Sawdust Ovens

Report Copyright Infringement View in OSM UK View in OSM NZ


Make a burner for cooking using Tin Cans and Sawdust


Fine dry sawdust (plenty to fill all the tins compacted down)
Catering size baked bean size tin cans or paint can (1 per scout/group/patrol) (the larger the tin the longer it will burn)
hole saw/drill/saw (hole size at least 20mm dia.)
fire bricks or similar
Straight smooth stick or pipe (same size as the hole saw)


To make a sawdust stove, take a large paint can, remove the top and cut a two-inch hole in the middle of the bottom. Set the container up on fire bricks, and the stove is ready. The only "tool" you'll need to make your burner work is a smooth round stick or length of water pipe which will fit through the hole in the bottom of the can. It should be long enough to protrude four inches above the can's top edge when the shaft is passed vertically through the stove and its lower end rests on the ground.

It is absolutely essential that the fuel for this stove be bone dry. If it's slightly damp, it will smoke. . . and if it's very damp it won't light at all. Dry sawdust burns wonderfully well—sometimes even with a blue flame—and is entirely smokeless. It does give off some fumes, however, and the room where the stove is in use must be well ventilated or use it outside which is safer.

To load the burner, insert the stick or pipe through the hole in the bottom of the can and hold the shaft straight up while you pour sawdust around it. Every now and then, as you fill the container, press the fuel down—the harder the better—to make it tight and compact. Then twist the pipe back and forth and carefully pull it out of the packed fuel. You'll have a neat hole—which will act as a chimney—right through the mass

The sawdust stove is easy to light. Just crumple a sheet of newspaper accordion-fashion and push it gently down the chimney until it protrudes at the bottom. Put a match to the lower end, and the homemade heating unit will require no further attention whatever until the fuel is completely consumed.

The powdered wood burns from the center outward, the hole gradually increasing in diameter until there is no sawdust left and the flame dies out. The rate of consumption is about an inch and a half to two inches per hour (the figure varies slightly with the quality of the fuel and how tightly it's packed). A stove one foot in diameter will burn about six hours, and one eight inches across will operate long enough to cook a meal and produce some hot water to wash the pots and pans.

The amount of heat produced is regulated by the depth of the container: the longer the chimney, the hotter the flame. A tall, narrow stove will become very hot for a relatively short time, a broad, squat model will give a gentler heat for a longer period and a tall, wide drum will burn both long and hot. Calculate the dimensions to suit your requirements

with thanks to:-


  • camp activity
  • camp cooking
  • camp skills
  • camping
  • cooking
  • cooking Fire
  • creative
  • fire lighting
  • Outdoor Challenge

Badge Links

  • Outdoors - Backwoods
  • Outdoors - Camp Gadget