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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,
I'm a student at Lehigh university and for a group project we are working on a sailing stove that runs on wax. It is very similar to an alcohol stove, but instead of burning alcohol it burns wax.

I am trying to find out if there is any interest from the sailing community in this type of product. I know it sounds weird, but I'm wondering if you can tell me if you would either be really excited by it, might be willing to try it, or even just think it is a terrible idea. Any input is welcome.

If you have an alcohol stove I would especially appreciate any input, what you like about your alcohol stove, what you would like to see improved. All information is helpful. Thanks!
 

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Btu's per hour?
Combustion byproducts?
Safety at start and shut down?
Fuel storage?

You need to show the product is better than; diesel, kerosene, propane, or gasoline (coleman stove)
 

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I use unpressurized alcohol. It is simple and reliable and clean.

Burning wax results in a lot of unburned carbon, similar to a pine wood campfire. Makes a mess of your pans, requiring a lot of labor to clean them. If the fire were vented through the cabin roof, potential for sooting up the sails is there.

Not for me.
 

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Wax emits ashes. Alcohol not. It is clean combustion. Wax not. My cabin must remain clean. Not blackened with ashes.

You seem to start from a solution looking for a problem, instead of strarting from a problem looking for a solution. You will fail.
 

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The problem is not the fuel you use. it's the temp that it burns at. All fuels will not burn cleanly if they are not mixed properly with oxygen.

You might be able to use wax if you can get the temp high enough.
 

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Way back in my youth before camp stoves were common, this was a Boy Scout project. We built a portable camp stove out of a tuna fish can, corregated cardboard, and Gulf Wax. Cut the cardboard into strips as wide as the tuna fish can is deep, roll up the cardboard into a continuous disk that would fit into the can, and then pour melted wax into the can to the top of the cardboard.

Did it work? Yes.

Did it work well? Not really.

BTW, we also built stoves using a coffee can, a roll of toilet paper, and denatured alcohol. Same principle -- container, wicking, and fuel.

Of the two, the alcohol stove was significantly superior.
 

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Primary issue with solid fuels is extinguishing them, particularly in an emergency. Generally requires starving oxygen, rather than eliminating fuel.
 

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I sail in a temperate but damp climate here in ireland. I often use 4 night light candles to warm up the cabin on cool damp nights. Placed just under a couple of foil preforated trays they keep the cabin warm and dry till sack time. I have also own a kerosene lamp/heater but feel the candles are safer for storage.
Safe sailing
 

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The OP has this same thread on sailboat owners, I don't see that wax is going to be the fuel of choice for anyone but back packers. The type of burner/generator is about the same as needed to burn diesel. although in his case it would melt the wax, pressurize the liquid enough to be superheated into a gas when it enters the generator tube, hot plate, or other type super heating device. The residue is sure to be a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thank you all for the responses. I understand your concerns about soot and residue. That will definitely be taken into consideration.

To address some other concerns, our stove is not just a glorified candle, it is a legitimate stove that is powered by wax. The way it burns, it actually burns significantly hotter than acohol.

One of the reasons we were thinking about targeting sailboats is because of the safety factor. Wax will not just light. If you put a flame to wax it just melts. Our stove is easy to extinguish, and we feel the added safety of a fuel that cannot burn unless it is in our stove is a benefit that you all would be happy to have.

Given this information would any of you consider the use of the stove? Especially if we found a way to limit soot?
 

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...
Given this information would any of you consider the use of the stove? Especially if we found a way to limit soot?
No. As other posters have said, you aren't proposing to solve a problem of concern to sailors, while you create some new ones. Propane/CNG is a wonderful cooking solution, instant on/off and great heat. Alcohol, less wonderful, but manageable.

I did the paraffin stoves a scout too, it was fun and not bad for an overnight, but a pretty dumb idea for boating. I guess if were to ever go cruising on my windsurfer, I might put one in my backpack.
 

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Assuming, heat output, safety, and combustion by products items have been resolved, please address fuel availability.

Diesel, propane and to a lesser extent kerosene are available in many locations, would I be able to go to a gas station or hardware store and pick up a generic canister of fuel wax and at a price comparable to other fuels?
 

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There are a lot of disparagers but it seems that the product is intended to compete with alcohol stoves. Some people like unpressurized alcohol stoves for the safety and simplicity, but are sad that alcohol doesn't burn as hot as other fuels and usually involves putting more water vapor into the cabin. Another issue is that alcohol is a comparatively expensive fuel.

If this new stove were as simple and safe as unpressurized alcohol, with similarly available fuel, but burned hotter and with less humidity, and had cheaper fuel, then it beats unpressurized alcohol.

If the product was intended to compete with pressurized alcohol, that's probably a non-starter. Pressurized alcohol is plenty hot, but nobody uses it because of the danger and difficulty in starting, so this stove would have to promise that it doesn't have the same danger and difficulty of starting. Basically, people who want pressure will use CNG/LPG, and people who don't will used unpressurized alcohol, so that's what you have to compete with.
 

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... Some people like unpressurized alcohol stoves for the safety and simplicity, but are sad that alcohol doesn't burn as hot as other fuels ...
The real issue is how much power (energy/time) a burner produces. By this measure, non-pressurized ethanol stoves are within about 10% of most marine propane stoves (6800 btu verses 7500 btu); although some propane stoves do have larger burners (~10,000 btu).


... and usually involves putting more water vapor into the cabin. ...
An oft-repeated exaggeration. Propane produces about 555 kJ of heat per mol water vapor produced, while ethanol produces about 457 kJ of heat per mol water vapor; about a 21% difference. Add in the water dissolved in the ethanol (ethanol is never completely water free) and the difference is maybe 30%. In other words, not enough to get too excited about.

... Another issue is that alcohol is a comparatively expensive fuel.
True, but you don't need to buy and maintain propane tanks, regulator(s), hoses, vapor sniffers, et cetera. You might also be able to get a bit of a break on your boat insurance. Unless you are burning an awful lot of fuel every year, it would take quite some time to make up the difference. In any case, any added expense is worth the peace of mind, IMHO.
 

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Thank you all for the responses. I understand your concerns about soot and residue. That will definitely be taken into consideration.

To address some other concerns, our stove is not just a glorified candle, it is a legitimate stove that is powered by wax. The way it burns, it actually burns significantly hotter than acohol.

One of the reasons we were thinking about targeting sailboats is because of the safety factor. Wax will not just light. If you put a flame to wax it just melts. Our stove is easy to extinguish, and we feel the added safety of a fuel that cannot burn unless it is in our stove is a benefit that you all would be happy to have.

Given this information would any of you consider the use of the stove? Especially if we found a way to limit soot?
Good burner design will go a long way to reducing the soot problem.

One of the bigger problems as I see it is storage of wax of what ever sort in tropical climates. Granted that the fuel is relatively stable, it would have to be reduced to convenient portion sizes for use in the stove. When wax is exposed to tropical temperatures, it tends to, well, melt. This can result in your fuel supply becoming a runny mess if it is not contained or a single lump if it is contained. So, unless it is stored within the container from which it will be used melting could cause several problems.

There are materials which can be used to raise the melting point which could be helpful, but these would add cost to the fuel.

I don't mean to discourage you but to warn you of a problem which you may not have considered. A problem which could cause a serious hitch in your product design. If the fuel is stored in a closed container from which it will be used, this problem may be avoided. Take this as an offer of a suggestion for the fuel storage problem's solution.

I can't help with the burner design. That is far from my area.

Have FUN!
O'
 

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The number one cause of fires on a boat is electrical.... By far. 12 volt is worst.

As zealous as some get about accelerants, they just are not as risky as they are made out to be. Caution and proper procedure are required and accidents do happen. Be careful.
 

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Hey all,
I'm a student at Lehigh university and for a group project we are working on a sailing stove that runs on wax. It is very similar to an alcohol stove, but instead of burning alcohol it burns wax.

I am trying to find out if there is any interest from the sailing community in this type of product. I know it sounds weird, but I'm wondering if you can tell me if you would either be really excited by it, might be willing to try it, or even just think it is a terrible idea. Any input is welcome.

If you have an alcohol stove I would especially appreciate any input, what you like about your alcohol stove, what you would like to see improved. All information is helpful. Thanks!
After reading your OP I don't understand why so many are putting you down for trying something new. Don't listen to these ppl who say don't reinvent the mouse trap. Go ahead with your project and I for one hope to see you at the Sail Boat show in Annapolis.

it just a school project. You never know it might catch on.
 

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You don't need to convince me! I have a two-burner Cookmate and am satisfied with it. Not enamored, just satisfied. It was inexpensive, I don't overnight very much so we really spend pennies on fuel every year, and it does cook my food. I wish it would cook it a little faster. And I have noticed condensation after using it, but I don't have anything to compare it to besides a pressurized kerosene stove :)

So that's an issue. It's nice that you have some numbers, but what does that translate to in terms of user experience? At that btu ratio it's gonna take at least 9% longer to cook food, not accounting for the fact that your food doesn't radiate heat slower when you use alcohol. Similarly, what does that 21% difference in heat/water ratio translate to in terms of lost heat when cooking, and discomfort and mildew growth in the cabin?

The real issue is how much power (energy/time) a burner produces. By this measure, non-pressurized ethanol stoves are within about 10% of most marine propane stoves (6800 btu verses 7500 btu); although some propane stoves do have larger burners (~10,000 btu).

An oft-repeated exaggeration. Propane produces about 555 kJ of heat per mol water vapor produced, while ethanol produces about 457 kJ of heat per mol water vapor; about a 21% difference. Add in the water dissolved in the ethanol (ethanol is never completely water free) and the difference is maybe 30%. In other words, not enough to get too excited about.

True, but you don't need to buy and maintain propane tanks, regulator(s), hoses, vapor sniffers, et cetera. You might also be able to get a bit of a break on your boat insurance. Unless you are burning an awful lot of fuel every year, it would take quite some time to make up the difference. In any case, any added expense is worth the peace of mind, IMHO.
 
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