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Picture of Charcoal and Ash Scoop for a BBQ

We have used a charcoal kettle grill for more than 30 years.  One of the handiest accessories I have for it is a small scoop I use to remove ashes from under the firegrate.  The first one I had was made of lightly plated steel, and it rusted badly after only a couple of seasons.  I used it to make a paper pattern so I could make a replacement from sheet aluminum.  My aluminum scoop has lasted at least 20 years with no signs of wear.
 
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Step 1: Scooping coals, too

Picture of Scooping coals, too

When I am done cooking with our grill I put on the lid and choke off the air.  That means I need to scoop partially used coals into our chimney lighter.  Here you see my aluminum scoop in use to load coals into the chimney.

Step 2: Repurpose an old license plate

Picture of Repurpose an old license plate
I had some strong aluminum sheet that I used for my scoop.  In order to demonstrate how it was made and how you can make one for yourself, I will use an old automobile license plate.  I live in the USA.  Our license plates are 6 x 11 3/4 inches and made of sturdy stamped aluminum ideal for a project like this.  You will also need some 1/8 x 3/4 inch aluminum bar stock and some 1/8 inch pop rivets.  Naturally, you will also need a pop rivet tool.

The mounting holes in the license plate are 7 inches apart on center.  Mark two short center lines at the top and bottom edge of the license plate.  It is easier to mark the clean backside of the plate rather than the printed front of the plate.  I suggest only two short lines to mark the center to lessen confusion later when there are quite a few lines marked out on your old license plate.


Step 3: A line parallel to the bottom of the plate

Picture of A line parallel to the bottom of the plate
Measure inward 1 inch from the bottom edge of the plate and make a dotted line between the two bottom mounting holes.  I am suggesting dotted lines where the aluminum is bent but not cut.  Solid lines designate cuts.

Step 4: Marking the back of the scoop

Picture of Marking the back of the scoop
You will be making a mark on each side of the center line mark on the dotted line from the last step.  Each mark will be 1 7/8 inch away from the center line marker for a total of 3 3/4 inches between the marks for the width of the back end of the scoop. 

Make a solid line to the bottom edge of the license plate, but you may bring the termination points inward toward the center marker 1/8 inch on each side for a total width between the ends of the line of 3 1/2 inches at the bottom edge of the license plate.

Step 5: Mark bend here lines to the front of the scoop

Picture of Mark bend here lines to the front of the scoop

The front of the scoop is wider than the back of the scoop.  Place a protractor on the dotted line from step 3 at the end of the line from step 4 and plot a dotted line at 105 degrees.  This line angles away from the center line on both sides as you move nearer to the top edge of the license plate. 

The ruler shows the location of this line on the right side.

Step 6: Left and right sides of the scoop

Picture of Left and right sides of the scoop
Measure outward 1 inch on each side from the intersections of the solid lines and dotted lines made in the previous steps.  Mark a solid line on each side that inclines outward (grows wider at the top of the license plate) and use 99 degrees as the angle.  Nothing about this angle is especially critical, but the difference between the dotted line at 105 degrees and this line at 99 degrees means the sides of the scoop will be a little lower at the front of the scoop than at the rear.  That is more aesthetics than function.

Step 7: Curved front

Picture of Curved front
The barbeque grill has a gentle concave curve inside.  The scoop works better for removing ashes if it has a curved front.  A radius of about 10 1/2 inches is just right. 

The center line marks on the license plate from step 2 are used here to align the plate so the radius can be drawn accurately.  I aligned the center line marks with a seam in the table on which I was working.  This seam serves to extend the center line so I can use an improvised compass to make an arc on the license plate.  Then I used masking tape to secure the license plate on the table.  The highest point of the arc is 5 5/8 inches above the bottom edge of the license plate.  Mark that near where the center line would run through the license plate.  Measure from that point beyond the bottom of the license plate until you arrive at a point on the table seam 10 1/2 inches below the top of the arc.  I have placed a piece of masking tape there and marked the center from which the radius for the arc begins.  I simply measured and marked a series of short dashes 10 1/2 inches from the center point.  Then I made a solid line by hand to define the arc. 

Step 8: Move two lines

Picture of Move two lines

Remember the dotted line from step 3?  It needs to be moved just a little where it spans between the 105 degree line and the 99 degree line.  In the photo notice how I have crossed it out on both sides with a wavy line.  I drew it anew on both sides with a dotted line that is at 90 degrees to the 105 degree line.  This is so the bends at the back of the scoop make a nice corner.

Step 9: Cut

Picture of Cut

I used a metal snips to cut all solid lines from the previous steps.  The waste sections are in place for clarity. 

Step 10: Bend on the dotted lines

Picture of Bend on the dotted lines

I am using my vise as a sheet metal brake.  The top of the jaws follow the dotted line at 105 degrees from step 5.  I tapped along its length gradually with a hammer to get a nice bend.

Step 11: Improvised sheet metal brake

Picture of Improvised sheet metal brake

The jaws on my vise are too wide to allow bending the back of the scoop.  I used an adjustable wrench and bent in small steps so no one part was too far ahead of any other.

Step 12: Bend the corners over

Picture of Bend the corners over

I gripped the sides of the scoop in the vise one by one right at the corners and used my hammer to make a nice clean bend.

Step 13: Drill the scoop for pop rivets

Picture of Drill the scoop for pop rivets

Grasp the back of the scoop near one corner in the vise.  Drill for a pop rivet, but check to be certain the hole goes through both the tab from the side and the piece from the back of the scoop.  I am using 1/8 x 1/8 inch aluminum pop rivets.  Do the riveting in each hole as you drill it.  Although optional, on this project I like to place the head of the pop rivet on a hard metal surface and pound the other end relatively flat.  It makes the rivet flatter and should add some strength.

Step 14: Bend bar stock to begin the handle

Picture of Bend bar stock to begin the handle
After the scoop itself has been secured with pop rivets it is time to make a handle from 1/8 x 3/4 inch aluminum bar stock.  Make a 90 degree bend about 1 1/4 inch inward from the end.  You may want to pound the raised numbers in the license plate flat where the bar stock will attach to the scoop.  If this changes the shape of the scoop, tweak the bend in the bar stock so it fits the scoop.

Step 15: A 2nd bend in the handle

Picture of A 2nd bend in the handle

Make a second bend in the bar stock just above the top of the scoop back.  Make it whatever is comfortable for you.  With reference to the bottom of the scoop, the angle is about 20 degrees as shown here.

Step 16: Saw the bar stock to length

Picture of Saw the bar stock to length

Saw the bar stock to a comfortable length for your hand.  File and smooth the saw cuts and rough edges.

Step 17: Rivet the handle to the scoop

Picture of Rivet the handle to the scoop

Drill two 1/8 inch holes in the bar stock for the handle as shown in the photo.  The bar stock is thicker.  I used 1/8 x 1/4 inch aluminum pop rivets and hammered them semi-flat.  Do your best to eliminate any gaps between the bar stock and the scoop before drilling.  The handle is really quite sturdy with only two rivets. 

Step 18: Add curve to the bottom

Picture of Add curve to the bottom

The front edge of the scoop already has a curve cut into it.  With your thumbs press the center of the front part of the scoop into a gentle curve as shown in the photo.  This makes the scoop better fit the curves inside your kettle barbeque grill.

Step 19: Finished scoop

Picture of Finished scoop

Here you see the scoop almost finished.  I rounded the top front corners of the sides with my metal snips.  File any sharp edges or corners to eliminate the possibility of drawing blood in use.  This scoop is a very handy accessory for your charcoal barbeque grill.  Using an old license plate makes a good recycling effort, although it can appear a little less refined.  Still, this charcoal and ash scoop will serve you well for many, many years.
kill-a-watt4 years ago
step 11 with the Improvised sheet metal brake was worth the price of admission.

That's a great idea for sheet metal work that I've never seen before.

Phil B (author)  kill-a-watt4 years ago
Thank you. I am glad you found something useful.
Kryptonite4 years ago
Nice, I like how it's made out of the number plate!
Phil B (author)  Kryptonite4 years ago
Thank you. I probably would have used sheet aluminum, but thought it would be interesting to utilize a piece of scrap, like an old license plate.
Well you definitely got the desired effect. :D
Phil B (author)  Kryptonite4 years ago
Thanks.
rimar20004 years ago
Great, Phil! Recicling is a very good thing for earth
Phil B (author)  rimar20004 years ago
Thank you, Osvaldo. Now, if I could just find an idea for using the ashes!
You can cook "dulce de leche" using ashes. They are alkaline. Also can make soap. Some heat-resistant cements contains ashes, too, I don't know the recipe.
Phil B (author)  rimar20004 years ago
Thanks. In Iowa we used to put ashes on icy places to avoid slipping.
I've seen on TV and the web that there in the north there are extreme heat. Here we are enduring a wave of freezing "polar" cold for weeks. We are waiting even snow, rare thing at this latitude.
Phil B (author)  rimar20004 years ago
It is now our summer and your winter. Idaho where I live has not been hotter than normal. I think the central and southern parts of the nation have been quite hot. New York City has also had some very hot temperatures.
blkhawk4 years ago
I don't know about your state but here in Pennsylvania we are required to return our unused license plates to the Department of Transportation. What about your state?
Phil B (author)  blkhawk4 years ago
I live in Idaho. We have no such requirement. I know some people collect license plates. Pennsylvania's requirement should make their plates rare and desireable for collectors.
mikeasaurus4 years ago
Nice bends! I like how if you were to hang the scoop up for storage you'd see it was a license plate.
In the final picture it looks like there is a slit cut in the center of the curved portion of the scoop, or is that photo distortion?
Phil B (author)  mikeasaurus4 years ago
There is no slit. You may be seeing a glint on a short section between two numbers. There is also the remnant of the original center line mark. I have never hung my scoop because it rests on the ash catching tray under my grill. Were I to hang it, I would probably drill a 3/16 inch hole in the end of the handle. Thank you for your comment and for viewing this.
NutandBolt4 years ago
Excellent idea, well made and very useful item to have for small fire place and bbq.
Phil B (author)  NutandBolt4 years ago
Thank you. The scoop was not my idea, but I made a copy of a commercial scoop when it rusted badly and prematurely. It is very useful. If used in a fireplace, there would be no need for cutting the front to a radius curve, nor bending the bottom of the scoop at the front to a curve. The curves are to fit the inside of a kettle-style covered charcoal grill.