A Sterno can be handy if the power goes out at home or if you are camping out and there is only wet fuel available. This version packs easily is light weight and costs next to nothing. A Sterno is a solid fuel source of heat that is usually used for cooking. Creating a home made version of a Sterno is not difficult. To create this version of a Sterno you will need;
-Some paraffin or old candle wax, old candle stumps are great for this.
-An emptied tuna can or cat food can with one end open and no sharp edges, you can probably find one in your recycle bin. Remove the paper wrapper before you start.
-A bit of clean cotton fabric for the wick, I say cotton fabric because most synthetic threads are too thin and too combustable to use for a wick so do not use any synthetic material for this, choose plain cotton.
-A small weight for the base of the wick, a metal washer or a metal nut will work well.
-An old pot to heat your paraffin, you'll probably not want to use this pot to cook food after you use it here.
-You will need a heat source, stove to heat the paraffin.
Clean the tuna or cat food can out well so that no odor of the previous contents remains. A run through the dish washer will do the trick most of the time.
In a small sauce pan over a low flame or if the stove is electric use low heat, melt your paraffin. Just melt it, do not try to make it any hotter, just bring it to a liquid. Hot paraffin or wax can cause serious burns if it splashes so use extreme caution when working with it. Overheated or spilled paraffin can flare creating a serious fire so stop and turn the heat source off as soon as the paraffin has melted. Do not work around small children, save this task for when they are out of the house or already in bed.
While the paraffin is melting, tie the bit of cotton that is to be the wick onto the metal washer. Tie the other end of the cotton wick to a metal skewer, you want the legnth of cotton between the washer and the skewer to be the same as the height of the can. Using teaspoon of melted wax, use the melted paraffin to 'glue' the washer down to the center of the bottom of the can. Place the metal skewer so that it supports the top of the wick as close to the middle of the can as is possible balancing the skewer across the top of the can. Slowly and carefully pour the paraffin into the can until it is very close to the top of the can. Allow the can to sit where it is until the paraffin cools and has solidified. slip the skewer out of the knot and trim the wick, you will need about a half inch of the fabric sticking out of the paraffin, that will be your wick.
This makeshift or homemade version of a Sterno can be used to heat a quick simple meal or to boil water for tea. Make sure that your pot or cooking container is raised above the lip of the Sterno can so that the flame has enough air to allow it to burn. A pair of bricks placed on either side of the Sterno to support the cooking pot would do the trick or a wire frame strong enough to support the pot over the flame would work well too. If you are cooking outdoors with your Sterno, you can speed up the heating process by creating a wind block upwind from your home made Sterno flame. This wind block could also serve as a heat reflector to speed the heating of your cooking pot.
An open flame, on a Sterno cooker or any open flame, should never be left unattended.