plumber poured cold coffee from his makeshift milk bottle thermos and slurped cold soup from his lunch pail. This was his ah-ha moment! Hummmm, just add some alcohol to a container stuffed with cotton rags and set it on fire! And the plumber’s stove was born. At least that’s the story I heard told.

I built a pint-sized plumber’s stove 7 or 8 years ago. It’s a lightweight, self-contained, and portable stove for backpackers (ultra-lighters excluded) and campers. I last used it 5 years ago. Upon re-opening, the denatured alcohol lit up with no problem. I didn’t like the fact that I had to loosen the hose clamp and slide the pot holder down to remove the paint lid. A small annoyance really.

Joshua Shuttlesworth, a fellow self-reliance blogger and Pathfinder brother, happened to post his brilliant version… a larger DIY Hobo Stove, as he dubbed it. He used a gallon paint can and a #3 size can (45 ounces). He has a fancy can opener that removes the can lid in a way that you can seal the can with the lid after it’s been removed. Wish I had one… but I don’t.

But I did have an empty quart paint can nesting in a gallon paint can I’d planned to use for another project. This larger version would feed and heat a whole crew of hungry plumbers!

Check out our video at the bottom of this post to see the Plumber’s Stove on steroids in action.

Here’s how to make your own…

Gather the Stuff


  1. One gallon metal paint can – box stores sell new empty cans or you could clean an old can
  2. One quart metal paint can – same as #1
  3. Platform for quart can inside the gallon can – explained in Step #3
  4. Roll of toilet paper (cotton balls or 100% cotton material works too)
  5. Bottle of isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol
  6. Pathfinder Bush Pot Nesting Stove – not required but if you already own one, it fits perfectly in the grooved lip of gallon paint cans

Assemble the Stuff

This is the easy part.

Step 1: Stuff the Can

Remove the cardboard tube from the toilet paper roll. Grip the edge and pull the tube out of the center. Smashing the roll a couple of times seems to loosen the tube enough to slide it out.

DRG buys the larger rolls of TP which wouldn’t fit in the quart can. I removed excess TP from the roll by sliding my finger between the sheets about a 1/2 inch from the outside and ripped it free of the roll. Squeeze what’s left of the roll together and stuff it into the quart can. Place the excess in a ziplock bag and toss it into your camping gear for the call of nature.

Step 2: Add Fuel

Pour the alcohol of your choosing in the TP stuffed quart can. My small plumber’s stove contained denatured alcohol over cotton and burns much cleaner than the 91% isopropyl.

WARNING: Do NOT use gasoline or other highly flammable petroleum-based fuels/accelerates! You’ll explode into flames if you do so.

The quart can held a little less than one 32 ounce bottle of alcohol. Allow the TP to absorb the fuel until completely saturated.

Step 3: Insert Quart Fuel Can

On Joshua’s Hobo Stove, his #3 tin can was tall enough for the flames to breathe oxygen. On my shorter quart fuel can, the flame would not stay lit inside the gallon can for more than a couple of minutes. To remedy my vertically challenged container, I elevated it a few inches by sitting it on a metal bowl I’d bought at a yard sale for a quarter. A large, empty tuna can would probably work too. As an added plus, you’ve got another useable container inside your stove.

Step 4: Ignition

Light the fuel can. Ferro rod sparks will ignite the fumes inside the can. If using a match or lighter, be careful to keep your hand to the side of the stove opening while lighting.

If you plan to use a Pathfinder Nesting Stove to hold cook pots, now is the time to place it on top of the gallon paint can. The flames from the fuel can will reach a foot or more in height.

A common man stove top can be made by adding coat hanger wire across the opening for pots to rest. Or cut a piece of sheet metal 4 inches wide with 1/2 inch notches on the top edge and securing it to the gallon can with a few hose clamps coupled together. You would lose the can’s bail handle but you’d have a functional stove top. The picture of my small plumber’s stove will give you an idea of how to make your own cook top.

My original Plumber's Stove burning 5

Step 5: Cook Stuff


As a test, I boiled about 62 ounces of water in my Pathfinder Bush Pot in 17 minutes inside my shop. Note: Use the plumber’s stove only in a properly ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

I also tested the boil time with the same amount of water in my backyard bushcraft area with the same results. I thought lifting the Bush Pot about a half-inch over the stove top via my outdoor kitchen tripod would decrease the boil time. Still took about 17 minutes inside and outside.

Thanks again to Joshua for his tutorial that spurred me to make the Plumber’s Stove on Steroids! Overall, I’m very pleased. This stove would be useful as an alternative heating/cooking option when car camping, at deer camp, as a car emergency kit, or added to your emergency preparedness stocks at home.

Here’s our video of the stove in action:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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Categories: Canning, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 34 Comments

5 Must Do’s Before the National Nipple Runs Dry

by Todd Walker

I hate labels. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life dodging bumper sticker nomenclature.

Prepping, survivalism, back to basics, resilience, self-reliance, sustainable, self-sufficient, homesteading, simple living, etc. all have a common philosophy: Taking responsibility for you own life. I wrote about chasing the simple life here. Sherpa Simple is…

Living in a way that is economical, sustainable, individualized, self-sufficient, comfortable, practical, resilient, and in harmony with nature and neighbors. It’s all about helping each other as we chase the simple life.

Weaning ourselves off the National Nipple requires time, energy, self-education, and force in some cases. And here’s the thing – the more we drink, the more we believe that the State udder will never stop flowing. We become addicted. Suckling becomes a basic right.

Buzzers Image Ana Ivanovic Nipple

This is what the National Nipple will do for you

“Once the government becomes the supplier of people’s needs, there is no limit to the needs that will be claimed as a basic right.”

— Lawrence Auster

Even if you’re thumping your chest with pride for never wrapping your proverbial lips around the golden udder, we’re all affected by the overwhelming dependency bred into our culture. The State is the great equalizer dispensing fairness for the collective good. This arrangement is not voluntary. It’s sustained by force. “Legitimate” force.

If you knew the day our National Nipple would run dry, wouldn’t you live differently. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And ‘when’ happens, there will be more than a bit of bawling and screaming. Everyone will fill the pain – your elderly parents on medicare and fixed incomes, your neighbor working in the public sector, all the public school teachers (and there are a lot of us), owners of stocks and bonds, retired veterans, everyone. I’m not even counting those totally dependent government for food, houses, and cell phones. The reset will happen.

How could it not. The truth behind the recovery propaganda should cause some of us to begin self-weaning. The feral Federal Reserve will continue the train wreck by printing more fiat paper. The productive class will continue to shrink. It’s becoming more and more difficult for middle class families to provide basic necessities, much less save for that rainy day.

Retirement looks further away by the minute. The elites keep sending their handlers back to the kitchen to cook more numbers to keep the herd happy. Does this make me vigilant and awake or a conspiracy theorist?

You decide. Search economic collapse for yourself. Here’s a small sampling to get you started:

•             Personal Incomes & The Decline Of The American Saver

•             Comparing the past to predict the future

•             A chart proving that the MSM is lying about unemployment

The picture painted is scary. As people come up for air while nursing on the National Nipple, there may be some that begin to wean themselves. For those of you already standing back from the feeding frenzy, you need to get into high gear with your preparedness plan.

You may think I’m hardnosed or uncaring by my next statement. I prefer a sudden reset over a long, drawn out collapse. I never liked tip-toeing into our cold lake. I found jumping in head-first to best for me. My body adapted to the shock of cold water better with total immersing. Let me clarify. I’d prefer no collapse at all. But that ain’t happening.

You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.  — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The list of nations spiraling towards collapse is growing. What steps should Joe and Jane Average take now to build a hedge against financial Armageddon? This is not a step-by-step plan. It requires thought, creativity, and determination – no matter what your financial status. To answer the previous question, do what we know is the right thing to do. Simplify. Less is more. ‘Less’ dependence on the fragile systems of mono-crop corporate farming, fractional reserve banking, and our ‘sick’ care medical establishment.

Building resilience in these areas one step at a time will only increase your chances of survival. And may actually help you thrive.

While this list is not exhaustive, it points us in the right direction.


Grow your own or buy from local farmers. Doing this will accomplish several things:

  • Strengthen your local food system. These producers live where you live. Small family owned and operated farms will contribute to your overall health and resilience in return.
  • Reconnect with your food and community. Build relationship with food producers that don’t live 2,000 miles from your house. Better to meet them now than after the balloon goes up.
  • Save resources. The amount of packaging material and fuel is drastically reduced by purchasing/bartering for groceries you can’t produce for yourself. Find farmers that practice sustainable growing practices.
  • Education. Many local farmers/producers are happy to help you learn how to grow your own. Plus, you’ll begin to know where your food comes from.
  • Food storage you’ll actually eat. When you preserve the harvest from you garden or local farmer’s market, you’re putting away food that you’ll actually enjoy eating and not some pre-packaged, processed items or MRE resembling food. Dehydrating, canning, and proper storage techniques will go a long way in supplying your family with stores of food for the long run.

Health Vigilante – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

  • 90% of what we eat is the cause of our chronic health conditions.
  • Be your own health vigilante. Take your health into your own hands. This past year taught DRG and me that modern medicine is run by pharmaceutical companies. There’s a chemical soup in pill form for everything.
  • Explore holistic health practices.
  • Eat nutrient dense foods. Avoid processed junk foods. I recommend the Primal Lifestyle. Your mileage may vary.
  • Regular exercise without being married to the gym. Develop a mindset of functional fitness. Lift heavy things, move slowly every day, and sprint (max capacity) once every 7 to 10 days.

Invest in assets and skills

  • By assets, I mean tangible items that hold value. Look up Alpha Strategy. That case of ammo you bought last year was a good investment after all. 
  • Focus on your strengths. You’ve got one or two skills that you’re very good at. Develop those even more. But don’t forget to add more resilience-adding skills to your toolbox.
  • Barter is becoming more important these days. It may one day be a crucial skill for acquiring basic necessities.
  • Learn permaculture. Hiding food in plain sight.

 Build Community

  • Most of us don’t live in a rural homestead self-sufficiently. We live mostly in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Your neighbors will play a huge part in your families ability to survive and thrive in coming days. I’ve written some thoughts on the importance of neighboring here
  • With proper planning and the existence of basic resources, your neighborhood is very defensible and livable in SHTF scenarios. More on this in a later post.

Housing – Living big in small places

  • Learning to live big in small places (locally) means re-educating ourselves on what resilience really means.
  • Simplifying your life gets rid of all the clutter. If you’re like me, that’s a hard thing to do. Letting go of things I’m going to do something with one day. It forces me to really evaluate what’s important. Prioritizing my stuff allows me more free time to focus on what’s really important.
  • Consider downsizing your home. We’ve downsized twice since the housing bubble popped. Talk about freeing up time!

I’m aware there are many more must do’s before the National Nipple runs dry. This is intended to spark a discussion on adding to our list. Please feel free to comment on the list and add your valuable insight. Or email me your thoughts via the contact tab at the top of my blog.

Follow me on Twitter for the latest on our journey to self-reliance, preparedness, and resilient living: @SurvivalSherpa

Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Barter, Canning, Economic Collapse, Food Storage, Frugal Preps, Functional Fitness, Homeopathy, Homesteading, Investing/Tangibles, Permaculture, Preparedness | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

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