Introduction: Building a Simple Barrel Stove

Picture of Building a Simple Barrel Stove

In this instructable I will show you how to make a very simple and inexpensive wood burning stove from a 55 gallon steel drum. This can be used in a garage, pole barn, workshop, cottage, cabin, or home for heat throughout the winter or a pool heater with a simple conversion.

Step 1: Step 1 - Gathering Components

Picture of Step 1 - Gathering Components

You will need a few products to get started. First, you will need a 55 gallon steel drum. You can get a sealed lid or removable lid barrel, that is your choice. I prefer the sealed lids for rigidity. You can find these on craigslist, local scrap yards, or industrial parks for next to nothing. If you are going to build the double barrel stove you will need two barrels. The second thing you will need is a barrel stove kit. You can get single or double barrel kits from Vogelzang or U.S. Stove. Links below for the barrel stove kits and optional accessories.

Volgezang kit
U.S. Stove kit

Double Barrel Kit

Cast Iron grate
Barrel stove hot plate kit
Paper log maker

Step 2: Step 2 - Attaching the Door

Picture of Step 2 - Attaching the Door

The kit comes with a door assembly that is all one piece. The best thing to do is pick the best end of your barrel, stand it upright, and then set the door assembly on the end. Open the door and use a marker to trace the inside of the door opening onto the barrel. Obviously, make sure it is centered on the barrel end. If your barrel has two bungs , use the larger one for the bottom and the smaller at the top above the door.

This is where some power tools come in handy but I am sure you could do this with a hack saw and a drill if needed. First drill a hole at one of the corners of your marked area. Then, using a reciprocating saw, jigsaw, hacksaw, or grinding wheel cut along your line until your door hole is complete.

Place the door back on the barrel and check to ensure it properly fits. If so, mark each on of the holes around the edge of the door and drill with an appropriate sized drill bit. Secure the door to the barrel with the included bolts and nuts.

I have a video on this build here -

Step 3: Step 3 - Attaching the Legs

Picture of Step 3 - Attaching the Legs

I found it best at this point to set the legs upright on a flat surface and then place the barrel on the legs. Adjust as needed so that the door is straight and then use a marker to mark the screw holes for the legs. Flip the barrel back up on end and use an appropriate sized drill bit to drill the holes for the legs. Secure the legs to the barrel with the included screws.

Step 4: Step 4- Installing the Flue and Damper

Picture of Step 4- Installing the Flue and Damper

Now that your barrel is sitting level on the legs you can position the flue assembly near the rear of the barrel on top. Ensure it is centered and then mark the holes for the screws. Drill these holes with an appropriate sized drill bit and attach the flue assembly with the included screws.

If building the double barrel stove you will install the secondary leg supports next and connecting flue brackets between the two barrels. then install the final flue assembly on the top of the second barrel at the front end.

Stove pipe - You can find stove piping to attach here on Craigslist or new at your local hardware, farm store, or big box home improvement store.

Step 5: Step 5- Paint

Picture of Step 5- Paint

Now that your stove is all put together it is a good idea to start a quick fire inside and let it burn fairly hot until any paint or grease is burned off of the surface (I skipped this step and you can see that the paint di not stick well on mine the first time). Once cool, wipe down the exterior of the barrel and use BBQ paint of your color choice to paint the entire barrel and stove piping.

Step 6: Step 6- Adding or Making a Grate

Picture of Step 6- Adding or Making a Grate

There are a couple of options here.

First option - You can purchase a grate on Amazon and have it shipped to you. These are awesome, cast iron, and heavy duty.

Cast Iron Grate -

Second option - I used two pieces of 3/4" black pipe (gas pipe) and some hardware cloth or wire mess to make a inexpensive grate with things I had lying around.

Third option - Look for an old BBQ on the side of the road and grab the grates from it. Standard gas grill grates will fit perfectly from side to side in these barrels and leave about 2-3 inches under them for ash and air.

Step 7: Step 7- Enjoy!

Picture of Step 7- Enjoy!

You have now built your very own wood burning stove for under $75 that can be used for heat in your shop, outbuilding, cabin, or home (in some cases). I also converted this into a pool heater and use it to heat my garage using a boiler type system, you can check the links below for the build videos.

Pool Heater

Outdoor Wood Burning Garage Heater

Barrel Stove Build Video

For more videos, DIY projects, and how-to's check us out at


CadeJ2 (author)2015-12-04

I made a burn-barrel and applied BBQ paint (Krylon) but it just burned off. It says "good to 600 F continuous, 1200 F intermittent, but I guess my barrel got too hot. I have been considering a horizontal design like this - the control of air flow would prevent overheating maybe. I also have thought about lining the interior with ceramic tile of some sort, but have not quite figured that out. Anyway, nice project - thanks.

actimm (author)CadeJ22015-12-11

I would recommend going to your auto parts store and looking for exhaust header paint. That is usually good to 1200 degrees or more.

sslfamilydad (author)CadeJ22015-12-05

I can't remember the brand of paint I used but it was rated at 1200 degrees I believe. I haven't had issues with it burning off. You can get fire bricks from Home Depot I believe that you could use to line the bottom and about half way up the side by just lying them in there, that might help.

billbpeters (author)2015-12-07

I have built one using the Vogelzang kit. I added loose laid concrete pavers on the bottom to protect the steel from the fire. I build my fire directly on the pavers without a problem. I also have the stainless steel pipe that serves to heat pool water. Good instructable.

visualsenses (author)2015-12-07

I am still looking for a plan how an oldfashioned KACHEL OVEN is built like in Germany Switzerland Austria they burn "PEAT brickets" and are covered in pretty tiles or stone and can have a sitting bench around the outside

artedwards67 made it! (author)2015-12-06

Art Edwards,

I live in Costa Rica at 3,800 where it does get cool. I ordered
the Vogelzang deluxe kit from Northline Express along with stainless steel
stove pipe. The wood trimmings I get from a local sawmill has a huge amount of
moisture which ate holes in my first barrel so I went with a stainless steel
barrel which has a removable top where I mounted the door. I used gasket
material for doors on airless wood burning stoves around the removable top. I also
installed brick in the lower half of the barrel with refractory cement. The door
was mounted so it was nearly level with the bricks which not only directs the
airflow to the bottom of the firewood but makes it very easy to clean out the
ash. I also built a 20” frame under the stove for two reasons, my back isn’t
very good so it is easy to feed and clean out at this height also I use a fan
to blow the warm air into the rest of the house. With the excess moisture I also
bought a female stove pipe flange for the barrel and an adapter to install the
stove pipe with the male end down eliminating creosote from leaking out around
the stove pipe, that stinks very bad in the house if you don’t. I have an area
outside under roof where I store new firewood on pallets cut to 1 meter to dry.
There are 8 pallets under roof that hold 500 kilos of ricked firewood each (I get
the wood trimmings in 1000 kilo bundles). I also have a wood shed that holds more
than a bundle of firewood after it has been out in the drying area for close to
a year. Even still there is some moisture in the wood when it is burnt. Where I
live we get over 100” of rain in the 6 month rainy season so most of the wood
contains a lot of moisture. At my age of 74 this is the best heating solution I
have come up with here.

Don't know why two of each photo came up. first photo shows brick before it was cemented. The other photo shows the first barrel and how it is mounted on the stand which is the same as it is now.

Wow, thanks for sharing that great addition and use for this kit. That looks like you have setup an excellent heating solution for yourself there.

Thanks, I worked hard to figure out how to get the best use out of my barrel stove with the scrap wood I can get. I have a friend whose father heated their home in Wisconsin with a stacked two barrel stove.

weedonfarms (author)2015-12-07

IF you fill the bottom with sand to a level just below the vent it serves 2 uses, #1 it will build the floor up and you don't need the grates, #2 when not in use it will draw the moisture from inside the drum when not in use and make it last longer and dry itself out when you start the next fire as well as retain some heat.

Built on in 1984 up in Illinois and used it every year to heat my farm shop till 2013 when I sold the farm, it is still in use with the original fill of sand.

sslfamilydad (author)weedonfarms2015-12-07

Excellent idea, I had plans to do that as well but I have yet to add anything to the bottom. Thanks for the tip and good to hear yours lasted so long!

godson1952 (author)2015-12-06

Like any wood stove use CAUTION when using.My late grandfather had one that I found and we refurbished and then we used it with care.

I also seen them use 2 barrels so the top one gave you more heat but also I seen them use it as a warming oven. ;)

Just another comment with offending anyone.

jackbatster (author)2015-12-06

show sometimes how to make a rocket stove !

ReverendN (author)2015-12-06

Are you going to build a cabin around your stove?

sslfamilydad (author)ReverendN2015-12-06

I use it as a pool heater and I also have a boiler system hooked up to cycle hot coolant into my garage and heat it through a radiator system.

JGinNJ (author)2015-12-06

I used to have access to many steel barrels. Be careful though if you do not know what they were used for, there may be residues you want to safely get rid of first.

sslfamilydad (author)JGinNJ2015-12-06

I agree with that, just brun out whatever was in the barrel before you paint it, and stay clear of it during the first burn so you don't breath in whatever is burning off.

JGinNJ (author)2015-12-06

This seems to be a classic barrel burner design. Is there an easy way to introduce some of the "rocket stove" design features or is this barrel burner already pretty efficient? I don't know enough about the differences or features.

sslfamilydad (author)JGinNJ2015-12-06

You certainly could convert this into a type of rocket stove by insulating or burying the main burn barrel and modifying the exhaust and fuel feed. This stove are pretty much the same as any wood burning stove as far as efficiency so a rocket stove would burn much cleaner and hotter.

scott23 (author)2015-12-06

Nice to see so many people have such useless coments.

sslfamilydad (author)scott232015-12-06


iMartijn (author)2015-12-06

Great looking project!

But how do you clean it?

sslfamilydad (author)iMartijn2015-12-06

Just open the door and shovel out the ash. The grates come right out as well.

kenoli (author)2015-12-06

I made a number of 55 gallon drum barrels when I lived in the mountains in northern California. A couple of comments:

These barrels are rather thin walled so starting with a barrel that is in good shape, particularly not rusty (which will have already thinned the walls through oxidation) will result in a barrel that will last longer and prevent burnouts at particularly rusty places in the barrel.

We commonly added a second barrel on top of the first and fed the exhaust gasses through it. This allows you to capture more of the heat and makes for a more efficient stove and a warmer space. Racks for storing wine barrels can be stacked to support a multi-barrel 55 gallon drum stove.

We have even inserted an air tight box accessible from the front of the second barrel to use as a warming oven, a place to keep a pot of tea warm or other similar purposes. A flapper in the flue leaving the second barrel will control the temperature to some degree.

Regarding the comment about "rocket stove" elements, I'll bet one could control both the exit flue and an air inlet to adjust the stove to the room temperature using audio technology.

Thanks for your article.


sslfamilydad (author)kenoli2015-12-06

Great comment, thanks for sharing that experience. I can see where these barrels can burn through quickly if not taken care of for sure. The fire bricks are a great way to prevent that.

Snerdguy (author)2015-12-06

You did a good job building it. But, people should be aware that in
most communities in the U.S., they are illegal to use in a residence for a
number of reasons. The most obvious is that they get extremely hot on
the outside which can cause nearby material to combust and are dangerous around children. If you do use it in a garage or shed, its a good idea to put barrier or cage around to keep people from accidentally touching it.

sslfamilydad (author)Snerdguy2015-12-06

Great point, as with any wood burning stove you want to check with your insurance before you put it in a home. I would more recommend this for barns, out-buildings, shops, garages, etc.

artedwards67 (author)Snerdguy2015-12-06

We have our barrel stove setting in what we call the sunroom with no barriers around. We have 10 cats and a dog, none have been burned on the stove. I had a similar sheet metal stove in southern Missouri with two very young kids. They did not ever get close to it as they knew it would burn them bad. It did have a short retainer at the bottom. This stove can be 30" from all materials with no problems. It is a horse sense device, if you use good sense you will have no problems.

DaryleT (author)2015-12-06

The government via the EPA has made barrel stoves non-compliant with the clean air regulations. You can legally buy a kit, just can't legally use it. So build one anyway, just keep it out of your house. Use them in warehouses, concrete barns, or just outdoors. Avoid the double barrel unless you want to sell creosote. The single barrel puts out plenty of BTUs. Burn off any existing paint with a couple of fires, wire brush the surface, then use 1200 degree paint. It will last longer on a clean surface.

If you want to line the stove, use 2" firebrick. Bed them in refractory cement and they will last 3-4 years.

Cut your wood within a few inches of the barrel length and only burn 2-3 pieces at a time. Keep a good bed of red coals and your stove will burn as cleanly as possible. Don't cut corners on the installation. Think safety! Try to avoid telling your insurance merchant about your barrel stove. He or she will sleep better.

ReverendN (author)2015-12-06

Can you adapter this to use an old/used "electric" water heater? I have. You will ? just love ❤ the results...

gmurray-1 (author)2015-12-04

Family farm and home sells the kits. Just have to buy a barrel. I want to build one.

sslfamilydad (author)gmurray-12015-12-04

I think I have also seen them at TSC as well but I found them cheaper on Amazon in most cases even if you include shipping. Plus you cannot get them out of season at the home stores unfortunately.

gvillathrilla (author)2015-12-03

Any idea how long it would last. Best we got out of a burn barrel was about 2 years.

With the paint on the barrel it keeps pretty well. I have had this one for two years and it is still in great shape. I have also seen people add some sand or concrete to the bottom to help keep the bottom from rusting or burning out.

gvillathrilla (author)2015-12-03

We used 55 gal drums as burn barrels growing up,

nickgo4th (author)2015-12-02


4WantofaNail (author)2015-12-02

that stove kit is nifty as all get out! I'd never have thought such a thing exists

When I saw these kits a few years ago I just had to get one. It was very easy to setup and will hold up for years and years, sold cast iron.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2015-12-02

Great looking stove. I love it when people can make something awesome out of old materials.

We have gotten two years worth of use from it so far and it is working great!

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