A guide to self reliant living






1. Food

2. Manna

3. Water

4. Sanitation

5. Medical,

6. Kerosene heaters and cookers

7. Lighting

8. Wood
cooking and heating

9. Communi-cations

10. Essential

11. Home
built items

12. Electrical; generators
and power

13. War preparedness

14. Gardening


Miles Stair's SURVIVAL










Miles Stair's SURVIVAL

Alcohol Stoves
RETEC "Small Fry" Alcohol Stove

Alcohol stoves have been used extensively in Civil Defense shelters in most of the Western countries for the past century.  During the Cold War, alcohol stoves were made and sold for individual family shelters.  Shelters are notoriously lacking in adequate ventilation and alcohol stoves produce very few fumes, thus making alcohol stoves a natural for use in crowded conditions.

Alcohol stoves can frequently be found for sale on eBay.  The small backpack stoves made from a soda can are great for hiking but are too small and feeble for shelter use.  Larger alcohol stoves can be found, though, and often fondue cooking sets with alcohol burners can be found new in Big Box stores.  A fondue heater is not ideal, but the rack does hold the burner above a table (they do get hot) and can hold a pot or pan for boiling or frying.  Not ideal, too small a burner, but way better than nothing!

One alcohol stove which was widely sold in the 1960's and '70's was the RETEC "Small Fry" stove.  The box was marked "Recommended for Civil Defense Shelters, Spill-Proof, Odorless, Smokeless, and Burns any 94% Fuel Alcohol."  RETEC, R.T.C. Sales, 3030 N. Reynolds Rd, Toledo 15, Ohio. [The postal zone and lack of a ZIP Code date this stove to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963, when many back yard shelters were being built.] 

The RETEC stove is typical of the simple alcohol stove designs, valveless, and using an absorbent to hold the fuel.  In this case a porous ceramic block was poured to fit precisely inside the round housing.  Other alcohol stoves have used an asbestos matt or similar fiber material to contain the fuel.  In the photo below right you can see the white porous ceramic under the hole in the top of the stove.

The "Small Fry" and original box, unused, stored in a shelter for half a century.

The stove parts include the cooking grate, stove base, top plug and bottom rubber plug.

A label on the side of the stoves reads "Burns any 95% alcohol, obtainable at hardware, paint and marine stores.  Close air intake and burner holes after using to prevent vapor from escaping.   If flame put puts or is sluggish, blow gently in air  hole."

The page of operating instructions packed with the Small Fry were too faded to scan, are important because they apply to all alcohol stoves of similar construction.

Instructions for filling Small Fry.

1.  Remove the upper section of the stove.
2.  Remove hole cap button from top center of the burner.
3.  Make sure that the sliding rubber cap is fully inserted in the side air hole.
4.  Slowly and carefully pour the fuel into the top burner hole (Any 95% ethel alcohol such as "solox" or Wood Alcohol.  Do not use rubbing alcohol. Eight ounces of fuel should be enough for an average filling.  Ten ounces will saturate the stove.  (95% alcohol may be found as a fuel or solvent at any hardware, paint, marine supply or drug store.)

Instructions for Burning

1.  Replace the top grid section of the stove.
2.  Remove both the burner cap and the sliding rubber plug.
3.  Apply a lit match to the top burner hole.  The stove will light.
4.  If flame put-puts or does not immediately rise to full height, blow gently toward side air hole.  Flame should be at least 4"high.
5.  To reduce flame, insert the sliding rubber plug and slowly push it into the side hole until desired flame height is reached.
6.  To Extinguish Flame - Push sliding rubber plug all the way into the side hole.  Blow out the flame at the burner hole.  Insert the burner hole cap.
7.  Naturally, when cooking on a windy day, Small Fry must be shielded by a wind breaker to keep heat under the cooking utensil.
8.  Always place a lid on cooking pot if vigorous boiling is desired.

At left is a simple windscreen I made for the Retec stove from a piece of sheet aluminum dryer vent.  The dimensions are 5 3/4" sides and a height of 5". 

The aluminum is soft and can be easily cut with a jig saw.  Deburr the edges with a flat metal file, bend the sides so they are 5 3/4" long, and you are done.  That takes all of 15 minutes to accomplish.

The Retec stove in the original box plus the windscreen can be safely stored in a 6" x 6" x 6" box until needed.  Of course it works better if you also have stored alcohol!