375-Watt Coffee Can Stove


Is there anything you can't build from a coffee can?

I made this cheap-and-easy single-burner stove out of a Chromalux 1500 watt 240 volt 6" stove element and a coffee can. Wiring the element to 120 volts instead of 240 volts cuts the power down to 375 watts. There is no control or switch - you plug it in to turn it on, and unplug it to turn it off.

The element is held in place by slots cut in the edge of the coffee can. Two parallel slots about an inch apart form tabs to hold the sides of the burner, and a single slot holds the far end. A large notch is required for the connectors.

The chord is an old computer cable - crimp connectors were applied to the wires, and small nuts and bolts connected the hot and neutral wires to the element and the ground wire to the can.

It works pretty well. It will boil water with authority. If you just leave it plugged in, it seems to reach equilibrium at less than 700°, but I wouldn't leave it unsupervised.

The logical thing to do would be to buy a hot plate at a flea market. Instead I bought a stove element for the same price and made my own hot plate. Why? To paraphrase Richard Feynman, "Gizmology is like sex. Sometimes we get something useful out of it, but that's not why we do it."

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© 2003 W. E. Johns