Introduction: DIY Wood Burner Pot Belly Stove. Made From a Gas Tank

Picture of DIY Wood Burner Pot Belly Stove. Made From a Gas Tank

My Goal: To build a wood burning stove to heat my shed so i can still tinker in the cold winter months without freezing to death.

I had priced professionally built wood stoves and found very few under £400 most where about £600, so I decided to build my own stove using nothing but scrap metal I had lying around.

I bought my stove in at approximately £35.  so it is well worth the effort.

This is a job that must be done well to prevent fires or carbon monoxide poisoning etc so a good working knowledge is need or else seek advice from those who have the skills needed.

Its better to be safe than sorry when it comes to building a stove, so take you time and build something safe to use.

Materials needed are as follows.

1 scraped butane tank, i got this from a hardware store i once worked in, it had been a shop sign after it had failed as a gas tank. so this would be its 2nd time recycled.

3   1" x 1" by 1 foot long box section for the legs

1" weld mesh.

15kg fire cement to line the stove

Scrap  1/2" re-bar to make the grate.

about 6-8" of 3" pipe to make the

10mm plate steel for the hot plates (this may be the tricky bit, I was very lucky with this part)

1 3" 90* pipe coupling to make the flue bend.

1 broken brass dart (optional)

1 steel hinge.

3-4 foot of 20 x 6mm flat bar

A METAL handle for the lid, the wooden one in the picture scorched up and fell off.

I would recommend 4" pipe for a flue if possible.

Tools needed are Welder, Angle grinder with cutting, grinding and flap disks. drill plus the usual spanners hammers etc.

This is a project from a few years ago so i don't have ever part of the process photographed.

Thanks for looking.

Step 1: Cutting the Gas Tank.

Picture of Cutting the Gas Tank.

I first started but removing the handles and the base ring from the tank and used a flap disk to smooth the welded seam round the middle of the tank.

I marked a line round the gas tank just about where the sides become parallel, I used a thin metal cutting disk in the angle grinder to cut the tank along this line,  this gave me the belly part of the stove and the lid.

A 3" hole was marked on the back of the tank about 2" from the top, The hole was cut out using a thin metal cutting disk to cut out this hole. this is where the flue bend will be welded to.

Step 2: The Ash Spout.

Picture of The Ash Spout.

To make the ash spout i ground the end of the short cutting of 3" pipe so its profile was a snug fit to the curve of the tank and the spout was at 90* to the sides of the tank.

I then drew a line around the inside of this join to show me where to cut the hole in the tank.

I got a friend to weld the ash spout on using his mig welder as my skills had lapsed somewhat over 20 years.

The 3 1" box section where bolted on to the base ring in their desired positions, this allowed me to ajust the position of the tank on the legs before they where tacked on then welded up.

Step 3: Lineing the Insde

Picture of Lineing the Insde

I first cut a strips of weld mes about 6" wide and lined the inside of the tank with them, they where tacked on with the welder.

The weld mes was added to give the fire cement something to key to as it sets.

I then lined the inside of the tank with fire cement to a depth of about 3/4 - 1" working the cement in well and trying not to get any ait pockets int he cement.

once i had the inside roughly lined i used a damp sponge to smooth out the surface before firing

Step 4: Cureing the Fire Cement.

Picture of Cureing the Fire Cement.

The fire cement I used is a synthetic cement and needs to be fired before it sets

I used some left over weld mes to make a basket that fitted the inside of the tank without touching to cement lining

This would be suspended using steel bars across the top of the stove and alow me to fire the cement without the fire touching the wet cement.

Step 5:

Picture of

The basket was filled with kindling and suspended in the stove so it was not touching the wet cement lining.

It now is ready fir firing.

Step 6:

Picture of

The stove was taken out side and the fire was lit and allowed to build up very slowly, after about 15 -20 mind I started to build the fire up with small bits of wood, the fire was slowly built up over the next 2 hours, at this point I allowed the fire to die out and it was left until morning to cool

Step 7: The Grate

Picture of The Grate

This pic shows the the fire cement lining after it had been fired and cured,  as expected i had a few air pocket that expanded during the firing and left a few hollows in the lining.

It looks worse than it is. I never did get around to filling these holes up and the stove has been running for almost 2 years now.

The grate was made from various lengths of re-bar welded together in a lattice, after 2 year it still shows now signs of burning out.

Step 8: The Hot Plates and Lid

Picture of The Hot Plates and Lid

I was very lucky that an engineer friend had this piece of 10mm steel plate 24" dia with a 5" hole in the center.  it was a profiler job that had gone wrong and was scrap to him.

I was again lucky to find a 6" round 10mm steel plate in my own scrap heap that was a perfect hot plate

The lid is fixed to the large hot plate with a steel hinge and 4mm bolts.

A small steel plate was cut to fit the ash spout as a damper.

Using the 20x 6mm flat bar a hoop was made that snugly fitted around the tank. this was then welded to the underside of the large plate to hold it in position, this joint was also sealed using heat resistant silicone sealer, this give a smoke free joint yet will be easy to remove i i need to do so.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

A bracket was added to the edge of the hot plate and a flat bar handle was bent to shape to lift the plate of the stove when fuel is added.

I squeezed a piece of 1" chrome tube in the vice until it was just flattened enough to slide the flat bar into once the vice is undone the pipe spring back to shape an the handle is firmly fixed in place.

The stove was then sprayed with BBQ paint  to give it that expensive store bought look.

I made one fatal mistake here, you really want to buff all the gas tanks original paint off down to the steel before you paint.

I didn't, the paint is pretty fire prof but eventually will start to burn off and lift the BBQ paint where the paint was buffed of the BBQ paint is holding perfectly

Step 10: The Dart (optional)

Picture of The Dart (optional)

I bet you wondered what the dart was for.

I found this broken brass dart in a box of bolts and thought it would make a nice handle for the damper plate.

I counter sunk the plate and used a countersunk screw to fix the handle to the plate.  This allows the plate to swing without catching and allows for a a good seal when the damper is closed off

Step 11: The Finished Stove Installed and Working

Picture of The Finished Stove Installed and Working

The stove was mounted on a 2' x 2' concrete slab that had been painted with floor paint is would be my fire surround.

Pictured here with the all important teapot on the boil, i have since got a better teapot with a flat bottom that boils quicker, the stove is perfect for heating the shed and can boil a pot of water in about 10 mins if the fire has been well stoked.

The stove was fitted with a 3" flue made from cuttings of 3" pipe, it worked well for a bout 18 month and then it clogged up completely. and the only way to unblock it was to go onto the roof and poke a long stick down the flue.  I

felt that my luck was eventually going to run out when i was on the roof and decided to close down the stove untill a new flue was installed before I fell of the roof and broke my neck.

If you build you own stove try and go for at least a 4" flue and design in some way that you can use rods to clean the flue from the ground.

I am now in the process of replacing the 3" welded flue with on made from 4" pipe that will be made in sections so it can be removed for cleaning.

I will update the instructable when i have the new flue installed.

Thanks for looking at my post.

Step 12: Cosmetic Improvment.

Picture of Cosmetic Improvment.

After i discovered that the wooden knob i used on the lid had scorched away to nothing i repaced it with a cast metal handle which makes it look much nicer.


astral_mage (author)2013-12-17

spanners eh, wat the blue blazes is a spanner. u making a bridge over there?

Dr Qui (author)astral_mage2014-02-13

A spanner is what us British call a wrench. What are you trying to say when you say "wat" and "u" ?

Please don't be a grammar Nazi.

Please don't use "Nazi" in this way. It's not a word to be used lightly.

All right

Paulsporsche924 made it! (author)2015-08-05

Thank you Sir

gworld (author)2014-03-17

Fantastic!! Thanks for sharing. I hope your neck is better :)

Dr Qui (author)gworld2014-03-25

Thanks and glad you liked it. Unfortunately the neck injury is with me for life , but I'm learning how to deal with it :) and the pain is not as bad as before.

omnibot (author)2013-12-17

Don't worry to much about the welding on the flue-bend. Those sewer pipes are castiron which is notoriously hard to weld.

Dr Qui (author)omnibot2014-02-13

Believe it or not that 90* bend is made of steel, engineering has been going on at my house for almost 90 years and I found that in a scrap pile is the corner of one workshop that has a sloping earth fool, the kind of place that would send a health and safety inspector into a coma, a place where you can find real old oddball sized things like that, I remember thinking it was cast iron and did a drill and file test on it but it turned out to be steel, my welding was indeed that bad my first in almost 20 years at the time and trust me i sucked at welding with a stick welder. The weld was done in a poorly light workshop with a very poor shield on a welder I was not used to, no wonder it's buttery. I have slightly improved now since getting my own welder and a auto change mask,

bede123 (author)2013-12-19

i like this. given me an idea for my own

Dr Qui (author)bede1232014-02-13

Put a door it the front, trust me on that one :)

camping crazy (author)2013-12-17

This stove is really cool not alot of people make them load from the top very unique!!!!

Dr Qui (author)camping crazy2014-02-13

Its and old school design, in fact my old Primary school had a real big one that once you where old enough you where aloud to load the coal into it :) its a design over here the probably dates back to WW2 and they where used to heat Nissen huts etc, the one in my primary school used to glow red at times because we would have filled the thing to the neck with coal and would have kept the whole school toasty warm (all 13 of us)

astral_mage (author)2013-12-17

rebar steel and fire pit steel has different chemical make - ups. i.e. chemisty is different in rebar vs. fire pit steel.

Dr Qui (author)astral_mage2014-02-13

Why go buy fire pit steel when you have scrap rebar, it's only a fire grate, not exactly rocket surgery.

astral_mage (author)2013-12-17

try this out. go to a 12' round duct pipe. then be fore it get to the roof . use 2 45% turns with a 1 foot straight piece. the hang it the horizontal part abut a foot to foot and a half down from the roof then go thro the other side of your shed? why let all that heat go out first.

Dr Qui (author)astral_mage2014-02-13

Sounds like to much hassle, i insulated the roof and now the stove makes way heat that you just fill it, light it and its enough to heat the place for about 4-5 hours which is more than enough time for me to be in the shed before I need to go rest

Housedog (author)2013-12-17

This is an awesome project, and it was written up with a good sense of humor!
I really enjoyed it, and I will build one similar in the near future.

Dr Qui (author)Housedog2014-02-13

Your welcome.

Kevanf1 (author)2010-12-09

Very nice, well done. I've been looking around the net for wood burning stoves made from discarded gas bottles and I have found a few examples. I shall probably make one with a front opening door taking your comments about it being easier into account. Can you tell me why you lined the inside with fire cement? I have not seen another gas bottle wood burner made like this with fire cement so am intrigued.

Cheers and take care.

Kevan, Staffordshire, UK.

Dr Qui (author)Kevanf12010-12-09


I lined the stove with fire cement for a number of reasons,

It protects the thin wall of the tank from direct contact with the fire (the old pot belly at the primary school i went to would often be glowing red from the heat) this will make the stove last for many many years compared to one that is not lined.  also reduces the risk of severe burns or the shed catching on fire.

It reduces the size of the chamber slightly so it take less to fill the stove.

It also hold the heat so you can light a  fire and let it go out and the stove will radiate heat for over an hour after the fire has gone out.

It took about 15kg of fire cement which accounted for about half the total cost of the build.  It is defiantly worth doing.

Kevanf1 (author)Dr Qui2010-12-10

Cheers Dr Qui. I wonder if there is an optimal thickness of fire cement to use then? Sort of in between too thin so that it cracks (does it, I haven't used the stuff for decades) or too thick so that it keeps too much heat in?

I'm also wondering about length of flue stack. Could it be angled at something like 45 degrees which would then present more of the stack inside my workshop and thus radiating more heat which would otherwise escape to the outside (wasted).

It might be interesting to coil some 15mm copper pipe around the flue stack too and have an at least 'warm' supply of water. Again, a way of possibly harnessing some of the heat that would other wise be lost.

Take care.


zeroaxe (author)Kevanf12013-12-17

Unfortunately I dont have a photo of my old fireplace setup. But I coiled 3meters of copper pipe around the flue stack to add it into my central heating system. Never got around to plumbing it in though. One thing I CAN tell you, the copper turned blue-ish with the heat in the flue. So be very careful! Make sure that the water doesnt boil over somewhere, or build up pressure in your water circuit!


Kevanf1 (author)zeroaxe2013-12-18

Pressure relief valve in the piping circuit? I wouldn't be linking mine up to the house heating system anyway as I'm going to install mine in my workshop. Which is situated at the bottom of the garden :) I'm sort of part way to being ready to properly look at mine now. It tends to take me quite a bit of time to get around to these projects as I am disabled and things just take a bit longer....

zeroaxe (author)Kevanf12013-12-18

Dear Kevanf1,

Thanks for your reply. I dont think that it is really necessary for a pressure relief valve, however, I cant say for sure. Apparently in the 'old days' the central heating systems in houses here in France where 'open systems'. I hope my expression makes sense. If I where to get as far as plumbing it into my current 'closed circuit', I would have converted it back into an open system. I am not a "Green Nazi", but I hate the idea of lost energy, in any shape or form! So I came up with a lot of ideas to recover the most possible heat before it disappears into thin air. My current house is going to be sold soon due to an ongoing divorce, but my next house will be much more "green". And I am going to bring down the energy wastage down a lot!!!

Best of luck with your build, and keep us updated ;-)

Dr Qui (author)Kevanf12010-12-10

I lined mine with a about 3/4" on the sides and a little bit thicker in the base maybe about 1" to 1 1/4"

I welded mesh on the inside of the tank to give the clay a good key, its best worked in in lumps, trying to leave no air pockets, you will get some cracking and flaking but these can be patched up (i still haven't patched mine yet)

I am in the process of putting in a new flue (on hold as the weather is just to bad atm.) Im going up to 4 1/2"

I am thinking of putting sheet metal box around the first few foot of flue and ducting a fan through it to blow some of the excess heat out into the shed. to be honest a vertical flue gives of jst as much heat into the room and is much easier to keep clean.

I actually have a old warming box than belong to my grandmother that if fixed to the wall over the flue and has vents to draw the heat into the box, i hope it will still fit the new pipe. I will do an Ible when i get around to this.

you don't want to suck to much heat away from the flue as it will tend to build up with crud if it is running to cool. a friend had trouble with this on an oil fired burner but they seem to be affected more by this than wood burners.

one good tip is to buy a good quality rain hood for the flue, I got a galvanized one with built in bird cage for about £8.00. stops you shed from stinking of soot and ash after a real downpour of rain. you would be suprised how much rain can come down a 4" pipe

good luck with your build, post some picks when you are finished

Kevanf1 (author)Dr Qui2010-12-11

Thank you :-) I'll probably make a start on mine around next March or April. I have a couple of bottles ready so I'll use the intervening months to first remove the valves and then let the residual gases drain out. Obviously I'll fill them with water to ensure all the gas has dispersed too.

Good talking to you and yes, I shall do some pic's once it's up and running (and during the build of course).

Take care.


Ninafina (author)2013-12-18

Love the stove you built and when I read about it I was thinking about what I learnd in school (Reading Energy Analycis and how to optimate energy needs)
. A fire neads air. And the best heating effect from a stove is get by if the stove has it own air intake from the outside air. Then the stove dont have to "eat" the indoor air and you dont have to open up the windows or the door for new (cold) air. Then you are using much more of the heat the stove gives you. You can also adjust the air intake to the stove and by that adjust the speed of the fire so your wood will last for a longer time.

I did not understand if you already had this function in your design ( Im from Sweden and all the english terms is not familiar to me ; ) Hope that you all can understand my writing, it was a while sins I wrote someting in english.
Have a nice day!

streetrod5 (author)2012-10-31

Dr Qui,
This stove was well-built, great job on the Instructable. I'm going to try this with an old propane tank (they seem to be wider than the butane tanks).

Do you think the stove is top-heavy? Would you recommend attaching it to the wall to prevent tipping? I was just wondering, as the base ring looks a bit small diameter...

Dr Qui (author)streetrod52012-11-05

Can't believe it, after talking about the flew i went out today and the flew had disconnected, the pie had expanded and pushed the top pipe up in its brackets that are to tight to let it fall back down under its own weight once cooled. Typical of such situations just as i was inside the shed we had a hail storm and rain so i'm just going to have to hope tomorrow is going to be dry so i can fix it. I guess ill have to do that Ible i was talking about and i will bolt the stove down more securely as well.

Dr Qui (author)streetrod52012-10-31

Thanks, I used the stove today for the first time in ages, one fill kept the shed so warm I had to leave the door slightly open, Im burning hardy any wood now since I insulated the roof of my shed.

Use at least 5" pipe for a flue or you will have a nightmare keeping it clean, don't weld sections of pie together as that will leave snags for crud to grow on and falling flakes to catch on, this is what happened to mine.

I have a new flew in now and should really do an Ible on it, shed in an awful state at the moment i post an Ible once i get it tidied up a bit.

Yeah the stove is top heavy and i have it screwed to the slab with some simple L brackets that are clinched over the bottom ring.  I was just going with the flow when i made this if i did it again i would angle the legs out and add feet that could be bolted down, at the time the ring just seemed obvious to reuse as the base.

What ever you do build don't forget the fire clay it makes so much of a difference, a friend bought a tiny little cast iron pot belly to heat his shed and the thing eats coal like mad needs feeding ever 20 mins and sits glowing red and goes out so fast if you don't set a timer to remind you to stoke it.

Lowriderpr (author)2012-11-04

Wow very nice Job I love it!

Dr Qui (author)Lowriderpr2012-11-04

Thanks, wish it looked as clean and tidy now as it was back when this pic was taken, the red stuff keeps showing through due to use, but it keeps the place warm and that's what matters.

sbrooke1 (author)2011-05-24

One hundred and eeeeiiiiggggghhhtttttyyyyy!!! Nice one!

Dr Qui (author)2011-05-04

The gas bottle had failed inspection and was made into a sign for Calor Kosangas (the gas company) it was a sign for many years until it got to rusty to be used so it has been recycled twice.

The reject bottles have a hole drilled in them so they cant be used again and to let any remaining gas escape, when the bottle was cut open the inside was seriously pitted with rust.

I originally used the hole to attach a wooden knob, but the heat was to intense and it charred to bits in a few weeks and i replaced it with the metal handle.

blkhawk (author)2011-04-21

Simply beautiful! A combination of art and a practical use. Kudos!

Dr Qui (author)blkhawk2011-05-04

Thanks, its still my favorite project to date. 

If building another i would put a door on the side rater than have it top loading as it can be smoky when loading up.

NutandBolt (author)2010-07-14

You made a realy great wood stove, When I made my stove I did a few mistakes very similar to the ones you mentioned in your ible. Where I didn't grind the old paint properly it came off under the high tempature. And I am still looking for some scrap flue pipe to raplace my current one that is too small. I priced new cast iron pipes in a few of my local hardware shops and I was amazed how expensive they are. Just to give price idea, the 45 degree part cost about 45-55€ so I will keep on searching for a scarp pipe ;-)

Dr Qui (author)NutandBolt2010-07-14

Thanks, this is the most pleasing build I have done so far. I was checking out the stove you built you also did a nice job on yours I regret not haveing a front loading door as the top loader can be a bit smokey when you open it.

I will be replacing my flue soon, my bro is giving me some short lengths of 4" steel pipe he picked up as scrap some place he was working. I just need to get him to square the ends for me before I start. 

I'm going to make the flue in sections so it can be taken apart to be cleaned from the ground up

I checked into the price of proper flue pipe it was £35 per meter and I need at least 3mtrs to clear the roof of my shed, you should look into the price of 4" steel pipe or box from a steel fabricator.

Good luck with your flue rebuild,


bongodrummer (author)2010-07-13

Very nice! Is this what you burn your sawdust and paper logs in?

Dr Qui (author)bongodrummer2010-07-13

Thanks, It will be once I get a better flue pipe installed.


About This Instructable



Bio: Learning to live with Fibromyalgia brought on be numerous injuries some old some quite recent. Currently under no fixed agenda, just going with the flow ... More »
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