How to Light a White Gas Stove

How to Light a White Gas StoveThe thing about lighting a white gas stove is that "a brief soccer-ball sized flame is normal," as one manufacturer puts it. As I see it, a brief soccer-ball size flame is never completely normal.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes completely necessary and here's why: The gas your stove burns has to be vaporized to burn correctly. The stove does this by heating the gas once it reaches the burner. So you need heat to start the stove, and you don't get any heat until the stove is started.
Priming, also called preheating or a soccer-sized ball of flame, is the solution. You burn some gas in a container built into the stove, and the flame vaporizes the gas near the nozzle. When the priming fire dies down, you light the stove and dinner is on its way.
But let's go through it a bit more slowly before we start lighting the stove. Most white gas stoves today have a separate fuel bottle that is connected to the burner by short gas line. A pump pressurizes the fuel bottle, forcing gas through the line and into the burner where vaporization takes place. The pressure in the fuel bottle is still pushing and the now vaporized gas goes through a nozzle and is ignited. (On older style stoves, the fuel tank is right under or next to the burner, and the heat creates pressure in the tank and vaporizes the gas at the same time.)


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Stove
  • Matches
  • Gasoline
  • Denatured alcohol (optional)
  • Priming paste (optional)
Step 1
If the stove nozzle is clogged, the stove will never burn correctly, if it will burn at all. Some stoves have a cleaning needle built into the stove. Others have a separate cleaning needle mounted on a handle. Whatever your stove has, use it to push out any dirt in the small hole in the nozzle.
Step 2
The fuel line and gas bottle disconnect and usually get packed in different parts of the pack. Connect the fuel line to the burner and put the assembled stove on a flat, stable surface.
Step 3
Pump air into the fuel bottle. This is not something you need to do (or even can do) on older stoves. On new-style stove, 20 or so strokes is usually enough to pressurize the bottle. Cold weather or a bottle low on fuel will require more.
Step 4
Without lighting the stove, turn the stove knob so that liquid fuel spills out of the nozzle and into the dish built into the base of the burner. Close it after one or two seconds. I usually turn the knob, say "one chimpanzee" and close it. On older style stoves, just pour a little gas into the reservoir.
Step 5
Light the gas in the dish and let it burn. When the flame is nearly out, turn the stove knob slowly back on. The last of the preheating flame should light the now vaporized gas in the burner. If not, use a match. A stove that produces a yellow flame at this point usually needs more preheating. Let the yellow flame burn to finish the preheating, and the flame will soon turn blue. If the stove fails to light, or if the yellow flame is larger than you're comfortable with, turn off the stove. Wait five minutes before trying again.

Tips & Warnings

Priming without fear: if you'd rather avoid the gas flare up during preheating, preheat with either alcohol or priming paste. Priming paste (also called fire starter) comes in a tube, and is sold in the camping section of stores. Squeeze the paste into the priming dish, light it, and go through the rest of the start up routine. If you use alcohol, use denatured alcohol, sold in hardware stores, and carry it in a plastic squeeze bottle. Pour it into the priming dish, and light it for a flame that primes the stove without all the flash.

Article Written By Jeff Day

Jeff Day is a backbacker, fly fisherman and former canoe guide. He is a full-time freelance writer in Bucks County, Pa. and recently won the Robert Traver Award for fly-fishing writing.

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