I don't have a fire pit at my house and was considering making a brazier but when I got my hands on a 44 gallon drum for $10, I knew that was going to be the base for whatever was to come.
It was a container used for animal feed, so it hasn't had any toxic chemicals in it except for the paint and anti-corrosion layer. This meant if I burned the paint off it would be ok for food. So, food it was.
I sat down to sketch a few designs and finally came up with this one. I wanted to use as much recycled material as possible as I really like reusing. This is more important than aesthetics for a functional item in my house.
First step - I used an angle grinder with a cutting blade to remove a panel from the side. It meant I needed to smooth the edges off with a file and, when I got sick of that because it wasn't super effective, the dremel with a grinding bit on it.
I bolted the loose end (the lid) on by drilling three holes through the lid and base and using M6 bolts so the end can be taken off should it make cleaning easier. I don't know that it matters, but I thought this might be more sensible than welding it.
Two hinges held the lid in place and I fashioned a handle out of a piece of wood and two very long bolts. It sits about 80mm away from the lid so it can be opened without burning your hands. I would have put it higher on the lid if I did this again, but it's ok for now. I also drilled two holes in the inside base to let water out if it gets rained on.
The legs are steel bar with galvanised caps on them (attached with epoxy resin). They are attached with saddles and M6 bolts. The lid end is more flimsy than the base of the drum so I reinforced the inside of the lid with a small piece of steel behind each saddle. That means the bolts go through the saddle, the drum lid and then the plate before the washer and nut. This keeps it rigid when heat might reshape the lid. You can see the plates in the bottom photo showing the inside. The bends in the bars were made by cutting a V into the bar with an angle grinder and then bending with a vice and brute force. The bends are covered with heat resistant tape. It's probably the weakness of the design but it won't live outside so I'm not worried. It hasn't melted at all as it sits a distance from the actual barrel. I propped it up on bricks while I attached the legs so it woud be flat.
I tested the paint and found that some would respond to paint stripper but there was different paint on the inside, outside and end. Some was tougher than others. I tried burning it off with a small butane torch but that was going to take forever. A burning fire inside took care of it quickly. It did produce lots of stinky smoke.
What followed next was two people and two drills with wire brushes on them taking a full day to strip the paint. The dremel got into the corners and the metal was finally bare. Hooray! I was so glad to be done with that step.
Paint. Such a stink!
I painted the legs, ends and outside of the lid with a high heat spray paint. It needs two coats and then curing time. The inside and main barrel is painted with pot belly black stove paint. This needs 16 hours between coats. Both need heat to cure them. The high temp paint could be cured with a butane torch but the stove paint needed either months to cure (such as painting in summer and then waiting until winter) or a slowly increasing heat. I went for that route. I built a small fire last night inside and then gradually built it to a roaring fire. Oh my goodness was the smoke FOUL! Finally, the smoke became more normal smelling so I put the fire out, waited and then built another one. I probably need to apologise to my neighbours for the disgusting paint stench. The paint has changed to a smoother texture and is now pretty tough. I took the whole thing apart before painting and then put it back together.
Here is the inside:
The two cooking surfaces are removable and can be put in while there is a fire to maximise how this can be used. The mild steel grate is held in place with two recycled steel rods which rest in holes drilled for them. The ends of the rods are bent so they won't slide all the way through. The white paint you can see in this photo has since been burned off. This grate is good for corn or smoking.
The cast iron plate sits on two flat iron bars which slide into slits I cut with the angle grinder.
Both can be removed so the fire can be used for a camp oven or just as a fire pit.
The gap left from the angle grinder is enough (with the lid shut) to smother the fire but not put the embers out. The few holes from the plate bars also lets in a little air. Just enough for smoking although I might put a few more in.
I have cooked some corn and bread and it was lovely. Bring on the first bbq! I have a thermometer to add to the side just to keep an eye on the food while it's inside.
It will be stored inside the garage when not in use. It does fit in my small car for transport, though.
If you are going to use a drum for smoking it is very important that you do get all the paint and coatings off completely before using a safe paint to protect the metal. Then, only use appropriate metal inside to keep the smoke clean.