Introduction: Barrel Furnace Build

Picture of Barrel Furnace Build

I have a few stainless steel drums lying around the property. I decided I would take the prettiest one and make a furnace out of it.

This is the near completed first step of the drum furnace assembly.

I'm going to potentially add an additional radiator drum and cement in the imperfections for a better seal with this stuff:

Step 1: DRUM and SAFETY

Picture of DRUM and SAFETY

Barrel stoves are a fun project. I've seen quite a few of these running around on youtube or on prepper sites. I really have wanted to build one of these for a while. In order to do this instructable, you'll need to get your own drum and your own door kit.

Got the kit here:

A word about drums.

Steel drums are a great project starting material. But, for this particular indication, your drum selection should be carefully scrutinized. The best advice is to get a new drum that has never contained anything: The important thing is that the drum was not used to contain an explosive or flammable liquid. If the drum was used to store oil or paint or the like, you may want to choose another drum to cut. Nobody wants to get blown up. Even if you're using a new drum, ensure you fill the bottom quarter or so with water. Use water in between cuts and drill events to cool your drum. It will get powerfully hot if you don't do this.

Personal protective equipment Needed:

  • Safety Goggles
  • Face Shield
  • Gloves
  • Long Sleeve Shirt (no loose sleeves)
  • Fire Extinquisher (never hurts)
  • Bucket of Water.


  • Power Drill and Steel drilling bits
  • Stainless Cutting Disc and rotary cutting tool (SkilSaw or Grinder)
  • Pliers
  • Ratchet or Socket Wrench
  • Screwdrivers

Step 2: Rough in the Door

Picture of Rough in the Door

You'll want to make sure it looks pretty good. The issue with this particular drum is that it's nobby.

So there was only a very small margin for error. I used the the abrasive cutting wheel. It was a real nice tool. It throws some sparks though. PPE: Full arm coverage, and I recommend the goggles and face shield combo with ear protection. There are easier ways to cut this I bet, but I didn't have the most optimal tools or an oxyacetalyene torch so...

Also repeating PSA: Whenever you're cutting stainless or other metal drums: fill the bottom bit with water. Be VERY mindful of what the drum may have previously contained, as it might go boom and nobody wants that. Take some time between drilling and cutting to cool the metal with some water. Take your time and be really safe.

Step 3: Door Cut and Attaching

Picture of Door Cut and Attaching

Here are more pretty pictures. With the door cut in, you'll be free to do your attachment drilling and anchoring. The kit is pretty great and comes with some nice bolts. You can probably see the convex shape of the drum head. In my case, I had to get a bit creative with the bolting and the socket wrench bend the steel in order to make a good seal.

Be extremely careful with the cut steel edges. It is incredibly sharp.

Step 4: Flue Insertion

Picture of Flue Insertion

Once the door was on, we attached the legs (not pictured). We leveled the door on the unattached legs and marked location on the bottom. Flipped, drilled, and attached legs.

Putting the unit back upright, we located the flue at the far end from the door. (This will become important later if you plan to do a second drum as a radiator).

Same procedure as before, use the flue insert, make the trace, get the cutting wheel and be super careful.

Step 5: Chimney!

Picture of Chimney!

Once the flue was cut it, and screwed on it was time to put on the temporary chimney.

Empty out the bits of metal and water that remain in the drum and get ready for your first test burn.

The test burn is very important. You'll be burning off the remnants of paint and whatever else may have been in your drum. It cannot be overstressed that this first burn should be long, and it should be done OUTSIDE away from any other flammable things. The smoke should be avoided during this burn. Once the first burn is done and the furnace is operating as you want it to, it can be located to it's intended operating location. Decent online guide to chimney locations. Definitely check your local fire codes before placing this type of construction anywhere within a structure. This guy is for my workshop.

Good luck! Be careful!


MoTinkerGNome (author)2014-08-25

falling_stone Just a quick FYI, As a former firefighter these types of stoves really need to be lined with firebrick. The bottom can burn through rather unexpectedly in regular 55 gallon drums. I don't know about your stainless steel pressure vessel but I think you should get better mileage then a standard "oil" drum :D

Like any wood burning appliance inspect it regularly, keep safe distances from flammables, and maintain the flue and it will last you a lifetime.

Oh and yours is the nicest homebuilt woodstove I have seen.

ntense99 (author)MoTinkerGNome2014-12-15

With my experiments - I was able to get metal to turn into dry crackly leaves that just crumble into flakes! I did this by burning super hot (1000++ degrees F) flames and made the metal glow super bright red for a long duration! Cool effects!

this is a really good point and is not outlined in my instructable as this project is not 100 percent completed. the fire brick in the iron grates are very important pieces that have not yet been added to this project. Thanks for the important points!

Another plus is that adding brick/clay will also add thermal mass so that the stove will continue to heat even after the fire has gone to ash.

it's the ash portion that I'm struggling with right now. I'd like the system to be easily cleaned out and maintained. If the bottom is coated with a solid level of clay it will be more of a pain to clean. I'm thinking of adding an ash box to the bottom and lining the bottom with bricks arranged with the grid grating pattern.

The Ash problem is not that big of deal. Get any covered metal bucket or pot, And a small metal shovel, that is all we ever used. To bring the ashes from the back use a Hoe to drag them forward. Heck you could then rake them into the shovel. Grates may look nice but they speed up the burn of the wood as ash and coals are what gives you good heat. Fireplace grates are there to lift the logs up so you get a pretty fire in a decorative fireplace, Andirons were there to keep your pots over the coals not to keep the logs over the ashes. (Sorry i am replying from my cellphone app and my typing is a bit lousy on it.)

Took your advice and went with sand and firebrick to line the bottom ^_^

Oh that is a slick solution. I presume that the rebar is removable to facilitate easy cleaning? Very nicely done.

yep! My old man suggested it after I said that I wasn't interested in buying an expensive solution. He said "dude, rebard is freaking cheap"

I figured you'd get a kick out of it.

no worries, i value your opinion. I think I would like to get the wood up and off the bottom though for a more complete combustion. Will try a couple configs and report back.

I am just brainstorming, you got me thinking of things I haven't used in a while... :D

Richley (author)falling_stone2014-08-26

How about a removable compartment inside the stove ?

ptrobrn (author)MoTinkerGNome2014-08-26

an Excellent point. I am thinking you could use the the fire clay they used in paint can furnaces. Mix it up and put it in the bottom and smooth it out and let it harden. Then roll the can to its side and do the sides. Maybe run some screws from the outside in to create anchors for the fire clay to adhere to.

art.edwards.14 (author)2014-08-26

I live in Costa Rica and built a stove with the Volzang Deluxe kit.The barrel I used had a removable end which is where I put the door. I lined the bottom (drum horizontal) with firebrick. There is a couple advantages to lining with fire brick, the barrel last longer, retains heat longer and is easier to clean out as I matched the lip of the ash door to the height of the fire brick. I also put some firebrick across the back to also help preserve the barrel. I removed the remove tops gasket and replaced it with the same fiber glass material they use to seal the door of pellet stoves. The barrel stove does not leak any smoke. I also use stainless steel stove pipe as I get it very hot about once every 10 or so burn days as controlling the way the fire burns with the door vents causes a lot of water/smoke/ash build up in the pipe, when the stove gets very hot the pipe takes a lot of abuse, regular stove pipe won't last very long. If you get it too hot the build up in the stove pipe will catch fire and regular stove pipe will not withstand that much heat.


MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-08-24

It looks really awesome! And it's a great use for some old barrels. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for reading MsSweetSatisfaction

BrandonB135 (author)2016-05-04

Who uses a stainless barrel anyways, i mean, can you send me one!

I do like having a few about. But I no longer work with that particular client so I only have the ones I'm gonna get. I hope you have good luck finding one!

Mindmapper1 (author)2015-01-13

I have a saw dust burner in my shop, it is protected from the sides and above with blocks. These dont touch the stove but act as a thermal mass and firebreak around the stove. I am going to be fitting a fan system which will circulate the hot air that gets trapped aboved the stove and direct it to where I am working using some fins. The temperature will be controlled by a stat which will switch fans on and off.

that's cool! that's my next addition that I'm planning. I hope you'll post your buildout!

ntense99 (author)2014-12-12

Hey man, your stainless steel barrel stove is awesome! Look at what I built recently:

falling_stone (author)ntense992014-12-15

looks great! I'm thinking about replicating some of what you're doing to heat an exterior hottub.

ntense99 (author)falling_stone2014-12-15

Also dude.... did U see one of my videos where I added a blower? If you do that - UNLIMITED POWER! lol

ntense99 (author)falling_stone2014-12-15

Sure thing man! Go for it :) Here are links to the resources I put up:

jorgeadelast (author)2014-08-26

In view of the "be nice policy" now standing, I will only say that it's a pity that neither you nor any commentator before me thought of the need for fixing reasonably high legs to the barrel

Took your comment and elevated the unit when I installed it. Really stable and will be better for loading wood into the thing. Thanks for the suggestion. I plan to have it boxed in with nice brick to match eventually.

The kit came with legs that are of a certain size. When I do the final install where it will live, I'm planning to build up the base so that it's a bit easier to operate, fill, and empty of soot and ash. As stated in the instructable this is more of a "Part 1" than a final build. I'm thinking adding an ash pan undercarriage as well as the second barrel on the top, so stay tuned.

leif.hietala (author)2014-09-21

The only suggestion I have is this: fill the entire barrel with water, not just 1/4. Full of water, you know it is absolutely not going to explode. Drain off a little to allow cutting without interfering with blades. Even if flammable materials continue to adhere to the walls and cook off while cutting, you've minimized volume for fume accumulation, so any resulting pop will be negligible.

yep. Safety is important with this. I knew what the previous material had been in this particular barrel and I had it professionally cleaned by the factory where I'd received it. But you cannot be too careful with this kind of project. Thanks for reading.

Marcos10 (author)2014-08-27

Nice work and neat finishing! But as I've seen from your answers to other comments pointing out issues like overheating, ashes, oxigenationg, ventinc, etcetera, you're concerned about efficiency as well, while saying this would be a first step of a larger project like the one with two barrels (from this link you provided

I wonder, haven`t you tought of building a mass heather rocket stove, and if you did, why did you still preferred your current configuration? I ask because drum barrells provide the ideal casing for a rocket stove, and actually barrell's rocket stoves are the most tested ones and, from the gethered experience, the ones where this sort of stoves allegated eficiency were most verified in practice. I've personally seen drum barrell rocket stoves and they efficiency are counter intuitivelly awesome (and I've seen people setting up improvised rocket stoves with a couple of bricks and a tin can to boil a couple gallon of water for coocking with a handfull of spare sticks). As for myself, I am trying to figure out how to retrofit the conventional stove at my place to "rocket" it.

A well devised drum barrell rocket stove often reaches 90% burning/heting eficiency, while a conventionally arranged stove may reach a 30% (BTW, I recall seeing a two barrells stove very similar to the one in your link as a variation proposal for a rocket stove, however as I recall, what "rockets" it would be an internal separation of chambers within the barrells devised to control the heated gas flow, and not only stacking one on top of the other).

The principle behind rocket stoves is to force heated gas move forward throug a devised pathway having at least two stages, basically, in the shape of a chimmey encased inside a bell (the drum itself). Unless a conventional stove drawing heat right from the fire irradiation as the fuel burns (which in turn produce unburned ashes and dark smoke made mostly of unburned carbon particles that are dangerous and polluting), the fist stage is the "rocket turbine" by means of a vertical exhaust pipe from the burning chamber that is encased within the stove (e.g a chimmey inside a barrell standing up). This pipe is thermically isolated from the outside to prevent heating exhange, as to compress the irradiated energy which ensures the whole combustion of the fuel and its byproducts in a plasma that easily cane reach 1800ºF/1000ºC at the top of the pipe, which in turn increases the air speed forbidding the gas from withdrawing back into the burning chamber, but instead of allowing this gas to vent out, it's released into the bell (the drum) that irradiates the heat to the outside while cooling the gas, making them heavier, thus they run downards around the first pipe and towards the bottom of the bell. The final venting chimmey is attached to the bottom of the stoove. At this point, the smoke is ashes free, still has heat to take advantage of, and retains the achieved speed, so it can still be routed with pipes up to several yards and in any direction (not necesarily upwards), allowing for an optional third stage of the stove, often in the shape of a radiator hidden under a clay made seat that accumulates the remaining heat that is delivered for hours into the ambience after the burning ended, or by making the pipes run under the room floor. When using a drum ass the "bell", the top of the drum gets the heat straight from the top of the "rocket rurbine" inner pipe, thus it can be used as a cooking stove surface. The efficiency is so high that care must be taken to limit the air intake and the amount of wood used, or you risk to melt down the entire stove (there are plenty of videos about this).

falling_stone (author)Marcos102014-08-30

you know, I suppose the reason I didn't go with the mass heater rocket stove was because of the permanence that I perceive of their installation. Another aspect of my line of work is the impermanence. I wanted to make sure whatever I put together could be easily disassemble and moved depending on circumstances. Also, as this particular unit was not meant for a primary heat source, but a secondary or emergency heat source, I didn't want to get too far into it. I suppose, it would be easy to take what's currently built and fold it into a rocket stove/mass heater. It's still a nascent project, who knows, I might change my mind :D

andyman5002 (author)2014-08-27

Hi there! I built something similar out of an old butane bottle! You should add a secondary burn system to this. It will burn much cleaner and probably hotter! Just need to add some steel piping inside the firebox that draws air from the outside, heats it, then delivers it to the top of the firebox. Thats my understanding anyway.

You're talking about a pipe that feeds the firebox. It is a good idea. The small bung is situated to the bottom for this exact reason. I do plan to add the upper drum to capture more heat.


pfred2 (author)2014-08-26

I think this winter I want to put a little stove out in my garage. I'm leaning more towards a rocket stove design right now.

falling_stone (author)pfred22014-08-26

Similar design ideas. A rocket stove is a really fun project. I built one a while ago with stove parts from ace. They're really nice if you have the right set up. Fortunately for you, you're on the right site for that kind of thing

pfred2 (author)falling_stone2014-08-27

Yeah a rocket mass heater is what I need to make. They are like rocket stoves with flues I suppose. There are better sites elsewhere on the net about them too.

dougomatic (author)2014-08-27

That looks really nice. I am in search of a stainless barrel like that one now. Either new or one that contained water or beverage. Well done, thanks.

falling_stone (author)dougomatic2014-08-27

try here @dougomatic

Sir Lunch-a-lot (author)2014-08-26

Interesting. I think I would consider using a grinder or a rasp or something to flatten out the jagged edges of the opening once the door is in place (maybe putting tape around the door frame itself if it seemed like scratching it was going to be an issue). Looking at these pictures, I get the impression that those sharp edges will be an ongoing hazard when loading the furnace with wood. Also, are you planning on adding legs to it? I think a good set of legs would really finish of the look quite nicely.

not pictured, was the filing of all the sharp edges down but I figured that was a really boring picture it's a good point though. also you can see in 1 of the pictures that the legs were put on (another user pointed out that there a bit short). but the final installation will include rising the unit up a bit so that the short legs are not a problem

skeeve_27 (author)2014-08-26

I read "Step 1: DRUM and SAFETY" only to hear Norm Abrams recite "Before we use any power tools, let's take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses."

falling_stone (author)skeeve_272014-08-26

well stated. I actually have put this project off for quite a while as I got up the nerve to use the tools to cut the steel. making sure that the barrel was super clean and that we use water and that we had full face shield protection where major points for giving me the confidence to tackle this project

yrralguthrie (author)2014-08-26

Can you suggest places to get stainless steel drums?

difficult to give you a place to find them cheaply. My line of work sort of afford me the opportunity to occasionally lay a hand on one

yrralguthrie (author)2014-08-26

On second thought if I had a source for stainless steel drums, I would just recycle them. 2 or 3 would likely get me enough money to buy a stove already made. But yours is pretty.

I had considered that but then somebody else would have got to have all the fun of making it :-)

Carrion Crow (author)2014-08-26

This is awesome. Whenever I see any kinda burner that goes inside I ask people if they have a carbon monoxide alarm. Maybe good to add a note about that too?

I would make one of these in a heartbeat if I had a garage.

About This Instructable




Bio: Building things to pass the time and sharing the good ones with others.
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