Methylated Spirit Stove

Tonight’s object, as far as I am aware, is not strictly military in origin. It was however used by a friend of mine extensively during his time in the army and was apparently a popular choice of privately purchased equipment for many squaddies in the 1980s so is entirely appropriate to appear on the blog.

Many soldiers had problems with the standard issue hexamine cooking stoves. They were sometime difficult to light in windy conditions, were slow to heat up water and left a thick and sticky black residue on the bottom of mess tins. Many turned to alternatives and this little methylated spirit stove was a popular choice:imageIt takes the form of a pressed brass can, with a removable lid and multiple holes to encourage airflow in to the central burner. The lid is stamped with safety instructions:imageOnce the lid is removed, the burner itself can be seen inside the stove:imageThis is filled with methylated spirit and has a series of air holes around the rim to aid combustion, it is removable to allow it to be cleaned or refilled:imageOnce the cooking has been completed, a small metal lid can be dropped onto the top of the burner to extinguish the flames:imageThese stoves must be extinguished this way as blowing the flame out just results in the fuel and flames spraying back at the user. The rounded portion of the cover is used both the grasp it with to drop it onto the burner, and also to hold it on securely in transit so the methylated spirit can’t escape. The top of the handle fits into the dimple pressed into the stove’s lid and the fit is tight enough to prevent spillage.

The design of this stove is very simple and seems to be based off of the 1925 Trangia pattern which in turn was based off of a design patented in 1904 in New York by J Heinrichs. This very simple stove is incredibly light, but can quickly produce enough flame to warm up a mess tin of water:imageIt is this speed, the lightness of the design and the lack of smoke when burning methylated spirit that made this design so popular amongst troops. These little stoves also work well in low temperatures in a way designs that rely on pressurised gas do not. It was also suitable to be carried on board aircraft when deploying overseas, again something that cannot be done with pressurised cylinders of gas. The stove works by:

The unpressurized open-top design of the double wall acts as a gas generator, transferring heat from the flame to the fuel. This effect enhances combustion, producing more heat than other passive designs. The inner wall also creates a convenient preheat chamber for starting the stove. Once the fuel has warmed up, its vapor will travel up the hollow wall, pass through the perforations, and form a ring of flame. This improves air/fuel mixing and therefore combustion. Vapor also rises from the center of the stove and burns when passing through the ring of flame as long as a pot is over the stove.

Today more sophisticated portable stoves such as jet boils are available that are even more efficient and light, however for a period in the 70s and 80s this was a popular choice for many soldiers.

One comment

  1. I used one of these stoves in the mid 1960’s for camping. They were sold in Woolworths amongst other places and with various colourful branding on the case and lid. Meths does have an Achilles heel though in that it is reluctant to light below 11C or so. The fuel can be carried next to your body to keep warm or the burner base can be heated with a match or lighter. A wick made from a blade of grass or sliver of paper can be dipped in the fuel and is much easier to light, warming up the fuel and then igniting it. I still use this type of alcohol stove albeit purchased from China and not Woolworths.

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