Saturday, December 31, 2011

The MBD Nion 3 Simmering Alcohol Stove

Here's a really interesting little stove, the Nion 3 from Mini Bull Designs.  I'm showing it here next to a Trangia burner so you can get an idea of just how small the Nion 3 really is.  The Nion 3 is made from 5.5 fl. oz./162ml aluminum beverage cans
A standard Trangia burner (left) and a MBD Nion 3 (right).  Note the primer pan under the Nion 3.
Showing a Nion 3 next to a Trangia burner is actually quite appropriate:  Both are excellent simmering stoves.  Today's stove, the Nion 3, is capable of holding water at a low boil for extended periods of time without having the water go into a full roiling boil.

The Nion 3 is a closed jet (pressurized) type burner.  To fuel it, we remove the center screw as shown.  Note that there is a priming pan under the stove.  The stove must be primed in order for it to operate properly.  The priming pan shown is the cut off top of a Fosters sized aluminum beverage can which is very light weight.
A Nion 3 stove with the center screw removed for fueling
Alcohol is added via the open port.
Fueling a Nion 3 stove
After fueling, replace the thumbscrew.  To fire up the stove, put a small amount of alcohol into the priming pan and ignite.  The little Nion roars like a blowtorch in the priming phase!
A Nion 3 in the priming phase of its burn.
If you put a lot of alcohol in the priming pan, you can have a real fireworks display!
A Nion 3 primed with a lot of alcohol.
After priming runs its course, the stove settles down with a nice steady little blue flame. 
A Nion 3 in normal operation
Or, really two flames. 
The two distinct flames of a Nion 3
Recall in the first photo that we saw that there were not one but three screws in the top of the Nion.  The center screw is just the opening to the fuel port.  The two screws on either side have jets at their base.  The flames come out of these jets.  The two screws are rotated to increase or decrease the amount of heat that the stove produces.  One drawback to the design of the Nion is that the control screws are not easily adjusted while the stove is running.  Typically, one sets the control screws before the burn and then lights the stove.  The stove is then essentially non-adjustable until the burn is finished.  Because the flame is a fairly low flame, the flame can be blown out.  It is essential to use a good windscreen.  Since the flame can be blown out, it is easy to extinguish the stove.

The Nion 3 has a high setting and a low setting, but even its high setting would take a while if you wanted to bring water to the boil.  Basically, the Nion 3 is a simmering only stove.  The best use for the Nion 3 is as a back up stove.  If your primary stove doesn't simmer, then you could use the Nion 3 for simmering once your primary stove had brought the water to a boil.  A little inconvenient, yes, but a lot lighter than bringing something heavy like the brass Trangia burner shown above.  Aluminum beverage can stoves are so light, it really doesn't hurt that much to bring a second little burner.  The weight penalty is less than one ounce (see exact weights in the Technical Appendix, below).  Alternatively, one could bring a Trangia burner which is good for both boiling and simmering, but the weight penalty for carrying a Trangia is far greater than carrying two aluminum beverage can type burners.


Technical Appendix:  Weights
Nion 3 stove:  19g/0.67oz
Priming Pan:    6g/0.21oz
Total Nion 3:  25g/0.88oz

Trangia Burner:              67g/2.4oz
Trangia Burner Lid:          21g/0.7oz
Trangia Burner Simmer Ring:  23g/0.8oz
Total Trangia Burner:       111g/4.0oz

All weights were measured in grams and then converted to ounces after the fact.  Weights in ounces may not add up correctly due to rounding error.


  1. I hated this stove when I first got a NION (I have all versions). Ijust would not do anyhting.
    BUT now I have learnt how to use it, I think its a great stove for baking and simmering. I use them a lot for baking.
    Tinny make many types of stoves and they all have dif purposes.

  2. Yes, the Nion is definitely a different stove. Very different from other alcohol stoves I've used, but a neat little stove.



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