The Pop-Pop Steamboat in MAKE Volume 28 calls for using small tea candles for the engine’s heat source, but I found that it didn’t work very well. So I decided to make this small alcohol-burning lamp instead, and it significantly improved its performance.

In this project I will go over how to turn down two brass end-caps on a small lathe and then solder them onto a short length of copper pipe to make an alcohol-burning lamp to fuel your Pop-Pop boat. This project is for those who have basic skills with a lathe and metalworking. I will not go over dimensions, so you can come up with your own design. Have fun!

Project Steps

Using the lathe, turn down the brass round stock to create two end caps that fit in snugly in the copper pipe.

One cap should have a 1/4″ hole drilled through it for the copper tubing. The other cap will have a threaded hole for a brass threaded plug that you turn down. Make sure the threads match.

Put the O-ring on the brass plug.

Use the torch to soften the copper.

Then use the pliers to bend it into the correct shape, being careful not to crush the pipe.

Test fit it under the pop-pop boat engine to make sure it fits.

Make sure to apply plenty of flux to the inside of the pipe, then solder the non-threaded cap on.

After that, solder the bent copper tubing into the cap, making sure not to get any solder inside the tubing.

Next, solder the threaded cap onto the copper pipe. Don’t forget the flux.

After that, clean up any holes or rough solder with the torch.

Cut a short length of cotton yarn and stuff it into the bent copper tubing.

I used a stiff metal wire to help get it all the way in. You want a little of the yarn sticking inside the copper tube; this will allow it to soak up the fuel.

Use a wire wheel to roughly clean the burner.

After that, polish it up on the lathe with fine-grit sandpaper.

To run it, just fill it up with fuel, screw on the cap, and light the wick. That’s it – you’re done!