The Coleman 501 camp stove was a short-lived stove from 1962, which was recalled for safety reasons, and succeeded by the safer and more successful 502.
Before I talk too much about the 501 stove, I need to make clear that this stove was recalled by Coleman for good reasons, and if you want a stove for regular use, you should steer clear of this stove. If you’re not very familiar with stoves, and even if you are, don’t use it. This blog is written for historical information purposes only. Since Coleman designed, tested and sold this stove, it does work, but I’ll show some details of the stove and provide some reasons why it was recalled.
I acquired this 501 stove, made in May of 1962, a few months ago and it fired right up, however, since then it periodically failed to light, so I disassembled some of it for cleaning.
After removing the pot support and the circular-shaped generator, simply unscrew the flame diffuser.
I sprayed some carburetor cleaner through the generator and filled it with the same and let it soak for a while. I sprayed it again and it seemed clean enough to allow fuel to flow freely.
After reassembly, I added fuel, pumped it up and lit it . . . outdoors in a safe area. At first it seemed okay, but then I noticed flames coming from the compression fitting at the main on-off valve. I blew them out and had a shovel full of dirt ready to dump on the stove, just in case. Apparently, I didn’t get it seated correctly. Of course, doing this experiment made a (or THE) major design flaw obvious. Note the tank-generator-on-off valve arrangement. The fuel comes from the tank through a fuel flow adjustment valve (probably an F/A tube), then a fitting, then the generator, then another fitting, then . . . the on-off valve. Guess what cannot be done if you get a fuel leak prior to on-off valve and you have flames coming out of them? You guessed it, you can’t turn off the fuel flow. Ooops!
The 502 stove fixed this and all models of stoves I’ve seen after this, and prior, have the on-off valve first.
Another issue I noted were the steel fittings on the generator (at first, I assumed they aluminum). They have cracks in them. So, I’m wondering if there is an even pressure around the flange on the generator itself. Brass may have been a better, but probably more expensive alternative So, I consider this flaw, number 2.
I needed to re-seat the generator several times before I could stop the leak, so it’s pretty touchy. The flat, squared mating surface in the valves are reminiscent of the fittings on the M1942 stove’s vaporizer/ stainless steel disk. Those can be difficult to reinstall correctly as well because, you really need to get the the two surfaces back to the original placement. Conical shaped mating surfaces, similar to those used in future designs might have made this work better (see the photos in my previous blog for the Coleman 400A stove). I consider this a minor flaw, though mostly just a bit of an annoyance. However, I could see that if the user decided to remove/reinstall the generator and just fired it up, it would scare them enough to never use it again, whether it leaked in the storage can, or when the stove was burning. A new replacement generator may not have had the issue, but I don’t have one.
Here’s a photo with the 501 and 502 stoves side-by-side, showing the valve assemblies.
When properly sealed, both stove’s burn nicely though the flame diffusers create a noticeably different flame pattern. Also the newer 502 uses the design similar to the two and three burner box stoves and future backpacking stoves.
I don’t plan to use this stove much, if at all, but I like the circular generator around the burner and the flame diffuser. The valve arrangement is a fatal flaw, unfortunately, and I cannot recommend using it.
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