Introduction: Portable Fire Pit With Built in Log Storage Rack.

Picture of Portable Fire Pit With Built in Log Storage Rack.

If you ever wanted a fire pit without spending  $80+ dollars, this if for you.   The total cost of this project was under $15.00.  Depending on materials on hand,  you should be able to put one of these together for about the same amount of money.

You start with a search for a suitable shopping cart which has to be one with a chrome finish.  I found mine close to the loading dock area of a local grocery store and there it was next  to a trash compactor.    I went in the store and asked the manager if I could purchase it and was told I could have it for free.    The generosity stemmed from the fact that current shopping  carts have a powder coat finish so the old style chrome carts are no longer used.   I would suggest staying away from the powder coat carts as the heat generated by burning wood in the basket will  destroy the finish.   The chrome finish will continue to look good after several burns.   


Chrome shopping Cart
27" x 8' steel lath
galvanized steel drip edge flashing 
galvanized steel  corner bead
3 cookie sheets  
1 pr galvanized steel hurricane ties
nuts and bolts

Step 1: Remove Plastic and Rubber

Picture of Remove Plastic and Rubber

The first step after obtaining your cart is to remove all things rubber and plastic.  There is no reason to leave those attached to the cart and the heat will make quite a mess of them.   I left the handle in place and after a few test burns found that the heat from the fire did not affect the handle in any way.

Step 2: Bottom Frame

Picture of Bottom Frame

With the rubber and plastic parts removed, you are ready to start your project. 

Build a frame that will fit snugly in the bottom of the basket.   For this I used a section of galvanized steel drip edge flashing which I found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore location.   A plug for ReStore… a great source of materials donated by contractors,  big business and individuals.    Use caution when cutting and bending the flashing as,  I can tell you from personal experience,  the edges are sharp.    The purpose of the frame is to keep any embers from rolling out of the basket.

Step 3: Bottom Pan

Picture of Bottom Pan

When your wife is not looking, grab her cookie sheets and cut the sides off with a jig saw.  Measure and cut so they fit inside the frame.
On this step you can substitute with materials on hand e.g. a piece of sheetmetal, car hood.

Step 4: Line the Sides of the Cart

Picture of Line the Sides of the Cart

The gap between the bars on the shopping cart are probably not close enough for keeping embers from flying
out so, to play it safe,  I lined all four sides with steel lath  which I found at the local builders supply store for under $9.00. The sheets  are 27” x 8’  which is enough for all 4 sides and a piece left over that you can use for a spark screen cover.    Steel lath is miserable stuff to work with so keep bandages on hand. 

With large washers you can bolt the four sides of lath to the shopping cart.

Step 5: Spark Screen Cover

Picture of Spark Screen Cover

Cut the remaining piece of steel lath to the same dimensions as the opening of the basket and then frame the lath with the galvanized corner bead.   Use nuts and bolts on all four sides to keep everything in place.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

I used two of the sides that were cut off the cookie sheet and bolted them to the bottom pan.  This will create a small gap between the burning wood and the pan to give you a better burn.
The hurricane ties are bolted to the shopping cart and will support the hinges that connect the spark screen to the shopping cart.


Tyler0100010 (author)2013-04-15

I'm pretty sure Galvanized metals give off toxic gasses when burned... Very dangerous! I'd reccomend you replace that asap

This is why I never light my new firepit in the house the first couple of times.

FlyPot (author)Tyler01000102016-10-07

Actually... Once you've burned off the zinc galvanizing you're good to go! One good hot burn should do it.

Whmiller (author)2016-06-10

I saw this on It mentioned you (peinkc) so I looked it up. Great idea for the those of us who live in the country and desire to make use of other materials to make stuff. How cool that would be to show off in our yard! Thanks!

Street-Wise Irish (author)2015-11-17

Honestly I never thought to use a shopping cart for a fire pit. I tip my hat off to you sir

ChristopherJames (author)2015-04-20

Wow this looks really easy with all the detailed instructions with supporting photos. However, I doubt it will actually be that simple to get an almost perfect fire pit like yours. I personally would require some help from friends or family and I bet they would definitely be more than willing to lend a helping hand as long as at the end of the day they get some warm melted marshmallows.

mvillalpando (author)2014-11-10

Many of the homeless here in Downtown L.A. will use the shopping carts not only as a fire pit but also to cook their meals on top of them. I always found their ingenuity to survive amazing, and one can learn so much from their survival skills. Excellent Instructable, thank you.

CreationBoy- (author)2014-04-08

Usually you can ask a store manager for a broken cart. Offer them some money if needed, but most of the time, they'll give it to you for $10 to absolutely free.

SozzledWolf (author)2013-11-18

Brilliant just brilliant.....

bcavaciuti (author)2013-04-30

wow awesome project wanna make one myself: but possibly make it into a barbecue/smoker/kebab grill by cutting out one of the middle sections of uprights and grinding smooth with an angle grinder then it has an extra+useful purpose (little spelling mistake in title of slide :fishing-finishing...spellcheck strikes again!)

milnews_ca (author)bcavaciuti2013-07-30

Maybe using one of those "baby" shopping carts would get the heat close enough to the top cover to cook?

peinkc (author)bcavaciuti2013-05-02

Amazing... 33+ thousand views and you were the first to catch the fishing touches.
I have been doing searches of second hand shops looking for a rotisserie motor that I can adapt to this thing.

Dumpster23 (author)2013-07-05

Didn't mean anything by it. Only picturing a long night of burning. But the idea? Really good and so is your finished product.

Dumpster23 (author)2013-07-05

Nice but that whole cart will become red hot. Lol easier to get people to not touch the flames then it will be to keep them from touching the cart.

peinkc (author)Dumpster232013-07-05

Sorry, but it doesn't come anywhere near getting red hot.

ppinny (author)2013-04-22

Nice. If you're worried about toxic fumes just do a first über burn to get the crap off it. Should be ok after.

Bidao (author)2013-04-18

So good (author)2013-04-18

"You might be a redneck if..." Jeff Foxworth's famous phase describes the ingenuity of the American people. Living in the elite community I now live in, this would not be acceptable, but having been raised poor in Kentucky, I marvel and applaud the ingenuity of individuals who find ways to fabricate things they would like to have, but possibly can't afford to buy at the store.

Also, I have never been an environmentalist, but finding new used for discarded material shows the creativity that made this country great!!

dad_a_monk (author)2013-04-18

Just saw this same guide on She does mention she saw it on Instructables but unfortunately doesn't credit you. Also leaves out your warnings on galvanized metal.

FryzeBaby (author)2013-04-16

ok folks I have found a few sites that offer used shopping carts for about 50 dollars. This is a nice project. and all you nay Sayers get over it.

Quester55 (author)2013-04-15

Great Idea, However, Everyone should be Aware, " Not All Stores are so willing to part with their Shopping Carts, For Example, One Store in my Area Frequently have People Arrested for, " Robbery," When they find one of their new $500.00 Carts in their yard.
As a Wise Move, Anyone that Chooses to Use that Abandoned cart you find on the side of the street or road, Be Wise, Contact the Owner & See what You can get, Legally!
Beware Some of these Store Owners are now Placing Tracers inside the Tubing of the carts with a 20 mile Range.
As for the idea, I believe it's Great & Should last a life time.. Not to mention that with some Plate steel sides& Extra racks for a Food Dryer, Meat & Fish Smoaker.

Sagacity61 (author)2013-04-14

I believe Chromium vapour is toxic.
Won't the heat generate this from the chrome-plated outside frame??

Waluy (author)Sagacity612013-04-15

Chromium vapor would POSSIBLY be released by heating the frame. Zinc Gas (highly toxic) WOULD be released by heating the galvanized steel drip edge flashing used.

peinkc (author)Waluy2013-04-15

I have had other posts with warnings about using the galvanized steel around heat so I found some steel flat bar at the Habitat for Humanity Rehab Store ( l love that place) and I am in the process of making the change over.
I’m inclined to think the chrome is safe since several companies manufacture chrome plated cooking grids that are used directly over charcoal.
I also found that I can touch the bars on the shopping cart during a burn and they get warm but not excessively hot so evidently most of that heat is being absorbed by the steel lath that lines the inside of the cart.
Thanks for your post

Waluy (author)2013-04-15

My only concern is that you used galvanized steel drip edge flashing for your frame. Heating galvy up actually releases zinc gas when heated which is highly poisonous.

peinkc (author)2013-04-15

This is in response to the numerous posts that suggest my shopping cart was stolen.
In the first place, posting something of an illegal nature on the internet doesn’t seem like the smartest thing one should do.
As explained to me by the store manager, this is the chain of events that led to me taking possession of a shopping cart.
There was a recent upgrade to the store and part of that was to replace all the existing chrome shopping cars with new ones that were powder coated in, what I would describe as, battleship gray. A truck showed up one night and delivered all the powder coated carts and that same truck hauled off all the chrome carts. The manager doesn't know and doesn't care what they did with the chrome ones.
About 2 weeks after the changeover, a chrome shopping cart shows up in the parking lot. A call was made to the district office asking what should be done with this lone chrome cart. “We’ll get back to you”, the manager is told. A couple of days later he receives a call telling him to get rid of the cart. There was consideration given to shipping the cart but on checking freight costs it would of cost more to ship the cart than what the salvage value was.
The cart was placed out by the dumpster and it sat there a couple weeks and vanished.
Shortly after that, another chrome cart shows up in the parking lot and its hauled back to the dumpster area. The manager told me that it had been sitting back there over a month before I showed up and asked about it. I had a budget in mind where I was willing to pay up to $20. for the cart but he generously told me to go ahead and take it and sent me on my way with a cart and a note stating that the store had given me the cart.
Doing a search on, I find several projects where a shopping cart is the main component. One contributor has a picture of what looks like 12 carts sitting in the back yard which are used to make creative furniture. Assuming that the shopping carts used in the all the projects are found by legal means, it appears that abandoned shopping carts are out there to be found if you go to the trouble to look.

naru0414 (author)2013-04-15

You genius!

athrian (author)2013-04-14

Just a little concerned if the paint on the cart is toxic? It might cause dangerous fumes. Other than that its a great ible

CitizenRouge (author)2013-04-14

This might go well with the shopping cart chairs. On it's own it may look trashy, but as a "set" I bet it will get a lot of complements.

flyingpuppy (author)2013-04-14

What I especially like about this fire pit is that the heat is distributed horizontally more so than a typical fire pit. Nice idea!

onemoroni1 (author)2013-04-14

I like this. I have been trying to think up a cheap fire pit design and this I would consider making. Good job.

maxhuey (author)onemoroni12013-04-14

a larger truck tire steel rim would make a suitable fire pit. lots of them at auto wreckers and they are cheap when not suitable for vehicle use anymore.

If you can find (or make) one a wheelbarrow with steel arms and wheel works great and makes dumping ashes very easy.

shizumadrive (author)2013-04-11

Wow I was hoping it wasn't a pilfered shopping cart. I've never seen an abandoned shopping cart and now that I think of it I have no idea what stores do with their old ones.

grumpygrady (author)shizumadrive2013-04-14

our local shopping center will sale you an old cart for 5 to 15 dollars each ,the 5 dollar one have a wheel or three missing but the 15 dollar ones are nice
I bought three for my shop
and this is a great instructable

maxhuey (author)2013-04-14

I sure hope no one do this project again. I worked at grocery store and the owner paid over a hundred dollar for each of the cart only to have senseless people steal them. I am sure you all are smart enough to understand that this is not right.

I believe this is the nicest possible way i can put it.

Actually carts are quite a bit more than a hundred dollars. But the author stated that they acquired this one legally with permission of the store manager.because it was outdated. It's possible to obtain carts that are scrapped because of changes in style or upgrading by stores or chains. By no means should anyone just take a cart without permission (preferably written) because it is a serious theft charge, sometimes a felony depending on local laws.

8steve88 (author)2013-04-14

Hi there peinkc.
I have done this to a shopping trolley (U.K.) and it works really well.
I didn't throw as much money at it, none in fact, I just used it as it was and the only modification it needed was to prop up the front end when the main supporting tubes sagged a little from the heat.
Not lining the trolley with anything on the bottom meant that air got drawn up through the fuel and the fire got hot enough to melt glass bottles and aluminium cans easily, the few ashes that were left dropped through and were left until the fire was well and truly out then swept up.
The trolley was acquired legally - from a scrap yard - there were a few to choose from with slightly twisted frames or stuck wheels.
They do make a very good incinerator.
Your Fire-pit is a lot more refined than mine ever was, mine was used for burning dry garden trimmings and whenever there was enough scrap wood we would have a barbecue, not using the trolley for cooking just heating.

Wyattr55123 (author)2013-04-14

Would metal snips work here? Seem like those would give a cleaner edge

craftymaven (author)2013-04-14

Has anyone seen the first episode of "Raising Hope" (it's on Netflix). While using a shopping cart as a baby stroller, Hope's Dad talks about also using it as a BBQ.

schou (author)2013-04-14

This is from Raising Hope the TV show.

caitlinsdad (author)2013-04-11

Oooo, a NSFcertified food cart hoboque.

cindi59 (author)caitlinsdad2013-04-14

a quote from one of the comments on that Instructable....

"Adding a groove to one of the wheels could be used to drive a round belt up to a rotisserie attachment. Just think how spiffy you could look, pushing your flaming cart down the sidewalk with a couple of roaster chickens slow cooking on a spit!"

Rofl, human ingenuity!

cindi59 (author)2013-04-14

You don't read very well do you? THE STORE MANAGER GAVE IT TO HIM! Jeez..

cindi59 (author)2013-04-14

I have had times I wished my firepit was in a different part of the yard. But I JUST can't see this in my yard, rofl..

Thinwing (author)2013-04-14

i showed this to my wife to be...her comments were unprintable....said this might go better in a homeless camp

GeeDeeKay (author)2013-04-14
Cool project. I hope you don't mind a few thoughts:
  • Don't cook over the fire as someone else suggested, as the chromium from the cart's shiny finish gets released when it's heated and gets into the food. Not a preferred food additive! ;^)
  • The cookie sheet sides bolted to the bottom are a good idea for ventilation, but there may be a better way. Find some old fireplace andirons or a couple of pieces of scrap cast iron to raise the logs above the pan more than the cookie sheet edges.
  • Compost the ash if you can. It adds great elements to compost and the wood charcoal bits can help manage any odor issues. Just don't put charcoal briquette or black walnut ash into your compost, they both have components you don't want to put on plants, especially food plants.
  • I love the "wood rack" underneath the basket!
Keep up the good work!
peinkc (author)GeeDeeKay2013-04-14

When the idea first came to me, I had the same concern about chrome and fire so did some Google research. What I found is that shopping carts are plated with nickel/chrome. I also found several companies (weber, chef master, firemagic, shinerich) that manufacture nickel/chrome cooking grids where the food is cooked directly on the plated grid. With that information I thought it safe to proceed with my idea. Maybe I am missing something.
Perhaps I need to trap some squirrels, put them in a cage and place it in proximity of the fire pit during some test burns and see if they are affected. (kidding… don’t need PETA on my case.)

Good tips on disposing of the ash and on fireplace andirons. In my haste to finish the project with materials on hand, the cookie sheet edges were the only solution to raising the logs but I will continue to check the Habitat for Humanity Rehab store for some steel angle.

KROKKENOSTER (author)2013-04-14

Nice idea but those guys that are scared make a large hot fire in it BEFORE trying to cook any food with it

brentrjones (author)2013-04-14

You might be a redneck if....
Actually I would make one but my wife wouldn't let me keep it in the back yard.

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