Kerosene Stoves

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2015 • all rights reserved

A reader is looking for tips on safely using a kerosene/paraffin stove. Other readers help her out with great info -- learn more here and add your own words of wisdom.

Do you have — or have you used — a kerosene stove (paraffin in the UK)?

Another TBG reader is looking for tips — she just got hers and set it up ashore to learn to use it prior to installing it in the galley.

I have zero experience with one, so can’t help her directly. But I know there must be some TBG readers who can help her.

Please leave any tips or info in the comments below; comments left on Facebook will also get imported. That way, other readers with questions can read all the tips here.

Thanks to all!

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Comments

  1. I have a Taylor’s stove in my boat on the UK and really like it.
    I preheat using meths and a clip on wick.
    As long as it’s heated enough it works every time.
    It can burn much hotter than an alcohol stove and is more economical.
    The only downside I can see is the heat it produces in the cabin.

  2. Philip Ritson says:

    Paraffin stoves make a lot of sense on a boat. It’s Non-explosive for a start and the technology involved is simple and repairable. The fuel is compact too and produces a lot of heat for the storage space it takes up. It is losing ground to alcohol because an Origo/Cookmate is simple to use and propane/butane because gas is familiar. I’ll defend the use of alcohol on a trailer-sailor to the death; but an explosive fuel like propane/butane is IMHO is a mistake.

    Pre-heat it well. Keep it maintained, Feed it good fuel (in the UK the stuff at B&Q is excellent) and get to know the good folks at Base Camp (www.base-camp.co.uk). The technology needed to sustain these things is dying, which is a genuine shame. Taylors is the only manufacturer of paraffin stoves fighting the good fight and even they are a workshop outfit.

    I’m told the burners you use make a lot of difference, It’s a case of four legs good, two legs bad and to make matters worse Optimus and Primus have no interest in sustaining the designs they introduced in the first place. However, the German made Hanse No 1 has an excellent reputation. Just Google Hanse No 1 Taylors to find out more.

  3. charlie Jones says:

    Been using kerosene stoves aboard since the 70’s Once you learn the tricks, no troubles as long as you use clean fuel, and keep the orifice cleaned. Self pricking needles are the best. but the smallest steel string from a guitar works also

    I burn nothing but 100% mineral spirits. Most kerosene today is really not stove grade.

    Second the recommendation for the Base Camp folks. Been dealing with them for a good while now

    • Philip Ritson says:

      Charlie

      What do you mean by mineral spirit. The dry cleaning stuff or paint thinner? Both can have similar properties to paraffin regarding flash points etc but the latter often contains additives to keep brushes in good order that burn off some nasty fumes.

      Stoddard spirit is very expensive though

      • charlie Jones says:

        NOT paint thinner. Cans labeled 100% Mineral Spirits. Burns way cleaner than the stuff you buy now as kero.

        We used what my grand mother called “coal oil” when I was young. Actually was highly refined kerosene, and you can still buy it- sometimes.

        I have so much less soot and blackening on the pots and pans with Mineral Spirits- virtually none.

        • charlie Jones says:

          DO NOT buy odorless- some of THAT is even non flammable !!!

        • Philip Ritson says:

          I’m trying to get my head around this because products have different names in different places. I’ve heard about this Mineral Spirit thing and am convinced there’s something in it but I have never quite figured out what we’re talking about.

          Are we talking about what the British call White Spirits or is sometimes called Stoddard Solvent, the stuff that was used in the dry cleaning industry until the 1950s?

          What brand do you use?

          • charlie Jones says:

            Being a pure southern fella, I have a hard time with differences also. Best I can tell (google search) white spirits, and mineral spirits, are basically the same thing. But then we have the term “meths” which I understand to be alcohol. THAT by the way, is probably THE single most expensive fuel you can use. In the Bahamas, in 2010 stove alcohol was 31 bucks a gallon!!!!

            Mineral spirits was 11

          • Philip Ritson says:

            Meths = denatured alcohol in my book too

            It should get cheaper now the green movement has labelled it sustainable (just don’t factor in the geenhouse gasses released distilling the stuff).

            I am in Australia, the stuff labelled white spirits here is more expensive than kerosene and eats away rubber. Don’t know if that’s a deal breaker or not.

  4. Eric Schlesinger says:

    Hi BG,
    We used a Taylor kerosene stove a few years back. It was a pain to light as you had to pump up the pressure in the fuel tank first. Then pre heat the burners, then light and wait for the smoke to subside. After that it worked great. Cooked many huge pots of water for pasta. Cleanup included washing the top of the cabin interior. And the burners got ornery.
    Taylor recommended using a propane torch to pre heat the burners, eventually we decided that if we were going to carry propane anyway (for the Sea Swing too) we might as well just use a propane or butane stove, which we do now.
    cheers, Eric and Sue

  5. charlie Jones says:

    smoke to subside?? I use alcohol to pre heat- 90% rubbing. No smoke at all. And the stove stays pumped up all the time. On one boat, I had a 2 gallon tank, and pressurized with a a bicycle pump- every few days

    Plus- you are on a boat- what difference does a few minutes make?? BIG Grin!

    • Philip Ritson says:

      You have not preheated enough if you are getting smoke. Where you using the kerosene to complete the heating cycle?

  6. Another alcohol danger: bright sunshine.
    If the stove is located so that the sun shines on it, the surface will, of course, heat up – that heat can be enough to ignite alcohol.
    We have had two fires as a consequence. The cause, the first time, was assumed to have been because the fuel pressure had not been turned off. The real cause in both cases was that when the initial quantity of alcohol was pumped into the preheating receptacle, it immediately ignited, but, in the sunshine the blue flame was not seen and more fuel was pumped in thinking the flame had gone out. In the second case, the flame had been extinguished by the wind but the pump kept fuel running. Water was poured on and checks made for any flames. Unfortunately some fuel had run off on the inboard side of the stove and was burning behind the stove, and so not seen. The worst of all this is that the hidden fire was not known about until the stove was removed during a refit and the burned gelcoat and exposed glass fibres discovered. Assumably there was insufficient fuel to continue burning – but what if………!
    Now we use an origo non pressurised stove and provided the refilling is done, IN SHADE, outside the cabin all is well, but ensure the openings are sealed after use otherwise the fuel reservoir will evaporate. We are seriously considering an inverter generator running a microwave or magnetic induction type cook surface which does not heat unless the base of the pans are magnetic metals (i.e. not copper, stainless nor aluminum).

  7. Gordon Thompson says:

    I did not like my kerosene stove. It was pressurized and required pumping, especially after the noisy and lengthy priming operation. It eventually developed a leak on the pressurized side of the system and could not be used. I threw away a $300 stove.

    • Marcelo says:

      I used kerosene for many years on my previous boat and there is nothing better and safer in my opinion. I never had problems and the cabin was always clean by following the guidelines stated above – keep orifice clean and only use good fuel. I once bought a terrible thing the merchant said was kerosene, it looked like it, smelled like it, but it was not. On the passage south to Madeira it failed to light. So I diverted to Santa Maria island and found a small airport and was able to buy jet fuel. The best grade of kerosene. From then on, that is all I used. I wish I could find a good kero stove for my current boat, but they are rare nowadays.

      • Philip Ritson says:

        Your post reflects the sad realities of kerosene. Only Taylor make them and a Taylors is to boat stove what a Morgan is to sports cars. Lovely to look at, manufactured in ridiculously small quantities and horribly expensive as a result.

        And yes the best fuel goes to the Aviation industry and is virtually unobtainable as a result.

        Sadly, someone decided propane/butane was the future and all the development and then the market went that way. I think it was a mistake.

        Origo/Cookmate make the only really viable alternative to LPG now. Alcohol is a terrible cooking fuel compared to kerosene.

  8. Bill Robinson says:

    There are a number of companies producing kerosene stoves, besides Taylors. Bertchi in Switzerland, and Hanse in Germany, are just two that come to mind. None are cheap though. I have been using my Taylors stove full time, for 20 years now, it is great. I have just ordered two of the Hanse No 1 burners for it, but other brands of burners are available from Germany and India.

  9. Nowadays, kerosene is in a pure liquid/fluid form so we don’t know what oil company additives/catalysts used so we don’t know if it’s a good kerosene, that’s why some speculations over exposure to vapor/incomplete burned fuel/smoke may cause some health problem same with LPG what additives/catalysts used, but less harmful due to liquid/fluid mix with gas so release vapor-less/burned almost complete/smokeless, base on environment conditions. Some Tips in using kerosene base burner must be in open environment, use exhaust fan for indoor/close environment, and avoid to used in which air was bad/polluted condition/where air can’t circulated properly.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664014/

    • Bill Robinson says:

      Hi all,
      Well I have recently installed two new Hanse No 1 burners in my 20 year old Taylors stove, and I am very impressed. These burners are way better than the original Optimus, or Portuguese burners that I have been using. German engineering is hard to beat.Regarding fuel, I have been sailing full time for twenty years and have never had a problem finding good, clean, cheap fuel. One reason for this is that my 75L tank, holds enough fuel for 2 to 3 years! I therefore usually find a source of cheap,(often Govt. subsidised) , kerosene. Argentina did this in winter, Tanzania too, and the French Foreign Legion gave me 40l of Jet A for free, saying they filled aeroplanes with tons of fuel and 40L was just “spillage”.

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