Metal spinning…

by Devin on May 11, 2010

… is like making love? Not really, though there are whole host of lewd comparisons I could make, but won’t. Actually, it’s most often compared to throwing pottery. Thanks to the power of levers and the amazing ductility of aluminum, the metal miraculously flows over the mandrel. But just like throwing pottery, all this plasticity can make things a bit squirrelly, and it takes a lot of practice to really control the piece you’re working on.

How to spin metal in 10 easy steps:

1. Insert and center blank between mandrel and follower-block
2. Apply wax-based lubricant
3. Seat part and rough-out contours with round section of combination tool
4. Cut rim true with trimming tool
5. Define details and smooth finish with flat section of combination tool
6. Remove excess material with trimming tool
7. Remove excess lubricant with shop towel
8. Apply satin finish with abrasive pad
9. Finish rim with beading tool
10. Break part loose from mandrel

The part I’m working on in the video is a relatively easy one – the fire bowl for the boiler. The chimney and outer wall are a good bit harder, and joining them for a water-tight seal is the real trick. On to them later this week.

[ 26 comments… read them below or add one ]

Konrad May 11, 2010 at 8:54 am

Devin, this is simply amazing. I had no idea that this was the process involved in making your kettle. For the price you are charging, and the amt of labor you’re putting in, we are def. getting a great deal and an excellent product. Thanks a lot for the hard work, i’m extremely excited about the finished product.

kirk May 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Looks like you have a great start on a fun, lightweight, backpacking (or @ home) wood burning kettle! I would love some more info on your kettle/stove. Thanks!
keep up the good work…

devin May 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thanks Konrad! This was just the only way to make the darn things. :)

devin May 12, 2010 at 8:49 am

Thanks Kirk! I’ll add you to the mailing list, and I’m about to post a video and some specs…

Doug Johnson July 15, 2010 at 2:41 am

That was amazing to watch- having never seen anything like this before, I was just mesmerized. You are creating functional art. I can’t wait to proudly use mine but it will be hard to get it dirty. Maybe I should get two- one to display and one to use. It’s going to be a bit like driving a Ferrari down a gravel road.

Beautiful stuff- keep up the hard work Devin- this is incredible!

devin October 31, 2010 at 12:27 am

Late, I know, but thanks Doug! You should probably get two… :)

Mike Lancaster November 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I am so impressed with your ingenuity and determination. I have used a non stick pot with a homemade wood stove for years and love it, however I bought one of your Backcountry Boilers as a gift for a hiking buddy. I may try it out before giving it to him and who knows, he may never see it.


Curt November 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I see you know your craft. I have worked as a journeyman machinist my entire life. Wearing the glove scares me. We would NEVER wear gloves around rotating equipment. Otherwise very nice!!

devin November 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

Thanks Mike!

Curt – You are right, and it’s not something I would recommend as a best practice. I use it to test surface finish and redistribute the lubricant, but do so carefully.

Paul C. Rainey June 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I was just wondering why you choose to make a cone shaped (V) fire bowl? A straight walled fire bowl with the bottom the same diameter as the boiler would seem more stable and not as tippsy. Anyway, could you make one like that for a customer?

Devin June 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Hi Paul,

The fire bowl is a partial cone because it allows it to flip upside down and fit in the chimney for compact transport. The bottom is as wide as it can be while still allowing that, and I’ve never gotten a complaint about them being tipsy in use, despite what it may look like. It really is quite stable! :)

Paul C. Rainey June 2, 2011 at 8:58 am

Hi Devin,

I didn’t know about the fire bowl storing that way which is a great idea. I’ll take your word then that it’s stable. Is there any particular reason why the fire bowl has one big hole in the side instead of say 6 smaller holes evenly spaced around? It would seem like that would feed the fire better no matter which way the wind was coming from. Just curious.


Devin June 2, 2011 at 11:07 am

Sure, the one big hole allows you to precisely control how much wind enters the chamber in a way in which several holes wouldn’t. When you’re starting the fire, you turn it away from the wind so the match, lighter, etc. and first small flames stay lit. Once it gets established, you turn it towards the wind to take advantage of the increased airflow. You can also supply your own air by blowing in the single hole.

Basically, with several holes, the chamber is more of an open system, which makes the fire vulnerable to the wind, but with a single hole, you can avoid or take full advantage of the wind as needed.

Paul C. Rainey June 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm


Have you ever tried using the boiler unit with a little alcohol stove inside incase there wasn’t any fuel around and if so how did it perfrom? Also, do you think you will ever make one that holds more water? I really wish the unit held at least 24 oz. (16 oz. for my dehydrated food and 8 oz. for my drink). Just curious.



Paul C. Rainey June 6, 2011 at 7:39 pm


When will you have more of the $105 dollar Boiler Prime packages available as I see their sold out.


Devin June 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Hi Paul!

On an alcohol stove – folks have had some luck with a trangia in the Boiler, but I’m working on adapting another design to be more efficient.

On drink and meal – Making a larger one would require all new tooling (so it will be a while), but I’m also working on something that would allow you to prepare both at the same time without boiling twice.

On the Boiler Primes – those are limited production, so it will be a while before they’re available again, and they’ll cost a bit more. If you want something soon, I’d recommend a Supreme through Kickstarter, as they’re $20 below what they’ll be at retail.

Hope that helps!

Paul C. Rainey June 7, 2011 at 7:04 am


Will the present boiler adapt to your new design or will it be a different boiler all together?


Devin June 7, 2011 at 7:58 am

No new design, just some accessories.

English Stu June 28, 2011 at 7:16 am

Great product Devin.
I note the kettle is part anodised ,which part? Did you do that as we are boiling water in aluminium;.
Is there a forum where user tips can be shared?

Devin June 28, 2011 at 7:51 am

Thanks, Stu. I just got back to you on the email about user tips – I’m trying figure out a good format.

On anodization – with the first batch, it’s mostly on the outside, some on the inside – the convoluted shape prevents full penetration on both the inside and outside. On the second batch, it will just be on the outside.

Paul C. Rainey July 2, 2011 at 7:34 am

Hi Devin,

Does the top of the boiler screw off so I can pack snow in? If not, how can I use snow?


Bill December 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Have you had the chimney kettle looked at from the Leave No Trace perspective?

Does old candle wax work as a fuel?

spintech December 30, 2011 at 5:08 am

Thanks so much for this. This is awesome post I ever seen on internet. This is rare to find that’s
why difficult to understand. Anyway, you are definitely someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the good work. Keep on inspiring the people.
For more information regards:
Tank Ends

Andrew Spencer January 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

This is quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed! I had no idea you could form metal like that! Have you seen my kettle?:
It has windows so you can see the water boiling! Might not work with your nifty neoprene sleeve, but could be a consideration for your next design! Love your work!

dave March 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Hi Devin,
Any idea when in 2012 you will be selling the boiler for the UK.


Chris March 27, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Are these still being made? Seems like an awesome gadget. Stove and pot in 1 @8oz? I’d buy one. Backpacking light’s web store seems to indicate they are no longer selling them.

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