Building a Simple Barrel Stove

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Introduction: Building a Simple Barrel Stove

About: I have a passion for DIY and love to fix just about anything. Join me in my mission to learn to do it all out here on our new Michigan Farm.

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

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

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 - https://youtu.be/k6ztN_lGnGc

Step 3: 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

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

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

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 - http://amzn.to/1PGdF9z

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!

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 www.simplesuburbanliving.com

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36 Comments

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.

2 replies

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

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.

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.

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

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.

1 reply

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!

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.

show sometimes how to make a rocket stove !

Are you going to build a cabin around your stove?

1 reply

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.

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.

1 reply

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.

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.

1 reply

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.

Nice to see so many people have such useless coments.

1 reply

Great looking project!

But how do you clean it?

1 reply

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

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.

--Kenoli