Picture of DIY- Portable Toolbox Grill- Improved!
My idea of a great family vacation doesn't include fancy hotel rooms or fine dining.  Hubby and I are literally happy campers sleeping under a ceiling of stars and a quiet campfire to light the night.

Every Fall, we take a roadtrip south-of-the-border to sunny Baja California Sur.  The 3-4 day trek often involves overnight camping, and outdoor-grilling goes along with the territory... no matter where the territory is.

When I first saw a portable Tool Box Grill online, I loved everything about it.  I wasn't at all surprised to hear a familiar inner-voice say "You can make that!"... and the rest is history.  Well... my history, anyway. ;-)

Here's how I built my new/old, 100% recycled, portable $8 $19 Tool Box BBQ Grill with the improvements documented in Steps 9-12.

Special thanks to Jan Halvarson for featuring my Portable Toolbox Grill in the Summer DIY Projects article published at WIRED.COM.   I am honored! ;-)

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
Here's the list of materials and tools I used to build this project, along with the price breakdown.

  • 1 old Steel Tool Box- local Thrift Store- $2
  • 2 Steel grates*- Recycled (Free)
  • 4 Stove bolts, 4 washers, 8 nuts-  Husband's stash
  • Aersol Paint Remover- Hardware Store- $5
  • Heat-resistant Stove Paint- leftover from previous project
  • Sugru- Prize from Instructables!
  • 2 Pot Holders- Dollar Store- $1
  • Magnets- craft stash
  • 4 Rubber stoppers- craft stash
  • Safety Glasses
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Drill and bits
  • Right angle drill
  • Paint scraper/putty knife
  • Wire brush
  • Wrench
  • Ratchet and Socket
  • Elbow grease ;-)
*Safety Precaution: It's a good idea to thoroughly fire/burn a grill grate that's been repurposed from a freezer or refrigerator before grilling food on it.  Above all, stay upwind and don't inhale smoke from any burning substance.  It's just common sense, really. ;-)
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This looks great. Good job! I have made a few ammo can grills from another users post. I gave them as gifts to some camping friends of mine. I will be making one of these for my mechanic at work.
bajablue (author)  mattbrown7772 years ago
Thanks so much, Matt!

If you get a chance, check back on this project next weekend. I've got some great improvements in the works.
gamerguy135 months ago

I love this Instructibe! Unfortunately, I do not have a regular sized toolbox laying around to do this with. I have been playing with the idea of doing a mini version of this with a smaller toolbox I have and use a few alcohol/penny burners. It would be perfect for cooking on camping trips.

i made mine with an ammo can. Great to see a like minded people.cheers! :)
bajablue (author)  nthumbsucker1 year ago

Agreed! ;-)

Does this last?... Like does the bottom eventually "burn out"?
bajablue (author)  Improvisation1 year ago
Hey Haughy... my vintage toolbox is heavy-duty... it's still in great shape after dozens of fires!
Tfs271 year ago
Cant wait to go tool box hunting at the flea market this weekend!! love it!
bajablue (author)  Tfs271 year ago
That's half the fun! Good Luck! ;-)
This is soo cool.. Nice work!
bajablue (author)  SlickSqueegie1 year ago
Thanks, Slick! I am honored you approve!!! ;-)
Very clever design. I thought you did some amazing work adding that wooden handle. Thanks for the inspiration.
bajablue (author)  stripedstarfish1 year ago
Yikes! Sorry for this tardy reply, stripedstarfish. I don't know how the heck I missed your comment... but in 2 words: Thank you! ;-)

Mihsin1 year ago
Great Instructable, great idea, and nature loving tool when not using charcoal in it. I always use wood scaps and building lumber etc. I shall start using this plan from scratch.
Best regards.
bajablue (author)  Mihsin1 year ago
Thank you for commenting, Mihsin. I had a lot of fun building this grill... I hope you do, too! I'd love to see a pic of your finished project!

osusssster2 years ago
You need to stay upwind not downwind of any possibly dangerous smoke.
bajablue (author)  osusssster2 years ago
Of course you are right!!! Major fopah that I shall rectify now. Thanks so much for the heads up!!!!
sunshiine2 years ago
Thanks for sharing this. It is small and very functional!
bajablue (author)  sunshiine2 years ago
It'll work as a portable campfire, too!

Thanks sunshiine!
My son-in-law will appreciate that!
Jayefuu2 years ago
Lovely build!
bajablue (author)  Jayefuu2 years ago
Hey! Thank you so much James!!!!!!!!
this is a cool idea. thanks for sharing
bajablue (author)  redknight19712 years ago
Thank you for your nice comment, redknight! :-)
SpagoPizza2 years ago
It really looks cool and you can really impress your friends with that :-)
bajablue (author)  SpagoPizza2 years ago
Thank you Spago... I'll be improving it over the weekend, so stay tuned if you're so inclined. ;-)
Einarjon2 years ago
How are these magnets holding up?
I always hear that magnets lose their magnetism permanently if they are heated up beyond a certain point. Some googling says that even 15 min in a 300F/150°C oven can greatly reduce it. What's your experience?
bajablue (author)  Einarjon2 years ago
Hi Einarjon,

I've grilled in this toolbox twice.  The insert-magnet is still holding strong.

Since I don't have a thermometer on the tool box grill, it's hard to gauge the temperature/heat that's been generated.  

I decided to test an identical magnet (from the same blister-pak) in my oven, which is accurately gauged. :-)

The magnets I used measure 3/4" in diameter and are 3/16" thick.

I preheated the oven to 350° F for 10 minutes.  The magnet was attached to a stainless steel bowl and baked for 15 minutes.

After cooling to room temperature, here's a picture of the results. The magnetic ability is still very much intact.
ehudwill2 years ago
I love this kind of project. Making a grill portable using a tool box...genius!
bajablue (author)  ehudwill2 years ago
You say the nicest things, MrH.  

I just wish I was the original genius! ;-)

Thanks for commenting!
Dorado392 years ago
I like this very much.
bajablue (author)  Dorado392 years ago
Thanks so much dorado... I do, too! ;-)
Youngberg12 years ago
just a word of caution... Some refrigerator/ freezer racks contain chemicals that are poisonous when heated over open flames. I am not sure whether this is over the long term or short term, but I think that I would not chance it if it were me... a viable option is to get a replacement grill sold in the outdoor section of any walmart or home depot/ lowes

Cadmium poisoning
bajablue (author)  Youngberg12 years ago
Thanks for your comment, Youngberg! I'll be sure to include your caveat in my edit later this week.

I've grilled 2 meals and all is well... no dead bodies. ;-)

I did some research and found that cadmium "inhalation" can cause toxicity. Obviously, it's never a good idea to inhale any fumes from any burning source.

Did you know that cigarette paper contains cadmium, too? Another good reason for smokers to quit!

I'm particular about breathing fresh air, so no worries here. ;-)

canucksgirl2 years ago
Clever! I love it... Its cute as heck. :-)
bajablue (author)  canucksgirl2 years ago
Hey... Thanks CG!!!! ;-)
iceng2 years ago
Very nice job and your DH too, for assisting with the limb threatening power tools..
Does this mean you will no longer be listening to your toolbox while grilling ?  
Or is that where you get your hot ideas ?

bajablue (author)  iceng2 years ago
Dang... I forgot to say "Thank you", so here goes:

Thank you, Iceng! ;-)
bajablue (author)  iceng2 years ago
lol... my beloved Tool Box has gone into hiding. He must have been eavesdropping when I told DH I wanted to hack a tool box into a BBQ grill.

Poor thing probably thought I was talking about him! ;-D

I miss my DREMEL and screwdrivers. He'd better come back soon!
caitlinsdad2 years ago
Supposedly the only way to destroy a magnet's magnetic properties is to heat it. I've never tried but let us know if the magnets hold up in the BBQ.
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